Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Jerry Jones backs Jason Garrett
By Tim MacMahon
IRVING, Texas -- After a couple of nights of sleep, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones expressed regret for publicly second-guessing coach Jason Garrett's play calling late in Sunday's loss to the New England Patriots.
The Cowboys, whose previous two losses in large part were due to late interceptions by quarterback Tony Romo, had three running plays and a penalty on the series before punting to the Patriots with 2:31 remaining.
Tom Brady responded by engineering a 10-play, 80-yard drive for the game-winning touchdown.
While answering questions in the visitors' locker room at Gillette Stadium, Jones said Garrett's conservative play calling late in the game "bit us." Jones made several comments indicating he wished Garrett had been more aggressive while protecting a three-point lead in the final four minutes.
"I would say that probably if I had that to do over again, I wouldn't comment, period," Jones said Tuesday on KRLD-FM, admitting that emotion got the best of him. "I wouldn't even answer a question about it. I was asked the questions and you can always say, 'No comment.'
"But I did [comment], and I was real clear that this was a flip of the coin. That's what Jason frankly is paid to do, is make those decisions, and there's no one that I'd rather have make the decisions regarding our football team right now on an offensive play call."
Garrett reiterated Monday that he thought he took the right approach. He wanted to chew up as much clock as possible and force the Patriots to use timeouts. His decision to run a draw on third-and-18 was influenced by the low odds of converting a first down after rookie running back DeMarco Murray lost yardage on two runs and rookie right tackle Tyron Smith was called for a false start.
When asked about Jones' comment, Garrett expressed an appreciation for the owner's passion.
"Anybody who's ever had the good fortune to work for Jerry Jones understands that he wants to win," Garrett said. "He's very passionate about it. And I've had that experience as a player, as an assistant coach and now as a head coach.
"Like I said, anybody who's been around him understands how much he cares about winning. That's one of the things we love about working for this organization. He's very passionate about the game and he's very emotional about the game."
Jones and Garrett both denied that the conservative play calling was a reaction to Romo's costly interceptions in losses to the New York Jets and Detroit Lions.
Romo's third interception against the Lions, who returned the first two picks for touchdowns to spark an NFL road-record rally from a 24-point deficit, came in a similar situation after the controversial three-and-out series against the Patriots. With a three-point lead and the ball in Dallas territory, Romo threw under pressure and was intercepted by Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch on a pass intended for tight end Jason Witten deep down the middle of the field.
Jones said Tuesday on KRLD-FM that he agreed with Garrett's decision to call a passing play in that situation.
"You want the ball in Romo's hands," Jones said. "This is the time to use his skill. That's what Tony Romo brings you. He'll get you a play when you need it the most. He's a playmaker. That's certainly a perspective."
So Jones is on the record that he would prefer to rely on the arm of the franchise quarterback with a $67 million contract with the game on the line. However, Jones will trust his coach to make those decisions.
"There's absolutely no issue that I have with Jason Garrett's play calling," Jones said. "I want to get that real clear."
Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.