IRVING, Texas -- Why does Marion Barber continue to get a healthy share of the playing time at running back?
It’s a question that continues to puzzle me. The Cowboys opt to go with a two-back platoon, and dynamic Felix Jones is obviously going to be part of that. But it’s difficult to understand why Barber gets the rest of the carries instead of Tashard Choice, who has been productive on the rare occasions he’s gotten a chance to carry a significant part of the load over the course of his career.
Barber, on the other hand, is averaging an unimpressive 3.3 yards per carry this season. What does Jason Garrett see to justify Barber’s role?
“We like Marion Barber. We like him a lot,” Garrett said. “We haven’t run the ball as well as we need to run the ball, and that’s a team thing. We have to continue to emphasize that in practice and carry the emphasis into the ballgame. We’ll continue to try to do that.
“If you look at Marion, a lot of the runs he’s had have been in some very obvious run-type situations. He’s been very good in the short-yardage type stuff over the course of the season and those four-minute situations where there are eight, nine, 10 men around the line of scrimmage, he’s getting the ball a lot in those situations. So his yards per carry are going to be a little less than some of the other backs who are just kind of playing within the flow of the ballgame.”
Quick interruption to fact-check: Barber is tied for the league lead with 13 carries in third- or fourth-and-1 situations. He’s gained 19 yards on those carries, converting nine of them into first downs.
But it’s not like the 2-7 Cowboys have spent a lot of fourth quarters trying to run out the clock. When they have, Barber has actually padded his per-carry average. He has 14 carries for 65 yards (4.6 per carry) when the Cowboys have the lead in the fourth quarter. That includes runs of 12 and 18 yards in garbage time of Sunday’s win against the Giants.
OK, back to Garrett gushing about the $45 million back with $450,000 production.
“He’s playing hard. He’s running well,” Garrett said. “He seems healthy. And he gives a physical presence to our football team, and that helps. Any time you can run the ball at the end of the game like we did at the end of the game like we did against the Giants, that’s an important part of your football team -- offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. It sends a message. He’s a big part of being able to do that for us.”
The bottom line is that there are no indications that Barber is headed to the bench, no matter what the numbers are.