There is no solution to what ails the Dallas Cowboys. There are problems, of course. Lots of problems. Layers and layers of complex issues and complicated personalities and perplexing questions. But there are no answers. There is no solution.
I wouldn’t fault Dallas at all if they fired head coach Mike McCarthy. He was brought in to get the Cowboys over the hump, to get this team back to a Super Bowl. Yet in four years, they haven’t won even a divisional playoff game. His clock management skills and in-game decisions are sketchy at best. He promised to take over the play-calling this year so they would run the ball more than the previous offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and, by grab, they ran the ball less! Under McCarthy, the Cowboys are the most penalized team in the NFL. I’m not sure he’s capable of motivating his team to match the intensity of their opponents in these big games and playoffs. And nobody should trust him at the end of a close game. Yes, he probably should be fired.
But, the Cowboys have the number one offense in the NFL under his guidance. He’s won twelve games now for three straight years. McCarthy is not the only problem. So what do you do?
Same thing with Dan Quinn. You could fire him for that pitiful display against the Packers on Sunday and feel fully justified. You were closer to some of those Green Bay receivers on your couch than the Cowboys defensive backs. This team got gashed by good opponents who were committed to running the ball. A glaring weakness that Quinn never fixed. I wonder if he was spending as much time game-planning for the Packers last week as he was lining up head coaching interviews. It was atrocious.
But the Cowboys lead the NFL in takeaways and pass pressures and sacks and are in the top five in several other important categories. And he’s an intense guy; he’s not lacking in fire. Quinn is not the only problem.
Is it the culture? Did the Cowboys quit once they got down 14-0? It sure looked that way to me. What was wrong with Dak? He looked tight. Unsure. Indecisive. Confused. He looked like a rookie. Did that rub off on Cee Dee Lamb? Is the now 28-year-drought more like a 28-thousand pound weight around their necks?
Did you catch Michael Irvin’s post-game rant on Twitter? Look it up. Wow! He’s screaming at the camera and flailing his arms around, yelling about how when he became a Cowboy, he looked up to the heroes of the past, he honored and revered the ones who had gone before, and he felt obligated by the history to put his own championship on the table next to the ones they handed down to him. It’s a legacy thing all Cowboys are supposed to live up to. It was a wonderful speech–gave me goosebumps. But is that too much for these current Cowboys to carry? Would they be better served to try to forget about all that history and just play their brand of football and create their own thing? At the same time, most of the players weren’t even alive when Dallas won their last championship. They certainly don’t remember any of it. Dak was not even three-years-old in 1995! Do the players subconsciously live into the undeniably true narrative that the Cowboys always choke in the playoffs? They can’t escape it. Do they believe at this point that it’s just destiny and there’s nothing they can do about it? What’s the solution for that?
Speaking of former Cowboys, did you see Jimmy Johnson’s halftime tirade on Fox? They asked the Jimster, if he were in the Cowboys lockerroom trailing 27-7 against the Packers, what would he say?
See, that’s one huge thing the Cowboys are missing. I wrote about this here when Jimmy was finally inducted into the Ring of Honor a few weeks ago. Jimmy was so great because he did not tolerate losing. Underperforming, being lazy, being unprepared, playing sloppy, losing–he had not patience for it. He wouldn’t accept it. He was genuinely ticked off Sunday. He called the whole thing embarrassing. And he’s right.
What if Jimmy were still the Cowboys coach? Well, he’s not, because Jerry won’t allow it. And he won’t allow anyone like Jimmy to ever be the coach. People keep talking about Belichick and Saban and Carroll–that’s foolish! Jerry would never hire a coach like that and a coach like that would never answer a phone call from Jerry. That’s another problem to which there is no solution.
That was it, Cowboys fans. That was it for a while. Dak was having his best season ever and he was in the NFL MVP conversation. Cee Dee Lamb racked up the best season for a Cowboys receiver in team history. Micah Parsons was getting some votes for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. There were 15 Pro Bowlers on this team. They had the number one offense. They led the league in defensive takeaways. They won the division and had home field advantage for the first two rounds. They had won 15-straight at home and were scoring 38 points a game at AT&T. The Eagles had imploded and were no longer a threat. The Packers barely squeaked into the playoffs on the season’s final day. The whole thing was set up for the Cowboys to get to the NFC Championship for the first time in 27 years. All they had to do was show up!
And that’s about all they did.
The common denominator, of course, is Jerry. It’s his culture. He is solely responsible for whatever weirdness permeates the DNA of this franchise. His relationship with the coach, his relationship with the players, his relationship with the NFL, with the media, with Cowboys fans–it’s unconventional in the worst of ways. He is desperate to win one Super Bowl without Jimmy, to cement his legacy with one more title before he’s gone. Then, and only then, would he ever consider moving out of the way and handing the reins to someone else, anyone else. Until then, he is stubbornly dug in to doing this his way and only his way. He’s committed to more of the same. And you know what they say about someone who does the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Or about fans of a certain team who keep thinking things will change, even after 28 years.
Lots of problems. No solution.