Commentary

Time for Garrett to take the reins

In order to save season and his job, Cowboys coach must start calling plays again

Updated: November 14, 2013, 4:24 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

Only the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs have hired more head coaches than the Dallas Cowboys since 1997.

Oakland has had nine, while Kansas City and Buffalo have each had seven.

Jerry Jones has hired six, and none has lasted more than four years since Jimmy Johnson left after the 1993 season -- his fifth with the club.

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsWith the Cowboys a .500 team and at risk of missing the postseason, coach Jason Garrett can control his own fate by assuming the play-calling duties.

Jason Garrett, the Ivy League grad, should understand no matter what the Cowboys owner says about Garrett's job status over the next few weeks, he should believe nothing Jerry says.

Not a single, solitary word.

Remember, Jerry had never fired a coach during the season until Wade Phillips was terminated. Understand, Jerry isn't going to fire Garrett during the season. But the next six games will determine whether Garrett coaches the Cowboys for a fourth full season.

If the Cowboys miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, which will happen if they don't finish first in football's worst division, then Jerry must offer the fans a sacrifice.

Last season, he offered Garrett's play-calling role and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

This season he'll feel compelled to offer Garrett, which is precisely why the head coach should take over the play calling again.

This is not the time to worry about political correctness or hurt feelings. If there's any chance he's going to get fired -- unfortunately, there is -- Garrett must control his own fate.

I like much of what Garrett does as a head coach. I like his philosophical approach to building a team and the way he has made players accountable -- when he's had suitable replacements.

I like the way he churns the bottom of the roster, adding players every week in a never-ending quest to get the best 53.

And I like the way he understands the process is often more important than the result.

Garrett's pragmatic approach is preferred to the emotional approach Jerry takes in conducting business. Garrett has leadership skills, which were on full display during the Jerry Brown crisis in December, and having Jimmy Johnson and Nick Saban as mentors is a huge positive.

If Garrett ever gets the Cowboys righted, they'll be consistent winners for years with his right-kind-of-guys-on-the-roster approach.

But he must win enough games to keep the job.

Garrett prefers to focus only on the next meeting, practice or opponent, which is fine most of the time. But he better spend some time examining his long-term future.

This defense is one of the worst in franchise and NFL history. Injuries have compromised it, and talent the likes of Randy White, Lee Roy Jordan and Deion Sanders isn't walking through the Valley Ranch doors.

The defense gets torched every time it faces a dynamic passer, and Eli Manning, Robert Griffin III, Jay Cutler (injured) and Aaron Rodgers (injured) remain on the schedule.

The only way for the Cowboys to make the playoffs is with quarterback Tony Romo leading a dynamic offense. Based on what we've seen through the first 10 games, that's more likely to occur with Garrett calling the plays.

Garrett likes to throw the ball too much, but he attacks downfield. With offensive coordinator Callahan and Romo calling plays, there's been too much dink and dunk.

Romo is averaging a career-low 7.2 yards per pass, which is well off his career average of 7.9. He had nine completions of 20 yards or more against the Denver Broncos, but has just 19 of the same in the other nine games.

Callahan can't figure out how to consistently get the ball to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Bryant was targeted twice against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, the lowest number of passes directed his way in 44 games.

Garrett rarely had that problem.

But the head coach has declared he's not going to take away the play calling from Callahan. And Jerry has said he doesn't see the need for a change at playcaller, although he did mention the Cowboys must get the ball to Bryant more often.

Obviously, the erratic offense isn't all Callahan's fault. The offensive line needs to block better, the receivers need to catch better, the runners need to be more decisive and the quarterback needs to orchestrate the entire show better.

Romo sought more control of the offense during the offseason, but it hasn't made him a better player this season.

He was dynamic against Denver but has been pedestrian since then. We can blame any number of factors -- some his fault, some not -- but since Romo is among the game's highest-paid quarterbacks, the responsibility rests with him.

The bevy of turnovers provided by the defense and Dwayne Harris' kick and punt returns have hidden many of the Cowboys' offensive flaws.

It's time for the offense to take charge of the season. The stretch run has arrived.

This is usually when the Cowboys begin their late-season swoon. Garrett must act swiftly to ensure it doesn't happen again, or a new coach might reside in his office when the 2014 season begins.

Taking back the play calling is the best way to ensure Jerry doesn't hire his seventh coach since 1997.

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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