They were supposed to be the first team in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl at their home stadium. Most said they had the talent but some questioned whether it was asking too much for a team to go from one playoff win in 15 years to going to the Super Bowl in one year. Those that questioned it were right. The 2010 Dallas Cowboys will not be going to the Super Bowl. At this rate, they might not even finish with a .500 record. So, what went wrong? Let’s take a look.
First, you have to look at one of Dallas’ biggest weaknesses, not only this season, but over the past three: the coaching staff. Sure, the offense was running on all cylinders three seasons ago with the “Wonder Boy” Jason Garrett calling plays and head coach Wade Phillips holding down the fort. There was talk that Jerry Jones, owner of the Cowboys, would appoint Garrett to be his head coach of the future, even going as far as giving him a raise so he wouldn’t go after a head coaching job with another team following the 2008 season. I wonder if he regrets that now.
While the 2009 season was somewhat successful, fans and people from all over the league started to notice that the Cowboys didn’t mix up the play calling much on offense. All of this essentially culminated this past preseason, when the Cowboys looked bad in almost of all of their five games. Fans tried to say that it was because the Cowboys were running a vanilla offense. Well, guess what? So was every other team in the league and they still managed to score points.
What started in the preseason carried over into the regular season. While the Cowboys haven’t always struggled to score points, they have struggled to mix up their play calling on offense, adjust to their opponent’s defense, and avoid costly mistakes and penalties. Bad play calling on both sides of the ball have hurt the 1-6 Cowboys in a big way this season, and that falls on the coaching staff, especially Phillips and Garrett. If the Cowboys want to make some noise next season, Jerry Jones better be ready to overhaul the coaching staff and bring in a hard nosed coach, a la Bill Cowher, to come in and take over this team. They need someone who will rule with an iron fist and make his players respect him.
The second problem, which I alluded to earlier, is the lack of discipline on this team. Following Week 6, they were the most penalized team in the league. The lack of discipline is tied directly to Phillips, the “leader” of this team. His nonchalant attitude has carried over to his players. The Cowboys could have a winning record right now if it weren’t for some bone headed penalties and mistakes. This team has always lacked discipline under Phillips and will continue to do so. He is a “player’s coach”. He continues to take the flak for his team’s poor play instead of handing out some blame to the appropriate parties. If your players know they will never be held accountable, what’s going to stop them from making stupid mistakes?
The third problem is the porous offensive line and the injury to Tony Romo, who went down early against the N.Y. Giants on October 25th. While the injury didn’t look too bad initially, we all later found out that he has a broken collarbone and will miss most, if not all, of the season. Rookie fullback Chris Gronkowski, who clearly missed picking up his man, is to blame. The injury all but ended any hopes of saving this season.
If the offensive line, which had been pointed out as a problem since before the end of last season, had been fixed, maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Instead, the Cowboys cut their longest tenured lineman (Flozell Adams), replaced him with someone inexperienced (Doug Free, who admittedly has played well), and continued to watch their other older lineman go down week after week with nagging injuries. Had Jerry decided to address the offensive line early in this year’s draft, maybe the line wouldn’t be a problem. Now, without Romo, the Cowboys have 38-year old Jon Kitna under center, who before last Sunday hadn’t taken a live snap in two years. Yikes.
Lastly, and who knows how much this actually affected them, was the pressure. The pressure started early, as soon as everyone knew Super Bowl XLV would be played in Dallas. Then, everyone started to say the Cowboys can make history and play in the Super Bowl at home. This was all before the NFL Draft was even held. Jerry Jones took a chance late in the first round on troubled wide receiver Dez Bryant, who was supposed to be the missing piece of the Cowboys Super Bowl puzzle. Did the pressure get to the team and help cause this atrocious start to the season? I think it did, at least a little.
I’m a Cowboys fan and I hope they do show some improvement before the end of the season. Right now, without another win, they will match their worst season when they went 1-15. The Cowboys are in a state of emergency and it’s going to take a while to get everything back to normal.