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The Dallas Cowboys Play Caller Circus

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So for the sake of building a picture in the mind of the reader let’s invent a scenario. Callahan sends in the much talked about 12 package, meaning 1 Running Back and 2 Tight Ends. You also have a QB and 5 Offensive Linemen. This means you have 2 Wide Receivers as well. If Tony Romo chooses the pass play over the running play this probably means 4 targets, possibly 5 if the RB first reads the pressure and then releases as a safety valve. Do these 4 or 5 targets all run the exact same pattern, or to the exact same spot on the football field? Not on any play I have ever seen. So doesn’t the QB then have a lot of options for where the play is going to go? If you add in his option to run he has at least 6 reads to make. A bad play call would then mean all 6 of those options were going to fail.

Let’s use Jason Witten as an example. Let’s say the play called indicates he should run a curl. The 2nd TE, the WRs, and the RB are not going to be running the same patterns. But here’s what makes this all comical. How many plays that the Cowboys run from their 12 package have one of the targets running a curl? Is it always Witten? Of course not, but does anyone other than the team know the answer to that question? Hell no. Perhaps every single play in their play book has one target from the 12 package running a curl pattern. Perhaps none of them do. More likely it is somewhere in between. The QB read for a curl pattern is the same regardless of who the target it.

June 11, 2013; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) in action against safety Barry Church (42) during minicamp at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Why is it an important distinction? Because it doesn’t matter who runs the pattern, just that they run it correctly, get open, and that Romo hits the sweet spot with the pass. Is Tony Romo always going to throw it to Jason Witten? No, not every time. Witten is so reliable that it will probably be fairly often, but if Romo reads that he is covered, or reads that Dez has man coverage and a step on his defender, he’s going to have to make a snap decision.

When the ball is snapped nothing that happens has to do with the play that was called any more. Once the ball is in play everything becomes about execution. A play is designed to work perfectly, meaning everyone gets blocked and everyone gets open or hits the right hole. Once any aspect of the play breaks down, it is about reads. That is why Tony Romo is an elite QB, he reads options better than most do. Not many QBs could make something out the many broken plays he has been faced with due to poor blocking. In other words Tony is successful because he makes a quick read and is decisive. No standing there patting the ball and hoping.

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