By Greg Price
I’ve been a Dallas Cowboys fan since I was six years old…watching the 2019 version of the Dallas Cowboys has made me feel like I’m 60 years old….scratch that…90 years old.
Watching the game on Thursday night in my watering hole across the street at The Royal, against the Chicago Bears, it was second verse (actually, the 13th verse with the team now at 6-7), same as the first.
Numerous mistakes in all three facets of the game (special teams, offence, defence) that have nothing to do with being outmatched talent wise, but mentally, the Cowboys are an extremely weak team.
On special teams, there was a very makeable missed field goal, where their field-goal kicker has since been fired. There were also line-drive punts that allowed for big returns. Perhaps the most hair-pulling incident of them all was when the Cowboys were able to mount at least a sliver of comeback momentum after scoring a touchdown in the second half, and the kicker ceremoniously boots the following kick-off out of bounds, giving the Bears the ball at the 40-yard line. The Bears would convert the favourable field position into points.
On defence, you had two third downs and healthy yardage to go, and the Cowboys jump offside both times, giving the Bears yards they did nothing to earn. The Bears would convert on both mishaps and end up scoring touchdowns on drives that had a high probability of being stalled had they simply been able to do something I’d preach to my peewee/bantam football players that I used to coach — WATCH THE BALL!!!! Later in the game, a gassed linebacker in Jaylon Smith has just successfully defended two pass attempts in his own endzone on his own. What do the Bears do? They line up their best receiver in Allen Robinson in the slot on third down, right in Smith’s vicinity.
Now, I’m not Vince Lombardi in how I can call a game, but I reckon that’s where they are going to pass. Sure enough, no defensive-back help (or any type of help for that matter) in the middle of the field, and bam! — touchdown. That’s how you reward a guy that just bailed you out twice before — put him on an island once again as he’s sucking wind, against the Bears best offensive player. Another drive on a third-and-very-long, where it looks like the Cowboys are getting the ball back with a short dump off and three defenders in the vicinity — but two mistackles and a horrid pursuit angle later, and what looks like and eight-yard gain turns into a 20-yard gain — and more points on the board for the Bears.
Also, multiple times where the defender is looking for the big highlight hockey hit instead of a wrap-up tackle, offensive player bounces off, rumbles for a ton more yards. Cowboys defenders expelled more energy celebrating stops on first down, pounding their chests to go with choreographed dances, than they did actually stopping their opposition on third downs that would have given them the ball back and the right to a celebration.
Offensively, a flare out-pass to the running back is thrown that makes for an easy first-down with the Cowboys driving — only, the running back is not even looking as he streaks up field and the ball lands two or three yards behind him (someone missed the assignment).
There were a few drives also where simply having the mobile quarterback scramble when no one was open with a runway-like open field with no defenders in sight, would have got a first down on third and shorter yardage.
While all this is going on, there is coach Jason Garrett (AKA Captain Clap) on the sideline, emotionless and stunned looking, with what looks like no sort of communication going on. There is no in-game adjustments when game flow starts to go south. Look back at the game tape of the multiple huge gains by the Bears on simple flare out passes to the running backs in the flat — again, no adjustments.
It shouldn’t be too hard to consistently win games with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Nick Martin, La’el Collins, DeMarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vender Esch and Byron Jones on the roster. Injuries do occur, but difference-makers can be found at every level of Dallas’ roster. According to Bleacher Report, the last five years, the Dallas Cowboys have won just four games they trailed at half-time. That ranks 30th in half-time deficits turned to wins — there are 32 teams.
You have to look no further than the Cowboys record this season against .500 or less teams, and ‘playoff’ teams to see the stark contrast. The Cowboys are a talented team whose constant mistakes can get masked playing inferior competition, but all those little mistakes end up costing you in the end against the better teams who convert on those mistakes.
I am not a homer that is gong to say that the Cowboys were an easy Superbowl team this year, but when you see the talent down the line on both sides of the ball — this shouldn’t be a team who is struggling to make the playoffs, with the only saving grace being why they are still in it, is because the NFC East is so horrible this year.
Dallas beat writers seem to agree, with the Dallas Morning News saying ‘This Dallas Team is the Biggest Waste of Talent in the Jerry Jones Era.’
I can take my favourite team being just flat-out bad talent wise, where you cheer with hopes your team can squeak out a victory against a superior team. I remember those dark days of 3-13 and 1-15 back in the late 1980s, where I still wore my Cowboys ball cap with pride. Build through the draft, have a coach that holds their players accountable, spend money in free agency wisely. Find some high-character guys that not only give leadership on the field with big plays, but even less talented players that are good influences in the locker room, where their motor and effort level is constantly in overdrive. Because once again, meaningful players are getting in trouble with the law for the Cowboys this season as well, like clockwork.
I can look to numerous teams in the league this year that are doing more with less talent wise — which makes this year so utterly frustrating.
It has got to the point where fellow Taber Times scribe Cole Parkinson and I have a shared brotherhood of frustration, seeing our favourite teams underperform, despite talent that should speak otherwise, be it my Dallas Cowboys or his Toronto Maple Leafs.
They say misery loves company — well, I’m sure there are plenty of miserable Cowboys fans right now.
The culture has to change. There are no easy answers, but the easiest in a bunch of tough decisions for now is making sure Jason Garrett is not the head coach of this team, be it for the rest of this season, or at the very least, not renewing his contract for 2020.
Dedicated Dallas Cowboys fans which have made the Dallas Cowboys the most valued franchise (money wise) for Jerry Jones, deserve better — or you may just find out people are tuning out.