Dallas Cowboys Must Find Running Game Before it's Too Late

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Well, simply put, it’s Garrett’s playbook.

Since 2007, it has never mattered who the offensive linemen were in Dallas. It’s also never mattered exactly who was calling the offensive plays, be it Garrett or current offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

Under Garrett, the Cowboys have generally been a good passing offense that racks up plenty of yards, even if the points don’t necessarily add up. Dallas has also been a team that finds creative ways to lose far too many football games due to one primary issue—no offensive balance.

Garrett is clearly a subscriber to the “Air Coryell” offense, a scheme made highly popular by former NFL head coach Don Coryell. Yes, the San Diego Chargers of the late 1970s and early 1980s could certainly roll up some passing yards—but they never won anything. In fact, Coryell’s postseason record of 3-6 speaks volumes about what was lacking in San Diego way back when.

Interestingly, Super Bowl head coaches such as John Madden and Joe Gibbs also hail from the Coryell coaching tree—but those guys ran the football religiously. They understood that passing yards are much bigger against defensive fronts that have to cheat up to stop the run.

How about Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinators like Ernie Zampese, Norv Turner and Mike Martz? Each stems from the same lineage, but something made them more successful, in terms of championships, than even Coryell—the running game, which is not to say that San Diego never ran the football at all.

Today’s Cowboys offenses can certainly run track with any offense in the NFL. But Dallas suffers from the same issue that hurt those Chargers offenses from decades passed. Scoring quickly doesn’t necessarily offer your defense much time to rest. It also does little in terms of running precious time off the clock that shortens games and limits opposing possessions. A quick look back at this season’s losses to the Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions offers all the proof you need in understanding the fact that the Cowboys lack of rushing prowess is actually a Sunday-killer on too many occasions.

Quarterback Tony Romo was quoted this week as stating that he doesn’t care what fans and analysts think of Dallas’ play-calling, this in response to direct questions regarding the Cowboys’ refusal to run the ball against Minnesota last Sunday.

I’m among the biggest supporters there is of Romo while understanding that much of what holds his legacy in check, at least for now, is the fact that he’s never been in a balanced offense. In each full season he has been the starting quarterback in Dallas, Garrett has been on the sidelines.

It’s one thing to state that the Cowboys call plays to win games as opposed to merely trying to reach a certain number of carries or pass attempts in order to achieve offensive balance.

But even I would ask Romo this question: Exactly how many games are you winning with Garrett’s one-dimensional offense that often features an empty backfield?

Not too many these days.

The vertical passing offense is used by plenty of NFL teams in today’s day and age. However, the lack of rushing yards and rushing attempts is always more likely to hinder any football team. The Cowboys are clearly proof of this phenomenon. Offensive linemen want to run block much more than they want to pass block—this is fact, period. The former represents attacking aggression while the latter is actually a more physically taxing form of defense.

The idea is wear out you oppositions defensive line, not your own offensive line.

Former Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, now in New Orleans, will be ready to spoil Sunday night for the Cowboys as he hides behind quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints high-powered offense. Garrett will confidently tell you that he’s well aware of this fact.

But does Garrett know exactly what to do about it?

Not sure about that at all.

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