Fans of the Dallas Cowboys have been on a roller coaster ride in recent years. Just when things are rising, something happens and they suffer a huge drop off that spoils any chance to keep a good thing going. The team has won the NFC East three times over the last five seasons, which is a nice accomplishment, but then they’ll turn around and miss the playoffs the following season. Such a pattern doesn’t bode well for the 2019 Cowboys team since it’s an odd year and that means it’s their turn to be left out of the postseason once again.
But trends are made to be bucked and the Cowboys are in the right position to buck it. Problems that have plagued them in the past are no longer holding them back. Changes have been made to upgrade the roster as well as coaching adjustments that the organization feels will give this team it’s best chance to succeed going forward. Here’s why the team is better prepared to handle adversity and make a deep playoff run.
Depth and durability on the upswing
The most damaging factor for the Cowboys during their non-postseasons appearances recently has been due to suffering the loss of one of their star players, and having no viable replacement in place. When Tony Romo went down in 2015, the Cowboys used an assortment of quarterbacks in Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore. Each of them had their own level of ineptitude and the team ceased to function without Romo at quarterback.
With Romo: 3-1
Without Romo: 1-11
In 2016, the team lost Romo again, only this time they were ready. Dak Prescott showed up to the rescue and has never looked back. While it’s unclear exactly how bad things could be should something happen to Prescott, the fact that he’s a young, durable quarterback certainly provides more hope of a healthy season than what they were up against with Romo during his final years.
Romo wasn’t the only major player the Cowboys couldn’t afford to lose. It seemed that whenever Sean Lee went down, the defense collapsed. Nothing changed as far as Lee’s ability to stay healthy, but the team is better equipped to handle his absence these days. That was on full display last year as Leighton Vander Esch emerged as the team’s new star linebacker and pushed Lee into a reserve role.
And there was no bigger reason for the team’s collapse in 2017 than the loss of Tyron Smith. The veteran left tackle is still missing about three games a year, but the team took measures in their own hands and found a dependable replacement in Cameron Fleming last season.
As a whole, this Cowboys team is as deep as it’s been in a long while. That’s a big deal considering the brutal impact of a 16 game schedule. Teams that are most prepared to handle adversity are usually still playing in January.
This team has no quit in them
It was a sad thing to witness the team’s collapse with Wade Phillips in 2010. After losing five-straight games including a shellacking courtesy of the Green Bay Packers, Jerry Jones finally had enough and fired Phillips midway through the season. Jason Garrett took over and suddenly fight was injected into the club. They went 5-3 during the second half, solidifying Garrett’s spot as the new full time head coach of the Cowboys.
Garrett has his fair share of critics, but one thing everyone agrees on is how hard his players play on Sundays. Last year, the stage was set for another collapse after the team was 3-5 midway through the year. But his team never gave up. With his job on the line, the Cowboys pulled out two straight road wins against teams that blew them out the previous season (Philadelphia and Atlanta). Players believed in themselves because Garrett instills that belief into them. Dallas won seven of their final eight games en route to a division title.
It’s not just the fact that Garrett is a fantastic motivator of men because the players deserve a lot of credit. They’re the ones with the mental toughness to keep battling. But it’s no coincidence that this roster is filled with the type of players who know how to persevere. Garrett has built this team this way so expect a lot of fight from this football team across the board.
New era of coordinators
Last season, the Cowboys added defensive backs/passing game coordinator Kris Richard to the team and his presence paid off immediately. The defense finished in the top seven in both points allowed and yards given up for the first time since 2003 when Bill Parcells first coached the team. With the addition of better coaching, the team was able to get the most out of their defensive unit.
The Cowboys are hoping the same can be true for the offense as they have promoted Kellen Moore to offensive coordinator. The team struggled in the red zone, and also was too conservative after negative plays to where the talent they had on offense wasn’t given much of a chance to reach their full potential. More disguises and a better array of play-calling should come from the team’s new offensive coordinator as Moore is finally in a position where he can help the team the most.
All these factors point to a brighter outlook for the Cowboys as they hope to make it to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 12 years.