No matter what the naysayers claim, it is true, you can beat a dead horse; just ask the 2013 Seattle Seahawks about Denver.
So here I am, after a lengthy sabbatical, back to writing and analyzing the state of the Dallas Cowboys. It is such an engaging topic, because the issues are diverse, the games played bizarre, and the results are maddeningly average.
But, hey, what do I know?
The Dallas Cowboys of 2013 came into the season like they have been since Jimmy Johnson left in 1994: with cautious optimism and not a lot of swagger. Let me clear the air about ‘swagger’, first off. I don’t mean overconfidence or cockiness. I’m taking about determined, focused players with an attitude that says “We will win, because we should win.” On paper, the Cowboys should win at least 10+ games each year. They have talent, and their coaches are capable.
At least, on paper.
Dallas finished a third consecutive 8-8 season that saw the majority of analysts and experts saying head coach Jason Garrett would be fired, and rightfully so, because what progress has been made under him? His record is 29-27. Sure, they’ve drafted a few good players, and in fairness, they haven’t been blown out of too many games; they stay in tight games. But, nothing has changed. Garrett is still in charge. They can’t win the games that matter, and they don’t dominate the lesser teams like actual good teams do.
The largest margin of victory this year for Dallas was 17 points, a 24-7 win over the St. Louis Rams. Woooooooo. Nothing against the Rams, who did beat quality teams like the Colts and Saints this year, but that was it for Dallas. They won tight games against inferior teams like Washington, Minnesota, and Oakland, came up short against great teams (Kansas City, San Diego, New Orleans), and blew away good leads against Detroit and Green Bay (more on this later) . They went 5-1 in the division, but the one game they lost just happened to be a division-deciding game against Philadelphia in Week 17, the third consecutive “Win and You’re In” game against a division rival. By the way, Dallas lost all three.
Injuries were an issue, but injuries are an issue for everyone, so that’s not the cause. How can Dallas not improve?
It’s simple, really. And no, it’s not Romo.
Let’s talk about their talent level: They only have talent.
Talent only gives you 8 wins at most. Good coaching is worth at least 2 wins. Jason Garrett is not a good head coach. His coaching staffs are weak. He doesn’t give the same aura of confidence as a Bill Belichick, Sean Payton, or either of the Harbaugh brothers.
Just about all of the most painful losses Dallas has had in recent memory have come during Garrett’s tenure.
- · Dallas blows Week 1 game against NY Jets 27-24. Romo’s two fourth quarter interceptions clinch loss.
- · Dallas gives up biggest lead in franchise history in Week 4 against the Detroit Lions (24 points). Dallas led 27-3 in third quarter and lost 34-30).
- · Dallas followed up 34-7 rout of St. Louis with 34-7 loss against Philadelphia.
- · Garrett’s “icing timeout” costs Dallas a win against the Arizona Cardinals Week 13.
- · Dallas blows a 12 point lead against the Giants at home with a little over 5 minutes left to lose in spectacular fashion 37-34 in Week 14. Cowboys can’t stop Giants offense and can’t run out the clock; game decided on blocked field goal by Giants DE Jason Pierre Paul.
- · Dallas loses division deciding game against Giants in Week 17.
- · Dallas follows an impressive Week 1 win over defending Super Bowl Champion Giants with a 27-7 dud against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2. Yes, this was in Seattle, but Russell Wilson was still a rookie QB with a very young team that was not yet a SB team.
- · Dallas routed on Monday Night in Week 4 by Chicago 34-18; Romo’s 5 interceptions didn’t help.
- · Week 5’s 31-29 loss to Baltimore highlighted by poor clock management by Cowboys, despite rushing for over 200 yards against Baltimore.
- · Week 8 had Dallas down early 23-0 at home to the NY Giants, only to come back 24-23 late in the game, but cannot secure win and lose 26-24 win.
- · In Week 12, Dallas is humiliated at home by Washington Redskins and lose on Thanksgiving 38-31. Score does not represent how bad defense was torched by RGIII.
- · Week 17, Dallas loses second division deciding game against Washington 28-18. Romo’s 3 interceptions do not help.
