Okay, so it's 4th and 13 at your own 19-yard line with under five minutes to play and you're down by 10 points to New York in a game that you have to win if you'd like to remain alive. What do you do? You have to go for it, don't you? I mean, it's an awful place to go for it, but you have no choice, right? You need two possessions to come back, and you're gonna burn all your timeouts the next time the Giants have the ball. So you gotta go for it, right?
Yeah well, Jason Garrett didn't go for it. He punted the ball back to the Giants, who then used the short field to drive down and score the insurance touchdown. And just like that, another painful and miserable Cowboys season came to a close.
Listen, it probably wouldn't have mattered in the end. Dallas wasn't going to win that game against the Giants last night because Victor Cruz was unstoppable and because Terence Newman is the worst player in the history of everything. But that call grates on me. There was only a small chance of converting that fourth down, but it was the only chance Dallas had to mount a comeback in a reasonable time frame. Instead, Garrett took the easy way out and gave the ball away. I remember hearing Al Michaels say, "The Cowboys will be forced to punt," and thinking, "NO! NO! They're not forced to do anything! There's nothing in the rules that says you have to fold up your tent and give up right there!" They should have gone for it and failed like MEN, I tell you.
I doubt Jason Garrett will lose his job this off-season. I know that the Cowboys, as currently assembled, have many glaring holes that weren't going to be fixed overnight. I also know that, like all people, coaches have the ability to grow and improve. Maybe Jason Garrett will learn proper clock management. Maybe he'll look back at his errors this season and put measures in place to prevent crummy late-game decision making. But I've also seen enough coaches in my time that have a permanent disability when it comes to such matters (see: Reid, Andy or Smith, Lovie). And I'm concerned that Garrett is one such coach.
That fourth down call was merely the final straw in a game loaded with terrible moments for Cowboys fans. From Newman getting posterized, to those two horrible missed fumble recoveries (HOW DO YOU NOT RECOVER THOSE FUMBLES?!), to Tony Romo throwing the ball past the line of scrimmage when he could have run for a first down (watch the replay, there's no one in front of him), to that terrible 4th and 1 Romo sneak that got stuffed by the Giants, last night was a veritable smorgasbord of classic Dallas mistakes. The fact that I had a hard time picking out just one singularly painful moment tells you all you need to know about how this season has gone. No team went 8-8 in more excruciating fashion than your Cowboys, and as long as the Double J and Garrett are in charge of things, I don't see much changing in the near future.