A lot of discussion here and elsewhere in recent weeks has focused on some of the individual mistakes that have been key in some of the Cowboys' six losses and cumulatively may have been a big part of why the Cowboys are 1-6.
Alex Barron's holding penalty on the final play of the Redskins game. Tashard Choice's fumble in the same game. Chris Gronkowski's missed block that resulted in Romo's injury. Alan Ball's consistently disappointing play at safety. Jason Williams and Michael Hamlin both looking like fools against Arian Foster. Notice a theme here? These are all bit players in a star-studded Dallas Cowboys team. Who's keeping tabs on our stars' performance?
Dallas is a system that is built around star players. When they don't come through, forget about the bit players picking up the slack. After the break, we look at the performance of some of the Cowboys stars, Troy Aikman weighs in on what the success model of the Cowboys is, and how they've gotten away from it.
Miles Austin leads the team in penalties with six. That is more than every single player on the Cowboys' penalty-prone O-line who have collectively been called for 23 penalties, according to Bob Sturm who keeps a running tally of these things. The usually reliable Jason Witten has been called for four penalties, second behind Austin among the offensive skill players. And while Miles Austin ranks fourth in the league in receiving yards, he has also dropped six passes, which ranks him is tied for first in the league with the Eagles Brent Celek, the Rams Brandon Gibson, Randy Moss and the always reliable (in this stat) Terrell Owens.
On defense, DeMarcus Ware not only lost contain on a couple of runs against the Jaguars, but also did not record a single tackle in the whole game for only the second time in his career. Jay Ratliff and Anthony Spencer are shells of their former selves.
So what can we expect against the Packers tonight? Will the Cowboys, led by their stars, fight back or will lie down again like they did against the Jaguars?
The DMN's Jean-Jacques Taylor summarizes the situation succinctly:
The Cowboys played so poorly that Wade, an eternal optimist, lamented his team's lack of passion and fortitude. That's a fancy way of Wade saying he thought his team quit either on him or against Jacksonville. Now, you should understand why it's so important for us to see if the Cowboys will play hard for an entire game:
[...] Wade has no idea whether his team will play hard or lay it down against the Packers. None of us will until they face some adversity in Green Bay. Then these Cowboys will either fight back or give up and get blown out.
The Cowboys should at least try harder tonight. Now that it's clear that Wade Phillips is a dead man walking, the players will be playing for their careers and use the remaining nine weeks to audition for whoever will be on the new coaching staff.
Troy Aikman weighs in on the Cowboys success model.
With wholesale coaching changes inevitable, Troy Aikman reflected in an interview with KTCK-AM 1310 (partial transcript here) what the success model for the Cowboys has looked like in the past.
Aikman points out that while some franchises haven't won anything yet, and thus don't really know what it takes to win, the Cowboys do have a winning model.
Aikman argues that for the players on the team, it doesn't really matter who is making the personnel decisions, the owner, the GM, the coaches or somebody else. So whether Jerry hires a GM or a 'consultant', continues to run things the way he does or hands over more responsibility to his sons is of little to no consequence for the players. We fans and large parts of the media tend to get lost in endless debates about Jerry's role in the franchise. Irrelevant, says the man with three Super Bowl rings.
What mattered above all else was having a coach in the house who the players had to answer to, and Aikman uses the Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells years as examples. Those were coaches the players felt were in control, and if the players didn't do what either of these coaches were asking of them, there'd be hell to pay.
"My point is there's a model that has been successful for Jerry Jones and that is have a head coach that everyone knows is in charge and the players have to respect that and they're going to be held accountable.
"It's not going to be, hey, they played real hard - we're 1-6 but we played real hard. Who says that? If you look around the league in the history of sports, for the most part, the head coaches you look at and say, "Hey, what a great head coach," was somebody who held players accountable.
"That's kind of my thoughts on the topic. I just got done doing New England last Sunday. They've got some talented young players. Are they more talented than the Cowboys? I don't know, but I don't think they are. But they're 6-1, they're pretty good and they don't make mistakes and beat themselves.
In Jason Williams, the Cowboys earlier this week cut their top draft pick from a year ago. Nick Eatman from the mothership let it be known that Williams was cut for a couple of reasons, and his poor attitude and dedication to get better were big reasons why.
Cutting some players on the periphery - like Curvin Richards at the time - was how Jimmy Johnson sent a message to his teams and got their attention.
The Cowboys this week kicked off their back to basics approach. Will Jerry Jones also go back to what has been a proven winning model in the past, and hire a coach from the 'hell-to-pay' school of coaching?
Regardless of who it'll be, the first thing that guy is likely to say to Jerry is "Give me the audition tapes of my players. Starting with the Green Bay game".
Only this time around, the stars are on notice too.