The Dallas Cowboys is the biggest brand in the National Football League. A team that generates millions in revenue by selling tickets (over 90,000 fans/game) merchandise and player appearances among other sources of income. What this team does not generate as consistently are good results.
Also known as America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys are out of Playoff Contention with two games left this season, even thought they belong to one of the weakest divisions in the league. For them, making it to the playoffs was still a chance for the Cowboys in the NFC East.
They were going into Saturday Night’s game against the New York Jets with a record of 4-9 and only three games to go. The Dallas Cowboys were going against an 8-5 team that even with that record can´t afford to lose if they want a Wild Card option. The game was played in Arlington at AT&T Stadium, but this season has been as bad at home as it has been on the road for Jason Garrett’s team.
Some things have changed in this team ever since Dez Bryant’s controversial «no catch» call in last year’s playoff game against Green Bay. Up to that point, the Cowboys were considered a serious Super Bowl candidate shocking rivals left and right. They had finished the regular season with a 12-4 record including a big win against Seattle at Qualcom Stadium.
From almost reaching perfection in 2014 to a complete disaster in 2015, here are some of the things that may have gone wrong this year. Injuries, bad play calling, poor trades and new hires and locker room problems. Here we will try to break down each one.
The injury that definitely shaped the season for the Cowboys was Tony Romo’s back injury. The Easter Illinois graduate got injured in the second game of the season against Philadelphia. The team was able to hold on to the lead they had already built in that game to start the season 2-0.
The problem was that without Romo, Brandon Weeden did not hold the pressure and the team began to fall apart. Even bringing Matt Cassell (11 seasons in the NFL) to the team in order to replace Romo was not a solution. The franchise quarterback had to come back and win against Miami so they could face Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers on Thanksgiving Day. Bringing Romo back early seemed like a good idea after the game in the Sunshine State, but proved to be costly when he got injured again against the Panthers.
Romo ended his season with 3 wins and one loss, but at that point, the uphill battle for the Cowboys was already huge. Cassel has so far started in seven games and only won one. Against the Jets, he was dismissed early after some mistakes that put the Cowboys in a tough situation. Now, he is not expected to come back, letting Kellen Moore take over from here on out.
Lance Dunbar, drafted as a free agent four seasons ago, was looking for his breakthrough season. The University of North Texas record-man has never been Garrett’s first option as a running back but has responded in a positive way whenever he is asked to step on the field. Dunbar averaged 13.4 rushing yards in only 13 attempts. His season ended in week four due to an injury.
Other players that did not have much luck healthwise this season were Gavin Escobar. The latest victim of an injury that was just ruled out for the season with a torn Achilles in the fourth quarter on Saturday against the Jets.
Dez Bryant has not been completely healthy this season. His struggles began when he got injured against the Giants the first week of the regular season. He then missed six games and did not score his first touchdown of the season until week nine. So far he only has three, while last season he ended with 16 before going into the playoffs.
These three are just a few of the victims to injuries this season. The team has had to use their second a third strings in many positions, up to their fourth in the QB spot. At the same time, Sean Lee is still healthy 15 weeks into this disastrous season.
Bad Play Calling
The record that the Dallas Cowboys currently hold could make us think that there is no talent in this lineup but there is. Last season, with many of the same guys, things were not going as bad. This season, the approach has had to change constantly due to the different QB’s that have been used. Many interceptions have been thrown and sacks against Romo or anyone in his place are becoming a common thread.
Last year, DaMarco Murray set a new rushing record with 1,845 yards in a single season, leaving Emitt Smith’s 1,773 rushing-yards record behind. Now that DaMarco has gone with the Philadelphia Eagles, the entire team has only rushed the ball for 1,669 after 14 games adding up the work of seven players.
The throws by the QB’s have not been as accurate this season as they had been last season by Romo. Jason Witten just passed the 1,000 catches mark and continues to be the man with the safest hands this season. 70 receptions for 643 yards and two touchdowns have him ahead of Cole Beasley, Terrence Williams and everyone else. On another note, Dan Bailey has been almost perfect this season , scoring 28 of 29 field goals he has attempted this season from any distance. It was thanks to him that the Cowboys beat Washington on the road and continued with a chance late in the season.
Poor Trades and New Hires
Letting DeMarco Murray go was probably the biggest mistake Jerry Jones and his staff made before the season began. Making Dez Bryant wait until the deadline to sign a new contract has also affected the man in his health status this season and lack of rythm in some games.
Greg Hardy was brough in with the stamp of a bad boy due to problems of domestic violence. He had to miss the first four games with a suspension and has not made that much of an impact on the field. Terrance Mitchell has not been given much playing time in his first season with the Cowboys but has two interceptions in six games played.
While the defense was a huge problem early in the season, they have been able to do better in the latter stages of the season. The team has thrown a total of 19 interceptions and has only intercepted seven balls. A total of 27 sack against 29 from thier opponents. The Cowboys have had a total of 266 first downs by 279 from the teams they play against.
After a great 2014 season, the Cowboys sent six players to the ProBowl in Hawaii. That was the most players sent to the all-star game since 2010. By the way that things are looking this year, having one player make the trip to the Pro-Bowl maybe more than enough.
Locker Room Problems
The Dallas Cowboys are heavily scrutinized by the fans and even more by the media. They all want to know what is going on with the Boys every second of every minute. The coverage that the Cowboys get when they are doing good is huge, where there is controversy, it is even bigger and it does not stop even in situations like the one they are going through now.
Throughout the season, it has been reported that some players have breakouts against teammates and the media itself in the locker room. By NFL Rules, after almost every practice, the media has access to the players. Some like Dez Bryant are tired of it and have gone on a rant about the job done by the press.
Late in the season, the Dallas Cowboys organization sent out a press release with new media guidelines which prohibitted many of the things done by the several media outlets. No tweeting during practice times, no recording with cellphone cameras and no one could use Periscope while they were on the practice fields nor in the locker room. Only the Baltimore Ravens are said to have adopted such measures, which might seem extreme for some and needed by others.
Game Over and Start Again
Losing to the New York Jets at Jerry World was the last thing that the Cowboys wanted to experience in a season where despite all their problems, they had a chance to make an epic comeback. Jason Garrett, the eighth coach in Cowboy’s history may have a lot of explaining to do after the season ends. The history of this team, requires it to be back at a Super Bowl rather sooner than later.
Seasons with negative records are becoming a common thread in the record books for Garrett’s team. What happened in 2014 was a great season with many things to brag about, this and many other seasons have been some Cowboys fans may want to forget. On to the next one, but the mentality that there is always next season needs to change.
America’s Team has not won a Super Bowl since 1995 and now, 20 years later, we don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Will the change from Valley Ranch in Irving to their new facilities in Frisco bring a change? Will Jerry Jones change his mentality and bring a new coach? Will the scouting team and the front office make the right decisions in the upcoming NFL Draft? Will injuries continue haunting the Cowboys?
The answers to these and more questions will be solved next season. For now, Cowboys Nation has to hold back their tears and see how other teams fight for the Super Bowl that will be decided in San Francisco at Levis Stadium. Time for the Dallas Cowboys to start thinking abou Super Bowl LI.
*Stats from NFL.com and DallasCowboys.com