Commentary

Cowboys' offense needs new voice

If Jerry Jones won't budge, then best move would be to hand keys to Bill Callahan

Updated: January 7, 2013, 9:17 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- There must be a scapegoat for the Dallas Cowboys' second consecutive 8-8 season -- and it won't be owner, general manager and football czar Jerry Jones.

[+] EnlargeRomo/Garrett
AP Photo/James D SmithJason Garrett, talking to Tony Romo after an interception against the Giants, has not been able to minimize the impact of his QB's errors after six seasons.
Sorry, it's not going to be Tony Romo either.

Jerry needs to market this team. He has to sell luxury suites and season tickets to a fan base fed up with him as the man presiding over nearly two decades of mediocrity.

We're talking about a franchise with five Lombardi Trophies that has one playoff win and just four seasons with double-digit wins since 1997. Once synonymous with the playoffs, the Cowboys have missed the postseason in four of the past five seasons.

So someone is getting fired. Such is life in the NFL. Besides, Jerry ain't dismissing himself, an act that would require such introspection it'll never, ever happen.

The question is whether Jerry is going to get rid of Garrett -- the playcaller, not the head coach -- defensive coordinator Rob Ryan or quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson.

Surely that's what the owner means when he talks about change coming to Valley Ranch and making folks aside from himself uncomfortable.

He must.

Jerry can't sell this team to the ticket-buying public, so he must sell significant change.

Ironically, for Jerry to make the best move for the franchise he must admit publicly he's wrong about one of his football tenets. There's something delicious about that.

For more than a decade, Jerry has believed the head coach should call the plays on offense or defense because it gives the players tangible evidence the coach has helped them win games.

Joe Gibbs, who led the Washington Redskins to three Super Bowl wins with three different quarterbacks, gave Jerry that little nugget in the late '90s.

Here's the deal: The best move Jerry can make is firing Garrett the playcaller and turning the offense over to Bill Callahan.

With the Raiders as offensive coordinator and head coach from 1998-2004, Callahan was part of four consecutive offenses that finished among the league's top 10 in yards and points.

As Oakland's head coach in 2002, Callahan saw the Raiders become the first team in NFL history to win individual games with 60 rushes and 60 passes.

Rich Gannon passed for a league-leading 4,689 yards with 26 TDs and 10 interceptions, but running back Charlie Garner had 962 yards rushing and 941 yards receiving on 91 catches.

Tim Brown caught 81 passes and Jerry Rice caught 92. Jerry Porter, the third receiver, caught 51 passes and scored nine touchdowns.

Callahan put the ball in the hands of his best players while still establishing a physical mindset with his running game.

No matter what Garrett says, in six years of presiding over the Cowboys' offense he has failed to build a unit that saves Romo from himself.

Instead, Garrett has put more responsibility on Romo each year.

This season, Romo threw 40 or more passes in a game eight times. The Cowboys were 3-5 in those games.

[+] EnlargeBill Callahan
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsBill Callahan directed four straight Raiders offenses that were in the top 10 in yards and scoring.
Since 2008, Romo is 3-15 in games in which he throws more than 40 passes.

This offense needs a different approach for it to thrive. Maybe, Romo needs to hear a different voice.

It's hard to forget the image of Garrett putting his hand around Romo's waist and speaking to him gently after his third interception of the first half against the New York Giants.

Perhaps their bond is too tight, and another voice will enable Romo to maximize his talent.

Whether he gives up the play calling or it's taken from him, Garrett's ego will be bruised. After all, he's known only success as an NFL coach.

He is loathe to give up those responsibilities. This, however, is about the greater good.

The Cowboys will be better if he focuses on the big picture during the week and the nuances of the game, such as clock management on Sundays.

Next season is about the Cowboys getting to the playoffs. We all know that.

And if Garrett can't take the Cowboys to the postseason, then he can't be surprised if Jerry fires him. The reality of today's NFL is virtually no coach can survive three consecutive seasons of not making the playoffs.

Jerry has promised change. This is the best you can expect.

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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