We can debate the effectiveness of Jason Garrett, or Scott Linehan, or offensive line coach Paul Alexander, or the roster-building skills of Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones and Will McClay. We can go round and round about strategies, play-calls, motivation, teaching techniques, dead money or free agent acquisitions. It’s all in play for debate and it’s all very legitimate.
What’s not debatable is these Cowboys players are simply failing. I made the case after the Carolina Panthers game, and it was not well-received by some. Scott Lienhan was the problem child for many, but after watching this game against Seattle, it’s pretty obvious that the coaches are not solely to blame for this mess. No one is absolving them of some blame, the team should be playing better and they have to accept the fact they are not, and accept their own complicity in that. If things continue this way, many of them will be fired after the season, Jason Garrett included, and that’s as it should be. It’s easier to change the coaching staff than it is to re-do the roster.
But seriously. The coaches didn’t have a pass come out of their hands and into the hands (and leg) of Earl Thomas. It wasn’t the coaches who dropped a potential third-down conversion like Ezekiel Elliott. Or fumbled the ball like Elliott. It wasn’t the coaches that got a stupid penalty like Randy Gregory that gifted the Seahawks three points. It wasn’t the coaches who got caught cheating up in a disguised Cover 2 like Kavon Frazier that provided a wide-open touchdown. It wasn’t the Cowboys coaches who couldn’t block a Seattle pass rush that had been pretty anemic before this game. The coaches didn’t let the Seahawks convert a third and 12 on a running play, when everyone knew they were going to run, to ice the game. The list goes on and on.
As for Dak Prescott, yes, he had a lot of pressure in his face in the game, and it was hard for him to get comfortable, but the time for excuses are over. Each week it’s something else. It’s the offensive line, it’s the play-calls, it’s the receivers... it’s always something. In this league the quarterback has to lead, and he has to overcome the times when things aren’t going well. Dak Prescott looked as good as could be in his first 24 games or so in this league. Since then, he’s been average at his best, a liability at his worst.
If the Cowboys are going to win, he has to elevate his game, and there can be no qualifiers or caveats. He simply has to play better, period. There is no way to sugarcoat it. The team is tied to him for now, but the doubt is real. If he can’t play better than he has the last 10 or so games, the Cowboys will have to start the arduous process of finding a quarterback of the future.
Dak’s problems are real, but so are the problems of the offensive line. Tyron Smith isn’t the Tyron Smith of two years ago. La’el Collins is still hit and miss. Connor Williams is learning, but it’s on the hon and sometimes that can be painful. As a whole, this offensive line is nothing like it was a few years ago. It’s a serious issue, and we might not be able to coach our way out of it. It may take some personnel changes down the line.
It’s not wise jump ship on the season just yet. There is time to right the ship and get it moving in a positive direction. It certainly can be done. The coaches need to help. They need to re-think certain things, like why didn’t Dak Prescott use his legs in this game? Where were the read-options from last week? But the Cowboys success can’t rely solely on Prescott running the ball sometimes in a game.
The coaches are certainly in the mix of blame, but we have to face facts. The players on the field are failing, and failing badly in two of the three games this season. The offensive line and Dak Prescott are a couple of the bigger problems, but now the defense is joining the problem parade. They just got manhandled by a sub-par and injured Seattle offensive line. They simply didn’t win the matchups.
Coaches can only do so much.