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Dallas Cowboys: Is play-calling really to blame for Cowboys’ struggles? Here’s what Brad Sham thinks

Moore: I guess my question would be from a play-calling perspective, do you call the game differently when you have an effective offensive line versus a dominant offensive line, and have the Cowboys done that?

Sham: The play-calling thing is one of the great misnomers in this sport. Everyone listening, every Morning News reader, everyone with access to the internet knows in his or her heart that they’re a better play caller than the idiots who are doing it here. That’s not just for the last five or six years, that’s the last 40 years that I’m aware of. 

Every play is five plays. Every play has options that the quarterback has to execute. Some of people’s Tony Romo plays have nothing to do with what got sent in from the bench. I would remind people that at this same point in his career that Prescott’s at now, Romo wasn’t on the field yet. I understand we’re in a different age. We have five rookie quarterbacks starting now, but experience does matter. 

I asked the question after the game in Carolina, the ball didn’t go down the field, everybody could see that and that’s probably a mistake, is that play-calling or quarterback decisions? The answer is yes. The answer is they had some plays in where one of the options was take it a shot. And the quarterback looked at it and said that’s not what I think is gonna work here so he did something else. Could they force the issue? Sure, sure they could. I think forcing the issue and giving the quarterback no option is a pretty dangerous thing. I don’t think it’s a recipe for success. But they could certainly stress this week, and frankly I’d think it’d be a great idea, let’s look for the opportunities to stress it out a little bit. They have at least two guys that can do that in Thompson and Austin. 

Moore: In my mind they’re always going to be weighing that risk-reward ratio with Dak Prescott. He can throw a deep ball. Does he throw it as well as others? No, but he’s shown he can complete a deep ball and take those shots. 

Sham: People said Aikman couldn’t throw a deep ball. 

Moore: But the thing with him is what is part of his quarterback DNA? And that is you don’t turn the ball over. When you’re making split-second decisions, the chance to turn the ball over on a deep pass is greater than that intermediate pass or a checkdown or a run. So if it’s not there in that split second and your DNA is I’m protecting the ball and that’s my priority, you’re not as inclined sometimes to make those throws. That is something early in his career that Dak Prescott is working through. 

Sham: I do too. I thought when they came out of camp, between Elliott and Austin, I thought that checkdown would be a big weapon and I still do. It depends on other parts of the route tree. The Seahawks had one significant play when there was a checkdown to a back yesterday. There was a linebacker who missed an assignment and that turns into a big play. A lot of times if the route tree is successfully constructed and everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to do and he’s looking somewhere else, I know it’s not the same game as 20 years ago but a lot of Aikman’s passing yards came on checkdowns to Emmitt Smith that went for 20 yards. You’ve got a lot of guys who can do that. I think that it depends on patience and focus and not trying to force the issue. That checkdown is not necessarily a bad thing. That can be a big play, but it depends on everyone else doing everything right. 

Moore: I think part of their issue in the passing game now is that the checkdown is too quickly becoming the default mode and they’re not hitting enough plays down field for the checkdown to be effective. 

Sham: I don’t disagree with that. Then the question becomes why are they not? When I look at the tape, I’m not seeing a problem with receivers being completely not open. I know some quarterbacks disagree with the idea of a quarterback throwing a guy open. I’ve talked to a number of quarterbacks and some of them believe you do that, and some of them believe you don’t throw a guy open. You throw the spot where it’s supposed to be and the guy’s gotta get there. I’m not sure philosophically that’s where they all are, but they have to. They have to get to that place. They means the coaches and quarterback. I think they’re probably going to have to trust the receivers more, and those guys are going to have to work a little harder to make themselves available and make the quarterback aware of them. … It’s broken, and it’s fixable and it has to get better and I believe it can and I believe it will. 

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