Commentary

Cowboys have passed on the run

Balanced offense? Without stronger rushing attack, Dallas will live, die by the pass

Updated: September 17, 2013, 1:59 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- The big lie -- the one about Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett wanting a more balanced offense -- began in the offseason and continued in training camp.

Two games into the season, we're still hearing about Garrett's never-ending quest to run the ball more.

In Sunday's 17-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Tony Romo dropped back to pass on each of the Cowboys' last 19 plays. DeMarco Murray's final carry was a 2-yard run with 2:12 left in the third quarter and the Cowboys trailing by a point.

Ridiculous.

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys need to live up to their training camp billing and get DeMarco Murray and the running game more involved in the offense.

Now, Garrett will talk about the plays Dez Bryant made against man-to-man coverage. And he'll talk about the Chiefs' defensive scheme against certain formations that made it difficult to run.

We all know today's NFL is about throwing the ball, but this remains a game dominated by alpha males and teams that control the line of scrimmage.

Garrett is forever talking about Dallas establishing a physical identity. Well, the best teams run the ball well when they choose to run it and when they need to close out games in the fourth quarter.

The Cowboys, right now, can do neither.

Kansas City beat the Cowboys because the Chiefs ran the ball when they needed to run it. With 3:48 left, running back Jamaal Charles had eight yards on eight carries. He finished with 16 carries for 55 yards, using up all but the game's final 16 seconds.

Meanwhile, Garrett continues to tell us weekly -- win or lose -- that the Cowboys need more offensive balance.

"Offensive line, we have to get better. Tight ends, we gotta get better. Receivers, we gotta get better. Runners, we gotta get better," Garrett said. "We gotta call more of them [runs].

"We have to do a better job as coaches. It's a total commitment to doing better, and everyone has a piece of it."

Garrett probably should have mentioned the quarterback, since Romo is part of the problem. The quarterback has the authority to change plays, and he likes the hurry-up offense, which is more conducive to throwing the ball.

We're talking about a team that has led for 83:13 of 120 minutes while throwing the ball 71.7 percent of the time in its first two games. The league average is 60.6 percent pass.

Seriously, how many times are Garrett and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan going to let Romo fling it on a day the Cowboys trail much of the game? Fifty times? Sixty times?

Only the Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants and Cleveland Browns have a higher percentage of throwing the ball than the Cowboys. For what it's worth, those teams are a combined 1-8.

The Cowboys can't (maybe won't is a better word choice) consistently run the ball because this dysfunctional franchise has systemic issues.

The head coach has never shown a real commitment to running the ball. The offensive line is average at best. And the quarterback has more juice in the building than anyone except owner Jerry Jones and his son, Stephen.

Romo wrested control of the offense at the same time he negotiated his $108 million contract extension, which is fine theoretically.

He helps put the game plan together, and the Cowboys run the plays he likes most. We know Romo's first love is throwing the ball. No one should be surprised the Cowboys are throwing the ball so much.

Romo had 40 or more pass attempts just 13 times in his first 78 games with Garrett on the staff. He has eclipsed 40 tosses 10 times in the past 18 games. Dallas is 4-6 in this those contests, including 1-1 this season.

The fashionable thing to do these days is blame DeMarco Murray for the Cowboys' raggedy running game because he misses too many holes.

Really? Some of y'all are tripping.

Big time.

The Cowboys shifted to a zone-blocking scheme this offseason because Callahan likes it, and more than once during training camp he said Murray's excellent vision makes him a perfect fit for this scheme.

Every runner occasionally picks the wrong hole. Of course, many times Murray gets hit in the backfield. Or he must find another hole because the one he was supposed to go through is clogged.

Every runner needs enough carries to establish a rhythm with the offensive line and understand how the defense is reacting to certain plays. This offense functions best when Murray gets a legitimate opportunity to probe the defense for soft spots.

Garrett, Romo and Callahan don't have confidence in the running game, so they don't have any patience with it.

"We have to recommit to run football," Garrett said. "We have to practice it and we have to take it to the game. We play our best offensive football around here when [Murray has] been big part of what we're doing."

Whatever.

The reality is Garrett, Callahan and Romo better fix the issues. You can't consistently win throwing the ball as much as the Cowboys have been doing it.

Romo must make too many decisions. And he's exposed to injury every time he drops back to pass.

We were told in training camp the Cowboys improved their offensive line and provided Romo more weapons so he wouldn't have to carry such a big burden.

It was all part of an elaborate hoax. Nothing has changed.

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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