Garrett’s optimistic appraisal of 2012 forgets plenty of context

“Again, we finished among the league leaders in offense this past year” – Jason Garrett  2/13/13

He really said that on Wednesday at Valley Ranch during a long press conference that was supposed to provide answers on topics such as play calling for 2013.  He is a bit defensive these days, as is understandable for anyone being asked to explain their job performance.  But, he cannot believe that his offense was one of the more productive offenses in the NFL.  There is simply no way he believes that.

Incidentally, the 376 points they scored in 2012 ranks them 10th in the NFC out of 16 teams.  That is 1 point better than the Bears, 4 points better than the Lions.  And exceedingly more productive than the Panthers, Rams, Eagles, or Cardinals.  So there is that.

They were 6th in the entire NFL in yardage, but I think most of us watched enough Cowboys football this year to see that much of that came during abnormally long stretches of “garbage time” football that the Cowboys offered in a number of home blowout losses.

There is no proof that a new play caller would do a better job.  But, there is proof that the offense under-performed badly in a year where Phil Costa was the biggest major injury they suffered if you accept DeMarco Murray’s stretch of missed action a typical situation for a RB in the NFL.

And to help everyone (including the coach’s memory), here is a game-by-game offensive summary:

Week 1: At New York.  Nobody would question both the balance and the production of the offense.  Fantastic work in New York that passed all tests of productivity and execution both on the ground and through the air.  441 yards and 24 points.  In a dogfight where the offense never betrayed once.  Very high marks.

Week 2: As good as everything went in New York, it crashed quickly to earth in Seattle.  The offense could not move the ball very well and it was plagued by negative runs and pass protection issues, as well as an extremely high number of drops by receivers.

Week 3: One of the worst rushing performances we can ever remember against Tampa Bay.  Negative runs all over the place and barely 300 yards of offense.  Brutal and it provided huge questions about the ability of the offensive line to keep Romo out of the hospital.

Week 4:
Fell behind 24-7 to the Bears on their home field.  Turned the ball over again and again (Romo 5 interceptions) and never came close to running the football with any success again as DeMarco Murray continuously ran into offensive linemen who were pushed back into their face.  Cosmetically, the final statistics showed a very productive outing with huge points coming late in the game during garbage time.  But a giant disappointment and 400 yards doesn’t mean anything.

Week 5: At Baltimore, this was a game that we will have a difficult time fully explaining as the offense suddenly fixed everything and ran and passed the ball with great success.  The Ravens did not have Terrell Suggs, but otherwise, it was the Super Bowl champion defense and the Cowboys rolled up over 225 yards on the ground and 483 yards overall.  A missed FG cost them the game, but the offense did very well.

Week 6: At Carolina, and as awesome as the offense appeared in Baltimore in a loss, the offense regressed dramatically to another sub-300 yard day in Carolina in a win.  This was the first game without Murray at RB, and the Cowboys had to sweat it out the entire day due to a very poor job in the red zone finding the end zone.  This was a rather consistent theme throughout the year from the offense.

Week 7:  Home game against the Giants, perhaps this is the best example of how stats are for losers.   They fell behind 23-0 at the half and scrapped their entire game plan again (see: Chicago) and decided just to have Tony Romo run the hurry-up Shotgun 11 personnel package the rest of the way.  Romo threw 4 more picks, but kept the team alive until the final seconds of the game as Dez Bryant’s finger tips betrayed them.  17 carries for 19 yards showed that this offense cannot run the ball when it wants to.

Week 8: Again, checking the box-score in the game against Atlanta, you would see another case of strong yardage between the 20 yard lines, but anyone who watched will recall an offense that could not accomplish anything until late in the game when they again, down 16-6, decided to try their hurry-up shotgun attack and scrap their gameplan.  Here, they found a late 78 yard Touchdown drive and another 59 yards on the last 2 desperation plays that only helped the yardage totals.  0-2 again in the red zone and another disappointing week that seemed intent on protecting Romo rather than attacking.

Week 9:  At Philadelphia was yet another sub-300 yard day for the offense.  Despite that, they scored 38 points because Dwayne Harris, Brandon Carr, and Jason Hatcher all scored 4th Quarter touchdowns while the offense looked on.  The offense did put a drive or two together, but one does wonder how the offense was going to allow Romo to accomplish anything against the Eagles pass rush in the 2nd half as it stood when the long punt return changed everything early in the 4th.