- · Week 5: Dallas loses 51-48 shootout with Denver Broncos; no pass rush to speak of, no defense, and Romo’s 4th quarter interception seals loss.
- · Week 8: Dallas blows game against Detroit with only 1 minute left in game. Defense allows Detroit to go 80 yards with no timeouts in about 40 seconds.
- · Week 10: The New Orleans Saints destroy the Dallas defense to historic numbers and win 49-17.
- · Week 14: Once again on Monday night, Dallas routed by Chicago Bears 45-28 behind perennial backup Josh McCown’s 5 touchdowns (4 passing, 1 rushing)
- · Week 15: Green Bay overcomes a 23 point deficit at Dallas to win 37-36. Dallas play-calling once again called into question.
- · Week 17: Dallas blows third consecutive division deciding game, this time against the Eagles 24-22.
Note: Some of these losses you cannot put solely on Garrett; that would be impossible. The 2011 season in particular was his first full season as a head coach. However, he has been in the league since the 90s, was an assistant head coach for Wade Phillips from 2007-2010, and the fact that he is the head coach and allows the team to put themselves in these positions is telling. I refuse to believe with the amount of time in the league, you cannot learn basic time management and play calling strategies, especially when announcers and fans recognize this, too.
Everyone wants to blame Tony Romo. Here’s the drill on Romo. He isn’t the best QB in the game, he’s not top 5, and he borderlines on top 10. But he plays hard, plays well, and is committed. How many teams would take him right now? Jacksonville, Minnesota, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Oakland, NY Jets, etc. He makes great plays, and yes he tends to throw critical interceptions (when are they not?) at the worst times. But when you have to put the team on your back, you tend to do that. He’s had to work with decent offensive lines, lack of consistent running games, less than stellar defenses to help out, and above all, self-destructive coaching. In that 2013 Green Bay game, why is he throwing 2 4th quarter interceptions? Why aren’t they running the ball and pounding away with a 23 point lead?
Because they don’t know what they’re doing. I’m not saying they shouldn’t throw the ball, but maybe throw less.
The team has no discipline, either. When Dez Bryant had his emotional outbursts, the players had to restrain him, while Garrett looked on and said nothing. When Dez walked out on the team with a minute left in the Green Bay game, there was no discipline or repercussion. Sure, they spoke to him behind closed doors, but what example do you set when you tell people “We talked to him, we worked it out”? Star receiver or not, he did something dumb that hurt the team’s image, and not even a slap on the hand, nothing to say “You’re a Dallas Cowboy, and we do not walk into the locker room until the game’s over, and we walk as a team.” The play-calling is atrocious, no clearer example than that Green Bay game. Up 26-3 at halftime at HOME with a great running game, the Cowboys decide to go pass heavy. Romo ends up throwing 2 interceptions to help give Green Bay a staggering comeback win 37-36. The combination of Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan is so ineffective.
Another instance of bad coaching. In the Week 9 win against the Giants, Dallas gave up a pathetic touchdown because the Giants TE Brandon Myers catches a ball with two defenders on him, falls down, gets up and runs in for the score, because neither defender touched him. The defender in particular was LB Bruce Carter, who was closest. How is that missed? I now look for defenders touching offensive players because of this.
In the Detroit game before in Week 8, the Dallas Cowboys blew a touchdown lead with a minute left in the game. Detroit had to drive 80 yards with ZERO timeouts…and did so in about 45 seconds. Yes, Dallas has less talent on defense than on offense, but how do you let that happen, especially in a game where you recorded 4 turnovers and didn’t turn the ball over yourself?
Speaking of turnovers, a lot of hubbub was made over the “turnover” from Rob Ryan to Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator. Rob Ryan’s defenses gave up franchise-worst numbers and despite injuries and only 2 years in the system, he was blamed for having complicated defenses and not generating enough turnovers.
I guess the New Orleans Saints have smart players, because Rob Ryan turned that defense around from one of the worst in NFL history to top-10 in just one season, even making it to the divisional round of the playoffs with less talent. Not bad.
Dallas, meanwhile, generated much more turnovers, particularly in Week 1 against the NY Giants (6). However, their defensive numbers and plays made the 2012 unit look like the Steel Curtain. In his first season, Kiffin’s defense ranked near the bottom of the barrel for most of the year.
