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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