- Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- Jerry Jones demands his head coach call either the plays on offense or the defensive signals because the owner believes his Dallas Cowboys need tangible evidence the coach helps them win.
You can blame former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs for giving Jerry that bad advice.
Obviously, Gibbs' approach works wonders when a team is winning. But what happens when a team is one game under .500 12 weeks into the season like the Cowboys are?
It undermines the coach's authority because it casts a spotlight on his flaws, making him him the epicenter of the problem.
Jerry needs to rethink this approach.
And it has compromised Jerry's current coach Jason Garrett -- his hand-picked football messiah.
No one can look at the Cowboys' struggles this season and come to any conclusion other than Garrett is at the root of the team's issues. After all, his offense is averaging just 22.0 points in a league in which seemingly every rule is designed to help teams score points.
The blame starts with the NFL's most pathetic running game.
Dallas ranks last in the NFL in rushing yards per game (78.7) and in average per carry (3.55). And it ranks next to last in attempts per game (22.2).
Just so you know, the Cowboys rank 29th in runs of 20 yards or more with three. Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray each had a run of more than 20 yards in the Cowboys' first eight carries against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 6.
Since, the Cowboys have not had a run of more than 20 yards in 166 carries.
So the burden to move the ball and score points has fallen upon Tony Romo, a group of inconsistent receivers and an overmatched offensive line. That's hardly a formula for winning football.
Since he took over for Wade Phillips after eight games in 2010, Garrett has talked about the Cowboys being a physical running team capable of closing out games, converting short-yardage situations and scoring touchdowns.
It's the reason the first thing he did as head coach was make the team practice in pads twice a week -- Phillips rarely did it more than once a week -- until the new collective bargaining agreement prohibited it.
Some teams such as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons choose to be one-dimensional. They choose to rely on their quarterbacks -- Drew Brees and Matt Ryan -- because each is among the game's best.
The Cowboys throw the ball because they have a finesse offensive line that doesn't consistently create running lanes.
You can't win games consistently throwing the ball 66.8 percent of the time, which is what the Cowboys are doing this season. Yes, that's the league's highest pass-run percentage.
Romo is good, but we all know he's flawed. Asking him to throw the ball 42.4 times per game -- only Detroit throws more passes per game -- puts Romo in a situation where his propensity to make a critical mistake increases.
The Cowboys are 1-4 this season and 1-14 since 2008 when Romo throws more than 40 passes. Only the officials and some poor coaching from Pat Shurmur allowed the Cowboys to beat the Cleveland Browns on a day Romo threw 50 passes.
"When you come to the line, you want the defense to have to defend the run and the pass," Garrett said. "And you want them to have to defend this guy and this guy and this guy. Then you're playing good offense because you have balance."
Injuries have ravaged an offensive line that wasn't going to be considerably better than average, if it were healthy.
Center Phil Costa tweaked his back three plays into the opener against the New York Giants. Ryan Cook, Costa and Bernadeau have each started at least two games at center. Backup guard Derrick Dockery has started the last two weeks, and tackle Jermey Parnell made the first start of his career Thursday.
None have consistently played better than average.
Eight players have started in just 11 games, making it difficult for Garrett, running backs coach Skip Peete and line coach Bill Callahan to figure out the plays the linemen block best and the runners run best.
Murray, the Cowboys' best running back, has missed the last six games with a foot injury, and there's no guarantee he'll play again this season. He still hasn't gone through a full practice on Wednesday or Thursday, the team's heaviest work days.
Felix Jones has been at his mercurial best: good some weeks and awful others.
None of this is an excuse for having the league's worst running game; it's the reality of the Cowboys' season. The result is the Cowboys have become a dysfunctional, predictable one-dimensional offense.
Frankly, it's the kind of offensive approach Garrett abhors, but he can't do anything about it this season.
Jerry wouldn't let him anyway. And we're no longer positive Garrett will be around next season.
23hEric D. Williams