Coaches failed with tough decisions

IRVING, Texas -- Running backs coach Skip Peete’s recent revelation about the severity of Marion Barber’s quadriceps injury last season reflects poorly on the coaching staff.

Barber’s toughness, displayed in this case by only missing one game with an injury that Peete said should have sidelined him six weeks, is commendable. But using a banged-up running back didn’t make the team better.

A big part of the coaching staff’s job is to put the best players on the field. Does anybody really believe a far-less-than-100-percent Barber is a better back than Tashard Choice? The stats certainly wouldn’t agree.

And Barber wasn’t the only veteran to perform poorly after returning early from a significant injury. Right tackle Marc Colombo rushed back from a broken fibula and torn ankle ligaments for the playoffs.

Wade Phillips shot down questions about whether the Cowboys would have been better off sticking with Doug Free, who consistently graded out as one of the team’s top linemen while starting at right tackle, instead of a gimpy Colombo. Minnesota defensive end Ray Edwards’ dominant performance in the Metrodome made it clear that Colombo couldn’t perform at a level anywhere near his norm.

NFL teams need players who are willing to play through pain. Barber and Colombo, a couple of tough dudes, definitely fit in that category.

But sometimes coaches need to make tough decisions to leave a battered veteran on the bench with their healthy replacement is getting the job done. The Cowboys’ staff didn’t do that last season.