If you think Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett would rather be talking about something other than Dez Bryant’s sideline antics, think again. If not for Bryant’s public meltdowns, the national conversation might be focused on the way Garrett managed Sunday’s game over the final few minutes.
On the Cowboys’ third-to-last possession, Garrett appeared to have ordered Bill Callahan to stick to the run in order to milk the clock and force the Lions to burn their timeouts. But on third down, quarterback Tony Romo fired an incomplete pass to stop the clock. In retrospect (and at the time), it looked like Garrett was being indecisive in how he handled that particular sequence.
And with 1:14 remaining and the Lions having used their final timeout, Tyron Smith was flagged for holding. It’s the sort of mind-numbing play that can change the course of a season…and get a coach fired. The Lions got the ball back with 1:02 left on the clock instead of the 25 seconds they likely would’ve had if not for the penalty.
Garrett has said the Cowboys need to learn from those mistakes moving forward. But the reality is they’ve continued to make similar mistakes throughout Garrett’s tenure. If your players don’t instinctively know that they can’t take a penalty in that situation, then you damn well better remind them. Garrett seemed to blame third-string tailback Phillip Tanner for bouncing the run outside instead of sticking to where it was designed to go. I think it’s unfair to place the blame on an inexperienced running back whose instincts told him to get as much yardage as possible. My beef would be more with Smith and of course Garrett. But Bryant has stolen all the local and national headlines over the past 48 hours.
The wide receiver insisted after the game that his rants included “positive energy,” and to an extent, some footage on NFL Network confirmed his side of the story. But I still think it’s distracting to his coaches and teammates. Garrett admitted Monday that Bryant needs to learn how to channel his energy and passion in a more constructive manner.
“Dez is as well-liked a guy on our football team by his teammates and by the coaching staff,” Garrett said Monday. “He’s very passionate about the game, he loves football, he loves his football team and he wants to win. One of the things he has to learn is to channel all that positive stuff, all that positive emotion, he has to channel it and focus it to the task at hand.
“That’s something we talk to everybody on our football team about. It’s really important you’re able to do that. Go to the next play, get yourself ready for the next situation, and Dez has done that a lot. He has matured a lot in the last three, four years since he’s been with our football team, and that’s an area where he has to get better. It’s something we addressed with him during the game, something we addressed with him after the game, but you never want to take away that passion, that spirit that he has.”
I wish Bryant could share some of his passion with Garrett. I thought the head coach could’ve struck a better tone following the loss Sunday. Rolling out the same old “we have to learn from this” doesn’t cut it after a shocking loss like that.
But for one week, Garrett should privately thank his star wide receiver. He’s taken the heat off a head coach who appeared to be caught flat-footed at the end of Sunday’s game.
Just because you give up playcalling duties doesn’t mean you don’t have control of the game. I’m starting to think Princeton didn’t offer courses on snap decisions.