The Cowboys won their final game of the season, beating a resting number-one-seeded Eagles team 6-0, for a final record of 9-7. Was it ugly? Absolutely, in fact, it was quite embarrassing to watch if we’re honest. That’s the 2017 season in a nutshell for the Dallas Cowboys, it’s been ugly and disappointing but this team will now get a lot of time to ponder the age-old “what wen’t wrong?”
Plenty of things went wrong, so one could contend that it was a feat in itself that the Cowboys finished with a winning record. Just thinking back on this season gives you a migraine.
You can’t start any remembrances without mentioning the Ezekiel Elliott legal battle with the NFL. The team didn’t know if he was going to start in week one until a few days before the game. This saga would continue week-to-week for half of the season before a final decision was made prior to the Falcons game.
At the time of that decision, the Cowboys were perhaps the hottest offense in the league. It wasn’t just that the team was without their best player for the next six games, they already were losing key players prior to the suspension. Dan Bailey was lost to a groin injury that he never fully recovered from, as his missed five field goals and two missed extra points prove.
Sean Lee left the lineup quite a few times and the Cowboys only won one game of the five that he missed. Tyron Smith missed a few games too which severely weakened the offensive line, as they gave up 12 sacks in those two games. He had to manage his injuries for the rest of the season and was placed on IR before the last game. His absence left the entire left side of the line vulnerable and the team suffered major consequences without him.
For any single thing they got right, they got three others wrong. They couldn’t survive all the hits that kept coming, some of them self-inflicted. Somehow, some way, the Cowboys finished winning four of their last five games even though they were a wildly inconsistent team. Normally finishing strong like Dallas did, winning four of five, would be cause for celebration. But, that one loss cost the team a shot at the playoffs, and capped off a season that fell far short of expectations.
Still, many NFL teams have folded when faced like a season Dallas had, but this edition at least made it to 9-7. The Dallas 2017 season could be edited into a successful miniseries. They started slow, then got hot, had the rug ripped out from under them, injuries piled up, but they managed to end the year with a win.
Following their win over Philadelphia, some social media chatter from fans to local media were critical of the Cowboys’ winning a meaningless game. By winning, the Cowboys’ draft position got bumped back a few spots. Instead of picking 16th, Dallas will have the 19th pick.
Understandably, you always want an earlier pick to increase your odds of success. In the same vein, winning is line one, two, and three in the NFL. I don’t think you can necessarily say their final victory was the way to end on a good note but it’s better than the feeling of losing. Current players on the roster do not think about what draft pick the team will have, they think about competition and winning. After the type of season they had, winning was important even if they were drained mentally and weren’t even playing all that well. Players and coaches wanted that win, no matter how they got it. Ending their season with a victory outweighed any other considerations.
This is not a team that played winning football for most of the year and the bottom line is that the Cowboys have failed to reach the Super Bowl for the 23rd consecutive year. For most, that’s the only statistic that matters, but if you recall all the events that somehow contributed to this season, you have to acknowledge that it could have been worse.
Though what went wrong outweighed what went right, the team battled through their shortcomings to keep themselves alive in the postseason picture until Christmas Eve. Truth be told, the way they played in November, they should have never been in that conversation to begin with. Ultimately, the Cowboys were unsuccessful and had moments where they were flat out pathetic, but only fell short of the playoffs by the smallest of margins.
It’s totally acceptable to be completely disappointed by the outcome of the 2017 season. With that said, it may be unpopular, but a point can be made that the Cowboys found a way to fight through some tough moments and earned a consolation prize - a winning record.