On Monday, we killed Jason Garrett for becoming the first coach in NFL history (and possibly in all of football history) to ice his own kicker. On Tuesday, we killed Tony Romo for not calling a time out as soon as he completed a pass to receiver Dez Bryant with 26 seconds to play.
It’s Wednesday, and I need to reel in some of the criticism of Romo, and throw it onto Garrett.
Multiple people whose opinion I respect have explained that, in this specific situation, it’s not for the quarterback to call time out, but for the coach. (I acknowledged last night that Garrett at all times had the ability to call time out from the sideline, but the bulk of my criticism was reserved for Romo.) As soon as the play ends, the coach-to-quarterback communication line opens, and Garrett could have — and should have — told Romo to take a time out.
Instead, Garrett either told Romo to line up his teammates for a spike play, or Garrett told Romo nothing at all.
Of course, when pressed on the situation after the game, Romo didn’t say he wasn’t told to call a time out. Romo simply said he didn’t know whether the Cowboys had gotten a first down on the prior play.
It could be that Romo didn’t want to blame his coach publicly for the error.
Basically, then, Garrett made two significant mistakes. Before icing his own kicker, Garrett failed to realize that one of the two remaining time outs should have been taken as soon as the Cowboys got a first down at the Arizona 32 with 26 seconds left on the clock.
While the decision to ice his own kicker may never be adequately explained, why did Garrett fail to take a time out? Former Colts and Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy, now an analyst on Football Night In America, has a theory.
“That’s one of the problems with head coaches calling the plays,” Dungy told PFT by email on Wednesday. “They lose track of game management.”
It’s a great point. Knowing which play to call and knowing when to take a time out are two very different tasks. The play-caller isn’t thinking about bigger-picture questions like when and whether to use the remaining time outs. “Garrett probably wasn’t thinking about that ahead of time,” Dungy said. “He was thinking about what play to call on third down and, rightfully so, what he might have to call on fourth down.”
Thus, for teams where the head coach is also calling the plays, someone needs to be thinking about when and whether to use time outs. And if that fairly important task falls through the cracks with the game on the line, maybe it’s a sign that the head coach shouldn’t be calling the plays.