Imagine this for a moment...
No Ezekiel Elliott.
No Sean Lee.
Dak Prescott throws for 102 yards.
Naturally, when you piece all that together, you’re going to come up with a convincing 38-14 win over the Washington Redskins, right? The Cowboys had one of their better games of the year despite a less-than-stellar performance from their franchise quarterback. So how’d they do it?
Some will throw around that magic word “adjustments” from the coaching staff. But when you look at the plays being called, there wasn’t much to see that was different than the previous three games. The biggest difference was how the reps were distributed in the secondary with younger guys like Chidobe Awuzie and Kavon Frazier seeing more action where fixtures like Byron Jones and Anthony Brown would spend some time on the bench. It was a risky move to roll with so many younglings, but this organization has put faith in the young guys they’ve drafted and felt they were up to the task.
Rather than shake things up with some new inventive scheme, the Cowboys stayed the course. Oh, it was rough at first. The offense struggled to move the ball early. The defense would still have some breakdowns in communication and left receivers uncovered. It wasn’t a perfect game by any means, but what we saw against the Redskins was a coaching staff that trusted their players to do their job and pushed them to fight. The defense was out there scratching and clawing for every loose ball they could get their hands on.
I don't care what the ruling was, this is one of the best plays I've ever seen Anthony Hitchens make.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) December 1, 2017
How did he rip this ball out while upside down? pic.twitter.com/e2KCz53zUF
A segment of the fanbase is proclaiming that Jason Garrett just bought himself some more time with this much needed win. For me, I never get the sense he’s in the hot seat. He’s done too many good things for this organization that far outweigh the struggles. If you’re scratching your head why I keeping singing his praises, allow me a moment to explain.
Like many of you, I have been following this team a long time. One of the most difficult times being a Cowboys fan was after Jimmy Johnson left. Success had come so fast for Jerry Jones that he thought this “winning a championship” thing was easy. It wasn’t. Jerry learned that the hard way and us fans all paid the price. He would always put the team behind the eight-ball with his hasty GM decisions, whether it be the Joey Galloway trade or Roy Williams debacle. Jerry was always trying to take short cuts and it always came back to bite the team. He would constantly mortgage the future for the now and it put the team’s future in shambles. I don’t know if you can remember or not, but there were so many years where us fans just knew we weren’t going anywhere before the season even started. That’s a terrible feeling.
When Garrett came along, things started to change. Gradually, Jerry and Stephen Jones started doing things differently. For the first time, they started developing patience. They stopped throwing lucrative contracts at aging free agents in hopes of landing “immediate results.” Through all of this, Jones has watched as Garrett commands a room, how players respond to him, and how listening to his advice on draft day has landed us some special players.
Cowboys fans should never lose sight of the hole that Garrett dug this team out of. Many will shake their heads and remind us about mediocre seasons, but he managed to keep the Cowboys competitive while enduring some substantial dead money hits. Over his first five years, the Cowboys averaged $20 million in dead money. Think about that for a moment. That’s quite a long stretch of disadvantage for this organization. But since taking over this team, the Cowboys have transitioned how they go about things. In 2016, they wasted the fewest amount of money on dead money with only $3.2 million.
Garrett is still a young coach. He’s still learning and is always open to finding what makes him be successful, whether it’s visiting with other coaches (Coach K from Duke) or learning from Navy Seals. A lot of young coaches struggle during their first tenure as a head coach. Remember, both Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll were fired as head coaches when they first came in the league.
Jerry Jones is a dangerous GM. If he has good people around him, he can be very good. If he doesn’t, he can be very bad. Whomever is coaching the Dallas Cowboys is going to have work with Jones and convince him to do things their way or else Jerry will turn this organization into a dumpster fire. Garrett knows how to sway Jerry. He gets him to listen to reason and helps him make better decisions.
Last year, the defense finished top five in points allowed. We all know this group wasn’t that good. But they performed well because the staff coached up a lot of good pieces and you saw a lot of fight in those players. That’s a big accomplishment if you consider that they were not a group that was laced with talent. But what they did possess was fight. They collectively swarmed, hit, and brought down their opponents. It’s a testament to Garrett and what he can get from his troops. There are a lot of new pieces to this defense now. It’s disappointing that they are not performing well, but so many are young guys that still need to develop. Try to rationalize it yourself. Were the coaches just outstanding last year and just suddenly terrible now? That’s not a reasonable assessment. Or does a better explanation lie in the undeveloped talent in the sum of all their parts? If you want to pick apart the coaches for what’s happening now you have to acknowledge how well they did last season.
If you are upset with the coaching as of late – good. You should be. They need to be better. Everybody agrees with that.
This team is full of players we love that are great guys who are fun to root for. And they’re good players. Ask yourself...
- Are you happy with the progress the pass rush has made this season?
- Do you think that Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens, and Jaylon Smith will make a strong linebacker group when they are all healthy?
- Have you been impressed with what you’ve seen from Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie? Could you foresee them being the Cowboys cornerbacks of the future?
- Is La’el Collins and Jonathan Cooper working out on the offensive line?
The Cowboys have had to rely on a lot of new faces in new places and many of these players have very limited NFL experience. Once they start getting acclimated and developing, the net result will be a very good football team. Whether you are a fan of Garrett or not, he gives this team something every year he’s coaching - hope. And it’s not hard to believe that this team is going to be contending for years to come. Trust the process.