Should Marion Barber still be starting?
Call me crazy, but I think Jerry Jones has quietly become one of the better GMs in the NFL. He learned a lot from Bill Parcells during The Tuna’s stay in Dallas, and that success continued even after Parcells left. Coach Wade Phillips is certainly a solid evaluator of talent, but Jones has been the permanent fixture in Dallas’ personnel decisions throughout the decade.
Now, amidst Phillips and Jason Garrett declaring that it is important for Marion Barber to start football games, Jones isn’t necessarily agreeing. When referring to if he likes Barber starting, Jones said, “I don’t, but our coaches do. Bill Parcellsdoesn’t. Parcells thinks that Barber’s the finisher. Save him and wear ’em down at the end. But our coaches like to use him early, that physical part, to establish that.”
The Cowboys’ coaches think Barber’s punishing running style sets a tone for the rest of the game. The only problem? Barber hasn’t exactly been that punishing since 2008. In my opinion, Barber still looks sluggish and indecisive on runs this preseason, despite losing some weight.
Phillips isn’t discouraged. “You can’t change a guy’s running style,” he said. “He’s so strong, so powerful, he can ignite your team early in a game — and late in a game.”
I couldn’t disagree more with the latter assessment. No, you can’t change Barber’s running style, but that’s the exact reason he can’t be used effectively throughout the ball game. He simply can’t hold up.
Now, if the team decides to start Barber, then only use him intermittently (my suggestion has been third downs) until the fourth quarter, than I am perhaps more on-board. But that doesn’t appear like it will be the case.
We’ve talked before about how riding the hot hand (in terms of the distribution of touches among running backs) could be a worthwhile strategy for Dallas. With this method, the optimal distribution would be nearly optimized throughout the course of an entire season. And it would also probably mean less touches for Barber.
So while cynics will blame Jerry Jones for the lack of postseason success over the last 15 or so years, I think he’s become one of the better evaluators of personnel and overall talent in the league. And like a lot of his opinions over the past few years, I tend to support this one as well.
I’ve previously proposed this more unconventional distribution of touches:
- Felix Jones: 50 percent
- Tashard Choice: 30 percent
- Marion Barber: 20 percent
In my “Grading the ‘Boys”: Running Backs segment, I wrote the following in defense of the above ratio:
“Some may argue that we have given up on Barber too quickly, but now is not the time to wait on players. The Cowboys are built to win now, and the most productive players should play.
These percentages could be attained by starting Jones and letting him play two series for each of Tashard Choice’s one. We would also use Tashard Choice on short-yardage runs, including a bit more Wildcat. Barber would come in to spell Jones and Choice, particularly on third down, and to finish out games. In baseball, closers are only successful because they haven’t pitched all game. The same is true for Marion Barber. By saving his energy, he could effectively return to the “closer” role, creating the most efficient Dallas Cowboys backfield possible.”