Commentary

Memories from a few beautiful minds

Updated: January 19, 2010, 6:22 PM ET
By Matt Mosley | ESPN.com

The most important thing to do when overreacting to a 34-3 playoff loss, other than using strong language, is to pick out a play or two that make either the head coach or offensive coordinator look like a bumbling idiot and then bring it up for several months. Fortunately, Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett left us some nice options.

Russell Crowe
Universal PicturesRussell Crowe's equations in "A Beautiful Mind" might've convinced Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett to draw up some different plays during the loss to the Vikings.

Much has been made of Phillips' decision to attempt a 48-yard field goal rather than go for it on fourth-and-1 in the first quarter of a scoreless game. You'd like to think that most NFL kickers are fairly reliable from that distance. But then, you may have noticed that the Dallas Cowboys were a bit shaky at that position in '09.

Perhaps Phillips had visions of his alleged hammer, Marion Barber, meeting the Williams Wall behind the line of scrimmage. But even in the likely event that Barber chose the wrong path, the Minnesota Vikings were going to basically have the same field position they would with a missed field goal. In the aftermath of a 31-point beatdown, it seems silly to pick apart plays but you have to admit that the game may have unfolded differently had the Cowboys scored a touchdown on that drive.

In a classic Phillips moment after the game, he claimed that it was not fourth-and-1 when he elected to attempt the field goal. And while I've caught typos in final game books, it seems odd that pretty much everyone inside the Metrodome, including the Fox broadcast, believed it was fourth-and-1. If Phillips truly thought it was fourth-and-2, then Jerry Jones should reconsider that 2010 club option immediately.

Fortunately for Phillips, his gaffe was nearly overshadowed by a moment that will live in infamy among Garrett family members, most of whom are employed by Jerry Jones. Trailing the Vikings 17-3, the Cowboys' offense lurched into motion on its first possession of the second half. Felix Jones had carries of 17 and 9 yards followed by Barber's 8-yard gain. Suddenly, the Cowboys had the ball first-and-10 at the Vikings' 23-yard line.

With such A Beautiful Mind on the sideline, you thought it might be a good spot to dial up Kevin Ogletree on that slip screen that always seems to work. Maybe you go with the delayed draw to Jones since he was in a good rhythm. Instead, Garrett chose an outside pitch to Barber, a man who needs at least a step or 10 to reach full speed.

Defensive end Ray Edwards, who began his Hall of Fame campaign against the Cowboys on Sunday, tackled Barber for a seven-yard loss. Punch-drunk Tony Romo would soon be in another third-and-long situation, setting up a Vikings sack.

On this afternoon, Phillips and Garrett deserved each other. Did they cost their players a chance at a win? Probably not. Did they embarrass themselves on a national stage? Absolutely.

Break in the action?

  • So what in the world are we supposed to do with all this downtime? I know the Dallas Mavericks played perhaps their best half of the season in beating the KG-less Boston Celtics on Monday night, but the Mavs are still wildly unpredictable and capable of losing to anyone at their house of horrors -- the AAC.
  • I'm pretty sure the Stars have basically kicked Marty Turco to the curb while we weren't looking. And the new "Buy 1, Get 1 free" ticket campaign can't be what Tom Hicks had in mind when his team won the Stanley Cup 11 years ago.
  • On Monday night, I arrived home from Minneapolis and saw a woman who claims to be my wife and a 2-year-old who looked vaguely familiar. I believe this is what's often referred to as the Cowboys' offseason.
  • I'll see you guys in late July (or perhaps next Tuesday at the same time).

    Matt Mosley writes weekly on the Dallas-Fort Worth sports scene for ESPNDallas.com.