Commentary

Cowboys must improve offensive line

Playcaller won't matter if Dallas can't control the line of scrimmage in crunch time

Updated: February 20, 2013, 2:39 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING -- We've spent so much time debating whether Jason Garrett or Bill Callahan should call plays for the Dallas Cowboys this season, we haven't really discussed the bigger issue.

Why might someone other than Garrett call plays for the Cowboys this season?

[+] EnlargeDoug Free
Jeff Fishbein/Icon SMIIf the Cowboys get rid of Doug Free this offseason, there will be several quality tackles available in the draft.

Has owner Jerry Jones demanded a change? Is it so Garrett can spend more time on the other facets of being a head coach, such as personnel during the week? Or is it so Garrett can manage the games better on Sundays?

None of that addresses the most important reason Garrett should give up play selection.

Garrett should hand the play calling over to Callahan because he hasn't proven he's a consistently good enough playcaller to compensate for all of the Cowboys' offensive flaws.

Like the worst running game in franchise history. The Cowboys totaled just 1,265 yards, a 3.6 yard per carry average and eight touchdowns.

And an offensive line that struggled much of last season. The Cowboys could use upgrades on the offensive line at every position except left tackle and left guard.

So it would behoove Jerry and the Cowboys' scouting department to spend their time at the NFL combine this week studying the offensive linemen, who work out Saturday.

The Cowboys could use a guard, center or tackle. Take your pick. It doesn't matter.

If the Cowboys get rid of Doug Free this offseason, there will be several quality tackles available in the first two rounds, such as Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson, Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker and Syracuse's Justin Pugh.

If Garrett and his staff decide Mackenzy Bernadeau is better suited to be a backup at guard and center, then the Cowboys could go with Alabama's Chance Warmack, North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper or Tennessee's Dallas Thomas.

The Cowboys could use a center, so they might opt for Alabama's Barrett Jones or Southern California's Khaled Holmes.

See, plenty of options.

But until this offensive line gets better and can control the line of scrimmage at winning time, it won't matter whether Garrett, Callahan or you and I calls the plays.

Garrett wants you to believe the Cowboys' offense was good last season -- it wasn't -- and that some of the best offenses in the NFL are led by head coaches who also call plays.

Garrett talked about New Orleans, Green Bay and San Diego. Then, Garrett mentioned the Cowboys' offense in the same sentence as New England.

Seriously.

The football gods, as they should, consider that kind of talk blasphemous.

If the Cowboys' offense was any good, we wouldn't be talking about who's going to call plays. The reality is the Cowboys have had an elite offense once since Garrett has been calling plays: 2007.

The Cowboys had a good offense in 2009, when they won the NFC East. Since then, average at best.

You can find a million stats to support or debunk any argument, but if we examine how the Cowboys compared to New Orleans, Green Bay, San Diego and New England -- the franchises Garrett mentioned -- in some important offensive categories last season, you'll find there's really no comparison.

The Cowboys ranked 12th in the NFL with 348 offensive points scored; playoff teams averaged 385 points. The Cowboys tied for 14th with 61 plays of 20 yards or more; playoff teams averaged 64.

The Cowboys tied for 28th with 124 first-half points; playoff teams averaged 213. The Cowboys ranked fifth in the NFL in third-down conversions with 43.9 percent, while playoff teams averaged 40.2 percent.

The most important statistic in the NFL is points scored. Next, is points allowed.

The past five years, the Cowboys have not ranked higher than 10th in offensive points scored.

More than anything, that should be a catalyst for change.

Callahan might wind up being a better playcaller than Garrett, but if the Cowboys don't improve their offensive line, then it won't matter.

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.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ALSO SEE

MORE NFL HEADLINES