Commentary

Read my lips: It's the offense

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett hasn't followed through on pledge to fix unit

Updated: November 6, 2012, 2:37 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

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IRVING, Texas -- Jason Garrett's campaign speech to become the Dallas Cowboys head coach focused on his ability to bring direction, accountability and a high-powered offense to a team that quit on Wade Phillips.

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
AP Photo/James D SmithJason Garrett promised to stress accountability and boost the offense when he was introduced as Cowboys coach, but the team sorely lacks in both areas 32 games into his administration.
He promised to make the Cowboys mentally and physically tougher, which is why one of his first acts as head coach was to work in pads on Wednesday and Thursday, the heaviest practice days for every NFL team.

Well, 32 games into his tenure Garrett hasn't delivered much on his promises.

The Cowboys play consistently hard, something we should expect from professional athletes earning several hundred thousand or millions per season.

The accountability questions haven't been answered, in part because the Cowboys have little depth, making it difficult to replace ineffective players. And Garrett's team is just 16-16.

But we could live with all of that if Garrett's offense worked.

It doesn't.

Not this season anyway. It's atrocious. Abject, if you will.

Maybe, it's the personnel. Perhaps it's the playcaller. Who cares? Oh, don't utter a single word about the Cowboys' being ranked sixth in the NFL in offense with 382.5 yards per game.

We know that's a joke.

Offenses are designed to thrive in the NFL. It's a league in which every rule change is seemingly designed to aid the offense. In this era of high-powered offense, the Cowboys average 18.8 points a game, which is 25th in the league.

Garrett's offense is one of nine that have scored fewer than 20 points at least five times this season. Of those teams, only Seattle is above .500.

Right now, Garrett's problem is the Cowboys don't do anything well on offense.

They're certainly not the physical, balanced unit Garrett has said he wants. These Cowboys are neither balanced nor physical.

The Cowboys average 41.0 passes per game. Only four teams throw more passes per game, and each of them -- the New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts and Oakland Raiders -- would describe themselves as passing teams.

Tony Romo leads the NFL with 13 interceptions, and you can't even tell me who's the No.1 receiver. Common sense says Miles Austin, but Dez Bryant has been targeted two more times than Austin this season.

[+] EnlargeRomo
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireTony Romo leads the league with 13 interceptions, and neither Miles Austin (19) nor Dez Bryant (88) has distinguished himself as the Cowboys' No. 1 receiver.
The reality is the Cowboys don't have a true No.1 receiver because Garrett prefers to probe the defense for weak spots and attack those areas.

What you have to realize is the Cowboys throw so much because their running game is beyond awful.

The Cowboys average 83.4 yards per game and 3.6 yards per carry, each among the worst in the league. Just so you know, they were almost as bad before DeMarco Murray hurt his foot, forcing him to miss the past three games.

The offensive line has been inconsistent much of the season. And let's not even waste time talking about the raggedy numbers from the Cowboys' offense inside the 20-yard line.

When teams such as the Cowboys can't run the ball inside the 20, play-action passes become a joke and it's hard to score points because the offense lacks deception.

Look at Dallas' 19-13 loss to the undefeated Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night and all you have to do is examine the Cowboys' first two drives. They had first downs at the 10 and the 18. Each ended with a field goal as the Cowboys blew an opportunity to seize control.

And it doesn't matter if we blame Romo, a good quarterback in the midst of his worst season as a starter. Or Jason Witten for dropping balls early in the season, or Austin for dropping a crucial third-down pass against the Falcons.

We can blame Bryant and Kevin Ogletree for occasionally making up routes and dropping passes, or we can rip the offensive line for their overall mediocre play.

In the end, none of that matters because the line is handpicked and all of the skill position players have been here at least three seasons except for Murray.

The Cowboys should be thriving offensively under Garrett. After all, he's basically been running this offense since 2007.

But they're not.

Garrett can tell you why every drive failed. Whether it was the result of a mental error. Or a penalty. Or a dropped pass.

He can tell you whether he called a bad play. Or the running back missed the hole. Or the quarterback made a bad read.

He just can't tell you when it's going to click.

The Cowboys scored at least 30 points nine times in Garrett's first 22 games as head coach. None in the past 10.

He's as stubborn about continuing to call the plays as Jerry Jones is about being the general manager.

Convicted, Garrett calls it. During adversity, he anchors and becomes even more committed.

Garrett still has time to fix this offense. How much time, we no longer know.

Sean Payton looms.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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