Matt Flynn is the Green Bay Packers fourth-string quarterback, wearing the uniform of the 4th team he’s been on since the end of the 2012 NFL season, so the only person who could predict that he’d lead a five-touchdown second half comeback against the Dallas Cowboys after a batch of inexplicable playcalling by Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and two epic-choke interceptions by Tony Romo is, well, everybody.
The fact that the Cowboys are a giant mess became crystal clear after last week’s Monday Night Football thumping against the Chicago Bears, and after they surrendered a 23-point halftime lead, there’s little left to debate except how much the fans hate the team’s leadership. Like, if Jerry Jones agreed to step down and put Bernie Madoff in charge, on the promise that he would replace head coach Jason Garrett with Casey Anthony, would the fans be into it?
After yesterday, the answer is a resounding “probably, anything would be fine at this point,” and for good reason. Announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman spent the last hour of yesterday’s game excoriating Jason Garrett for his playcalling, which was downright inexplicable: With a 23-point lead at halftime, and a tailback in DeMarco Murray who was averaging over 7 yards per carry, the Cowboys were in a perfect position to run over the Packers, eat up the clock, and maintain the lead. But that’s not what Garrett did. Instead, he called 22 passing plays for Romo, and only eight runs for Murray. Since each incompletion stops the clock, and each pass attempt carries with it the risk of an interception, that was the exact opposite of what a team in the Cowboys’ position typically does in that situation. “Unconventional thinking” is both prized and feared in the NFL, but turning away from a successful running game in favor of a risky passing attack in a situation like that isn’t just “unconventional,” it’s downright weird.
Ultimately, the decision to pass is what did the Cowboys in, as they blew the game and the Packers won 37-36. Up by twelve at the end of the third quarter, the Cowboys called three passing plays—incompletion, incompletion, sack, punt. The team took just one minute off the clock before handing the ball back to the Packers. The Packers went on to score to make it a 5-point game; the Cowboys had just one successful drive after that, and sealed the game after Tony Romo, who had spent most of the year doing his best to shake the perception that he was an interception-prone choke-artist who specialized in giving away winnable games, threw back-to-back interceptions with three minutes left in the game, which led to the Packers taking the lead and then taking three consecutive kneel-down plays to ice the clock.
Romo certainly deserves some blame for embarrassing both himself and all of the people who argue that his reputation is undeserved at the end of the matchup, but the most hated man in Dallas today is Jason Garrett. Garrett, perhaps sensing the controversy over his playcalling, created an entirely new one in his post-game press conference by claiming no responsibility for Romo’s first interception, telling reporters that he had totally called a run there and it was stupid Romo who checked into a pass (not a direct quote, but a pretty fair interpretation of the implication).
That’s not the statement of a man who feels confident in his job, nor should it be. The collective ire of Cowboys fans on Twitter had joined Buck and Aikman in calling for his head from the midpoint of the third quarter, a cry that only got louder as the game went on:
‘Tis the season to fire head coaches in Texas—ask Mack Brown and Gary Kubiak about that—and if it were Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, or the hordes on Twitter making the decision, Garrett would be in big trouble. It’s Jerry Jones who gets to make that call, though, and while he’s publicly declaring that he’s done publicly declaring his support for Garrett, history suggests that Garrett might want to update his resume: The Cowboys have had eight coaches in the franchise’s storied history, and in the 25 years since Jones bought the team, he himself has fired all seven of them not named Jason Garrett, for an average of three and a half seasons per playcaller. Garrett—who took over midway through the 2010 season as the interim coach after Jones fired Wade Phillips—will have coached for three and a half seasons at the end of the year.
Ultimately, it’s not really a question of whether or not Garrett deserves to be fired—he does—but whether Jones can attract anyone better, given the fact that the dysfunction of the Cowboys’ franchise is something of a running joke in NFL circles.
To solve that, we offer this modest proposal: Let’s just swap all the coaches for all the Texas teams with vacancies, with everybody taking the seat to the left. Garrett, who was successful in turning Tony Romo from an undrafted backup to a legitimate NFL starter (with unfortunate tendencies to throw the game away when it counts), could presumably work similar magic with a similar player in the Texans’ Case Keenum. Former Texans coach Gary Kubiak, who brought stability to Houston but chafed under an NFL system that saw restrictions on the amount of talent he was able to amass, could excel in burnt orange on the Longhorns’ sideline. And at least Mack Brown knows how to run the fucking ball, which would make him a breath of fresh air in Dallas.
That’s admittedly an unlikely solution, and one that wouldn’t make anybody feel better about anything. But one thing’s for sure: Jason Garrett better turn things around in Dallas very quickly, which means beating Washington and Philadelphia in the final two weeks of the season to assure themselves of a playoff berth, if he doesn’t want to join Kubiak and Brown in the recently-unemployed-coaches-from-Texas club.
(AP Photo/James D. Smith)