That Week 1 game against the Giants, when Dallas secured 6 turnovers? Yeah, they still only won by 5 points.
Turnovers weren’t enough to win games; they had no pass rush, their defensive line was makeshift from day 1, and the secondary was exposed too many times. No greater example of this was more evident than in Week 10, when they traveled to New Orleans to get obliterated 49-17. Rob Ryan’s “complicated” defense confused the high powered Dallas offense, and the defense gave up a record breaking amount of first downs to the Saints offense (40) and yards (over 600). Once star linebacker Sean Lee went out with an injury, they fell apart, which is another example of how bad the defense is. Sure, one man can make a difference, but you build a team where that doesn’t happen, particularly on defense.
Nothing like beating a dead horse and we’re only halfway.
Dallas was going nowhere, and it didn’t truly hit me until that Detroit loss that this wasn’t a sudden problem. This has been going on for awhile and it will not change for a long time. They barely beat bad teams when they should be putting up at least 24 points a game. With the talent they have on offense, they should be doing what the Broncos, Saints, and Patriots are doing. Yet they are ineffective at maximizing talent, woefully unoriginal in play-calling, go so far as to give up on solid running games because they fear they can’t maintain any lead.
They get excited over close wins, when they should be mad for not winning by more.
2013 Nugget of Wisdom: The Jets, who had one of the worst offenses last year (29th) and an overachieving defense (19th) beat both the Patriots and Saints, while the Cowboys barely beat the Redskins and Vikings.
When it comes to inconsistency and underachieving, this is a perfect team.
So I’ve gone in detail as to how they are terrible, but what is the main reason? Well, it will sound cliché, but the truth is obvious.
Management is terrible.
Jerry Jones is a great owner, don’t get me wrong. Everyone likes to bash him indiscriminately, but he’s actually good as an owner. But as a General Manager, he is not strong. One playoff win in nearly 20 years? Good job. The stubbornness to hire an actual GM is not only disheartening but foolish, based on pride and distorted sense of what achievement really is. I do not doubt Jerry Jones wants to win, and you can see over the years he has tried to rectify mistakes he made in the past.
-He passed on Randy Moss, so he’s taking a chance on Dez Bryant.
-He didn’t keep Sean Payton, so he’s trying to make it work with Jason Garrett.
You can go back and look at failed drafts (particularly 2008 and 2009), but it is the culmination of bad decisions that has hurt this team, whether it was letting Bill Parcells go, giving up two draft picks for Roy Williams, giving out huge contracts to players on the decline, etc.
The fact remains, they are inept at running a football team. There are coaches and assistants out there who would LOVE to coach this team with these players, but they will not, because it would mean obeying Jerry Jones, a man who does not (and will not) relinquish control. Dallas loses out on great coaching because of this.
If Jerry gave in and hired a good coach who would bring attitude and fire to this time, or at the very least a GM who could offer a different perspective and draft good football players, then people will give Jerry Jones the credit he wants, they’ll say he made the right choice, and they will laude his accomplishments instead of critiquing his failures, as I am doing right now.
The future is murky for this team. They smartly retained defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and promoted him to defensive coordinator (while strangely keeping Kiffin around), but they hired Scott Linehan as passing game coordinator, but not offensive coordinator, which is still retained by Bill Callahan, who will still call plays…I think? Basically, it’s play-calling by committee. Callahan, Garrett, Linehan, Romo, and probably Jerry will all call plays. They will have meetings on the sidelines that will last 5 minutes to decide on a play.
No one wants to say the truth, but it’s there. Find me good points about this team, and I’ll throw two more bad points back at you. There are teams out there that can do more with less. Forget records, Dallas is the worst team in the league. And this is coming from a Cowboys fan. Until they shape up and look at other teams who actually are successful, they are going nowhere. Sorry, Dallas fans. Optimism for the Cowboys is currently futile. People say the Dallas Cowboys aren’t America’s Team anymore. Financial issues, poor management, not a strong, unified feel, a shell of its former self….maybe they still are America’s Team.
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