Is Jason Garrett Too Predictable? An Analysis Of His Play Calling

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Is Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett too predictable in his play calling? This is one of the most controversial subjects among Dallas Cowboys fans. Some say yes, some say no. This article will do a complete break down of Jason Garrett’s play calling by individual down and distance situations. You will be shocked by the results.

Aug 29, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett calls a play during the fourth quarter of the game against the Miami Dolphins at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

The tables below are based on every single snap during the 2011 season. Being that I grew up with a coach for a father, I not only spent a lot of time watching film with him, but I also watched him game plan. As a result, I learned how to see patterns and tendencies. This is the 1st thing good coaches look for.

I have told people that dad and I can watch a game together and know pretty much what Jason Garrett will do in any given situation. In response, I was basically told that I am full of it. Take a look at the first table and think about what you see. Before I move on, let me fill you in on a little history of the Dallas Cowboys.

First Down

Yards to Go % Rushing Plays, All % Passing Plays, All % Rushing Plays, Red Zone % Passing Plays, Red Zone % Rushing Plays, Goal to Go % Passing Plays, Goal to Go
1 40.00% 60.00% 40.00% 60.00% 40.00% 60.00%
2 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 0.00%
3 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 0.00%
8 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 0.00%

We all remember the late great Tom Landry. He was not only the most consistent coach in NFL history, but probably the smartest. The vestiges of many of Landry’s coaching innovations are visible on every single NFL team. Did you ever wonder how he managed to win two championships (1966, 1967) two Super Bowl titles (VI, XII), 5 NFC titles (in 10 appearances) and 13 Divisional titles? He was smarter than everyone else.

His 20 playoff victories are the most of any coach in history. His most impressive professional accomplishment is his 20 consecutive winning seasons (1966–1985), that’s an NFL record that remains unbroken and unchallenged. He was called “The Great Innovator” for a reason.

Landry invented and popularized the use of keys (analyzing offensive tendencies) to determine what the offense might do. Landry also was the first to employ a coach for quality control. Ermal Allen would analyze game film and chart the tendencies of the opposing coaches for the Cowboys in the 1970s. That gave Landry an edge in preparation, because he knew what to expect from his opponent based on down and distance. Now every NFL team has a quality control coach, (QCC) and most have two.

This brings me to the whole point of doing this study on Garrett’s tendencies. Being that all of the NFL teams have a QCC or two, they are studying every game that he coached. They compile all of the data into tables like the ones I made. Any time you see 100% in any given situation, that’s asking for trouble. Why?

The first thing these QC guys do is look for 100%. They know they don’t have to game plan for a pass in a specific down and distance scenario if Garrett has already shown them that he never passes in that certain situation. (Take note of Garrett’s tendencies on 1st down!) Wow! For sake of space I haven’t included every single situation, just the ones that a QC guy would look for.

 Second Down

Yards to Go % Rushing Plays, All % Passing Plays, All % Rushing Plays, Red Zone % Passing Plays, Red Zone % Rushing Plays, Goal to Go % Passing Plays, Goal to Go
1 78.57% 21.43% 85.71% 14.29% 66.67% 33.33%
2 84.21% 15.79% 60.00% 40.00% 0.00% 100.00%
3 62.50% 37.50% 33.33% 66.67% 0.00% 100.00%
8 20.83% 79.17% 100.00% 0.00% 100.00% 0.00%
9 33.33% 66.67% 0.00% 100.00% 0 0
12 33.33% 66.67% 0.00% 100.00% 0.00% 100.00%
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Topics: Dallas Cowboys, Ermal Allen, Jason Garrett, Tom Landry

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  • osnappp

    Yes! We agree on something.. however, I don’t think the play calling is as simple as Garrett calling the play and the cowboys running it. I think Bill Callahan has a say in the play calling and Romo is also reading the defenses and calling the audibles. Who knows, maybe JJ is adding advise. Watching last years games I felt they were very predictable. Hopefully Romo is given enough freedom to mix it up when the defense line up for those 100% situations. Never forget barber failing to get one yard on three straight plays for the endzone. Playaction? Last week, running the fullback on 3rd and short was scary. Hopefully witten can lay off the pain killers and start catching the ball in those situations. He used to be velcro. He kind of looks like hes breaking down and aged ten years. I understand he’s injured, but he started dropping passes before that. I’m a full believer in ogletree. The scheme just seems work with 3rd receivers and who romo likes to go too. If ogletree can stay consistant, they can have a good year.

