Dallas Cowboys: Let us declare independence from stupid decisions in ’21

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Happy 4th of July, Cowboys Nation! On this, our national day of independence, let us Dallas Cowboys fans take a moment to step up and declare independence from stupid decisions in 2021.

Some stupid mistakes are unavoidable. Accidently biting on a double-move, getting caught grabbing a jersey, misreading the secondary and throwing into coverage are all heat-of-the-moment mistakes and are unavoidable in some regard.

But some mistakes are avoidable. Some mistakes, typically those of the coaching staff, are perfectly preventable. They come from poor planning and misguided strategies. Those are the mistakes we must work to eliminate in 2021 for the Dallas Cowboys to succeed.

On this 4th of July, let the Dallas Cowboys declare independence from stupid coaching decisions

Some decisions are avoidable if the coaching staff comes in prepared with the right knowledge and informed game plan. That is what will (and should) determine Mike McCarthy’s success in 2021. Because coaches can’t control injuries, but they can control play-calling, clock management, and other decision making.


In coming days, we’ll dive into specific play-calling and the nuance involved. But right now let’s just strip it back and focus on the basics: early down play-calling. Early downs are overwhelmingly considered passing downs around the league.

For the past decade-plus, passing the ball on first and second downs produced a higher play success rate and a higher expected points added (EPA) than running the ball. Frankly, it’s not even close.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions to the rule (a team like Baltimore is historically great at running the ball) and that Dallas should pass the ball on early downs 100 percent of the time. But it’s to say smart teams should heavily favor passing early (unless they have an incompetent passing attack), because we see it produce far better results in the vast majority of circumstances.

Teams generally know this. We’ve seen the run/pass balance aggressively shift league-wide. We see increased usage of 11 personnel, and we see running games have little-to-no influence on the effectiveness of play-action. Is Mike McCarthy the kind of coach who can read the numbers and design his offense accordingly or is he going to slip into outdated NFL dogma that the numbers don’t support?

4th down gambles

The Dallas Cowboys were taken to the shed on a few 4th down gambles last year. Before Dak Prescott was even lost (taking the Cowboys season with him), the Dallas Cowboys rolled the dice and lost a handful of 4th down gambles.

To the surprise of some, the decision to go for it on 4th down so often isn’t what’s controversial. The problem was the way in which the Dallas Cowboys went for it. The plays in question involved our punter running and throwing his way to a first down. Why the Dallas Cowboys would pull their top-ranked offense off the field, just to ask a punter to do something he wasn’t specifically trained to do is beyond me.

There’s value in catching your opponent by surprise, but when you have one of the best attacks in all of football (Dallas was trending to be historically great in 2020), you use that offense.

As far as overall aggressiveness, the Dallas Cowboys could stand to be more, not less, aggressive than they currently are. That applies to the entire NFL. Teams are playing “not to lose” rather than playing it by the odds. If Dallas actually played the odds they’d punt they ball roughly half as often. And with the offense ready to dominate in 2021, that’s something we should all fully support.

Deception on defense

Cowboys Nation is abuzz with the shift back to the familiar Cover 3. As Adithya Prabakaran explained, it’s actually an evolved defense and not your father’s Legion of Boom knock-off anymore. Be sure to read more here:

Related Story. Is the Cover 3 defense dead? A detailed analysis of Dallas new defense. light

There’s value in moving back to system the players understand and can properly execute. Last season was a disaster largely because defenders were lost and started freelancing. So getting on the same page will go a long way in improving the defense right away.

More from Dallas Cowboys

But the case can be made it’s less about the scheme the defense runs and more about the scheme the opposing offense thinks they are seeing. It’s rare a defense is so talented and so dominant they can beat an offense straight up. If the offense knows exactly what the defense is doing, they have an enormous edge in today’s NFL. That’s why disguising coverages, mixing in stunts and blitz’s and being unpredictable is key to most successful defenses.

The Dallas Cowboys can’t roll out their defense and show the opposition exactly what they are doing. That’s basically what got Kris Richard fired after all. He was a great coach and teacher, but he didn’t see value in deception. Dan Quinn can’t make that same mistake.

Dallas Cowboys independence

These are just the first steps in declaring independence from stupid mistakes. There are a handful of other things that need to be changed at the planning and strategy levels before Dallas can be fully healed from their self-inflicted decision-making injuries.

light. Must Read. The Cowboys 3 thinnest and 3 deepest position groups

Next. Predicting the Cowboys D-line. dark

These are ultimately how a coaching staff should be evaluated. Some decisions are hard to get right in the heat of the moment and under the pressure of the play. But there are plenty of mistakes that can be fixed simply by knowing and understanding the game and the numbers within the game.