Dallas Cowboys: Grading Jason Garrett

Grading Jason Garrett: Eagles 30, Boys 27

December, 14, 2010
After each game, we'll grade interim coach Jason Garrett in four departments.

His grades for the 30-27 loss to the Eagles:

Game plan: Philadelphia’s secondary was vulnerable with cornerback Asante Samuel staying home to nurse a sore knee, but the Cowboys were conservative with their passing attack, perhaps because Garrett wasn’t confident his line could protect against the Eagles’ pressure. They also didn’t attack the perimeter of the Philadelphia defense in the running game despite having great success with that last season. Defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni came up with the most aggressive scheme since he took over play-calling duties, appearing to rattle Michael Vick at some points during the game. GRADE: C

Play-calling: Miles Austin wasn’t much more involved than an invisible man. He had only three touches, including a double-reversed that went for 26 yards, and was targeted only five times. Quarterback Jon Kitna pointed the finger at the coach when asked why getting Austin the ball against an injury-depleted secondary wasn’t a priority. Roy Williams was targeted only four times, although an incompletion to Williams was one of Garrett’s better play-calls. Kitna’s throw downfield was behind an open Williams. The running game consisted of far too many plays behind the struggling right side of the offensive line. GRADE: C

Game management: There has been some debate about opting to kick a 50-yard field goal with 13 seconds left in the first half. It’s understandable that Garrett didn’t want to take the risk of running another play, but why not wait several more seconds to call the final timeout? It’s worth noting that Kitna, not Garrett, signaled for that timeout. Garrett saved all three timeouts in the second half to use on the final series, forcing Philadelphia to pick up four first downs to run out the clock. Unfortunately for Garrett, the Cowboys’ run defense made that irrelevant.

Intangibles: Garrett’s Cowboys don’t quit. They displayed mental toughness by responding to the Eagles’ easy opening touchdown drive with a 10-play, 77-yard drive to tie the game. They showed the kind of resolve that Garrett expects again after the Eagles took a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, with the Cowboys responding with a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. The Eagles ran the ball down the Cowboys’ throats in the second half, but effort wasn’t an issue. GRADE: B

Grading Jason Garrett: Cowboys 38, Colts 35

December, 8, 2010
For the rest of the season, we’ll give Princeton graduate Jason Garrett weekly grades in his crash course as the Cowboys’ head coach.

Here’s a look at how Garrett passed his tests with flying colors in the Cowboys’ 38-35 overtime win over the Colts:

Game plan: Garrett emphasized that the Cowboys needed to do two things to win at Lucas Oil Stadium: establish the run and win the turnover battle. They excelled in those two areas. The Cowboys rushed for a season-high 217 yards on 46 carries and established a smashmouth tone right away, running five times for 39 yards and a touchdown on the nine-play opening possession. Their four picks against Peyton Manning, including touchdown returns by Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee, were the difference in the game. GRADE: A

Play-calling: The Cowboys forced the Colts to defend the entire field, running a wide variety of plays out of several different formations without getting too cute. Garrett’s best play-call was probably a counter-flip to Tashard Choice that gained 26 yards around the left end. That used defensive end Dwight Freeney’s aggressiveness against him. Garrett also came up with a gem on a crucial two-point conversion, getting Roy Williams wide open in the corner of the end zone to force the Colts to score a touchdown to send the game into overtime. GRADE: A

Game management: Garrett gets marked down for poor clock management at the end of the first half. The Cowboys twice let several seconds go off the clock before calling timeouts during a possession that began at the Dallas 17 with 3:10 on the clock. They were forced to burn their final timeout – instead of having the half end -- after Jason Witten was called for a false start while the Cowboys were lining up to spike the ball with seven seconds remaining. That resulted in David Buehler attempting a 48-yard field goal that sailed wide right. Had the Cowboys managed the clock better, the kick could have been much closer. Those three points could have cost the Cowboys the game. But Garrett did a good job managing the rest of the game. GRADE: C-plus

Intangibles: The Colts seized momentum and the lead in the second half. The Cowboys kept their poise and composure. It’s amazing how much more mentally tough this team has become in the last month. That’s a credit to Garrett. GRADE: A-plus