Now that the math says there is no chance for making the "tournament," the Cowboys face the question which many have been asking since loss #7: Is it time to roll out the backups for evaluation purposes, yet?
Me, I'd play the best players, with a few exceptions. Get McGee some time, in some manner. If he's not close to being remotely ready, at least get him in some garbage time. Experience is valuable. Other than that, if there are players which it has already been decided will not return, bench them. For instance, despite some mistakes this game, start Lee. It will be valuable experience for processing coaching and off-season work, from a mental perspective. And safeties...I think Ball will return, unfortunately, though hopefully not as a starter...dear Gerald, though, should hit the pines. As with Lee, extended playing time will dramatically help the development of the kids at safety. Once you've been out there and done it and made the mistakes, its a lot easier to apply the offseason teaching sessions to real scenarios. Makes the game slow down for them.
Who else would you add to this list? Perhaps Colombo or Davis on the OL, but only if there is anyone who could remotely push them on the roster. I don't think there is, so I'd leave them out there for the sake of whomever is at QB. Where else? I can't see much else. I expect most of the changes on the roster in the offseason will be O-line, but not from the current roster, and safety...and probably only one from the current roster there. I'd love to see an upgrade from Spencer, but it's not likely. He's a second tier OLB, and top tier guys are hard to come by. CB is a little iffy, but I think the same players will return there, with a draft pick added to the mix. D-line needs a little retooling, but that's likely draft/FA as well.
For all the talk of huge issues...there really aren't that many. At least, not on the field. On the sidelines...that's another matter. Garrett's a good rah-rah guy, and good with discipline, but I've never found his playcalling to be terribly inspiring. Not horrible, but second rate. His effectiveness in the more complex aspects of playcalling (red zone, for example,) bear this out. Pasqualoni is fairly creative as DC, but has a track record of giving up massive pass plays (why he was fired in MIA), which suggests that he has some predictable elements to his calling that can be exploited, putting him on the second tier with Garrett.
You don't win many games in the NFL if both sides of the ball are 2nd tier in playcalling. Garrett was good enough to get by with in most cases when the D was great, but as soon as the D fell down, so did he. A great playcaller would be like Payton in his first year in NO, when they had no defense but he was able to scheme his way into enough points to keep winning...or the Colts, for years now, winning with Manning and great offensive schemes while playing overrated circus midgets on D.
I think this will be a challenging offseason for Jerry Jones, and I would be VERY surprised if he doesn't bring in someone long on experience in some capacity. Certainly, if Garrett is retained, I expect someone to come in as a consultant, as was attempted with Dan Reeves a couple years back. On the other side of the ball, I suspect that Jones will go with a defensive specialist HC if he cannot land a top-flight DC to put under an offensive HC. Parcells made Jones a believer in the importance of a strong defense, and I can't imagine the events of this season have changed his mind in the slightest, what with a moderately powerful offense fairly low on premium pick players that maintained performance well through injury and a defense that might as well be the scout team despite being loaded on premium picks.
Who do you think should find the pine for the last few games?