Nov 13, 2011; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) runs with the ball in the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Bills 44-7. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The Dallas Cowboys Offensive Identity Crisis: Not Enough Romo


Nov 20, 2011; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) celebrates with tight end Jason Witten (82) after Bryant scored a touchdown against the Washington Redskins in the first quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

The cast reads like an all star game. Dez Bryant, Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Jason Witten, Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray. They are the reason the Dallas Cowboys are routinely anointed as a favorite and loaded with talent at the beginning of each recent season, and also the reason they are accused of being underachievers at each of those season’s end.

For the Cowboys to be on the level with New England, Green Bay, New Orleans and the Detroit Lions, they will have to embrace a different offensive identity altogether.  The Cowboys in 2012 have to go all in behind their true leader which to the dismay of many in the mainstream media is Tony Romo. The Dallas Cowboys need to abandon the political correctness of offensive balance and embrace their true purpose which is to ride the arm of their quarterback.

When the Cowboys offense takes the field, they sport a plethora of weapons to attack the opposing defense. This is part of the problem. That’s not to say that having too much talent is a bad thing but trying to serve all that talent can be a curse.

Jason Garrett must feel powerful looking at his offense like a chef looks at a stocked kitchen but unless that chef has a real focus on what he wants to accomplish, his menu will be diverse but not special. Or Super. The Cowboys need to embrace the air game that employs all that weaponry around Romo and work in the offseason and in training camp at perfecting that attack. If the imbalance of pass vs. run is 70/30 or 80/20, who cares?

This also means that there is no need to have both Murray and Jones at tailback as options. The Cowboys can use Murray’s explosiveness to support the mission by putting him in space in the screen game and in the delay draw game that they have already been utilizing. However, trying to run him up between tackles and establishing some sort of goal line and short yardage presence in the run game is futility personified.

 

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, James Starks, Darren Sproles, and Jahvid Best were the leading rushers for the top four scoring offenses in 2011. Their yardage totals for the year were 667, 578, 603 and 390 respectively. Not only were they not productive, they also weren’t threats to the defenses who likely did not game plan them at all. That didn’t stop the Patriots, Packers, Saints and Lions from leading the league in points scored.

Garrett has repeatedly said this is a passing league and he is correct. He also has hammered home the notion of execution and being great day after day and the only way to do that effectively is for Garrett to accept what this team is and what it is built to do. The 2012 Cowboys like the past two Cowboy seasons are built to throw and throw downfield.

In Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers makes no apologies for who they are. All he does is go out and put up 35 points each game and there are no accusations coming from Packer land about Rodgers playing favorites or not distributing the ball.

Dec. 25, 2011; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is congratulated by teammate Ryan Grant (25) after Rodgers threw a touchdown pass during the third quarter in the game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field. The Packers defeated the Bears 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE

His coach is not busy telling the team that we will get everyone the ball and that everyone will get their touches. McCarthy embraces the Packer identity and acquires talent that will support that mission. There are no Craytons or Bennetts on the Packers.

Similarly in New Orleans, you will not hear a chirp from Saint faithful about their inability to run the ball or an over reliance on the passing game. The reason: 34 points per game and complete faith in the quarterback and system.

In New England in crunch time 3rd down situations, is there any doubt about New England’s identity? They will go spread, they will find holes, and they will convert. They probably aren’t spending too much time on distribution charts and massaging the egos of those who are not getting enough balls or carries. At 32 points per game, they don’t have to.

Detroit is just entering the fray in terms of establishing an identity but theirs is in plain view for all to see. Megatron left, right, deep, short and everything else is designed to set him up. At almost 30 points per game, Stafford and his Lions know exactly what their offense has perfected.

If the Cowboys would embrace the very identity they are built to establish, they could be much more effective in crunch time which is where this team routinely fails. 3rd and threes and fours should not be a mystery and they don’t have to be for the opposing defenses either. For the Cowboys, they just need to be plays they are almost perfect at running. It seems ridiculous for the Cowboys to throw in short yardage but that is due to some memorable mistakes from the offense in the short passing game in the past. Their talent does dictate that throwing is the likely choice for a successful play. It’s not scary watching Brady and Brees throw against a condensed defense and maybe the Cowboys could find equal success if they focused more of their preparation on the passing game and less on getting Murray and Jones their share of the touches.

The Cowboys find themselves in this situation because of the approach that Jerry Jones and the Scouting staff have taken which is talent acquisition over building a team with the right puzzle pieces. With Garrett now, the Cowboys have a chance to cure that malady. They have a QB who is an excellent passer, a great reader of defenses and who has been in this same Garrett system for several years.

The Cowboys offense can’t be mentioned in the same breath as the Saints and Packers but they could be. They should be.

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