The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Should Marion Barber still be starting?

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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.”

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10 Responses to Should Marion Barber still be starting?

  1. john coleman says:

    I totally agree. No doubt in my mind that JJ benefitted from Big Bill and I too think he has vastly improved as a talent evaluator. Not sure what Garrett and Wade are thinking. I’m with Big Bill and JJ on Barber’s use. I don’t necessarily like him as the 3rd down guy either. I understand why you do, but he’s not as good with running after the catch. I would like to see 45% Felix, 35% Tashard, 20% Marion or at least ride the hot hand. I really just don’t see Barber being a Cowboy next year.

  2. I totally agree that Barber won’t be in Dallas next year. I do like his running abiltiy after the catch more than you. It seems like when he’s already in the open field or doesn’t have a designated spot where he “has to run,” he is fine. He lets his instincts take over, as opposed to on runs where he appears hesitant.

    I also like him there because of his ability in pass pro and because I like Choice in Wildcat and short-yardage situations. If Barber only played third downs until late in the game, he’d have plenty left in the tank.

  3. Brett says:

    TORN HAMSTRING =

    214 carries for 913 yards = 4.4 Yards.

  4. It was a quad, but I get your point. I hope you’re right that he will regain that burst this season, I just haven’t seen it.

  5. Omar says:

    i think he’s not done, 4.4 yard is the same average as adrian peterson, however i would look to felix for the starting role, the thin should be kind of 40, 30, 30, wtih felix being the 40 %

  6. I like that distribution..it is near the same as my own. I do think the Cowboys should ride the hot hand, though, and let that ratio work itself out.

  7. Brett says:

    Ya I agree. The label “starter” or “3rd down back” are mostly just labels in todays NFL. There is no reason we can’t have a solid running game using all 3 backs. I just don’t think the O line injuries or the play calling was good enough to judge just yet in the preseason. After a week or two we should have a better idea of Marion’s burst or lack there of. Can’t wait to see!

  8. Agreed. If he did regain that burst, look out. For the sake of the running game, I sure hope it’s there.

  9. Pingback: DOs and DON'Ts for Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins | Dallas Cowboys Times

  10. BARBER says:

    barber is AWESOME and he should be playing next year even if it is not for the cowboys. it is the cowboys loss if the get rid of him!!!!!!!!!!

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