Week 10: Home game against Cleveland where again Romo is battered and bruised.  So much so that again they simply scrapped their designed offense and had Romo run the 2-minute drill for the entire game snapping 52 plays out of shotgun.  7 sacks allowed to the Browns and barely 250 yards of offense when regulation ended.  They did get the win, but as was the theme for most of the year, the offense just could not begin to approach productive.  The Browns were ahead 10 points entering the 4th Quarter before the Cowboys rallied with Romo slinging it around.

Week 11: Thanksgiving Day against the Redskins:  Down 28-3 at the half, it is garbage time for half the game.  Now, the Cowboys turn into the unstoppable force against that Redskins prevent.  They drive up and down the field for tons of meaningless yards and points and finish with a gigantic yardage day that meant absolutely nothing.  Stat padding and fantasy points, but if you watched the game, you know it was a horrendous offensive day again.

Week 12: Home against Philadelphia, against a team that was not playing its starting QB (Vick), RB (McCoy), or WR (D Jackson) who had all been lost to injury.  But, the Cowboys offense looked about as good as it had all year long and thanks to the return of Murray at RB, actually accomplished plenty.  Good yardage and good point production against a very bad team, this one is a rare week where you do not question the offense.

Week 13:
That memorable day at Cincinnati, where the Cowboys showed great resilience and won a game few expected.  Again, Romo took a beating and the team could not run the ball much at all.  Geno Atkins was in the backfield all day, but when the Cowboys needed it most, they were able to piece a few drives together and after being behind 19-10 heading into the 4th, they found 10 points late and won 20-19.  However, 288 yards of total offense was the 4th of 5 sub-300 yard offensive showings.  And sub-300 yard days are another way of saying unacceptable production in most NFL circles.

Week 14: With the exception of maybe the Giants win in Week 1, this is the best example of strong offensive play all season long.  An absolute dogfight against the Steelers where the offense showed constant production from a balanced attack.  Romo was strong, the pass protection was acceptable, and the running game was able to accomplish things.  Not an easy win, but a very impressive job from the offense.

Week 15: In this home game against the Saints, it was another example of giant production that seemed out of context given that it required a furious rally in the 4th Quarter down 31-17.  The Cowboys struggled mightily on 3rd Down (2-10) which gave the ball immediately back to the Saints who were not close to being stopped all day long with the make-shift Cowboys defense due to the injuries.  This game is not as bad as the home games with the Bears, Giants, and Redskins, but again, plenty of yards against prevent defenses which are letting you complete passes to run the clock.  That happened a ton this year.

Week 16:
With all of the chips in the center of the table for the division title, the offense cannot produce much of anything.  Despite 7 possessions starting in Washington territory.  Yes, 7!  The Cowboys are able to convert just 3 of them into points of any kind.  They also famously throw 3 more interceptions and yet again do not eclipse the 300 yard barrier in a game of ultimate importance.  Against a QB with limited use of his leg, they are beaten on their biggest stage and have 3 turnovers and 295 yards.

So, overall, with roughly 3 games where you say the offense did what it needed to do (at NY, at Balt, and Pittsburgh) and 13 other games where the offense needed to show more than what it did to get good grades, I have very little use for hearing where it ranked in yards and points.  Granted, in some of those 13, the Cowboys showed great grit and determination, but nobody would confuse will with a fantastic offensive performance.  And least they shouldn’t.

This offense was almost completely spared of injuries (comparatively speaking) and yet did not live up to the resources invested in it by any stretch of the imagination.  Looking at boxscores and totaling numbers is fun, but meaningless if you are constantly falling behind and then facing prevents to catch up.  Those numbers don’t matter at all.

I appreciate the man defending his performance and thereby, his job security, but I found his optimistic appraisal of 2012 and the offense’s performance to be misleading and I bet he would agree once he dug a little deeper – which I know he has in private.

You would think February would be a great time to show some transparency and concede these points, but Garrett did not take that approach as he credited his offense for their production.

I thought some equal time might be due for a small rebuttal.