Let's kick this sucker off with some leftover game analysis from Sunday night, shall we?
Sturm's weekly "Decoding Linehan" piece offers a lot of impressive cogitation. You should read it in its entirety; in case you want to wait to savor it later, here's a wee preview to whet your appetite:
But, look at those offensive yards per game. With Romo, they are at about 400 yards. With Weeden, it is 315 per game - near the lowest in football, and with Cassel it is at 363 - right at the league average.
So, with Romo, the offense looks elite. With Weeden it looks league's worst. And with Cassel, it looks like a league average offense. And yet, most of the difference between Weeden and Cassel appears to be a better running game which may have very little to do with Cassel.
Sabin doles out grades for Sunday's midterm. Strangely, he gives the linebackers a "B":
What went right: Not much. The Cowboys' linebackers weren't factors in this game. Three defensive backs led the Cowboys in tackles. Two others compiled the same number as Lee, who had five stops.
The box score really told the story in this case, as the linebackers trailed most running plays and did little in pass coverage to boot.
What went wrong: Rolando McClain doesn't even closely resemble the player he was last season, when he was a force on the field. McClain, at times, has been slow to react to plays developing in front of him. At other points, he looks sluggish in pursuit. On certain occasions, he's failed to make the right read and recover. That was seen in the second quarter on a 15-yard pass from Bradford to Zach Ertz. McClain tracked Ertz but appeared to have no chance to catch him.
The NFL funeral bells are tolling, as various NFL cities bring out their dead. Do we hear their somber intonations in Dallas, or can the Cowboys cling desperately to life for a bit longer? That's the question, now, isn't it?
Archer points out that NFL history suggests a climb back into playoff contention will be nearly impossible to realize:
Just to get an 8-8 finish, the Cowboys must go 6-2 in the second half. For that to possibly be enough for the Cowboys to win the NFC East, the New York Giants can win only twice more. The Eagles can win only three more games.
To finish above .500, the Cowboys will have to do something they have never done in the second half of a 16-game season: finish 7-1. Eight times since 1978, the Cowboys have had 6-2 second halves to the season, including last year, when they finished 12-4.
The Cool One looks at the math and concedes the season is over. If that's the case, he reasons, then the last two months are an extended audition for 2016. Check it:
If you're the GM, you're seeing a team that couldn't step up when its starting QB went down. And then the question becomes, what do you need to do to make sure next year's team can step up when the starting QB goes down again. If your answer is 'get a better backup QB' or 'draft a new franchise QB' then you're probably going to repeat the mistake that got you into this mess in the first place: you're asking one guy to carry the team all by himself again.
Tiny Jim has the same questions the rest of us have: is there a point beyond which it makes sense for the Cowboys to risk further injury to their franchise QB? And how close are we to that point?
If the Cowboys are too far behind in the division race by the time Tony Romo returns from his broken collarbone, it makes sense to hold him out. It doesn’t make sense to risk the health of a 35-year-old quarterback on a lost season, and it can only hurt the Cowboys’ draft positioning.
That argument is only going to get louder if the Cowboys continue to lose, but team owner/general manager Jerry Jones [sic] didn’t want to hear it.
Jones the Elder went on 105.3 to bloviate about his expensive toy, and was asked about whether or not to sit his franchise QB. His response:
"When he gets on the field against Miami, and it most assuredly will be at this juncture, there's no set of circumstances that we wouldn't play him and play him with hopes of winning that game and winning the rest of the ballgames," Jones told the station. "I think not only our game but sports in general, if you've got an opportunity, if you got a chance to win this thing, then you take it.
The question I have is whether or not they'll table him if and when the Cowboys are mathematically eliminated.
Its not just the Cowboys that have failed to win with their backup quarterbacks; this is a league-wide pandemic.
As we wail and moan about the Cowboys losing streak sans Romo, its important to remember this little stat:
Twelve backup quarterbacks have made spot starts this season, excluding former backups, such as Ryan Fitzpatrick and Kirk Cousins, who became starters in the preseason. Not counting Hasselbeck, the group's record is 4-18.
