Garrett’s blunders at Arizona the result of being too smart for his own good
By Rainer Sabin
Dallas Morning News / SportsdayDFW.com
IRVING – Before I’m chastised and dragged out of town by what little hair I have left, let me get this out of the way:
I’m not making excuses for Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, who mismanaged the clock in the final seconds of regulation Sunday in a 19-13 overtime loss at Arizona.
No timeout to stop the clock and get closer for your field goal kicker. That followed by a timeout to ice your own kicker.
Those are mistakes, plain and simple.
But how did Garrett, a well-educated man who graduated from Princeton, make such obvious blunders?
Perhaps Garrett is too smart for his own good.
To understand Garrett’s decision-making Sunday, you must understand the man making the split-second choices.
Garrett processes so much information so quickly and considers every angle in many of the decisions he makes that perhaps it hinders him in make-or-break situations. Perhaps Garrett over-thinks decisions.
That certainly appeared to be a possibility in Sunday’s meltdown.
In not calling a timeout to run two to three more plays in the final 26 seconds, Garrett worried that his team might be called for yet another fourth-quarter penalty or commit its 10th negative play of the game that would push them back and out of field goal range.
In calling a timeout with the play clock winding down just before Dan Bailey’s 49-yard, game-winning field goal attempt, Garrett wanted the kick “as clean as possible” and a “real calm opportunity at it.” He didn’t want Bailey to feel rushed as he had in missing a 21-yarder in Week 2 at San Francisco.
These are examples of over-thinking the situation. But it’s how Garrett processes information.
Even owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday that Garrett’s decisions were, “well thought out.”
Perhaps too thought out?
Football can be a simple game. Sometimes, Garrett doesn’t make it that way.
Remember, too, that Garrett has to process much more information quickly than most other NFL head coaches because he also serves as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator. He has to think about what the next play will be while also making decisions regarding timeouts.
Sometimes, his play-calling looks like he’s over-thinking situations as well. He’s often shied away from running the ball in situations that beg for it, such as goal-to-go plays from the 1.
Garrett also didn’t do himself any favors Monday by saying twice when questioned about certain situations involving the final seconds of regulation, “I don’t have a great answer for you on that.”
The first time he gave that answer was when asked if he told quarterback Tony Romo to spike the ball and stop the clock with seven seconds left in regulation.
Before answering, he paused for a few seconds to process everything.
Again, Garrett didn’t provide a good answer.
Maybe next time Garrett faces a similar late-game situation, his processing of the information will start with eliminating the what-ifs, such as negative plays or rushed field goal attempts. That could silent armchair quarterbacks everywhere.
Q: Will we see running backs DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones on the field at the same time?
William Sprake, Georgetown, DE
GEORGE: I’ve wondered why the Cowboys haven’t already used this to their advantage. All we’ve heard all season is how good Murray is at catching the football. I covered him for two seasons at Oklahoma and throughout his career there he proved very effective when lining up as a slot receiver. So, I think it’s time Jason Garrett found a way to get Murray in the slot while using Jones at running back. That just provides more of a challenge for the defense and gives the Cowboys more options on offense.
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Q: Isn’t it time to acknowledge that, as much as he is liked, Dave Campo does not cut it as a defensive backs coach?
Laurie Ryan, Willard, Mo.
GEORGE: The Cowboys’ secondary played well early in the season and overall hasn’t been bad considering the number of games their top three cornerbacks have missed this season. Also, consider that new coordinator Rob Ryan doesn’t do Campo any favors by often blitzing and leaving the secondary exposed on the back end. That said, Terence Newman has really struggled over the last two games after a terrific start to the year and must play better.
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Q: Which, or whom, has been more important to running back DeMarco Murray’s early success, the offensive line, the play-calling or fullback Tony Fiammetta?
Bob Hopper, Plano
GEORGE: I would have to lean toward Fiammetta. The numbers show a drastic difference when the Cowboys have Fiammetta available to use as their lead blocker. They’re 5-1 when he plays and average 5.8 yards per carry. In games he didn’t play in, they’re 2-4 and average only 3.3 yards per carry.
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Q: Should the Cowboys fire special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis?
Wesley M., Ashland, Va.
GEORGE: I don’t think he should be fired. Before Sunday, the Cowboys couldn’t have asked for more from undrafted rookie kicker Dan Bailey. Punter Mat McBriar has been excellent as usual. That said, however, the Cowboys’ return game has been very poor this season, and Dallas has the second-most penalties on special teams (18) in the NFL this season (only Tennessee has more at 21).
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Q: Is Jason Garrett’s explanation for his clock management decisions Sunday a valid excuse or is it a sign of things to come?
Tim Bradley, Versailles, Ky.
GEORGE: I don’t believe it’s a valid excuse. I believe that he believes he made a mistake. You won’t hear him say that, as was evident the day after the game. However, Garrett is smart and will learn from his mistakes. This first full season as a head coach in the NFL is a learning experience for him, and he’ll be better off for what happened Sunday in the long run.