    • http://yourdailycowboysfootballfix.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

      If you look it up, Tony has his best passer rating when trailing in games and when running the 2 min drill. It seems to me that when Tony is calling the plays he moves the ball better. I have also noticed that this yr, he is killing a lot more of JG’s calls. He is becoming more like Peyton Manning and taking over the offense. I think this is a good thing. Of all people, the biggest Cowboys hater on the planet, Warren Sapp, said last yr, that Garrett needs to let Romo drive. Obviously he saw what I did. I couldn’t agree more. I also think that Dallas should let Tony run more no huddle.

  • californy

    First of all nice article Cowgirl, I am glad you brought this up, I been wanting to talk publically about the subject for a while, I see the same thing many fans see, the predictability of these play especially in short yard situation. I dont understand the reason this team run a no gap line spacing in Red Zone situation or short yard situation. I seen this ran many time as a fan and as a player and the sucess level is not good at all.
    The NO gap line spacing can only work if the offensive line gain the right leverage by going underneath the pad level of the defensive line and displace him from the spot he occupies on the defensive side of the ball. It wasnt sucessfull with Leonard Davis time here in dallas because he never gain the right leverage because he was too slow off the ball. I would prefer to run a wider space in goal line and trap player shooting the gap. This would work as long as you have OL who are good in blocking in space. Good OL, know how to run traps whether it the DL or LB shooting the gap.
    What funny is this how we stop the Giants last week, we ran a 4-5 man DL, and every player had gap assignement thus taking away from the running lane that can be created. It no like this is rocket science, this has been going on for years, you would of figure that JG would have down by now,

  • californy

    I dont understand why Jason Garett has Westly Phillips as this team Quality Control coach. You would of figure he would of wanted him as a Quality control Defensive assistant, since I dont see RR sticking around too much here in Dallas. It would be more beneficial that Westly learn the RR defense so he can remain and assume RR position when he leave the Cowboys. I would of assigned John Garrett or even Wade Wilson as the QC coach.

  • boysteamusa

    Yes! I continue to say we win when we let Romo be Romo, he see’s the field, so long as he does not have to stick to JG’s script, that’s fine. Jason Garrett has got alot of scrutiny over his playcalling and game management. I suspect he will continue to do so both inside and outstide the organization.

  • boysteamusa

    To be honest I havent ruled JG out as a serious liability to the Cowboys organization. Yet I must admit he is going after high motor players now, and definitely seems willing to give the defense the pieces they need to dominate. I wish he had more grit like he presses for in his players.

  • californy

    I disagree with you Cowgirl. I believe Tony Romo is already doing to much. It always been my belief the less Romo does the better this team will be. Every member of this team has a job to do. They just need to do their job a little bit better. It really about the fine details to doing the job. Do you ever wonder why an OL only block one player in Goal line? A good OL can block two player on every play should he want to. We have learn to settle for the minimim with these player. It time we raise the expectations with these player.
    The term specialistis, is good when the player does their job outstanding. The problem with these specialist they dont even do one job right. Marty Bennett was one of those specialist, I think they called him a red Zone specialist, Marty had zero TD in his last 3 years with the boys. A Swing tackle with no NFL experience is another specialist. I just dont know why they need to pay him the salary, when he has no experience in doing his job. We have another TE in Hanna who is also a specialist player, who doesnt block, Hey at least some specialist, the long snapper who is doing his job. The less we have to think of him the better he is.
    The key is in executing the play. I dont care if the defense know the play, if it is executed in the right way it will never be stopped. Football is about fundemental, and putting yourself in a position to make the play. It really as simple as that. Game time adjustment are part of keeping ahead of your opponet. When a play is executed right, it works all the time. It take a mimum of 11 player to execute a play, but this can not be done without good Football fundementals, things like blocking, catching, running, tackling, and putting yourself in the best position to make the play.

  • kevin

    I found your little article and graphs totally ignorant. It does not take in to account game situations or many other factors, including what the team normally does well. The fact is garetts offense did well enough to win most games last year and was let down by the defense. Landry was a great coach, but he had no salary cap, the best players and alot less competition. Pretty easy to look smart when your just plain better than everyone else.

