This week the Dallas Cowboys will face one of their oldest and most-hated rivals: the Washington Redskins. Last Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys defeated the lowly, yet always competitive, Cleveland Browns. The Cowboys demonstrated their remarkable consistency of recent seasons: barring the occasional game when they just play horribly, the Dallas Cowboys play well when facing the better teams of the NFL, and they play poorly when competing against the inferior teams of the NFL. In what is becoming very stereotypical Dallas Cowboys football, they squandered opportunities to win the game against the Browns, but then made some remarkable plays (with a fair bit of luck) to pull out the victory in overtime. This week, the Cowboys will get their first look at Washington Redskins rookie QB Robert Griffin III.
Everyone remembers the Washington Redskins’ Dan Snyder giving a pirate’s ransom to trade up to the number 2 spot in the 2012 NFL Draft to select Griffin. At the time, many Dallas Cowboys’ fans were relieved to have Jerry Jones as an owner and General Manager; Dan Snyder seemed to be making bigger mistakes than even the often criticized and condemned Dallas GM.
A quick perusal of the history of the NFL Draft shows that most of the time when two QBs are drafted in the top 5 picks, one of them is a colossal bust. Given Andrew Luck’s abilities, many pundits assumed that it would Griffin who struggled at the NFL level.
Last week, Robert Griffin led the Washington Redskins to an impressive 31-6 trouncing of the ‘Vickless’ Philadelphia Eagles (Griffin completed 14 of 15 pass attempts for 200 yards and 4 touchdowns of 6, 49, 61, and 17 yards. He also added 85 yards on 11 carries). That victory took the Redskins to 4-6, just a game behind the Dallas Cowboys, and two games behind the NFC East leading NY Giants.
Both the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins need an important division win to give them a chance at catching the Giants. That desperation for a victory coupled with the history of these two teams mutual dislike should made for an entertaining ballgame.
A few of the things I will be watching for on Thursday, in no particular order:
1. Washington Redskin QB Robert Griffin III:
There are still hundreds of unanswered questions about this very talented kid, but a few of them seem more important.
Does the Washington Redskins QB look like he has the patience, vision, intelligence, and throwing ability to be a ‘pocket-passer’ in the NFL, or will he continue to look like a kid improvising in the parking lot because he has way more physical talent than most of the rest of the kids in the lot?
Will he make rookie mistakes? (Clearly that term has some flexibility given some of Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo’s performances.)
Will Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan use a LB to “spy” Robert Griffin? If so, who will be the “spy”?
With Dallas Cowboys’ ILB Sean Lee on injured reserve, can they afford to use ILB Bruce Carter in that role? Will the spy change in different situations to try and confuse Griffin?
Can the Dallas Cowboys’ defense shut down the run (or have the benefit of a lead) enough to force the Washington Redskins to abandon the run and throw the ball? The Redskins have lost every game in which Robert Griffin III had to attempt 28 or more passes (except the 24-22 victory over the Tampa Bay Buc’s.)
2. Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett.
As always in Dallas, it seems like everyone is convinced that Jason Garrett is on the ‘hot seat’ and that he is fighting to keep his job in 2013. The speculation about Garrett’s future with the Cowboys’ organization got frenzied last week when rumors began to circulate about Mike Holmgren’s possible future with the team. Garrett’s future with the Dallas Cowboys may not be entirely secure, but the decision is not going to be made on anything as simple as how many games the Cowboys win or whether they make the playoffs. Remember, this is a franchise that has been in utter chaos for almost two decades (minus the Bill Parcells years), and Jerry Jones knows that at least part of the problem is the lack of continuity in the coaching staff.
As a rookie head coach, it seems a bit premature to fire Garrett after just 2 and a half seasons, especially when one of the seasons was truncated by the lockout. Garrett has only overseen 2 drafts, he is working with the remnants of other people’s teams, so it is far too early to pronounce that his “Cowboy Way” and dedication to the “Right Kind of Guys” is a failure; he has not had enough time to fill the Dallas Cowboys’ roster with players who are the “RKOG’s”. I am not suggesting Garrett’s philosophy is a magical recipe for success in the NFL, nor do I have near the faith in Jason Garrett as I once did, but that doesn’t change the facts: a fair assessment of Garrett will likely require more than this season.
All that being said, Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett is under the microscope, but to an owner and GM, other things should be more important than wins and losses when evaluating a coach.
Will Garrett take control of this team and reduce the number of penalties and bonehead plays that seem to happen with alarmingly regularity every Sunday?
If the stupid and costly penalties/mistakes don’t stop, will Jason Garrett finally bench or fine or punish someone so that everyone knows that kind of play will not be tolerated if you want to wear a Star on your helmet?
Does the team, as a whole, seem like it cares about winning the game? How desperately will they fight? How easily will they give up? If the players look uninspired, lethargic, or indifferent, the Head Coach has to change that. If Garrett can’t change that, then there is a huge problem.
Does Garrett make any more obvious blunders? The more obvious mistakes he commits, and the longer the gaffes continue, the harder it gets to overlook them and say that he is just a rookie who is still learning.
Will Garrett’s playcalling be good enough to suggest that he should be a Head Coach in the NFL? (I can only assume that Jerry Jones will have to call one of his contacts to make a decision on this issue because he clearly lacks the knowledge to evaluate Garrett as a playcaller.)
The Dallas Cowboys against the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving. I can’t wait.