Nothing Endures But Change

January 15, 2008 | Thyrl Nelson

It appears that the Ravens have found their man, and now it only remains to be seen whether or not they offer Jason Garrett a contract and compel him to skip that flight to Atlanta on Tuesday. Coming to town with his wife in tow may mean something, but if he’s leaving for Atlanta tomorrow, they may be feeling the same warm and fuzzies if she’s still on his arm.
In trying to find out as much as I could about Jason Garrett over the last few hours, his credentials are difficult to argue. He comes from a football family, and seems to have lasted much longer in the NFL on his brains than his physical skills would have carried him. But the most impressive thing about his credentials is intangible. The most impressive thing about Garrett seems to be the way that people have come to believe in him very quickly, and the presence that he is said to command.
There are a number of things to question about Garrett too. He has only been coaching in the NFL for 3 seasons. As QB coach for the Dolphins in 2005-2006 he obviously didn’t have a lot to work with, but presided over a revolving door of 5 QBs in 2 years. As offensive coordinator of the Cowboys this season, Garrett oversaw the third ranked offense in total yards, but had arguably as much talent on that side of the ball as anyone, including New England.
Dallas’ offense took a serious nosedive after beating the Lions in week 14. The Cowboys had little to play for at that point, so those struggles were largely dismissed. On Sunday however, Dallas struggles continued, this time when it counted, and against a team that they had scored easily on in two games this season.
After opening the 3rd quarter with an impressive drive that ended in a field goal, the Cowboys’ offense self-destructed. Taking over with 3:07 left in the third quarter and a 17-14 lead, Dallas opened with a Marion Barber run for 3 yards. The following play, a 10-yard completion to Jason Witten was negated by a penalty setting up 2nd and 18. Dallas followed with a 5-yard pass to Witten, and then an incomplete short attempt to Patrick Crayton, unlikely to yield a first down anyway, after Romo was flushed from the pocket. The Cowboys were forced to punt and the Giants drove down the field for a quick TD.
So Dallas got the ball back, with 13:29 left in the game, trailing by 4, with no reason to panic. Marion Barber had been shredding the defense on the ground to that point, and they still had speed back Julius Jones fresh for a change of pace. After Barber was stopped for a loss on the first play, Dallas went twice to the shotgun, the first, incomplete to Crayton, the second going for 14 yards and the first down to Jason Witten.
After that, Dallas went deep and incomplete to TO on first down, one of only 4 looks to Owens in the second half. Romo then completed a 16-yarder to Patrick Crayton to pick up the first down, and ran Barber for just the second time in the series for 2 yards, setting up second and 8. Next, Romo was sacked, and then threw incomplete to Terry Glenn before having to punt.
That’s 2 runs and 6 pass attempts against the league’s best pass rush, while your second string running back is having a field day, and your first string running back is wasting away on the bench. They were trailing by just 4 points at the time, and had an eternity remaining on the clock. It’ also 9 pass attempts and just 3 rushes for the offense since scoring the go ahead field goal on their opening drive of the half.
The Cowboys had to punt, and the Giants did them a tremendous favor on their next possession. With just a 4 point lead, and 9:27 left on the clock, the Giants ran 3 straight times and took just 2:27 off the clock, giving Dallas another possession while trailing by just 4 and 7 minutes left in the game. Again, at this point, the whole playbook should be an option, and although Barber may be slowing down, Jones was still fresh and ready to go.
The Cowboys opened that possession with a 4-yard run by Barber, and then picked up a first down on a defensive hold on a pass attempt to Jason Witten. After being sacked for a loss of 14 yards on the ensuing first down, Romo reeled off a 20-yard completion to Witten on 2nd & 24, and then completed an 11-yarder to Witten, which was negated by an illegal formation penalty. On 3rd and 9, Romo looked to Owens again from the shotgun, and despite an incompletion the Cowboys picked up another first down on a defensive holding penalty. Romo threw incomplete on first down and picked up the intentional grounding call, then threw 2 more incompletions from the shotgun to finish the possession, the first to Crayton and the second to Owens.
That’s 1 run, and 8 passes while trailing by 4 with 2 timeouts left and 7 minutes left in the game. That’s also 17 pass attempts and just 4 rushes on the 3 series we’ve talked about, with the Cowboys either in the lead or still very much in the game. Furthermore, the 3 runs by Barber all came on first down, and every pass that wasn’t a short screen or deep ball was thrown at Jason Witten.
The Giants went 3 and out again and allowed the Cowboys one more good shot, taking over at midfield with 1:50 left on the clock and 1 timeout. They started the possession with a pass to Barber, then a run for a loss, then a pass to Witten for a first down. It took them 1:19 to pick up the first down, and the Giants spent a timeout with: 31 on the clock and the ball at the 22. Dallas finally got flagged for the false start that they were allowed to get away with all day, then threw a 4-yard completion to Witten before spending their last timeout. After the timeout, they went incomplete to Witten, incomplete to Crayton and intercepted, intended for Terry Glenn.
Where were TO and the running game in the second half? What was Garrett thinking about in the biggest game of his life? Marion Barber finished with 129 yards and 4.8 yards per carry but was frozen out of the second half game plan. Julius Jones got just 3 carries in the game, and none after Dallas took the 17-14 lead. Barber’s 4 runs after Dallas’ field goal were 3 attempts on first down, and one on a 2nd and 1 in the 2 minute drill.
Losing the game would be one thing, but Dallas gave this one away with their play calling and predictability. Does that sound like a familiar tune Ravens fans? Blessed with an athletic quarterback, and top 5 receiver, a top 5 tight end, two top tier running backs and a veteran offensive line, Jason Garrett made a name for himself. But he didn’t really get much production at all from the second receiver slot; Patrick Crayton was largely absent from the stat sheet in most games this season. The Cowboys benefited from a great 2 headed running attack and a wide receiver that creates match up problems. But when it counted most they went into a shell and maybe outsmarted themselves. That too might sound familiar to Ravens fans.
I think that Bisciotti had his mind made up on Garrett all along. I think, now in hindsight that his conversations with his partners revealed that many teams thought highly of Garrett and would be inclined to hire him, including the one that he was currently working for. It has been widely speculated that Garrett is Bisciotti’s favorite candidate, if not everyone else’s involved. If Bisciotti had to sell Cass and Newsome with conviction, it’s doubtful that yesterday’s game would lead to another change of gut. Another change of gut at this point would probably be a PR nightmare too.
I have to wonder how much different Garrett will be than Billick. He has much less experience, hasn’t won a playoff game as a coach in any capacity, and will be expected to bring his dynamic offense to Baltimore. How his offense translates to our personnel is another question altogether, and I suppose time will tell the tale on that one. For now, we can begin to turn our attention to the draft, and free agency, and taking back control of the locker room.
The more things change it seems, the more they stay the same. I think that similarities to Brian Billick might put Garrett right in Bisciotti’s comfort zone. But one thing is certain; this is Bisciotti’s guy, and the real beginning of his era. I have to believe that Ozzie will be next; the writing seems to be on the wall. The winds of change are blowing, and maybe just for the sake of change. When it comes to the Modell era, Ozzie and that shiny trophy seem to be all that remain at Owings Mills these days.
Leo Tolstoy
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
Caroline Schoeder
Some people change when they see the light, others when they feel the heat.
Maya Angelou
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.
Anthony J. D’Angelo, The College Blue Book
Don’t fear change, embrace it.
Aristotle (384-322 BC) – Greek philosopher
Change in all things is sweet.
Dr. Robert Anthony
When you blame others, you give up your power to change.
Nothing endures but change.