The Noble Drummond with an important reminder about the success rate - or utter lack thereof - of backup quarterbacks, who are playing at a .280 clip on the season:
Look at the teams who have lost to a backup. Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Jacksonville were the worst three teams in the NFL last year. Houston is 3-5. San Diego is 2-7. The only quality teams to lose to a backup quarterback are Atlanta and Arizona. Atlanta, 6-3, has remarkably faced 4 backup QB starters this year. They’re 3-1 in those games, calling into question the validity of their strong start. Arizona lost a game to a backup (Mike Vick) where the game-plan against a left-handed quarterback was turned on it’s head when he left the game and his backup Landry Jones orchestrated a comeback win.
Perhaps the question that we must confront is whether or not this team has been good enough to win even with Romo, or whether his absence simply provided us the impetus to deceive ourselves about the 2015 Cowboys' overall quality?
Surveying the tattered wasteland that is the Cowboys' 2015 season, the Real Dirk Gently offers some ungentle realness:
The fact of the matter is, that in every game there are key situations. Situations where good teams step up and win, putting the game away. Situations where bad teams don't execute to the degree necessary to win. Situations where Dallas has not only failed, but failed spectacularly on nearly every occasion this season. I see no reason to believe that Tony Romo being on the field would prevent these collapses. As those of us who defend Romo have said all along, he's just one guy. He can't prevent a kick return touchdown or sack the opposing quarterback or make Terrance Williams finish his routes. But THESE are the things going wrong for this team. Yes the quarterback play has been sub par-- it always is when you are playing a backup. But the other players have contributed to the death of games here, and their contribution is starting to become overwhelming.
The meme-buster embraces the current meme; Raf's weekly game review offers the following conclusion:
Romo no longer intrigues me as a solution, because he he won’t be a cure-all if whack-a-mole continues. If the Cowboys find yet another way to lose to an improving Buccaneers team, and fall to 2-7 next week, do you want to rush Tony back? I’m beginning to question this previously obvious answer.
The Cowboys' defensive mouthpiece with the quote of the day: "We can't sit and wait on Romo," Mincey said. "He's not Jesus, you know."
JJT with what appears to be the prevailing opinion:
We can talk about Tony Romo's return in two weeks and all the alleged talent on the Cowboys' roster, but the reality is this team has found ways to lose all season. There's no evidence that will change in the season's final eight games.
Only the 1-7 Detroit Lions have a worse record in the NFC than the Cowboys.
Need I remind you that both teams were at least 11-5 last season? The NFL is crazy, man.
With the season historically, if not mathematically, over, Helman has a modest proposal: why not Kellen Moore?
This honestly isn’t an indictment on Cassel’s performance Sunday night against Philadelphia. Even with a costly pick-six in the fourth quarter, I thought he played his best game as a Cowboy and put the team in position to win. Calling for Moore isn’t a reaction to Cassel’s level of play.
It’s just that, again, what else is there to lose?
The Cowboys have squandered their opportunity to "stay afloat"...
Oh the irony! Mere hours after posting that the Cowboys should consider starting Kellen Moore, Tiny Jim was tasked with posting this news:
The Cowboys released quarterback Kellen Moore on Tuesday afternoon, roughly six weeks after promoting him to the active roster.
If you Google "Valley Ranch Insider," you can feel secure that Helman's name will not come up...
Schneier's weekly stock report, with three up and three down. There are no "down" Cowboys this week, so we'll go with his lone Dallas-based riser:
Dez Bryant, wide receiver, Dallas Cowboys
After being limited by Richard Sherman and the Seahawks to just 12 yards on two receptions in his first game back from a broken foot in Week 8, Bryant was back to his old self in Week 9. He turned eight targets into 104 yards and a touchdown on five receptions. On his longest catch of the day, he displayed his trademark burst after the catch, and on his touchdown grab, he showed off his ridiculous leaping ability. It is no coincidence that Matt Cassel had his best passing day with the Cowboys in Week 9, and a case can be made that Bryant deserves double-digit targets in every game until Tony Romo returns. If the Cowboys can craft an offensive game plan that runs through Bryant and Darren McFadden, until Romo returns, they can finally snap their six-game losing streak.
