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The Cowboys lead the NFC East - and are in free-fall. Should we be scared or excited?

It’s a strange season, and it inspires some strange emotions for Cowboys fans.

Buffalo Bills v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

It’s a perplexing time for fans of the Dallas Cowboys. The team has lost two games in a row, the second one in embarrassing fashion, and they have slumped to 6-6. Yet they actually saw their chances of making the playoffs increase despite that as the Philadelphia Eagles seem determined to prove that they can be even better at choking than the Cowboys. Our Michael Strawn and Tom Ryle are just as confused as the rest of you.

Tom: With a one-game lead in the division entering December, and games ahead that are at least winnable, this should be an exciting time for us. Instead, this feels as flat and devoid of content as a day old glass of Diet Coke.

The way this season has unfolded has just sapped enthusiasm from me. My faith is all gone. There was so much hope, and the appearance of a really good roster with an exciting new offensive coordinator. Now I am left to wonder just how much of a mirage that talent was, and feel that the coaching staff has failed this franchise.

Michael: It definitely doesn’t feel like a division-leading team in December. What’s most disappointing to me is I expected to watch quality football this year. I can deal with bad luck and coming up short when the team plays well; it’s just fun to watch good football. We simply haven’t seen that.

It’s not much fun watching bad football, and we’ve seen a lot of that. While I think the roster isn’t as good as many of us thought (looking at you linebacker, secondary and offensive line groups) but I also feel the primary responsibility lies with the coaching staff. Four of the six losses featured rigid, conservative decision-making.

I’ve said it before and will believe forever that Jason Garrett’s single biggest flaw is he believes more in his process than his players. That will never change and it’s why, even with an opportunity for this team to make this a memorable season, I just can’t get excited.

Will I tune in and hope for the best? Sure. Do I retain some level of belief that good things will happen? Sure. But I also retain some level of belief that I’ll win the lottery when I play it a couple times each year. And no rational Cowboys fan can truly think this team - under this leadership - is going to magically transform into a poised, well-run machine that’s going to suddenly stop making the boneheaded plays that have undermined them throughout the last two months.

Tom: That’s the real drag. This feels a lot more like just playing out the string than making a late-season charge. After so many frustrating and frankly stupid losses, the hope and enthusiasm has just been beaten out of most of us.

And when you look at the teams that are going to be in the playoffs from the NFC, outside of whomever backs into it between the Cowboys and Eagles, you just can’t see good things happening for the eventual NFC East representative. The five teams most likely to fill out the postseason (49ers, Saints, Vikings, Seahawks, and Packers) all look ready to roll over Dallas. Heck, two of them already have, and the Cowboys look worse now than when they lost to the Saints and Vikings. Plus, Drew Brees is back, so that is one more big obstacle they may face.

Besides, one-and-done looks like the most probable outcome for them if they don’t blow it and hand the division to the Eagles. That is basically the same as missing the playoffs given the desultory way they would get in even if they don’t mess things up completely the last four games.

I’m just not feeling it. At all.

Michael: Yep, me either and judging from the Twitterverse no one else is. So, assuming there’s no real optimism for the end result, what would you like to see over these final weeks (however many they may be)?

I’d like to see the team just go anti-Garrett and start taking wild chances. Sling the ball around 60 times; go for it on fourth-and-anything-less-than-12 past your own 40; pretend field goals don’t exist; run every trick play the team has practiced; try zany kick-offs just to see what happens; run fake punts from your own 35.

I mean, when it comes to the special teams, the results can’t be worse than what we’ve been watching all season, right?

I know that’s never going to happen but I honestly would like to see the team recognize and admit the current approach isn’t working so why not try something radical? Let’s see what Blake Jarwin can do instead of running Jason Witten out there for 80% of the plays. Let’s see Donovan Wilson at the safety spot. Let’s see Chidobe Awuzie at safety (where his relatively strong tackling would be featured and his inability to track the ball less exposed). Let’s see Tony Pollard get 10+ touches every game.

Honestly, the only thing I don’t want to see is the same, predictable, ineffective team we’ve been watching the first three months of the season.

Tom: For me, it comes down to what I am afraid of, and that is the Cowboys stunning us all and going deep enough into the playoffs (without going all the way) to get Jerry Jones seriously thinking about offering Garrett a new contract.

Now, if a miracle did happen and they actually get to the Super Bowl, then Garrett will have earned it. But I fear sneaking or lucking into an NFCCG appearance could also sway Jerry, and I just think that, in the long run, it would doom the Cowboys to more years of futility.

I cannot root against the Cowboys, but I do feel it is time for a new direction, and Jerry needs to keep his focus on the long-term needs. That includes a real awareness of what seem to be Garrett’s limitations, notably this season. I will enjoy whatever success the Cowboys can manage. I just don’t think it is realistic to hope for much, and want to see a real move to bring some new attitude and accomplishment.

Michael: A long playoff run, with at least two wins would mean the team probably wins (at least) five of six games, against some good teams. That would be fun in my opinion. And frankly, I think anything less than a Super Bowl appearance (with all the attendant pomp and ceremony Jones loves so much) is the end of the Garrett era. So I would welcome that.

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