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Thursday, February 14, 2013
Garrett probably should give up playcalling

By Dan Graziano

You guys have good ideas. I should listen to them more. On Twitter this morning, I got this from @wingram_71:
how come no one talks about if Garrett "should" give up pay calling? I hope he does. I think he'll be a better leader.

We are of course talking about Jason Garrett, the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, who sounds as though he'll be relinquishing offensive playcalling duties this upcoming season, but can't seem to bring himself to admit it. This is a big issue because of past comments Garrett has made about wanting to keep that responsibility, and past comments team owner Jerry Jones has made about preferring that his head coach call offensive or defensive plays.

Jason Garrett
Giving up playcalling might give Jason Garrett a chance to polish his leadership skills.
But my friend @wingram_71 raises an interesting point that you wonder if Garrett has even considered. Would giving up these playcalling duties help make him a better head coach? I think it just might.

Look first of all at the validity behind Jones' theory on this. Garrett is only the second head coach Jones has had who assumed the job without any prior head coaching experience in the NFL or in college. The other was Dave Campo, who went 15-33 in his three seasons running the show in Dallas. Dave Campo is not the bar Garrett or any other Cowboys coach is trying to clear.

After watching Garrett coach the Cowboys for two and a half years, I think we can make some conclusions about what he does well and what he does not. And the playcalling has, since he took over as head coach, been a problem. Whether it's the actual decisions about plays, or the speed with which he relays the calls to the quarterback, or any combination of those or any other factors, it's the Garrett playcalling that makes you cringe and scratch your head. I personally think he showed improvement in those areas as 2012 went on, but it's fair to say he still has a ways to go in terms of balancing his head coach responsibilities with his offensive coordinator ones.

On the flip side, I think Garrett has shown an excellent capacity for head coach leadership. The locker room is placid and under control. The off-field drunk driving incidents and such don't speak to coaching and leadership. Those are the acts of knucklehead players away from the facility. Within the confines of the Cowboys' building, you don't hear griping or backstabbing, even when things go wrong on the field. Garrett's players appear to buy into the idea of him as the leader of their program. If they didn't ... I mean, it's the Cowboys. We'd have heard about it, no?

Giving up playcalling duties in his third full season on the job might give Garrett a chance to continue to burnish his abilities as a leader, and there's value in that. Not every head coach in the league calls plays. Just look at our division. Tom Coughlin doesn't. Mike Shanahan doesn't. Andy Reid wasn't calling them in Philadelphia the past few years. Those are three pretty accomplished and decorated coaches whose contributions to their teams as non-playcalling leaders have been (and in some cases still are) patently obvious. Garrett appears to have plenty to contribute as a head coach even if he gives up playcalling. And who knows? If the Cowboys can succeed under him and he continues to get more comfortable in his role, at some point it might make sense to give that responsibility back to him.

The issue I have is that they don't appear to have an excellent candidate to take over this part of the job. I know Bill Callahan has some experience with it, but he seems like a guy who's got enough problems with his responsibilities with the offensive line and the running game. He doesn't jump out as an ideal solution.

But in a vacuum, the concept of Garrett giving up playcalling duties has some merit, and for reasons that I don't think he should necessarily perceive as insulting. In the end, it might be great for him and his career. It might be the thing that helps him reach his full potential as a head coach. And jeez, head coach jobs pay a lot better than offensive coordinator jobs, right?