"For a player to feel the fight in their coach, that's something I can feel from him. He's just a fighter as a coach. He's a great motivator for us. He's going to get us going. He wants it done the right way and he's definitely going to let you know. That's one thing I love about him and respect about him. If you don't get it the right way he's going to call you out on it and tell you to get it right. I'm not going to get into everything how we do it in-house but he's going to get it out of you and make you do it the right way. Coach Garrett's a guy, he wants it done right. Being in OTAs, guys after running and fighting...I've been around a lot of different coaches and I can't say there's many of them that I've been around that will stop you in the middle of the drill and make you do it two or three times if you don't get it right."
Archer with the business:
Running back Joseph Randle has been suspended four games by the NFL under the league's personal conduct policy, one week after he was released by the Dallas Cowboys.
The NFL announced the suspension Tuesday. It starts immediately, even though he is not on an active roster.
JJT opines on the Cowboys disappointing defensive line:
The Cowboys sacked Sam Bradford once in their 33-27 overtime loss to Philadelphia, but they hit him seven times. Crawford hit him three times and Hardy and David Irving each hit him twice.
On Bradford’s game-winning touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews, Hardy hit him as he released the ball. A tick earlier and Hardy would’ve had a sack.
Close isn't good enough.
The Broad One answers some pertinent questions, one of which has to do with Tyrone Crawford. After conceding that Number 98 isn't the typical Tampa-2 three-tech, he responds to questions about Crawford's seemingly diminished production:
I believe what the Cowboys are betting on here is that Crawford continues to grow into the position. They see a relentless player with an outstanding work ethic. Rod Marinelli talks about a "Unique Ability" with him, and that’s what they see him of him in the future. He has been very close this season to getting those sacks and in time I agree with the staff – they will come.
Toddzilla's weekly "Five Wonders" piece. Here he ruminates upon perhaps the only D-lineman to have been a pleasant surprise:
I wonder if David Irving turns into the next George Selvie around here. A training camp pickup in 2013, Selvie had 7.5 sacks and was a starter again last year. He salvaged his career with the Cowboys, signing as a free agent with the New York Giants in the offseason. The Cowboys signed Irving off the Kansas City Chiefs' practice squad. He blocked a field goal attempt against Seattle. He was credited with two quarterback hurries and a tackle for loss against the Philadelphia Eagles. I’m not saying he’s a future starter, but he could be a nice rotational piece who will be under the Cowboys control through 2018 if they choose. Finding defensive linemen is a difficult task, but the Cowboys may have hit on Irving.
The Goose with a preview of the Buccaneers, with the spotlight on the number one overall pick in last year's selection meeting:
Winston has not thrown an interception in his last four games covering 121 consecutive passes. He also hasn't lost any fumbles. On the positive side of the ledger, Winston has thrown four touchdowns passes over the last month and rushed for two more scores. His arm and legs have helped the Bucs go 2-2 -- and Washington needed an 80-yard touchdown drive in the closing minutes to deny Tampa Bay a third victory during that stretch.
Davison proffers a "know the enemy" post, and the number one topic in Tampa is the growth of their rookie signal caller. One of his veteran receivers is impressed:
"To see the plays that he’s making here now that maybe he wasn’t making in training camp and in the preseason, it’s night and day. That amount of improvement so quickly, I’m not saying he wasn’t ready and we weren’t excited about him then. But what he’s doing now, I mean, it’s like he’s doing it in his sleep.
Playing as if he were asleep? I thought that was Brandon Weeden's baliwick...