    • Dallas3026

      I don’t totally agree, but I see your point. Just knowing that Garrett calls the same play all the time is not that useful without knowing that plays success rate.

      For example, if he runs on 4 and 1 100% of the time, but he his successful 90% of the time, the predictability is not an issue.

      I think that is the point that this post misses..predictability is only bad if they can stop it and you keep doing the same thing. If you can call the same play all day long and the defense can not stop it, there is no problem with being predictable.

      As predictable as Garrett may be, the offense has been pretty effective.

      • http://yourdailycowboysfootballfix.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

        why don’t you look up JG’s red zone percentages and how many 3 and outs he has and then tell me how successful the 100% has been.

        • Dallas3026

          Why don’t you? That was my point, the facts you used are insufficient by themselves to draw the conclusions you want.

    • http://yourdailycowboysfootballfix.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

      you are entitled to your opinion and I will respect it, but before throwing the word ignorant around make sure you look up how many late round and undrafted guys Landry coached in to Pro Bowls and or the HOF. He had to rely on drafting and developing players, he couldn’t just go out in to FA and buy a Carr because he was unable to develop 1 starter out of 9 CB’s on the team. The other fact is, he always drafted at the bottom of the 1st round because of so many winning seasons. The current Cowboys have had so many losing seasons they pretty much always had a high draft pick as far as a lot less competition goes, that’s just ridiculous lol. It was a lot tougher to win back then they didn’t have all the protection rules for QB’s and WR’s or challenges to overturn bad calls, if they had we beat the Steelers and have 6 rings to their 5, . Instead of throwing opinions around, at least post some type of verifiable facts to support your argument.

      • C. Joseph Wright

        Jerry has his share of undrafted guys. Miles Austin. Tony Romo. Barry Church I think. And late rounds, how bout Jay Ratliff or Chris Canty?

        • http://yourdailycowboysfootballfix.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

          most of them came under Parcells. Now that I had more of a chance to see Church in games. I am not impressed.

  • californy

    The boys finished last season 8-8 and went 2-4 down the stretch. The boys lost because they can not win the division. A good coach would bring in new play and player down the stretch run. JG had no answer that would change the team direction down the stretch when it most counted. You can pretty much say it was JG first year in Dallas, but another first year coach did well in SF. Dont make excuse for him.
    Tom Landry set the standards to what winning was all about, 20 consecutive winning season. He held people accountable. There was a RB who held out, he never played again for Dallas. There was a great LB in Hollywood henderson who though he was above the team. he never played for the team as well. Tom landry was about drafting and developing of players. many of the player he developed on the offensive line never played the position until Tom landry develope them. Many of these player became great player in Cowboy OL history.
    You are right about something Tom never had to deal with the salary cap. he didnt have to when he found many talent as undraftred player or late in the draft. A player like Rodger Starbach and Danny White never had their way in Dallas because they were held responcible for their play on the field. Tom Team had many injuries also but that didnt matter because he developed depth behind these players. Tom rarely made trade because they were not required when your draft answer your team future concern at these positions.

    • boysteamusa

      We must get back to dominating the division. Cowboys once had a lock on this but seem it seems to have lost its importance.

  • Dallas3026

    Calling the same play on every down is only a problem if the defense can stop it. If they can’t stop it, then u keep doing the same thing. Knowing that Garrett is predictable means nothing without knowing his success rate.

    If he calls the same play on 4&1 every time, but he makes it, does the predictability really matter?

    • http://yourdailycowboysfootballfix.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

      lol what did you learn from tonights game? Carrol had his number!

      • Dallas3026

        I learned that no team can win win your Pro Bowl TE drops 4 passes and your WR drops a few more.

        • Dallas3026

          I also learned that a defense can play great in the 1st half, but get worn down an start to plat badly when the offensive is unable to sustain any drives.

      • C. Joseph Wright

        I look forward to being proven wrong, but I don’t think they were out-coached. They failed to execute.

