The barrage of depressing numbers concerning the Dallas Cowboys continues. There have been the historically bad stats of Monte Kiffin's defense. Now, in a series of Tweets, Rainer Sabin of the Dallas Morning News has been pulling some numbers from the website STATS that show just how bad the team is doing on both offense and defense. Here is a sample of the numbers he has found.
#Cowboys QB Tony Romo has completed only 47.1 percent of his attempts on third down, worst rate among starters who've played every game.— Rainer Sabin (@RainerSabinDMN) November 13, 2013
Is this cherry picking of statistics? Well, perhaps, but you have to admit those are some scary figures there. Your quarterback, just signed to a long-term deal, and your star middle linebacker, also just signed to a long-term deal, are performing horribly in certain aspects of their game.
It is rather illustrative, however, of how this year is going for the Cowboys. Not only is the team having to rely on backups (and in some cases, backups to backups to backups), but the star players left standing are also contributing to the epic fails that happen, oh, every other game or so.
Many of us are wondering why things are going so wrong in so many ways. There is no one simple answer. The failures this year are so widespread and has so many facets that it almost defies logic. Look at the issues that have stacked up (and please understand that some of these are my opinion of the situation, not necessarily proven fact):
- Injuries we all know about. Whether it is the incredible number of defensive linemen, as detailed by One Cool Customer, or watching a clearly over-matched Jeff Heath trying to step into a job he needs more time to prepare for, the problems the injuries have caused seem clearly evident to even the most casual observer. And with the loss of Brian Waters, the problems have spread to the offense, as the guard positions once again seem to be dragging the rest of the line down.
- But as a counterargument, Rob Phillips points out on his blog that the rest of the league has injury issues too. While few are facing quite as big a problem in terms of starters lost, almost all the division leaders have some big name players who are out, or who have missed significant games this season. The problem for Dallas is the same as it has been: No significant depth behind the starters. The team has tried to address this, but as happened this year, by the time the season got under way, the depth player at many positions was now the starter. So the cycle continues.
- Everyone seems to be slacking off on the field. Tony Romo just fell off a cliff (see Dave Halprin's article for the ugly picture of what has happened). Once sure-handed receivers suddenly are dropping balls all over the field. As I mentioned above, Tyron Smith and Doug Free seem to be struggling again with the steadying influence of Waters gone. And virtually everyone on defense has had games where they either looked bad or just disappeared. Only special teams has maintained solid to excellent levels of performance this year, and that is not enough.
- Both coordinators give the impression they are just overwhelmed with things. On both sides of the ball, the other team is dictating to the Cowboys, and neither Callahan or Kiffin seem to have a clue. Game after game, Dallas' offense seems to sputter and flounder, while the other team just shreds the Cowboys defense. And that has happened all season, with a couple of exceptions, so the injuries cannot be held solely to blame.
The harsh reality is that there really aren't. At this point in the season, the Cowboys have to try to make it primarily with the players they have. While they continue to work out people, these are all marginal types who, after all, are not on a roster because they were not seen as good enough by their previous teams. And it makes no sense to try and bring in another defensive or offensive coordinator in mid season. Those are the kinds of changes you have to make in the offseason. Only some tweaking can be done now. Like it or not, Callahan and Kiffin will finish out the year.
And so will Garrett. The Cowboys will probably win between two and four more games this season, which is insufficient grounds for terminating the head coach mid-season. But if the team does not make the playoffs, or squeaks in and then gets embarrassed the way it was in New Orleans, then it may be decision time for Jerry Jones. It would be one thing if the arrow was pointing up for the Cowboys, but at the moment, there is no evidence that this team is doing anything other than staying stagnant or regressing. I always assumed Garrett would get three seasons barring a meltdown. Well, he has had three seasons, and a meltdown or two. There is no evidence at the moment that he is making this team into a contender.
But this could all change. Kiffin was interviewed about what is happening, and basically all he said he could do was keep going and try to fix things. That is the situation the entire team is in. Yet there is one thing that came up in the article that does offer some hope.
Kiffin put what happened last Sunday, a 49-17 loss to the Saints, into the proper perspective. In 1999, Kiffin, then the defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, saw his unit get beat 45-0 at Oakland in late December. The Bucs rebounded, allowing just 16 points in the final two regular-season games and eventually reached the NFC championship game, losing to the St. Louis Rams, 11-6.
It is a scant hope, certainly. However, all the coaches and players can do is line up and play the game. A lot of jobs are on the line in the next seven weeks. We'll soon see how that motivates people.