Just how bad this Dallas Cowboys team can get seems to be the question on everybody’s mind now. After the latest 25-3 drubbing at the hands of the Washington Football Team, there seems to be no permanence to the rock at the bottom of the Cowboys fall. They just keep going down and down.
It’s not just the results of the games that are at issue, it’s the way this Cowboys team is playing, or not playing. They look like a defeated team, and the way they passively stood around after a very dirty hit on their quarterback is perhaps emblematic of a team that no longer has any fight left in them.
There are plenty of mitigating factors that can be pointed to for the dramatic downturn of the Cowboys in 2020. Injuries are at the top of that list. The Cowboys have been hit hard by injuries, especially in clusters among certain position groups. Fielding a competitive team with four backups on the offensive line is undoubtedly a difficult proposition. But it has to be said that the Cowboys weren’t exactly playing well before the injury wave crested.
It took a miracle onside kick just to beat the now 1-6 Atlanta Falcons. They were in dogfight with the one-win Giants, even before Dak Prescott went down. They had to put on dramatic second-half comebacks just to be competitive in other games. And their defense has never played a complete game and is still allergic to turnovers. This team was playing poorly even before the major wave of injuries hit.
There is also the “new coach in the pandemic” excuse. It’s valid, but then you look at the Cleveland Browns and wonder why the Cowboys couldn’t be like them? You hate to point to the “exception that proves the rule” but it shows that it could be done.
Instead, we have a fundamentally broken Cowboys team that doesn’t really have any fire left in them and already seems resigned to just playing out the string. That leads to the question of coaching. Only seven games into his Cowboys career, Mike McCarthy has been placed on the hot seat by the press. We don’t know if Jerry Jones feels this way, but the calls for firing Mike McCarthy are growing.
ESPN had this to say about McCarthy potentially being a one-and-done coach.
The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. Look, Jerry Jones’ reputation as an owner who fires coaches willy-nilly is outdated and, frankly, was never really deserved when you look at the history. And no one likes to admit a mistake. But if we get to the end of the season and the NFC East champ has only six or seven wins and the Cowboys aren’t it? They would have to be considered the biggest failure of any team in the league.
McCarthy was brought in, after a year off from coaching following his firing in Green Bay, to replace longtime coach Jason Garrett. The issue with Garrett was that his teams were generally good but not good enough. McCarthy was supposed to get them over the hump. This team has somehow got itself stuck under the hump.
Admitting a mistake can be tough, but isn’t it worse to double down on one? We have more than half a season to go, but if the Cowboys get to the end of it and still look like this lackluster bunch that hasn’t connected with the new staff, it’s not at all wild to think McCarthy could end up being a footnote in team history.
Usually, one would think that it is garbage, and that an established head coach like Mike McCarthy would be given more room to maneuver and that his first season would have no bearing on his long-term viability in Dallas. The fact that it is being discussed, though, just shows how badly this Cowboys team is performing. Again, it’s not just the 2-5 record and the fact that their two wins have been last-second jobs against really bad teams.
It’s the fact that the team seems listless. They don’t seem to be inspired. They seem to be talking behind close doors, and occasionally anonymously to the press.
#Cowboys players initially bought into keeping things internal. Now as they sit 2-4 the discontent is leaking out. On the coaching staff “totally unprepared. They don’t teach. They don’t have any sense of adjusting on the fly.” Another “they just aren’t good at their jobs”— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) October 20, 2020
It feels like Dak Prescott’s heroics were keeping the whole thing together. That as long as their leader was there, he could make things better, either by willing the team to a few wins, or at least making them appear competitive. Without him, nothing works. Not even an offense that was the most prolific in the league for a while this year.
While Prescott’s heroics were lifting the offense, there was no one lifting the defense. Mike Nolan’s unit has been bad from day one and they are not improving. And Nolan is McCarthy’s guy, the one he hand-picked to remake a defense into a unit that played complementary football with the offense. Instead, he’s made it demonstrably worse. Nolan’s stench clings to McCarthy.
So the whispers of one-and-done are starting to grow louder. But could the Cowboys do something even more radical? Could there be a point in-season when they decide to go another way?
Kellen Moore is the obvious candidate if the Cowboys want to fire McCarthy at some point in-season and turn things over to an internal coach. How much of what is going on now with the Cowboys is attached to Moore? Has he been tainted by this start to the 2020 season? Common sense would say no given that his offense was just about the only thing working until Dak Prescott got hurt and the offensive line turned into a MASH unit. At some point could Jerry Jones just say here is your audition to Moore and see what he does?
If the Cowboys wait for the end of the year, there are plenty of candidates for the offseason. Someone like Eric Bienemy, offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, who everyone believes is the next hot prospect and who should have gotten a job last year. There are other prospective candidates like offensive coordinator Joe Brady for the Carolina Panthers or Brian Daboll, the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills. If you want to go defense there is Matt Eberflus from the Indianapolis Colts and formerly the Cowboys linebacker coach. This just a short list of young talent available.
Obviously this is early speculation. McCarthy just might get a hold of this team and turn them in a better direction. Four weeks from now, or six weeks from now, we might be saying that McCarthy has figured it out, his players have bought in, and the Cowboys franchise is headed up.
But for now, speculation about his future is fair game.
Jerry Jones should
This poll is closed
Fire Mike McCarthy in-season and see what Kellen Moore can do
Fire McCarthy at the end of the year
Keep McCarthy around and give him a second season to prove himself