        • http://yourdailycowboysfootballfix.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

          there is no way in the world to justify making Romo throw 40+ passes. That is on the coach. the decision to move T Smith to the LT position was on the coach. he is getting abused just like I said he would. Leaving guys like Beasley who can make an impact inactive is on the coach.He could be returning kicks. Keeping guys like Felix active and progress stopping guys like Tanner and Dunbar is on the coach. How much production are we getting from Dez? Why not give Harris Beasley etc a shot? The problem on this team is all about the coaching. No One earns a job they just get penciled in.

  • Artie C

    If there are 2 plays called in the huddle, doesn’t Romo affect the predictablity?

    • http://yourdailycowboysfootballfix.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

      If you look you will notice that Romo only kills a very small percentage of the plays. In most cases that’s when they have a big play. Like when JG called a run and Romo trusted Holley, changed the play and won the SF game. Warren Sapp said last year that JG needs to let Romo drive. I tend to agree.

      • C. Joseph Wright

        You may be right, but I see Romo kill a fair amount of plays, and then the result is also dismal. He is not Peyton Manning.

        • http://yourdailycowboysfootballfix.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

          I honestly believe that Tony needs to go to a better team with better coaching and a better system. I was amazed at Harbaughs balance on offense and how much Smith has improved as a QB since last yr. I was talking to Bryan about how he whams the TE etc. Bryan said he told V Davis he was amazed at how much better he was at blocking this year. He then said why? Davis said the same thing I did. It’s the coaching. Did you notice the difference in Marty B now that he is in NY? perfect example. Just like the NYG picking up My RB R Scott that the Cowboys cut. He looked pretty good there in the 4th qtr.

  • Artie C

    I know I’m going to regret saying this to you because you get down right mean in your comments when I wrote about Tom Landry’s last couple years as coach, but, I watched those games and, though I’m sure it’s because he didn’t trust his personnel, he didn’t take as many chances and wasn’t quite as unpredictable as the league caught up to his genius (and he was a genius, so no swearing). I did like that he scripted his first like 10 -20 plays and didn’t deviate. When his teams were good we were like a machine!

  • Army Mike

    As an army analyst and Cowboys fan, thank you thank you!! Now I can better explain pattern analysis! Cheers!

  • Reid

    Great article. I really enjoyed it.
    I have always thought there was some predictability to the play calling, but never mapped out the actual calls to see how bad it was.

    2011 was a tough year with the Cowboys so low on important personnel (the OL). Understandably, much of our playbook was constrained to quick passes. With that said, I would be interested to see how 2012 looks in comparison to 2011. Did JG learn from his mistakes, or are we watching a coach that has not grown as much as we hoped?

    Again great article. After a tough loss, much of the comments are not surprising. Regardless, keep up the good work. My first read on this site, but probably not my last.

    • http://yourdailycowboysfootballfix.com/author/cowgirlcas/ Cowgirlcas22

      thank you for sharing your thoughts. I hope to see you again.

  • Standfirm66

    Garrett is to old school. he thinks he can rebuild the team of the 90′s and have success with norv turner plays. thats not going to happen, just look at norv turner, he aint winning nothing either. your right Cas, JG is very predictable, and he needs to hire an OC and keep his nose out of the play calling. and if we could some how get a new DC too and a 4-3 front. we might be ok then.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rich.kurtz.79 Rich Kurtz

    I’m confused on the 1st and 1-2-3-etc yards to go on anything but goal to goal situations. Also, how many second and 8 yds to go did Dallas run into last year? It seems to me that when the running game was getting shut down (like it was before Murray, and then after he was injured) there would naturally be a higher percentage of passing downs, not out of predictability but of necessity, particularly in so many of their high-pressure come from behind games. I don’t argue that some of these stats may indicate a predictability in certain situations, and that’s not good, such as the ist and 2nd goal-to-go at 8 yards. But I think there’s a lot more at play than a simple look at a 100% versus 0% when that situation may have only occured a handfull of times in a season. Intersting tables though. Thanks.

  • gwk

    Very well done. I agree with you.

  • larry cowboy

    Every single game the last few years a 2nd and 2-ish situation comes up and i beg my tv for a big play and its nearly always a run as expected and we usually kick a field goal….what happened to the 2007 version of JG? Romo was getting 300+ yards on as little as 13 completions aka the big play…it’s like when T.O. left JG must of went into a shell like the coach on water boy….someone needs to sit JG down log him onto youtube and put on a “Miles austin highlights” video so he’ll realize he gots what he needs to call aggressive plays!

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