Cowboys Struggles: Coaching is to Blame


Many of the Cowboys offensive struggles can be pinned on injuries but poor coaching and lack of adjustments are what’s truly to blame.

The impacts of Tony Romo’s and Dez Bryant’s injuries are undeniable. The two players the Cowboys could least afford to lose were lost the first two weeks of the season. To expect the Cowboys to continue on without issue would be foolish, yet the Cowboys coaching staff appeared to do so…

It should be no surprise the Cowboys running game struggled with the absence of Dez Bryant and Tony Romo. After all, the presence of a passing game actually assists the running game. Dez Bryant’s big play potential always keeps a minimum of one safety over the top.

Without Bryant, teams have been crowding the line and packing the box. More often than not, teams are single-covering Cowboys receivers and only keeping a single safety in coverage. The past two weeks have seen 10 players within five yards from the line of scrimmage, daring the Cowboys to beat them with the passing game. I don’t have to tell you how that worked out.

But absolutely none of this should have come as a surprise. This is simple cause and effect and something Jason Garrett and his staff should have been prepared for.

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Instead of altering the scheme to make up for obviously irreplaceable losses (Bryant and Romo), the Cowboys operated their business as usual with inadequate replacements. To think Brandon “Check-down” Weeden could pick up where Tony Romo left off, is foolish. To assume Terrance “Consistently Inconsistent” Williams could just fill Dez Bryant’s role, is delusional.

The Cowboys needed to change their offense in order to overcome their personnel losses. If it wasn’t apparent in week 3 against Atlanta, it was glaringly obvious in week 4 against New Orleans. The Cowboys aren’t the first team to suffer major losses to skill players. Those that adapted – won (see also: Pittsburg Steelers). Those that failed to adapt – lost (see your Dallas Cowboys).

The Cowboys have been facing roughly the same defensive schemes week after week. As teams learned the Cowboys could not beat coverage, or even throw the ball to the outside, they started packing the box against the run. The Cowboys needed to find a way to get their receivers open. They needed to overcome their talent deficiency by out scheming opponents.

Teams like the Patriots and Saints (two of the most recent teams the Cowboys faced) have passing games designed to thrive without dominant outside receiver play. These teams, like many teams in the NFL today, use rub routes to free their less-illusive receivers.

The Saints and Pats aren’t alone in this. Watch the Packers play. Watch the Broncos play. They all utilize stacked formations and rub/pick their receivers on short easily completed passes.

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Stacking receivers creates natural picks that separate receivers from their defensive backs. Play after play the Cowboys receivers struggled getting open in single man coverage.  How many times do you remember the Cowboys utilizing the tactics used by Sean Payton and Bill Belichick?

That was rhetorical.

Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan are regarded as a couple of the best offensive minds in football.

Why exactly haven’t they attempted to help their seemingly helpless receivers then? Why does it appear that every halftime the Cowboys opponents adjust and the Cowboys continue with their same old tired plan?

To be fair, all of the aforementioned teams feature QBs considerably better than Weeden or Matt Cassel but the throws they are making aren’t inherently difficult to execute. The hardest thing involved in short pick routes is properly reading the defense and not throwing an easy interception into zone coverage.

Defenses will often try to disguise coverages and drop a linebacker into a zone immediately upon snap. Because of this, running pick/rub routes isn’t an automatic cure-all for every team looking for offense, but it is at least a great solution for team that can’t create separation with their receiving corps.

Time is running out for the Dallas Cowboys. Their offensive ineptitude isn’t suddenly going to vanish with the insertion of Matt Cassel behind center. The coaching staff needs to step up as well. Garrett and Linehan need to put their great minds to work and start finding ways to make up for their deficiency of talent.

Next: Will Cassel be Better than Weeden?

After all, great coaches don’t always win because they have the best plays, it’s because they find a way to make their players great. Right now, the Cowboys coaching staff is failing at that.