Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is known for being conservative in his playcalling, as well as his game management, but that strategy cost his team in Sunday night’s 16-13 overtime loss to the Texans.
The current trend for NFL coaches, especially when playing on the road, is to employ a more aggressive style, using analytics to dictate decision making, but Garrett continues to favor a more old-school, methodical approach. It’s worked against the Cowboys in the past, and is part of why he’s been on the hot seat for the past two seasons.
Garrett was faced with a big decision in overtime on Sunday night, when his team received the ball first, and put together a solid drive, against a Texans defense that looked as if it was beginning to wear down a bit. The Cowboys were faced with a fourth-and-one scenario, from the Texans’ 42-yard line, and Garrett elected to punt. This was a curious move, as the Cowboys have Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, and an offensive line that’s known for opening up holes. Furthermore, there was only 5:40 remaining in overtime, so there was no guarantee that the Cowboys would even get the ball back.
As it turns out, they didn’t. The Texans put together a solid drive, which was capped off by a game-winning field goal from 36 yards out. Still, Garrett defended his decision after the game at his press conference, saying it was a “long one” in referencing the yardage the Cowboys needed to gain.
“Yeah, it was a long one [yard],” Garrett said. “You know, we had a third-and-two and we didn’t make much on it, and we just felt like at that point in the game, the way our defense was playing, the idea was to pin them down there. Chris [Jones] did a great job with the punt. They got the ball on the 10-yard line and hopefully you make a stop, and you win the game coming back the other way with a game-winning field goal.”
That’s an interesting way of looking at it. On the other side of the coin, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones also gave his take, and he appeared to be in favor of the team going for it on fourth down.
Jerry Jones second-guessing decision not to punt in overtime. "We were being outplayed there, not out effort, but we just being out played. It's time for risk at that particular time that's not second guessing but we were taking some risks too at certain points of the game."
— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) October 8, 2018
Winning teams in this day and age tend to step on the gas pedal, and they don’t ease up. Look at Rams head coach Sean McVay, for example. He had his team go for it on fourth-and-one from their own 42-yard line, late in Sunday’s game against the Seahawks. The Rams successfully converted, and were then able to go into victory formation. Had they punted, Russell Wilson likely would’ve led his team down the field on a game-winning drive.
Garrett needs to change with the times, or else this could be his final season as the Cowboys head coach.