Is Bill Callahan The Right Man To Lead The Cowboys Offense?
After six years running the Cowboys offense, Jason Garrett’s play-calling privileges were transferred to offensive coordinator Bill Callahan in an episode so memorable for its communication breakdown that the more important, on-field repercussions haven’t been heavily scrutinized.
Part of that can be attributed to the evolution of the game. These days, NFL defenses are more fluid in their pre-snap looks, replete with players who embody the skills of multiple positions and have “confusing quarterbacks and coordinators” built into their job descriptions. It’s a trend that mandates more audibles and snap decisions by signal callers — actions that Tony Romo has both the experience and blessing of the owner to carry out.
But as this article asserts, Callahan has a proven penchant for a power running game — an indicator of balance that Dallas flirted with, but never sustained during the Garrett era. And if you buy that premise, you probably have some questions.
Will Callahan re-thrust DeMarco Murray into the workhorse role, or will he protect his health by giving Joseph Randle more reps? Have the chances of cracking the roster increased for FB Lawrence Vickers, considering the Cowboy tight ends are predominantly receiving threats, not proficient blockers? What’s the opportunity cost of allotting the ground game enough plays to ensure it improves at a steady rate for the future?
Those specifics can’t be answered yet. But between the appointment of Callahan as play-caller, the drafting of Randle and the statistical proof of offensive balance translating to wins during Garrett’s tenure, you have to figure a shored-up running game is a key part of the Cowboys’ plan.
The third item embodies a remarkably simple and absolute relationship. As Brooks’ story points out, Dallas is 8-0 when Murray gets at least 20 carries. Additionally, the Cowboys have rushed for 100-plus yards 19 times since Garrett took over midway through 2012 (they’re 13-6 in such games). All six losses were decided by one possession or less for a combined total of 17 points. The second-half turnaround that Garrett engineered that year, before Murray arrived, drew strength from an average of 148 rushing yards per game and ultimately propelled him to the top job.
The entrusting of play-calling to Callahan looked like an undermining of Garrett’s authority solely because of the way it played out for the media. While it certainly wasn’t good news for Garrett, it wasn’t a death sentence either. It’s little more than part of a promise to bring change to an organization that desperately needs it.
There’s a bigger point to be made here that affects the league as a whole. A head coach’s decision to recuse himself from calling the plays, whether voluntary or not, shouldn’t be judged as a barometer of his competence. Head coaches have so much stress and job insecurity, and have to devote so much attention to such a wide variety of affairs that sometimes handing it off just saves time and labor.
Every playbook needs the occasional overhaul. As NFL defenses continue to grow more complex and versatile, they’re going to need them more frequently. While the Cowboys could certainly have done without the clumsy bean-spilling, they may have made an extremely good decision with this one. And while Garrett may feel like he needs to call plays to validate his job performance and demonstrate his value, in reality, he just needs to make the playoffs with this group of players.
Do that and nobody will care or remember who called the plays.