Gil LeBreton

Jason Garrett has to give Cowboys’ offense its wings

Emmitt Smith says Dak Prescott, above, should be free to run the Cowboys offense as it was meant to be.
Emmitt Smith says Dak Prescott, above, should be free to run the Cowboys offense as it was meant to be. rmallison@star-telegram.com

At the risk of sounding prehistoric, I must confess that my old high school’s football team was the last one in its state to employ the Single Wing offense.

Google it. The pictures, trust me, are all going to be in black and white.

The Single Wing’s primary weapon was deception. There was a deep snap, but defenses didn’t know whether it was going to the tailback or fullback. There were men in motion, but the defenses didn’t know whether they were blocking or passing.

The team’s backfield coach taught us algebra and had played briefly in the no-facemask days of the NFL.

The Cowboys lost 20-19 for a variety of reasons, not just because pass receiver Terrance Williams didn’t run out of bounds.

“I’ll take our offense,” he used to say, “and we could make five yards every time on the New York Giants.”

Which brings us to last Sunday, when the Dallas Cowboys, playing for a multi-million-dollar coach in a billion-dollar stadium, had trouble at times making five yards against the New York Giants.

The Cowboys lost 20-19 for a variety of reasons, not just because pass receiver Terrance Williams didn’t run out of bounds. The offense settled for field goals instead of touchdowns, and the defense couldn’t stop the Giants when they needed to in the final four minutes.

But let me suggest that it shouldn’t have come to that. The Cowboys squandered a surprisingly effective effort from their unheralded defense.

Yet after the game, coach Jason Garrett chose to focus on the red zone failures.

“We scored on our first four drives,” he said. “We had a good mix of run and pass. We converted third downs. We possessed the ball. We kept them off the field. All those things are really positive.”

When asked specifically about the offense’s inability to get the football to No. 1 receiver Dez Bryant — five passes thrown his way, one catch — Garrett explained that the Giants defense didn’t allow quarterback Dak Prescott to throw more frequently to Dez.

Garrett also explained that the Giants were crowding the line of scrimmage, hence rookie Ezekiel Elliott’s mediocre rushing output.

The Cowboys offense, Garrett said, was taking what the Giants were giving them.

But if the Giants was stacking the line, why did the Cowboys run the football 30 times Sunday?

“[Bryant] got a lot of attention,” Garrett said. “They were loading up the box in certain situations, but they also were rushing three in other situations and dropping eight guys into coverage and rolling to him and giving him a lot of attention.

They need to let Dak go. They need to just let him go. At the end of the day, he’s your starting quarterback. Quit trying to control everything yourself. Let the kid play.

Former Cowboys great Emmitt Smith on the Cowboys’ offense

“That’s nothing new for him. He’s gotten that throughout his career.”

In the end, though, the Cowboys still directed only five passes in Bryant’s direction.

As a radio guest on 103.3 ESPN this week, Emmitt Smith observed, “Michael Irvin would have went nuts, and rightfully so.

“They need to let Dak go. They need to just let him go. At the end of the day, he’s your starting quarterback. Quit trying to control everything yourself. Let the kid play.”

There’s no question who Emmitt meant by “you.”

It’s not the first time that Garrett has been criticized for keeping a Romo fill-in quarterback on a tight leash.

Did the old Cowboys let defenses dictate how many passes were thrown Irvin’s way? Did the old 49ers steer away from Jerry Rice?

Of course not. Sometimes the defense has to take what the offense gives them.

Garrett can Google it. He’ll find it right next to the Single Wing.

FW Star Telegram sports columnist Mac Engel recaps the Cowboys' season opening 20-19 loss to the New York Giants (video by Mac Engel/Star-Telegram).

Cowboys at Redskins

Noon, Sunday, KDFW/4

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