In an absolute jaw dropper, Head Coach Jason Garrett benched starting running back DeMarco Murray in the first quarter after he fumbled against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Murray did in fact recover his own fumble, and he even stayed on the field, finishing the drive with a 7-yard pass out of the backfield. However, when the Cowboys got the ball the third time, Murray was standing on the sidelines as Phillip Tanner took first team snaps.
Murray wasn’t hurt as the camera showed him multiple times with his helmet on and his hands on his hips in frustration.
Garrett explained his decision to bench Murray after the game, “We took DeMarco out in the first half because he put the ball on the ground, so we gave Phillip Tanner a chance to play with the first team in the first half.”
Now if you’re a Cowboys fan, this should be the biggest positive to take from the game.
Garrett is finally sending the right message to his players and holding them accountable. As I’ve written previously, Garrett has preached ball security since day 1 of training camp. After six turnovers last week against the Arizona Cardinals, it’s good to see the man in charge make an example of one of his star players.
It was a rare move to see Garrett, a rather passive coach in the past, take out his workhouse running back. The benching preached a sense of accountability to his players, something that’s been entirely absent in their three year playoff hiatus.
Turnovers are not part of championship football. Garrett knows. Any coach in the NFL knows.
For the Cowboys to rise from the depths of mediocrity, turnovers need to stop. It’s something all Garrett’s stars should know.
It sure seemed as if Murray responded well to the benching. He came out in the third quarter and lead the team down the field against the Bengals second-team defense. He carried the ball 8 times for 45 yards, but saved his best play for last. On third and goal, Murray made three Bengals miss tackles within the 5-yard line to lunge across the goal line for a touchdown.
A rather strong response to Garrett’s benching.
For Garrett, this season is feast or famine. He knows he must guide his team to the playoffs if he hopes to retain his job. When the season is over, Cowboys fans can look back at this game, a so called meaningless preseason game, as the time Garrett sent a very meaningful message to his team to help set the tone for their performance.