Counting on Zeke and his linemen won’t cut it anymore
Jerry Jones won’t take Terrell Owens’ advice to fire Jason Garrett, but, just the same, the owner could do himself a favor and let emotions die down before giving his head coach that reported extension. Wait until the mob takes its torches and goes home, anyway.
Garrett didn’t do himself any favors in a 30-22 playoff exit against the Rams. His staff was outcoached on both sides of the ball. Yet the Cowboys came close enough that Jerry will not only keep his head coach, he’ll practically write him into the will.
Take a moment to blink or scream or weep softly, whatever works. Better? Good, let’s proceed.
Even if it looks like Garrett is going to outlast yours truly, the least he can do is accept this lowly counsel:
Quit coaching like it’s 2016.
Sure, that offensive approach helped a fourthround rookie quarterback put together a historic season. Didn’t put too much on his back. Let one of the best offensive lines in football maul opponents up front, then watch Zeke Elliott justify the fourth pick of the draft.
Since those halcyon days, however, it’s become apparent that the World’s Greatest Offensive Line no longer earns the title. Not even close. Tyron Smith is still very good, but he’s not a dominant left tackle anymore. Even if Travis Frederick returns next season from Guillain-barre syndrome, the Cowboys can’t assume he’ll be the same. At some point they’ll also have to ask themselves if La’el Collins is really a right tackle or if he’s better back at guard.
Besides the slide of the line, there’s a factor completely out of the Cowboys’ control: Opponents apparently have film, too.
And when you line up 11 players like no one’s waiting on the next elevator, it’s not hard to guess your intentions.
On a fourth-and-1 at the Rams’ 35 at the start of the fourth quarter, down by eight points, the Cowboys did it again.
Joe Looney snaps the ball. Dak hands off.
Zeke gets swallowed. Frankly, it’s like sitting around the royal cemetery 4,500 years ago, watching the Mesopotamians enjoy a little human sacrifice.
Didn’t help that Ndamukong Suh played Saturday like it was 2009, when he terrorized Texas in the Big 12 championship game. His performance then cemented my Heisman vote. Suh hadn’t played with such ferocity in a long time, not that Looney would probably believe it.
Maybe the Cowboys weren’t expecting Suh to be so great again. Maybe they looked at the 5.1 yards per carry the Rams had been giving up and figured it’d be easy.
Maybe Wade Phillips got his revenge against the Cowboys after all.
The Cowboys could have made it tougher on Wade. For starters, they could have done what worked so well against Seattle the week before.
On third-and-14 from the Seahawks’ 17 with 2:33 left in the game and the outcome in doubt, Dak ran for 16 yards, somersaulting to the 1. He scored on the next play to put the game out of reach.
Dak’s wild gallop wasn’t out of desperation; it was a deliberate call. He ran only six times, gaining 29 yards. But that 16-yard burst made all the difference.
On a night when they were only 1 of 10 on thirddown conversions and Zeke rushed for just 47 yards on 20 carries, the Cowboys could have used a half dozen runs from Dak to crack the Rams’ rock-solid defensive front. But it apparently didn’t occur to anyone on the Cowboys’ sideline or upstairs to try more than twice.
Speaking of Dak, he may not get an extension this offseason like his head coach will, but it’ll happen. No problem with that here. Dak has flaws in his mechanics that impede his accuracy, but he’s good enough. The Cowboys simply must hone his skills and give him a complete tool kit.
He’s got the receivers in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Cole Beasley, if the last comes back. Zeke is as good as it gets. And if not what it once was, the line remains in the top third of the league.
What Dak needs is an upgrade in coaching. Do something about his footwork once and for all.
Even better: Install an offense that better makes use of his feet and doesn’t make a battering ram out of Zeke.
Firing Scott Linehan won’t necessarily be the answer, not unless Garrett sees the light. Because this is his offense, too. Nothing happens on that side of the ball without his consent. Make it part of the deal, Jerry. You don’t have to listen to T.O. Not when such good advice is available locally, and only at the cost of a subscription.
Ezekiel Elliott (left) is swallowed up by the Rams’ defense on a fourthand-1 run up the middle early in the fourth quarter.