I think Jason Garrett deserves as least a significant portion of the blame for this loss. If I was sentencing them for a crime, I would certainly give Garrett a longer sentence than Romo, if for no other reason than bad play calls are much easier to prevent than bad decisions during a play, or poor performances during a play. Moreover, it is expected that a QB will want to throw the ball and score as many TD’s a possible, but it is the coaches job to ensure that the QB plays smart. Garrett failed to control Romo.
If you were trying to adjudicate a punishment that was fitting, it would also be prudent to contemplate any extenuating factors that might increase culpability on one hand or make a case for leniency on the other. In addition to the evidence presented above, I think Garrett made at least 2 (3?) other fairly big mistakes, even if they were not so big that they had a direct impact on the outcome of the game.
(a) The decision to go for it on 4 & goal. I know this call is popular with fans, especially if they play Madden and it is successful, but I firmly believe that you take the points when you can. I think that Garrett’s decision was especially bad because he should know that the Cowboys have been pretty poor in short yardage situations. When you are really struggling, as they have been since at least last year, in short yardage, it seems a no-brainer to take the 3 points.
(b) The decision to challenge the Ogletree near TD. I know it could have led to a TD, and I think that based on the replay it was a reasonable to think that Ogletree made it in. But the game situation should dictate that you don’t WASTE a challenge to try to score a TD when you have 1st and goal from the 1-yd line. Even if your challenge is successful, you don’t lose a time-out, but you still have one less challenge later on (assuming there are more than 2 more plays you want to challenge.) The potential reward of getting the TD but losing a potential challenge later does not many any sense when compared to just having the ball with 1st and goal from the one.
(c) I admit that this bit of evidence against Garrett was stolen from Ramirez’s article, which can be found at http://thelandryhat.com/2011/10/02/should-romo-have-been-benched. He makes an excellent point: given the rib injury, perhaps Romo should have been taken out of the game before he morphed into an interception machine.
Romo is a professional. He will take responsibility for the 3 interceptions, and he will take the blame, but don’t forget, he had an accomplice.
Make no mistake about it: this crime was the work of more than 1 man; Garrett was the mastermind.