- Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- Philosophically, Jason Garrett believes the more players a defense has to stop, the better, because it allows his offense to attack favorable matchups.
The problem with Garrett's philosophy is that way too many players have roles in his offense, something that must change if the Dallas Cowboys are somehow going to make the playoffs this season.
See, Garrett's philosophy is built around taking what the defense gives you. It's the reason guys such as Kevin Ogletree and Cole Beasley have had more than 10 passes directed their way in a single game this season.
It's also the reason Dez Bryant had one pass directed his way in 32 first-half plays.
"We always want to get the ball to a guy like Dez, but we want to get it to Witten, too, we want to get it to Miles, we want to get it to the other guys," Garrett said. "We want to run the football. All of those guys are a part of what we want to do for 60 minutes in the game."
No. No. No.
This team isn't good enough to let Bryant, one of its best offensive players, be a nonfactor for an entire half, but that's what occasionally happens in Garrett's offense because the ball is supposed to go wherever the coverage dictates it should go.
Sometimes, an offense needs to take what it wants -- not what the defense gives it.
"They took the outside guys away with coverage," Garrett said. "We threw the ball to Witten and ran it well early. When you do that, you force them to change, and it opens up some opportunities outside.
"It goes back to trying to attack the defense a lot of different ways, and when you do that, you really kind of control the tempo of the game."
It's a way of life for good receivers, just like good runners see eight defenders within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. The most creative offensive minds use shifting, motion and formation to create favorable matchups.
Those are the guys who need the ball. Everyone else must get in where they fit in.
Beasley should never be targeted 13 times like he was against Washington because he's not a dynamic player. He can't make the most of those opportunities.
Garrett should never call a reverse for Ogletree, when Bryant and Austin are active, for the same reason.
These are desperate times for the Cowboys. If we're keeping it real, you know the odds of the Cowboys making the playoffs are minuscule.
The defense these days is raggedy -- and it doesn't matter whether you blame injuries to four starters or Rob Ryan's scheme. Never has such a man's man as Ryan played a scheme that lacked testosterone.
The only way the Cowboys can make the playoffs is for Garrett's offense to dominate.
They must score at least 30 points in each of the next four games because Garrett shouldn't expect anything from his defense.
The Cowboys gained 417 yards in Sunday's 38-33 win over Philadelphia, and their four best offensive players not named Tony Romo accounted for 41 touches, 335 yards, six plays of more than 20 yards and four touchdowns.
See what happens when Garrett gets the ball to his best players? There's zero excuse for it not to happen the rest of the season.
For now, Bryant must be the epicenter of the Cowboys' passing game. No sane person would have said that in September. Or even October.
But he has four 100-yard performances in his past nine games and three other games with at least 87 yards receiving. In the past four games, Bryant has six touchdowns and seven catches of more than 20 yards.
Right now, he's the only offensive player capable of raising his teammates' emotional level with a single electric play, whether we're talking about his 23-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in the third quarter. Or his leaping 35-yard grab along the sideline, despite absorbing a huge hit from the safety, that left receivers coach Jimmy Robinson pumping his first.
Garrett must also make Bryant the focal point of the offense inside the 20 because he is dynamic enough to catch a fade in the back of the end zone, and has good enough hands to catch a back-shoulder fade or catch a pass at the line of scrimmage and run over a defender on his way to the end zone.
Passing the ball to anyone else is a waste. Bryant has four touchdowns on 12 targets inside the 20. No one else has more than one.
Murray has to be the foundation of the entire offense. When he's getting carries -- even if the yardage isn't great -- he creates a threat. When Murray is running a play, passing off run fakes opens up the offense, which has been missing from Garrett's offense.
On Sunday night, Austin scored on a 27-yard catch-and-run off a run fake.
Change is never easy. Garrett must subjugate his ego -- every successful person has one -- and make a philosophical change: The best players get the ball.
Then again, this change isn't about what's good for Garrett; it's about what's good for the team.
5hEric D. Williams