It’s only one game for the Dallas Cowboys. No, I’m not talking about last nights loss to the Chicago Bears, I’m talking about the opening week victory over the New York Giants. Upsets happen every week in the NFL and it appears that’s all it was. Watching the Cowboys over the first four weeks of the season, it looks as if they are far closer to the sub-par team that has shown up in weeks 2-4 than they are to the good team who showed up in week 1.
It seems as though they correct some of their issues one week but another rears its ugly head. The next week they fix that issue and the other problems resurface. For instance, the first few weeks of the season, their penalty issue was out of control, yet last night it wasn’t a problem at all. This week their pass defense was terrible when it’s been great all season long. And it’s been this way for a long time in Dallas.
The part I’m having the most difficulty figuring out is why? Why have the Cowboys of the past six or seven years found it so hard to win and play consistently good football? Since 2006 look at some of the teams in the NFC that have gone to the Super Bowl, the Giants, Bears and Green Bay Packers are historically good franchises, but to see the New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks go in that time span should blow your mind! Or at least open your eyes.
What is it about the Dallas Cowboys that hasn’t gone right for them and why has it gone right for those routinely bad teams? Yes, the easy answer is Jerry Jones but it runs deeper than that, it has to. Jones doesn’t coach (despite what we think), he doesn’t run, throw or tackle. Every Cowboys fans can lay some blame on Jones, which is fair, but he’s also helped put a team with a lot of talent on the field and these players are not getting it done. Again, the question is why?
If we look at the Cowboys roster, there seems to be good players everywhere you look. The NFL is about quarterback play and Tony Romo is a top 10 QB in the league. He hasn’t always made the best decisions but he’s a very good quarterback and takes too much unfair criticism. He wasn’t good last night but he is a very good quarterback. He’s made some big plays to win games but we’d be foolish to say he always comes through in the clutch. The QB usually gets the most criticism but it isn’t just on Romo, where else can we turn?
How about the Dallas skill position players on offense? They have that all across the board. Miles Austin has a great combination of size and speed but his health has been a question mark for a good part of his career. Dez Bryant has the tools to be one of the best receivers in the NFL and he’s shown flashes of being dominant, but he’s missing something. He still doesn’t understand the subtleties of the game and his concentration, along with his maturity, needs plenty of work. He’s in his third NFL season, what’s holding him back? Is it the coaching? Well he’s had Ray Sherman and Jimmy Robinson as his position coaches and they are two of the best in the NFL.
Jason Witten, despite getting off to a slow start, is still one of the top players at the tight end position. He’s tough, physical and finds ways to get open so there is very little to complain about with him the past handful of years. However, what happened with Martellus Bennett? He had all the tools to be a very good player in Dallas but he couldn’t succeed there. Now he’s in New York and doing the things he should have been doing with the Cowboys.
The Cowboys have had success with running backs too. Julius Jones, Marion Barber, Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray have all had their moments but all have seemed to phase out. I still feel Murray is the exception, but he hasn’t been as good as I think he can be yet this season. Felix Jones was a first round pick but is almost useless now.
The offensive line’s in Dallas need to shoulder some blame too, especially the past few seasons but they have talent there too. First round pick Tyron Smith seems to be a good one, but so did Doug Free a few years ago and now he’s getting badly beaten every week. The team tried to upgrade the line with Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings but Bernadeau has been a complete disaster. Livings has been fine and even though Ryan Cook has been an upgrade at center, the Cowboys still haven’t solved the answer to that problem either.
Now what about the Cowboys talent level on defense? DeMarcus Ware is a stud and one of the best defensive players in football but where is his impact on the game? For how good he is, he’s had very few game changing plays in his career. They drafted Anthony Spencer in the first round to be another pass rushing force but instead he’s been a very good run stopper.
Jay Ratliff’s been very good throughout his career but he appears to be wearing down with injuries and Marcus Spears was a first round pick who still hasn’t made an impact. I like their tough, physical guys like Jason Hatcher, Sean Lissemore and Josh Brent, who has played great through the first few weeks of the season, but what’s been the result? The Cowboys haven’t been good on defense the past few years.
There is talent at linebacker, Sean Lee is an absolute monster in the middle! He’s one of the best in the game and is always around the ball. He’s become a leader of the defense and in the locker room but the Cowboys still don’t get enough turnovers. The team raved about Bruce Carter and he’s looked very good throughout the first few weeks but he’s still learning the NFL game.
The Cowboys also have had talent in their secondary, Terence Newman was a very solid player during his Cowboy days but he broke down. Mike Jenkins is a first round pick who’s had some real good moments but he played terribly in 2010 and was beaten by a tight end last night. It appears as though they finally have some good corners when they signed one of the game best in Brandon Carr and drafted college footballs best CB in Morris Claiborne but here the Cowboys sit at 2-2 and coming off another poor performance.
Do you want to blame it on the coaches? The legend Bill Parcells was 0-2 in playoff games with Dallas and even though he should have won the game in Seattle, his conservative gameplan wasn’t any help. His Cowboys had discipline problems too, just like today’s Cowboys.
You want to blame Wade Phillips for being too soft and allowing Jerry Jones to be more of an authority for the team, that’s fine too. He did go 13-3 one year, won two division titles and their only playoff game since 1997 but his team also quit on him two years ago.
Blame Jason Garrett if you want. He’s too non-chalant and is an offensive guru but his offense is now 31st in the NFL in offense. There is no balance to his offense, how could there be when the team gets too many false start penalties to get into a rhythm? Garrett has changed the culture of the Cowboys and brought in smarter, more physical players but it hasn’t shown up on game day.
Garrett pays attention to detail as much as any coach and has as much say over what goes on for the Cowboys since Bill Parcells but the team still has no consistency.
Where are Cowboys fans to turn for answers? Everyone is to blame. It’s a new year but the results are maddeningly the same. All we hear is how much talent the Dallas Cowboys have but why can’t they win? Everyone’s got a theory for that but no one has a real answer.
There’s that word again, “but.” It seems to show up everywhere for the Cowboys.
The Cowboys do have talent, I just don’t understand why they can win consistently. People talk about an “it” factor, “but” the Cowboys still haven’t found theirs, and that’s why they remain a mystery.
Some things just can’t be explained. Big foot, the Loch Ness Monster, the Kardashian’s popularity and the Dallas Cowboys.
you can follow Ben on twitter @BenGrimaldi