Who should call plays for Cowboys' offense in '13?


Garrett left with no real power

MacMahon By Tim MacMahon

Jerry Jones wants you to believe that getting stripped of play-calling duties is a "step forward" for Jason Garrett.

Sure. It's a step forward toward the exit at Valley Ranch.

It's not that a "walk-around" head coach, to borrow a silly term coined by Jerry, can't win in the NFL. There are countless examples of head coaches who don't have play-calling duties enjoying great success. That list includes Jimmy Johnson, who tried talking Jerry and his favorite red-headed genius into taking this route two years ago.

It's just that a walk-around head coach with no real authority isn't going to get the job done.

During this uncomfortable offseason, Jerry has done a great job of making sure to strip Garrett of any semblance of authority that the head coach ever had. The promise for Garrett to have ultimate say over who is on the Cowboys' coaching staff apparently had a two-year expiration date. The right to call plays, something Garrett firmly stated should continue to be status quo the day after another 8-8 season ended, is getting ripped away.

The process of turning a proud man into a puppet takes two years with no playoff bids at Valley Ranch.

As far as Garrett's process goes, Jerry has made it painfully clear that he considers it a failure. You don't tear down and rebuild a coaching staff, switch defensive scheme and the change offensive playcallers if you believe in the direction of the franchise at all.

Why not just go ahead and fire the poor guy?

If Jerry refuses to take that pricey step -- and Garrett decides that his mid-seven-figure salary is more important that his dignity, which can only be saved by telling his boss to take this job and shove it -- then Bill Callahan is the best fit to call plays.

You can certainly question his performance as the offensive line coach last season, given that unit's struggles, but Callahan is a proven NFL playcaller. Check his track record with the Raiders, where he coached a Super Bowl team that led the NFL in yards and ranked second in points.

At this point, however, the Cowboys' playcaller had might as well be Jon Gruden's decision. Does he want to do it, or would he rather let Callahan handle those duties?

The staff is set up perfectly for Gruden. His offensive coordinator from Oakland (Callahan) and defensive coordinator from Tampa Bay (Monte Kiffin) are already here. (Who cares if Kiffin and Gruden grumbled at each other at the end of their Tampa Bay tenures? They don't need to go on picnics to coach together.)

Jerry had might as well make the bold move of recruiting Gruden out of the "Monday Night Football" booth.

That's unless Jerry would prefer to have a puppet after giving up on Garrett's process.

Garrett should still call plays

Archer By Todd Archer

It doesn't look like it will happen, but Jason Garrett should continue to call the plays for the Dallas Cowboys.

It sure is sounding like Bill Callahan will call plays in 2013,but what exactly did he do in 2012 to warrant a promotion? Wasn't the offensive line still the biggest weakness on the team? You can blame Jerry Jones for not putting enough resources into the line, but Callahan surely had something to do with the signings of Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau in free agency. He was OK with going into training camp with Phil Costa, Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski at center, only to see all three get hurt either before they got to Oxnard, Calif., or when they got out there.

Think back to the regular-season finale at Washington. The Cowboys did not have an answer for the simple blitzes the Redskins were throwing at them, either with the linebacker up the middle or the defensive back off the edge. It wasn't revolutionary stuff, but the Cowboys couldn't block it well enough. That's on Callahan. His job is to come up with protection answers, and he didn't.

So now make him the playcaller? And have him call plays in a system in which he is unfamiliar? Makes perfect sense to only Jerry Jones. Even with the offensive coordinator title last season, Callahan was not involved in the passing game meetings. The Cowboys would not get the full benefit of Callahan, whom Tim Brown called an offensive genius even as he hinted that Callahan ruined Oakland's chances to win a Super Bowl against Tampa Bay.

I've said this before, but the whole play-calling argument is a red herring. I wasn't around here then, but I've heard too many people talk about the 1990s offense and how the opposing defenses knew what was coming and couldn't stop it. That's called execution, and with better players, you execute better.

That's not to absolve coaching from poor performances. Coaches have to give players an edge, and too often the Cowboys have not had enough "gimme" plays in a game plan that catches a defense off guard.

Garrett has been calling plays for the Cowboys since 2007. The Cowboys rank fourth in yards and seventh in points during that time. For those who want to credit Tony Sparano for a lot of that success in Garrett's first year -- and I'm one of them -- then from 2008 to 2012, the Cowboys rank sixth in yards and 10th in points.

There have been two issues with the Garrett offense: red zone inefficiency and not enough opportunities. Because the defense has not taken the ball away very much or the special teams have not created short fields in which to work, the offense has had to sustain long drives to score touchdowns. The goal of defenses today is to take away the big play and force an offense to drive the field, knowing that somewhere along the line the execution will fail.

Tim makes a case for Jon Gruden. Sounds great. Yeah, go get Chucky. He'll breathe fire into this team.


Post-Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, Gruden was 45-51 and didn't win a playoff game. His offenses were painful without a great defense, and he liked other teams' players more than his own. I remember Brad Johnson once telling me that a Gruden play call was once 32 words long. Thirty-two! So now that Dez Bryant has figured out this offense, let's move to a West Coast scheme? Sorry.

Garrett has not been a bad playcaller, nor has he been great. He's been OK and needs to get better.

But taking away the plays from Garrett will not cure what ails this team.


John Clayton, NFL

ESPN NFL Insider John Clayton covers Tim Brown's allegations of sabotage in Super Bowl XXXVII, Jason Garrett, David Akers, Mark Sanchez's future, the Eagles' QBs and more.