The only thing more amazing (and amusing, if you're not a fan of the team) than the decision by Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett to ice kicker Dan Bailey by calling a time out with 7 seconds remaining in the team's game against the Arizona Cardinals was his complete lack of regret in retrospect.
Tied at 13 late in the game, the Cowboys got to the Cardinals' 31-yard line in time for Tony Romo to spike the ball and stop the clock, saving the two timeouts Garrett had left.
"We very well could have taken a timeout there," Garrett said. "We felt like we were in field-goal range. We have yard lines that we use as guidelines before the game. We felt like we were in range at that point. Tony had them on the line of scrimmage quickly, so we went ahead and clocked it and used that as a timeout … You see so many situations where you have negative plays in those situations. We felt like we were in his range to give him a chance to kick the game-winner."
That's all well and good, but as Bailey lined up for what could have been a 49-yard game-winner, Garrett called one of his timeouts … just as his kicker booted the ball through the uprights.
Whoops. Bailey had to do a do-over, missed the re-kick, and Arizona running back LaRod Stephens-Howling won the game in overtime with a 52-yard touchdown hustle off a screen pass.
"The play clock was running down. We just wanted to make sure that he had a real clean opportunity at it," Garrett explained. "It was at about six [seconds] and we were still getting settled in, so we banged a timeout to give him the opportunity to get the snap, hold and kick as clean as possible."
Yeah, but … your kicker made it the first time. Right?
Bailey was a stand-up guy after the fact, insisting that it was his fault, but it's hard not to blame the coach when a successful low-percentage field goal is wasted.
"The first one, I felt like I hit it good. Obviously it went in," Bailey said. "We called the timeout, but that is my job to regroup and make the next one. I didn't do that. No excuses. I should have made it despite the circumstances."
Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt had the ultimate dagger of a quote after the game. "I was glad they iced their kicker so I didn't have to."
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has been critical of Garrett's conservative play-calling in recent weeks, was relatively closed-mouthed after the game.
"My understanding is, the explanation I got is it was to let time run off the clock," Jones said, when asked why Garrett didn't use that other timeout and try to get closer to the end zone. "I'm not going to agree or disagree right here. But the point is, it was to let time run off the clock."
Asked again about the high-risk element of the call, Jones was curiously vague.
"Just a minute, I'm just telling you what my understanding is," Jones said.
One suspects that in the next few hours, Jones will demand a better explanation in private.
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