Randle Needs To Seize This Opportunity And Run With It
Some smart aleck once defined a committee as a group of people who singly can do nothing and who together decide that nothing can be done. Wisecrack or not, Jason Garrett must hope that Joseph Randle doesn’t prove it to be true, for it could spell trouble in a big way for the Dallas Cowboys in 2015.
There were two NFC playoff teams from last season with a rushing attack that averaged less than four yards per carry. Each of them (Detroit and Arizona) failed to advance past the Wild-Card round. That doesn’t mean that if a team averages better than four yards per carry that it automatically goes to the playoffs.
But it does lend support to Garrett’s belief that a direct correlation exists between rushing success and team success. Even in a league that is enslaved by the forward-pass, a quarterback can only take his team so far.
It also means that Thursday was a bad press day for America’s Team out in Oxnard. If the Cowboys want to win a playoff game in consecutive seasons for the first time since the Barry Switzer era, their stable of running backs must avoid making headlines in the manner of yesterday’s take-a-step-back news bulletin.
When reigning NFC Offensive Player of The Year Demarco Murray signed with Philadelphia in March, the Cowboys thought prudence would be best served to use a running back by committee approach to replace him.
That committee was cut in half on Thursday when Darren McFadden was placed on the PUP list with a hamstring injury, making Randle the default incumbent for the position. That is, if he can prove he wants it.
Based on purely physical ability, Randle was the favorite to win the job going into camp. McFadden was brought in as a $6 million insurance policy in the event that Randle wasn’t prepared to take a step forward, a distinct possibility from where Cowboys management is sitting.
Randle’s career thus far has been filled with one mishap after another. The Cowboys remain intrigued by his potential, but have never been given reason enough to trust his judgment.
His off-the-field caper at a Dallas mall last year is well known, as his flirtation with marijuana. Another memory that resonates inside Valley Ranch is Randle’s final carry of his second career start. While trying to finish off the Lions in a game in October of 2013, Randle took a hand-off on a third-down play that was designed to go inside. Instead, he bounced it outside, resulting in a holding infraction on left tackle Tyron Smith that knocked the Cowboys out of field goal range. Instead of a nine-point advantage, Randle’s freelance excursion kept the Dallas lead at six points, which allowed the Lions to manufacture a game-winning drive in the final minute.
His tendency to bounce runs to the outside still shows up on film, as does his carelessness with the ball. On only 51 carries last season, Randle coughed up the ball two times. To avoid the same fate as Tashard Choice in 2011, Randle had better find a way to hold onto the ball more successfully. Garrett has not proven himself to be a head coach who tolerates fumbling very well.
Above all, the Cowboys need to know they can count on Randle. The one point that McFadden had in his favor going into training camp was his reliability. As long as he’s on the stationary bike and not on the practice field, that is not part of the equation.
Which means it’s Randle’s job to either seize this opportunity for good over the next month, or go back to being part of a committee. Based on Steven Jackson’s presence on social media these past few hours, such a committee would very likely grow to the point of being over-crowded and quite uncomfortable.
Which, many anticipate, would draw the Dallas running game one step closer to being unprofitable.