IRVING, Texas – However prepared Bill Callahan is to call Sunday’s gameplan against the Rams, he’s certainly prepared to answer the inevitable questions about it.
The whirlwind of questioning about the Dallas Cowboys offense – from playcalling to the ineffectiveness of the running game – turned its attention to Callahan on Thursday after moving past Jason Garrett and Tony Romo earlier in the week.
In his first season as the Cowboys’ playcaller, Callahan seemed well-prepared for the second-guessing that comes with a head-scratching loss to the Chiefs last weekend.
“We just felt like there were some real matchups that we liked in that game, and we wanted to go with that. That’s the way it played out, and when it doesn’t play out, that’s a part of the job. I shoulder that, and I don’t shun that responsibility whatsoever,” he said. “Going forward, we’re trying to put together a run gameplan we can all be proud of and we all like, and we can hopefully get to that balance that we’re looking for.”
Most of the expectation to fix the Dallas running game, which ranks 26th in the league with just 62 yards per game, is going to fall on Callahan. It’s a line that has been repeated around Valley Ranch to this point in the season, but Callahan said the offense can’t get too caught up in meeting quotas as opposed to doing what works.
“By and large it’s circumstantial – we just took advantage of some opportunities that existed and we went after coverage and honestly some coverages that we liked,” Callahan said. “It’s not that we didn’t want to run it, it’s just that during the course of a game, you’re going to go ahead and attack a defense in a certain way and a certain manner.”
Garrett fielded the question earlier on Thursday, and Romo faced it when he talked to reporters Wednesday: at what point do you decide between taking what the defense gives you and running purely for the sake of the running game.
“Sometimes you’ve got to be able to run when they’re playing the run, and you’ve got to be able to pass when they’re playing the pass,” Garrett said.
Callahan added on to that Thursday afternoon with the thought that the running game doesn’t always have to look like a running game – an idea that might explain the prevalence for short passes in the first two weeks of the season.
“There’s so many aspects of running the football – there’s play action, there’s run action, there’s movement passes. There are numerous things that can equate to a run as well,” he said. “It could be the screen game, it could be the check down system, whatever that may be – in the passing game, that it really becomes like a run. Sometimes I think that gets kind of lost in translation.”
He did stress that he didn’t mean that as an excuse, however. With 39 attempts through two games, Dallas ranks 27th in the league in rushes – a stat he conceded isn’t good enough even if the Cowboys are using other means of moving the ball.
“We’ve got to do a better job — I’ve got to do a better job calling more runs,” he said. “So that’s something that we’re working hard on.”
He added: “No excuses, but we have to run it more and we’ve got to put it in DeMarco’s hands, because he’s capable of doing a lot of great things.”
As has widely been speculated, the return of Brian Waters to a large in-game role may help rejuvenate the rushing attack. Callahan said Waters has adapted quickly – an impressive accomplishment, given the required cohesion between offensive linemen — because he is familiar with the Cowboys’ system.
That said, the Cowboys’ playcaller seemed to embrace the responsibility for the offense’s success or failure, as he avoided calling out the offensive line. Callahan said the playcalling needs to improve – something there’s still plenty of time for, he added.
“We like our line — our line is physical. But we’ve got to do a better job calling it, and I’ve got to do a better job personally, and that’s my responsibility – one that I own up to and one that we all want to get better at,” he said. “But we’re working hard, our guys still believe and it’s still early on in this season to build our run game and get to where we want to go. But as we all know, talk is cheap and we’ve got to put it into action.”