Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 12/6/11
If the Dallas Cowboys' season goes off the rails this month, there's a quote from head coach Jason Garrett that will live in infamy. Asked during a tense Monday news conference whether he ordered quarterback Tony Romo to "clock" the ball in the closing seconds against the Arizona Cardinals, Garrett offered this gem following a pregnant pause: "I don't have a great answer for you on that," he said. That one answer could've applied to everything else the Cowboys coach said the day after his team's 19-13 overtime loss in the desert. Instead of taking accountability for the biggest screw-up of his young coaching career, Garrett offered more support for the lame-brained approach in the final minute of regulation. And the most chilling thing that can be inferred from his day-after testimony was that he has more faith in a rookie kicker than in veteran quarterback Tony Romo. Never mind that Romo's the guy who put his team in position to win the game in the final minutes by delivering a strike to Dez Bryant on third-and-11. With two timeouts in his pocket and the ball at the Cardinals' 31-yard line, Garrett decided to cut his losses and settle for a 49-yard field goal attempt from a kicker who had missed from 53 yards and then rattled one through the uprights from 50. Garrett correctly pointed out Monday that a similar approach had worked against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2, but that seems like a flimsy premise for this past Sunday's decision. Garrett could've made life a little easier on himself and his players by owning up to his gaffe(s), but he chose to justify his decisions. In doing so, he ensured that the first major crisis point of his tenure would have plenty of legs. Garrett's credibility rating took a major hit among fans and media, but what matters most is what his players are thinking. Will they see all the embarrassing headlines this week and rally around their head coach or does this plant a seed of doubt in their minds? Romo sounded as if he was in lock step with Garrett's explanation after the game. And yes, the Cowboys quarterback certainly had the option of covering for his coach's mistake by calling timeout after Bryant's catch. But to me, it's hard to place too much blame on Romo. He's racing up to the line of scrimmage while trying to decide whether the Cowboys have a first down. At that point, Garrett needs to take over and make the same decision that 31 other coaches in the NFL would've made. The Green Bay Packers had to make the same decision in the final moments of a tie game against the Giants on Sunday. Head coach Mike McCarthy never considered settling for a long field goal attempt by Mason Crosby. He tried a screen pass that didn't work and then Aaron Rodgers completed a gorgeous pass to put the kicker in a more comfortable range for the game-winner. I get the fact that Rodgers is a more accomplished quarterback than Romo, but that doesn't mean Tony shouldn't have had an opportunity to make another throw down the stretch. Romo's ability to make plays with his feet should give Garrett confidence despite the team's leaky offensive line. Or maybe you show pass and then give DeMarco Murray the ball on a delayed handoff. Oh wait, Garrett had forgotten he was on the roster by that point in the game. This isn't the first time Garrett has been accused of being a poor game manager, but Sunday's gaffes have taken things to another level. It lends even more credence to Jimmy Johnson's recent opinion that Garrett would be wise to hire an offensive coordinator to call plays, so he could become a "walk-around" head coach. Garrett and owner Jerry Jones were quick to dismiss that notion. But in the aftermath of Sunday's failure, Johnson's idea has more credibility than ever. Obviously, that's something in short supply at Valley Ranch this week.
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