It’s only Week Two in the Dallas Cowboys 2013 NFL season. But a couple things have started to become fairly clear about the Cowboys lack of offense. Their running game needs a lot of work. And offensive coordinator Bill Callahan is a terrible play-caller. After taking those responsibilities from head coach Jason Garrett in the offseason, maybe Callahan wasn’t the right man for the job.
Jul 21, 2013; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Bill Callahan at training camp at the River Ridge Fields. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
That last two statements are obviously just my opinion. Is this an over-reaction to Sunday’s loss. Possibly. But some of the head-scratching, bone-headed calls made by Callahan in Sunday’s 16-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs are sealing the case against him. And owner Jerry Jones will be the Judge Judy who’ll ultimately pass sentence.
One of the constant bad calls Callahan dials up are short passes on third down. It seems that every third down play results in a pass in front of the sticks instead of behind them. Obviously, some of those are check-down calls by the quarterback. But should there even be a receiver whose route isn’t beyond the first down marker on third down? I can understand a running back and/or a tight end running out as a last second option for a pressured QB. But to throw short of the sticks on almost every third down play is ridiculous.
The best example of Callahan’s bad play-calling was the very last play of Sunday’s game against the Chiefs. With no timeouts, the ball on your own four yard line, 16 seconds left in the game, down by one, in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL; Callahan calls a screen pass to Murray down the middle of the field? Then you want to run another play in the confusion of that call?
One of the key aspects of play-calling that Callahan wanted to focus on this year was a renewed commitment to our running game. With running back DeMarco Murray amassing just 25 rushing yards on 12 carries, Callahan quickly threw that strategy out the window in the fourth quarter. You could blame Murray and the offensive line for that as well. But guess who coaches that offensive line? Callahan.
Obviously, players must execute these plays. Perhaps it’s simply a lack of talent on the team. But we’ve seen this offense be more explosive under Garrett. And that’s not really saying much.
One area that still rears it’s ugly head, even under Callahan, is red zone efficiency. The Cowboys are unable to run the ball in the endzone. Either the Cowboys O-line doesn’t get enough “push” or Murray simply takes a bad angle and falls short. Regardless, Dallas’ offense is always force to take it to the air. And the defenses know this. It hard enough to throw the ball in a squeezed portion of the field like the redzone. Much less be successful at it when the defense knows it’s coming.
And Callahan has no excuses. He’s been an mediocre NFL coach since 1995. And don’t be fooled by his time with the Oakland Raiders. He inherited a good Raiders team from Jon “Chucky” Gruden, who coincidentally beat him in the Super Bowl.
There’s probably no way an offensive play-calling change is made this season. But if the Cowboys offense continues to struggle like this, expect there to be more coaching changes then just head coach Jason Garrett come January.