The DC Times

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

By Jonathan Bales

More on Jason Garrett’s Decision to Run Late vs. Pats

Subscribe to The DC Times
Never miss a post again!

Jonathan Bales

In my recent article for The Fifth Down, I detailed why I thought Jason Garrett was wrong to run the ball three straight times late in the fourth quarter against the Patriots.  Even with 3:36 to play and a three point lead, I thought Garrett could benefit from being more aggressive in that situation.

Some of you have chimed in with your thoughts on the situation, two of which I will address here.  The first is that we (I) vilified Garrett run throwing the ball in the third and fourth quarter against the Lions, yet I am also criticizing him here for not airing it out.  Can I have it both ways?  The other idea is that, had the Cowboys been more aggressive and Romo thrown an interception, the damage to his psyche and the team’s season would be far worse than the current situation.  With a relatively soft remaining schedule, the team still has every opportunity to get back into the playoff hunt, and the confidence of the quarterback is vital to that process.

Both are solid thoughts and have some merit, but I do not whole-heartedly agree with either.  A 24-point lead is far different from a three-point lead (even in the fourth quarter versus with 3:36 to play), and the numbers show that.  While the Cowboys’ win percentage peaked at 85 percent against New England, it was as high as 97 percent against Detroit, including 95 percent just before the start of the fourth quarter.

Courtesy of AdvancedNFLStats.com

You could make a solid argument that, if you do nothing but run and secure the football from the third quarter on against the Lions, you cannot lose the game.  At worst, your chances of winning would be no less than that 97 percent mark at which they peaked.  How many times out of 100 can the Lions score 24 points in 25 minutes without the aid of takeaways?  One or two? Whatever it is, it is certainly low enough that Dallas should not have been throwing the ball on first down in the second half.

Even with under four minutes to play, a three-point lead, and possession of the football, the Cowboys should have attacked on Sunday.  As I detailed in the New York Times article, the fact that the Cowboys failed in their aggressive attack against Detroit really has no bearing–or shouldn’t have–on their aggressiveness versus the Pats.  Even if the situations were the same, a sample size of one game is hardly enough to affect future decisions.  You don’t stop going for it on 4th and 1 because you failed once, or twice, or any number of times, because those numbers will level out in the long-run.  Similarly, you don’t scrap your offensive approach because it hasn’t worked of late.

Of course, statistics cannot account for everything, and one of those things (as it currently stands, anyway) is the impact a decision might have on the team’s future, particularly in a psychological way.  If the psyche of the team, namely Tony Romo, would have broken following a potential interception, could it be possible that running the ball, although perhaps not statistically superior to passing in the narrow sense, was the correct decision when we take the bigger picture into account?

While I see why one might think this, I don’t think it should be a factor in a team’s decision-making.  Would Romo’s confidence plummet following another late-game interception?  Perhaps.  Would it affect the team’s ability to win down the road?  Maybe.  But he is a professional football player, and if his psyche is so fragile that he cannot block out past interceptions and respond well from adversity, the team probably wouldn’t be able to win with him anyway.  Further, a player who could potentially lose confidence so easily surely wouldn’t feel good about his offensive coordinator taking the ball out of his hands late in a three-point game.  If Garrett doesn’t believe in his quarterback, who does?

Luckily, I don’t think Romo’s psyche is truly that fragile.  He’s a confident player, and he possesses every requisite trait to lead this team to the playoffs.  Perhaps unfortunately for Dallas, he sometimes isn’t put in situations which are optimal for him to display those traits. . .and win football games.

Dallas Cowboys Times is on Twitter.

Subscribe to our free e-mail updates.

Like this post? Share it with others:
  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • Reddit
  • RSS
  • Twitter
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Netvibes
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati

No related posts.

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

6 Responses to More on Jason Garrett’s Decision to Run Late vs. Pats

  1. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    VERY good argument.

    However, I still think you discount the psychological affects. Romo doesn’t appear to be a strong willed QB. I dare say that although he has seemed to be a little more outspoken, he still gives off the impression that he lacks true mental toughness concering lots of matters. Many a diva WR has spoken out about him to which he seemed to take the high road but left the situation UNCHECKED. There was a lot of comment from many analysts (Skip Bayless comes to mind) about him wearing his hat backwards. Low and behold, he doesn’t do that anymore. There’s been rumor of him trying to be encouraging to the defense in the past to which they responeded w/ a “F___ off.” To which, he failed to respond to.

    Bottom line – Romo isn’t mentally tough. He’s just not. It’s not his personality. And I think that accounts for a lot.

  2. Mont Seventeen says:

    Romo is the kind of dude that throws the ball out of bounds on a hail mary the last play of the game. What can you do as a play-caller with that mentality at QB?

    When you have a 3 point lead you don’t put it in the hands of a QB that is 3-9 since his lone playoff win… You put it on your D bc Romo is a pick six waiting to happen!

  3. valmont says:

    “You could make a solid argument that, if you do nothing but run and secure the football from the third quarter on against the Lions, you cannot lose the game. At worst, your chances of winning would be no less than that 97 percent mark at which they peaked. How many times out of 100 can the Lions score 24 points in 25 minutes without the aid of takeaways? One or two? Whatever it is, it is certainly low enough that Dallas should not have been throwing the ball on first down in the second half.”

    1. “At worst, your chances of winning would be no less than that 97 percent mark at which they peaked.”

    this is a misinterpretation of WP. WP looked at the results of a big dataset of games and says what you’re expected WP is. Guess what though. I bet you there wasn’t a single team in that dataset that called only runs. I bet if you had a dataset of teams that couldn’t run the ball and called only runs, the WP would be a whole lot lower than 97%.

    2. “How many times out of 100 can the Lions score 24 points in 25 minutes without the aid of takeaways?”

    assume dallas only runs and goes 3 and out every possession. Dallas would run 2:15 on each possession. Based on the last drive I’d say the Lions might score 24 on 25% of the time. Dallas is only guaranteed to run 8 mins or so off the clock.

    Now you’ll invariably respond that Dallas could pass on 3rd downs to try and get the 1st down. But there’s no guarantee that wouldn’t result in interceptions. In fact, obvious passing downs would increase the likelihood.

  4. brian says:

    valmont is right

  5. Mark Watkins says:

    It really seems like they should be using more screen plays and high percentage passes. In the Pats game, that would have seemed to be a perfect option on 2nd down. They weren’t going to run enough time off the clock to hinder Brady’s ability to move his team down field, so they should have done everything possible to get a first down. And it was obvious that running the ball wasn’t going to work. Also, for those that say that the Boys had been stopping Brady the whole game, it’s a completely different situation when he knows that he has 4 downs to work with. Huge factor! Against the Lions, they also should have primarily ran but mixed in some high percentage passes as well (not the kind that Romo was throwing). Just being somewhat conservative but picking up a few first downs along the way would have secured the victory.

  6. Roy says:

    In the Pats game, at least the Boys could have simulated pass and then tried to run the ball, but they made run so obvious that the Pats defense totally sold out to stop the run.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>