Talk About Disappointing
If you’ve followed the Dallas Cowboys since the new millennium, you know how the vibe is when a team starts looking good into a new season.
“Our goal is the Super Bowl.” “These guys have the talent to go all the way.”
Then you know what happens next. They disappoint you.
In 2008, they missed the playoffs at 9–7. In 2015, they missed the playoffs at 4–12 with quarterback Tony Romo hurt most of the way. In 2017, they missed the playoffs at 9–7 with Ezekiel Elliott sitting out six games due to suspension. In 2019, they (fill in the blank.)
This season was probably the most disappointing of all those, considering the talent as they finished 8–8 and missed the playoffs with a low-hanging fruit NFC East title. Coaching was a huge part of it as this team failed to respond to adversity unless they got to a three-game losing streak only to turn back to their poor play shortly after, which happened twice. As ESPN analyst Rex Ryan put it, they were as “soft as Charmin.”
And after six days, we’re still waiting on an official report to see if Jason Garrett is coming back as head coach next year. There’s been multiple times during the week with a source who says he isn’t, but the Cowboys haven’t said anything. His contract expires January 14, so owner and general manager Jerry Jones could let it play out. Both he and his son, Stephen, have met with Garrett twice.
Let’s be honest. He just loves him too much. He’s like family and doesn’t want to do it even if Garrett hit a solid three playoff rounds short of expectation. Regardless, this is very annoying as a Cowboys fan as he’s proven to everybody, including fans of his, that it’s time for him to go. And if he doesn’t, it’s going to be like nails on the chalkboard. It’s also frustrating for his coaching staff as they need to know if they’re coming back or not and delaying the process for the Cowboys getting their staff together and all the other factors.
As far as the season went, it was just frustrating to watch. The dropped passes, the missed tackles, the poor play calls, the terrible-timing defensive penalties, the inconsistencies.
There was just no heart on this team. Garrett had his DNA stuck into these players with the same robotic answers: “We just gotta execute better and get the job done.” And they showed no emotion. It’s like they drank the wrong water from Space Jam.
So many of the losses were just painful to watch. Trailing Green Bay, 31–3, late in the third quarter against Aaron Rodgers, who always has his way with the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Trailing an 0–4 New York Jets, 21–3, in the second quarter and coming up short. Miscues against New England in the rain that made them look unprepared in a 13–9 loss. Playing a crappy turnover game against Buffalo on Thanksgiving Day in a 26–15 loss. Not making tackles in Chicago, trailing 31–14 in the fourth quarter. Only putting up nine points AND losing to a banged-up Philadelphia team in a pivotal divisional title game.
These are the things that say there’s something wrong here with this team. The players lacked heart and motivation. The coaches were getting out-coached.
As far as December went, the Cowboys’ playoff hopes did come down to that NFC East battle with the Eagles.
They lost their third straight game in a lackluster 31–24 effort to the Bears where the scoreboard did some lying. Mitchell Trubisky look like a star with 244 yards and three touchdowns. The defense was atrocious. The offense was stagnant.
Then on Monday night, Philly overcame a 17–3 halftime deficit to the Eli Manning-led Giants to win in overtime. And then the next Sunday, just after a last-minute touchdown in a win over the Redskins, the Eagles put the pressure back on Dallas as they needed a win to the divisional lead.
The Cowboys responded in a surprising rout of the Los Angeles Rams, 44–21, with two players in triple-digit rushing yards in Elliott and Tony Pollard. It was their first win of the year against a team with a winning record.
This all set up for a likely NFC East decider between Philly and Dallas. With the Eagles being so banged-up and barely getting by bad teams and the Cowboys having an awakening, people thought a second-straight division title was waiting for Dallas.
Apparently, that’s not what the Cowboys were thinking at the beginning of the game as they found themselves in another slow start. Philly led 10–0 at the end of the first quarter, going right down the field while the Cowboys couldn’t move the ball. Starting off the second half, down 10–6, Dallas was moving the ball until Zeke stepped out for a few plays to rest. Pollard then fumbled on third down in field goal range.
A few possessions later, Eagles running back Miles Sanders gave them a 17–6 lead before a Kai Forbath field goal made it 17–9. (Forbath was signed before the Rams game, becoming available once Patriots kicker Nick Folk came back from an illness, forcing him to get cut and picked up by Dallas once they cut Brett Maher. He didn’t miss any of his ten field goals.)
At the Eagles’ 23-yard-line, facing 4th-and-8 with 1:21, Prescott threw a fade route to Michael Gallup in the back left corner in the end zone only for it to get broken up by Sidney Jones. There was no Amari Cooper or Randall Cobb on the field for that last play as apparently they were resting.
