A2+B2=C2 — that’s the Pythagorean Theorem, in case you’re a little rusty on your high school geometry. It’s not the type of thing you see in an NFL playbook — unless you’re playing for the Dallas Cowboys. Kevin Clark is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, and he wrote this week about how Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett is sending his team to summer school.
DT: Kevin, Coach Garrett doesn’t really make his players calculate the hypotenuse of a right triangle, does he?
KC: Well, he doesn’t make them calculate it, but he wants them to understand it because the routes that they run — it’s based on a geometry system that Garrett likes. He went to Princeton. He’s a smart guy. He likes to have math books handy, and what he’s trying to get across to his players –his wide receivers, in particular – is they need to understand geometric concepts in order to have a better idea of what kind of routes you’re running and why you’re running it and sort of the spacing all across the field.
DT: After Garrett told players they needed to know the Pythagorean Theorem, receiver Jared Green said he ran to his room and “Googled everything just to try to figure out what they were saying.” How have players reacted to his use of math since that initial announcement?
KC: Well, there’s still some universal panic all across the wide receiver corps, even the quarterbacks. This is not something they really expected as far as an NFL meeting. NFL meetings are some of the most boring things on the planet. They want to make it very easy to follow because NFL players aren’t the smartest bunch in the world. Yet Garrett sort of introduced this. It’s a bit of a risk. One receiver told me everyone was texting their girlfriends cause maybe they would have a better idea. I don’t think they did, but you know, it’s a shot in the dark. There’s still panic. The wide receiver coach Derek Dooley told one of the players, “You’re never going to get it.” So overall they’re still trying to grasp it. Maybe by midseason they’ll figure it out.
DT: The Cowboys have only won one playoff game since 1996. They’ve missed the playoffs for the past three seasons. And owner Jerry Jones isn’t known for giving his players a lot of room or time to succeed. Is the math thing a smart tactic or is it the Hail Mary of a desperate coach?
KC: I like Jason, but he’s had a couple rough years in Dallas, and I think he’s just trying to remind people he’s a really smart guy. You know, I mean he’s under siege in Dallas there so he’ll take anything he can get as far as an edge or reminding people, “Hey, I’m actually a pretty brilliant guy.” He was a very good Ivy quarterback for Princeton. There have been upper-level, you know, way above the players’ heads consultations with math people in the past, but nothing like this. If they score 40 points a game and win the Super Bowl, it’s going to be the most brilliant move of all time, but if the receivers look lost and then can’t catch a ball it’s going to look like the worst decision anyone’s ever made in coaching.