Delicious Dallas Tears
Troy Aikman roasting the Cowboys' game plan deserves roughly 1 billion retweets
One thing that flew a bit under the radar in this past Sunday's wild wild card matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers game, perhaps to the untrained eye, was the final stat line of CeeDee Lamb. 1 catch for 21 yards. 1 rush for 5 yards. For those keeping count, that's two touches for, one could argue, the Cowboys' most electric offensive player. For comparison's sake, the 49ers got the ball in the hands of Deebo Samuel, their most electric offensive player, 13 times.
Now, a closer look by one of them amateur film watchers on Twitter might reveal that Lamb was receiving extra attention from the 49ers defense. That the threat of Lamb opened the door for tight end Dalton Schultz to have a huge game, or for Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson to each have five-plus catches for 60-plus yards. That you can't just "throw it up" to your best receiver like it's Madden football.
Troy Aikman, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback-turned FOX color man, disagrees, saying as much on 96.7 The Ticket, a Dallas-based sports radio station. Aikman, who no doubt took a second and perhaps third look at the film of his former team's latest playoff disappointment, came away scratching his head like the rest of us. How could Lamb have just one catch, especially considering the fact he was in single coverage for much of the game.
Here's Aikman's full quote, which deserves roughly 1 billion retweets and has to feel like a repeated knife to the gut for Dallas fans who have seen a literal endless amount of first-round playoff ousters since Aikman hung up the cleats (h/t: @jonmachota):
"San Francisco rushed four guys, for the most part, they blitzed occasionally, but they're a four-man rush football team. But a lot of times when you say that, then you think they're playing coverage. They mixed in some coverage, but there was a lot of single coverage on CeeDee Lamb. I hate going back to (when I was playing) because nobody cares, but what I see around the league, it's not just Dallas, I've seen it with a lot of teams, a lot of these offenses want to scheme things. The coordinators, it's all about scheme, rather than, 'This corner is playing soft. He's scared to death. Just run the route tree. Run a comeback. Run a dig route. Run a curl. Run anything.' You're going to complete a pass whenever you want. (Michael Irvin) would've had 10 catches at halftime if they played us the way they played CeeDee Lamb in that game. The game is not that difficult. If I've got a great player at wide receiver and a corner is playing him single coverage, throw him the ball. He's going to win most of the time."
An oversimplification? Maybe, but sometimes it really is that simple. Get your best player the freaking ball. Look no further than the Cincinnati Bengals' plan from this past Saturday. From the opening play, it was clear one of their offense's No. 1 objectives was to feed Ja'Marr Chase the ball, which resulted in a nine-catch, 116-yard performance and a victory over the Las Vegas Raiders.
Aikman's quote also calls to mind one of the great coaching clips ever, which I'm struggling to find on the internet. In it, Urban Meyer tells a story about his time as the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame in the early 2000s. After a close overtime loss to No. 1-ranked Nebraska, Meyer found and inconsolable David Givens in the locker room and simply assumed he was distraught after the Fighting Irish's defeat. Givens went on to explain that he didn't feel like he helped the team win, only catching one pass for nine yards. It then clicked in Meyer's head that the team's best offensive weapon was essentially a non-factor in a massive game, which he vowed to never let happen again. In almost every stop since, Meyer has employed a "hybrid" type offensive weapon that gets the ball in a variety of ways.
Obviously, that is now a common position in every level of football (see: Samuel, Deebo). Finding ways to get your best player the ball should be a no-brainer. Mike McCarthy may have missed that day in football 101.