After not reaching the end zone against a porous Eagles defense in a 17–9 loss, the Cowboys needed a win over the Redskins and a Philly loss to the Giants. Dallas certainly took care of business, blowing out a banged-up and already-bad Washington team out of the woods in a 47–16 win, which included three Michael Gallup touchdowns. Unfortunately, the Eagles had some momentum going into New York with three wins in a row as they pulled away in the fourth quarter, winning 34–17 and taking the NFC East title. (And the 15-year drought of a repeat NFC East winner goes on…)
For season point totals, the Cowboys outscored their opponents by 113 points. They would blow out all the bad teams except for the Jets, who actually finished 7–9. They only beat a team with a winning record once. (The Eagles were 3–4 when they beat them in October.)
Prescott threw a career-high 4,903 yards, just one yard shy of tying a franchise record held by Romo in 2012, but never had any game-winning drives. Elliott had his third 1,000-yard rushing season but was not as productive as his other full seasons in 2016 and ’18. Cooper had a career-high 1,189 receiving yards but was not effective on the road with 320 yards, averaging just 30 per such contest.
The defense was not who we thought they were. Missed tackles were a huge contributor. They were tied for a league-worst seven interceptions with zero ball hawks. Somehow, they were ninth in total yards. Nobody had a burning desire to win except for maybe Michael Bennett.
Many guys who got paid under-performed. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who’s getting paid $20 million a year, only got five sacks after double-digit seasons. (Getting double teams still doesn’t justify it.) Linebacker Jaylon Smith, who got paid over $12 million a year, may have been seventh in the league in tackling with 141 combined, but looked lost a lot of the time and had to have veteran Sean Lee point out where he needed to go. As noted, Elliott didn’t do as good with that gigantic $90 million contract. (It’s good to have him on the team, but that money will hurt them in the long run.)
Smith’s partner in crime, Leighton Vander Esch, didn’t do so well either this year and didn’t play the last five games of the year with a neck injury that’s bothered him over his career coming up again.
Robert Quinn was the only bargain (or shall I say really good player) on this team as he got 11.5 sacks.
The only good player in that secondary was cornerback Byron Jones who just covers receivers……and that’s it. Players like Chibode Awuzie, who looked decent last season, were cut through like swiss cheese.
Perhaps passing game coordinator Kris Richard, who’s really like the defensive coordinator even though Rod Marinelli has that title, must have had his shouting worn out by the players. In Seattle, he already had legit talent with the “Legion of Doom” and didn’t do as well in his later years there as the play-caller before he got ousted. Maybe some of those elements tapered into this season. Just no fight in these defenders and don’t expect him to be back as he has another offseason at getting a head coaching job somewhere else.
The Cowboys have 26 unrestricted free agents. I don’t think the Cowboys will be able to afford to keep Jones. Cooper should get re-signed, but how much is he worth with his road woes? Prescott will either get a mega deal or a franchise tag and if you think they should let him walk, then I’d like to see your proposal for getting a quarterback in today’s NFL……..(That’s what I thought.)
Jason Witten may or may not stay. He was third on the team in receptions, but is he getting in the way of Blake Jarwin’s potential? It’s a shame that he and Lee won’t get rings or even a playoff appearance in what could easily be their last year here. And Lee probably will go somewhere else if he keeps playing.
Cowboys fans are just tired and this Garrett clock is really tiring. Maybe we have five Super Bowls with a history of winning, but that was a quarter of a century ago. Dallas finished with its lowest playoff appearances in a decade with three during the 2000s. (The 2000s had four even though this decade had slightly more winning.)
When will the curse ever end? Jerry is 77 and won’t be running the team some day. His son, Stephen, isn’t as greedy and might actually do a pretty good job. It feels like the phrase, “The Cowboys won’t win another Super Bowl as long as Jerry Jones is general manager” is true.
Assuming Garrett is finally gone at least as head coach because they could be trying to keep him with the team somehow, he needs to find someone with better control. The problem is: Will he allow much? Jimmy Johnson was ran out because of it. Bill Parcells wasn’t satisfied.
Jerry reminds me of Saul in the Bible. Sometimes, he wants to let go and let good happen before he changes his mind and decides not to. It’s not that he doesn’t want to win. He just doesn’t want to do it at a certain cost. Such is the life of a Cowboys fan as just when we think our winning ways are coming back, they go away.
It took the Chicago Cubs 108 years before their curse ended. Maybe that day will come for the Cowboys. I’ll stay a loyal fan either way because maybe that’s a life trait of mine. Plus, my hope isn’t in the Cowboys, so that helps, but it doesn’t change the embarrassment that jerks in my heart when I tell someone they’re my team. Sad.