Black Monday is coming.
Every year, after the end of the regular season, the NFL purges several coaching staffs for lack of performance. It's highly doubtful Dallas walks away from head coach Jason Garrett. Despite a myriad of problems that extend beyond the loss of franchise quarterback, the 2015 Cowboys haven't quit playing hard despite their 4-11 record. Devotion to a lost cause because of belief in command might be the most important litmus test in whether it's time to move on from a head coach. That, however, isn't the line of demarcation when it comes to assistant coaches though.
As the calendar turns to 2016, it's quite possible that Dallas moves on from a position coach or two, or more, based on lackluster development at their respective positions.
Questions need to be answered about the lack of progress that Dallas has seen from their wideout corps behind Dez Bryant. While Bryant had a down year marred by injuries, no one stepped into the void and established themselves. Terrance Williams failed to ascend into a guy the team should feel comfortable as a viable Number One fill-in. Devin Street is still an enigma after two years in the league. Derek Dooley might have some serious questions to answer about the troops he's been in charge of developing.
On defense, Jerome Henderson has been in charge of the secondary for several years and for several years fans have had major complaints about the performance of the secondary. Several players who once brought about hope of evolution, like Sterling Moore and Tyler Patmon, have fallen by the wayside. Safety J.J. Wilcox has never developed the recognition necessary to be the centerfield safety Dallas envisioned for him and has been replaced by rookie Byron Jones who was drafted as a corner and has spent much of the year playing at all the DB positions.
Are the failings of these players strictly on the position coaches? Of course not, but they are complicit when their job is to hone the skills of their troops. It will be an interesting week for several members of the staff following the conclusion of the regular season.
More familiar to the fans is the annual purge of players from the roster. Here's a look at several guys who might be putting on the Dallas uniform for the last time.
The unrestricted free agents are all interesting case studies on their own. The lead dog is DE Greg Hardy. I firmly believed that Dallas would hang onto Hardy when the biggest infraction was the release of the photos from the case he was already punished for. Things got sticky for Hardy after a series of social media missteps and sideline antics made national headlines, but things have calmed down over the last two months. While Hardy's sack totals have slowed as well, he is still an impact player that is creating opportunities for the rest of the defensive line. His price tag might just have come down to the point that him returning makes both on-field and financial sense.
Next up is Morris Claiborne. Mo finally came into his own this season as a bonafide NFL corner. Injuries have riddled his Dallas career but he finally proved to not be a total bust and has been the Cowboys best CB with Orlando Scandrick sidelined with his ACL injury suffered in training camp. It was highly expected Claiborne would seek greener pastures, but recently he's made comments about his strong desire to remain with Dallas.
Lance Dunbar has the unfortunate distinction of Mr. What Could've Been. Long rumored to be a new twist to the Cowboys offense, Dunbar finally got that opportunity in 2015. Dunbar was a utility-knife for Dallas, but unfortunately they also kept using him on kickoff returns, a skill Dunbar didn't really possess. Sure enough, the oft-injured jitterbug back was lost for the season when he tore his ACL on a return against New Orleans. He will likely be rehabbing through offseason work; how can the Cowboys "wait" on him?
Rolando McClain wasn't even in the club's plans for 2015, despite being the team's best linebacker in 2014. Enigmatic to say the least, McClain's commitment to the game of football every other day but gameday is highly questionable. Nothing about 2015 has changed this impression of him, as he loafed through the first four games following his return from suspension. The dynamic duo of McClain and Lee never materialized, as McClain's impact this season has been minimal.
These aren't the only scheduled Cowboys free agents in 2016. There are 18 players in total who have taken a snap for the Cowboys in 2015 who will be some sort of free agent come March.