After the game against the 49ers on Sunday, the immediate instinct of many fans was to blame the loss on Jerry Jones, or Tony Romo, or Jason Garrett, or the numerous 49ers fans at the stadium (or anybody or anything else for that matter).
But while that may have felt like the right thing to do, may even have felt liberating, it took away the focus from a much more fundamental flaw that is all too familiar for Cowboys fans:
The reason the Cowboys lost is that the Cowboys do not play smart football.
Our own Dave Halprin looked at the fateful decision on Sunday to check out of the run on 2nd-and-1 from the two-yard line in an article titled: The Play That Underscores Why The Cowboys Continue To Lose and concluded:
Maybe it's reading too much into one play, a reasonable charge. But this sequence just seems to symbolize the Cowboys recent seasons. They take what should be a simple and easy decision, they have the right instinct initially, then decide what the hell...let's make this as hard as possible.
The play, and Dave's conclusion, highlights a peculiar characteristic of the Cowboys. Sometimes, the Cowboys seem like a team that just cannot get out of its own way.
Smart football is about limiting mistakes (turnovers, penalties, missed tackles, dropped passes, blown assignments etc.), but also about limiting risks by running the football and playing solid defense. Above all, smart football is about not overcomplicating things.
It follows that dumb football is the opposite: lots of mistakes, lack of discipline, overreliance on the pass and shoddy defensive play.
The Cowboys' tendency to play dumb football is not just a recent thing. The one constant over the last few seasons has been the Cowboys' ability to shoot themselves in the foot with dumb decisions, critical mistakes and penalties. On Sunday it was Tony Romo, at other times it's been somebody else, but the one constant to the Cowboys' game is that there's almost always somebody who will step up and do something that'll leave you scratching your head.
I have no idea how quickly things like that can be fixed, or whether this was just a temporary relapse into old habits. What I do know is that in principle, the Cowboys have everything they need to win on offense and special teams, and we'll have to keep our fingers crossed on defense. But can they be smart enough to win?
Dumb Stuff We Don't Want To See On Sunday
- Don't get cute and play games with short kickoffs. Kick the ball into the stands on every kickoff.
- Don't throw into triple coverage, even if it's to Dez Bryant.
- Don't throw the ball when you line up in a jumbo package on the goal line.
- Don't have your defense line up 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage on 3rd-and-8.
- Don't throw a pass to the middle of the field when you're trying to stop the clock.
- Don't make more mistakes than the other team. Tell the players that the team that gets the most penalties does not win a prize.
To win their next games, the Cowboys will have to play smarter football. Playing dumb football will not get you championships in the NFL. It won't even get you into the playoffs most of the time.
"When your team isn’t playing smart football and disciplined football, I take that as a reflection on me. And I, quite apparently, am not getting the point across… I blame me. I’m really the one who’s responsible for it." - Bill Parcells
What dumb stuff don't you want to see from the Cowboys on Sunday against the Titans? Let us know in the comments.