Romo controls Cowboys' destiny
At 5-5, the Cowboys are no longer on top of the NFC East, but they are not in a poor position, either. The bye week could not have come at a better time for the Cowboys. They need to get healthier on defense and they need a way to get Romo going.
Since the 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos, the offense has struggled. The Cowboys have not been able to duplicate whatever rhythm they had against the Broncos against less-than-stellar defenses from Washington, Philadelphia, Detroit and Minnesota. It all came to a head against a better defense in New Orleans, where they failed to convert on nine third-down tries.
Last year, the Cowboys got on a three-game winning streak after Thanksgiving in large part because Romo got going. He threw six touchdowns to just one interception in wins against Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Twice he had more than 300 yards passing. Twice he completed more than 71 percent of his passes. Twice he had passer ratings of better than 110.
Romo started off the season as hot as he had ever started a season. He was completing 70 percent of his passes, throwing touchdown passes and avoiding mistakes. (Yes, everybody can bring up the interception against the Broncos, but when an offense scores 48 points, the quarterback's team should win).
Calvin has chosen Jason Garrett, which is a good choice. The head coach's job is on the line in a lot of ways. Garrett admitted he has spent more time with the offense during the past few practices. That's a good thing. When Garrett was calling plays, the Cowboys could put up yards, just not points. This year, they can't put up yards but they are doing a nice job with the points per game. If they can mesh the two, then they will win the NFC East.
But it's not about who calls the plays. It's about the plan. Romo must take over. He's shown the ability to do that before. He was the reason the Cowboys were in contention for playoff spots in 2011 and '12 and played a big part in the reasons they did not beat the New York Giants or Washington Redskins.
Romo will have the ball in his hands on every offensive snap. He dictates where this team goes. Jerry Jones showed his faith in Romo in the offseason. Now, it's up to the quarterback to deliver.
Cowboys need Garrett to lead
This was a sign of what the next six weeks mean for the Cowboys: Jason Garrett holding a play-calling sheet in Monday's practice.
The Cowboys can downplay it all they want, but it's Garrett, the man who gave up so much in the offseason, who decides this team's fate.
Garrett allowed Jerry Jones to fire Rob Ryan as the defensive coordinator after last season. Monte Kiffin took over, changing the scheme from a 3-4 to a 4-3.
The result: four opposing quarterbacks with 400-yard games, 22 takeaways, a 5-5 mark, 625 total yards allowed at New Orleans and the same problem Ryan had -- injuries to the defense.
Garrett let all this happen on his watch so he could keep his gig and become a walk-around head coach.
Callahan is still calling the plays, but Garrett is expected to change how the Cowboys approach the game. Bryant said the team is working to get him the ball more in tight coverage -- something that should have happened in Week 1. The return of Miles Austin should also help clear the way for Witten and Bryant to see more one-on-one coverages.
Garrett probably wanted Austin back on the field sooner but understands that Austin's durability isn't great, so why not have him for the final six weeks with the season on the line?
Garrett can't do it all. He can't play, call the defense or, for that matter, call the offense. But he can put people on notice.
Holding the play sheet and talking to his offensive personnel is what's needed.
Garrett is acting like the commander-in-chief again. Jones is the face of the franchise, but Garrett needed to step up. He needs to command the offense again and tell Callahan to get DeMarco Murray going and instruct Romo to throw down the field more.
He's got to get his defensive players back on the field. Garrett loves "his" guys and wants them playing. He loves J.J. Wilcox and Jason Hatcher, two injured players who should return Sunday against the Giants.
Garrett needs them now more than ever. But more importantly, the team needs Garrett to be a leader.
That play sheet said it all.
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