Someone’s going to have to put out a hit on that groundhog.
Different week, same story. The details might change a bit, but no matter what, the Cowboys are stuck in an endless loop of sucktitude. It’s like one of those Youtube video, Vine compilations where the viewer is stuck thinking, “all of these are horrible, who thought this was a good idea?”
Who thought this version of the Dallas Cowboys, without Tony Romo, was a good idea?
Well, a lot of people. Earlier in the season, many on Twitter were voicing their concern about one of the moribund franchises snatching away Personnel Director Will McClay, who has been seen as a godsend to many in Cowboys Nation, yours truly included (I'm on Twitter here.) There’s probably not going to be much fanfare anymore, seeing as the Dallas Cowboys roster is incapable of securing a single win in seven tries without their franchise quarterback. The Cowboys are the downtrodden franchise that will steal Will McClay away from Dallas!
Seven games. Seven games the Cowboys have marched out onto the field, tried their hearts out and just not been good enough to get a single victory. We’ve championed the conversation about how difficult a task it is to win a game with a backup quarterback. Teams are now 6-20 in games started and completed by the same backup quarterback (Pittsburgh’s won two games where a backup started, but someone else finished the game). Still, the Cowboys failure to a single one of seven games will go down as one of the worst cases of roster preparation in recent memory.
The NFC East is awful. This weekend, CowboysHQ mapped out results for six games with an impact on Dallas’ chances at winning the East or securing a Wild Card slot. All six of those games worked out exactly as planned, yet Dallas could gain no ground; going against the team with the worst record in the league in 2014.
Almost every week CHQ trots out the Toxic Differential Ledger, either on its own or part of the Advanced Stats Notebook. It crystalizes the impact that explosive plays have on winning and losing. Dallas’ offense yesterday accounted for exactly zero. Zilch. Nada. None. For the second time in three games, they failed to manage a single pass play of 25 yards or greater. This week, they couldn’t even muster a single run of over 10 yards. Darren McFadden was just named the worst running back that played in Week 10 by Pro Football Focus. His effort was hideous, but he was hardly the only one.
Greg Hardy had been a difference-maker in each of his games since returning from suspension. In three of his first four games he notched 5 pressures each. He had four sacks, an interception that should’ve resulted in a winning score with a capable offense, and a forced fumble. Yesterday was his off day. (Fish reports that Hardy was limping from the locker room to the bus to the plane on Sunday night.) Still the team managed to get 3 sacks and limit the Bucs to 3.2 yards a carry. You can’t blame a defense when it only gives up 10 points, but when the final 7 of those points come on the opponent’s final drive and you are supposed to be protecting a lead, there is blame there. Situational football. Be great when it matters. Jeff Heath, after collecting two interceptions off deflections, had a stupid holding penalty on a receiver that was running DIRECTLY at J.J. Wilcox. Next play, game-winning score for Tampa.
This doesn’t even mention the horrible ref decision to place the ball at the half-foot mark instead of outside the two on that play. This doesn’t even mention the ref’s blindly missing the defensive pass interference call on the game-ending interception when Dez was shoved in the back. Not that it seems like the home team cooking was on, but the referee Bill Vinovich has now been in charge of 11 straight home wins.
Referee decisions normally can only affect games that are close, and there was no reason for Dallas to even be close in this game. Even Dan Bailey is suffering, hitting another goalpost (making the kick) and then missing one altogether, snapping his streak of 21 in a row. Dez Bryant dropped two passes, including a crucial one on third down in the fourth quarter, prior to not making an effort to break up the interception because he was looking to the ref to complain for a flag. (See Fish's column here on "Absorbing The Blows - And The Blame.'')
Rolando McClain, conveniently inauspicious the first four games of his season while he was playing without pay, had a much better effort in Sunday’s game. Six tackles, three hits on the quarterback. Prior to Sunday, he looked as if he was sleepwalking through the season. It’s probably doubtful he returns for 2016.
Which leads to the question, is it time to start focusing on 2016? The Cowboys don’t quit under Jason Garrett. Or at least they haven’t to this point. This team tries hard, and fights, for all 60 minutes. They just aren’t very good without Tony Romo. They won’t entertain turning the calendar to next year, they might even try to fight someone for suggesting it.
More than likely, though, a miracle finish isn’t in the cards for this team. Even with the Giants sucking, the Eagles sucking and “because Washington”, 2 games with six to play and three teams ahead is a very hard task to accomplish.
Should Dallas turn the running back duties over to Christine Michael to see whether or not they have a lead back for 2016? Probably won’t because it will put Romo at more risk. They don't trust him, just like Seattle didn't. Will Chaz Green get some snaps in place of Doug Free over the next couple of weeks? Will Sean Lee be steered towards calling it a career, or at least a season, to see if they have anything amongst these younger linebackers? Is Corey White, who had such a promising preseason and camp, really going to be a one-and-done in Dallas with no playing time while Wilcox makes bad play after play to justify his third-round pick status?
There are many question marks around this team, questions few saw coming in the utopian view of a healthy season for one of the toughest yet least healthy quarterbacks in the league. Tony Romo gets hurt alot. Sorry, not sorry. So for this front office, Jerry, Stephen, Will, Jason.. to look at Brandon Weeden’s performance last year against Arizona and say “our best bet is to have him compete with Dustin Vaughan,” is unforgiveable. Treasonous.
The Weeden plan was scrapped after three games. Vaughan didn’t even make the final 53. This team had Super Bowl aspirations and that was their backup plan? Really?
Media members and fans are allowed to make mistakes. Front offices not so much. This team had Super Bowl aspirations and decided Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden were their best plan at running back? A guy facing league discipline for two incidents last season and a runner who doesn’t fit the run scheme they like to run the most? Really?
The blame is plenty and there’s more than enough to spread around here. For now, everyone is at fault, except for maybe the returning hero.