In the last 20+ years of the Cowboys failing to win a Super Bowl we’ve seen a lot of heartbreak, and the way this season ended is another chapter in that book. The Seattle contest was a game the Cowboys could have easily won but they completely whiffed on offense.
This is a team that is best run through the offense’s ability to control the clock and scoreboard. However, in many games, it was a very young defense that did their jobs while waiting for the offense to pick up the slack. That slack was not picked up last Sunday and now the Cowboys will miss the postseason for the fifth time in the Jason Garrett era.
Personally, I’m not behind the idea of firing the head coach unless who’s taking over far exceeds who is leaving. In any case, whether or not you believe Garrett needs to get the ax, Jerry Jones has pretty much thwarted that idea.
One coach who should be sitting on a pretty warm chair is the offensive coordinator, Scott Linehan. People tend to believe that Garrett has the power to reclaim the playcalling duties but we’ve been told he trusts his staff. If we’re to believe that Garrett relies heavily upon his lieutenants then Linehan has failed his head coach this season.
We can discuss the fact that the Cowboys were without Ezekiel Elliott for six games or how poor he was at pass protection after his short layoff but that redzone playcalling trumps all. That series of plays on that drive will go down as the absolute worst two minutes of the season:
-First and goal at the SEA-3: Dak Prescott from the gun gets one yard
-Second and goal at the SEA-2: Holding on Jason Witten, 10-yards.
-Second and goal at the SEA-12: Prescott is sacked for -11 yards.
-Thirds and goal at the SEA-23: Prescott passes to Witten for seven yards.
-Fourth and goal from SEA-16: Dan Bailey wide right and misses 34-yard FG attempt.
As a frustrated spectator of this game, I couldn’t help but tweet the following:
The #Cowboys have lived their 2017 season in one game...— ✭Michael Sisemore✭ (@MrSisemore) December 25, 2017
There are a lot of truths we’re going to be discussing about this team in the offseason, including players that didn’t play well, but those five plays were an indictment on a stubborn coaching staff. For that, it’s completely warranted for fans to be calling for change.
Ezekiel Elliott had 15 carries for 73 yards in the first half alone. That’s 4.86 yards per carry, the Seahawks defense didn’t stop him, his offensive coordinator did. He finished the game with 24 carries for 97 yards, how do you explain nine touches in the second half? It’s the same as the Packers game where Linehan called a pass on second down that ended up leaving too much time on the board for Aaron Rodgers. This offense gets too cute at times and it comes back to bite them squarely in the backside.
Linehan’s offensive reputation in this league is impressive on it’s own but time after time he overthinks things. There is no need to stop your own strength, let the other team dare to stop it. Ezekiel Elliott was taking pressure off the offense without the best left tackle in football and Linehan abandoned his best player in the second half when they needed him most.
The Cowboys dominated in time of possession by nearly six minutes, had six more first downs, were better on third downs, had more passing yards, more rushing yards, but walked away with four field goals. Russell Wilson failed to get to 100 passing yards while his running game got a measly 76 yards on 30 attempts, about 2.5 yards per carry. They gifted Seattle 142 yards in penalties and three turnovers which inevitably decided this game.
Once again, Linehan started getting pass happy and that’s when the offense started stalling. They have seemingly forgotten how to establish their identity and stick to it. When they have done so, they win games. When they don’t sustain that rhythm, they lose.
They were fifth in total yards in 2016 with 376.1 per game, they’re now sitting at 14th with 334 per game. The passing numbers this season are awful as they’ve dipped to 197.9 passing yards per game, that’s 25th in the league. They’ve also scored 73 points less than last season in the process. For the first time since Garrett has been the coach, he’s watched four instances in which his team wasn’t competitive this season. That Broncos game looks worse by the minute, doesn’t it?
We don’t need to rehash how much this team has been outscored by in the second halves of games or that they were beaten 70-22 over a three week period. No aspect of this team has looked worse this season than the offense that couldn’t be stopped a year ago. Though I tend to blame poor personnel most of the time, without question the playcalling has routinely let the players down. Just ask Dak Prescott, who at one time looked to be primed to crush his numbers from a season ago, but now has some out there calling him a one-year wonder.
The offense has taken a huge step backwards and though the head coach shares blame, he’s declared safe. That means this will fall at the feet of Scott Linehan, who deserves plenty of credit for the latest Cowboys’ meltdown.