Dallas Cowboys Achilles Heal: Game Management (And A Little Killer Instinct)


Jason Garrett had been an offensive coordinator at the NFL level for awhile before he took over the Head Coach gig.  He should know what he’s doing, right?  Every aspect of this game of football should be second nature by now, after all Jason is the ‘Red Headed Genius‘. 

Tony Romo has been a starter in the NFL for longer than Garrett’s been a coach of the Cowboys.  Surely, Romo knows what to expect game in and game out.  Not much should surprise him at this point in his career.  Romo knows the plays and has proven he also knows where everyone should line up, what routes they should run and what their assignments are.

The Dallas Cowboys employ many well seasoned position coaches that spend

hours and hours honing the skills of the players.  The Cowboys organization also has the good fortune to have great relationships with many former players that feel a real connection to this team and often can be seen on the practice field showing what they have learned to the current Cowboys roster. 

So, if all the forgoing is true, which it is, then what the hell!?  How many coaches, Cowboys and former Cowboys does it take to change this light bulb? 

Somewhere along the coaching and playing line, the importance of  ‘game management’  has gone by the wayside with the Dallas Cowboys.  They have slick offensive plays and complicated defensive schemes, but these things are just disguising the fact that the Cowboys do not seem to possess killer instinct and they are not that good at game management.

It’s interesting to note, at least from my untrained eye, the lack of game management doesn’t always rear it’s ugly head.  Its only when the pressure heats up or when the Cowboys think they have the game in hand.  You know, times when experience trumps talent.  They also  get a little tentative and have a little trouble closing the door on a win.

Maybe the Dallas Cowboys game management issues are Wade Phillips fault.  The description of the Cowboys issues sure sounds like Wade.  He often looked lost as the games played out.  That’s not the best example to have in your rookie year as a NFL offensive coordinator or a young QBs first full year leading an offense.  Imagine if you already believe you are better at coaching than your head coach and you start out the gate with a 13 and 3 record as Jason Garrett did in 2007 and most of the credit is given to you.  Wouldn’t that solidify your sense of genius?

Same can be said about Tony Romo.  Experiencing so much success in his first full season might have made him think that umm…nah, I got nothin’ here.  Tony has always acknowledged he’s working on his game and is trying to improve every year and judging by his brain farts (I mean game management mistakes) he is telling the truth.  He is still trying to improve, meaning he’s not there yet. Think about that, Romo is not there yet and he is already a top 10 NFL QB.

While I think early success has played a roll in Garrett and companies game management issues, its not my entire theory.  I think that we, CowboysNation, pulled the wool over our own eyes as a result of that early success. 

Bill Parcells once said “put away the anointing oil”.  At the time, he was talking about Tony Romo. Specifically, he was warning the media not to read too much into the early success of his talented young QB, Romo had a long way to go. 

I believe what Parcells meant was Tony Romo was a talent, yes, but a raw talent. He was an undrafted free agent from a AA college, not a refined 1st round draft choice (or even a 7th round draft choice) from a big 1A university. There is a learning curve.  We ignored that after that 2007 season going 13 and 3.  We also ignored that Jason Garrett was a raw talent as well, in only his first year as Offensive Coordinator in 2007 having spent only 1 year on an NFL coaching staff in Miami.  Jason also has a learning curve to deal with, genius or not. 

Game management is clearly (IMO) the thing that holds the Dallas Cowboys back the most, for all our sakes I hope that learning curve is almost complete. Its our weakest link, our Achilles heal.  We also could use a little killer instinct, you know, learn to close the door on opponents. 

None of this makes me feel any better but what I hope this does is give me a new perspective so I don’t throw a hammer through my TV this year (interesting what a hammer does to a flat screen.  Expensive impulsive activity though, I don’t recommend it). – Artie Cappello