It is a difficult thing for any of us to talk about effort that Dallas Cowboys players are giving. Sure we all watch the games, study what’s happening, and come to our own conclusions, but we obviously do not know what they are trying to do and therein lies the difficulty with this exercise.
In the world of professional sports, when losing persists, people are going to point out that effort is not where it needs to be and cite it as a reason for the losing that we are seeing.
Effort has been the top criticism of the Dallas Cowboys defense this week
In the days following the team’s loss to the Cleveland Browns there didn’t seem to be much accountability from the Cowboys. DeMarcus Lawrence called the performance “soft” in his postgame press conference but quickly took to Instagram to defend himself and his teammates from criticism coming from fans. There is certainly an argument that this is Tank sticking up for his fellow Cowboys, but it was viewed by many as running from the issue.
The issue with the Dallas defense isn't the complexity of the scheme. pic.twitter.com/is4O9E6oMo— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) October 5, 2020
Fans criticizing the Cowboys and saying the team lacks effort is one thing, but it has become one of the top storylines in the NFL this week. There have been times when the Cowboys have been criticized for losing, but this is very different. National voices are calling out the Cowboys for a lack of effort and for getting paid and then shrinking in the performance department.
It certainly didn’t help matters early on this week when Mike Nolan and Jerry Jones both stood up for linebacker Jaylon Smith. This is obviously a catch-22 sort of situation as they are going to go to bat for their player, but fans feel that Smith has been sub-par and want to see a level of accountability from somebody. Anybody.
Xavier Woods took some accountability on Wednesday
The Cowboys have rotating captains this season but one of the biggest points of leadership this year on the defensive side of the ball came from Xavier Woods on Wednesday. With people wanting to see some introspection from the defense he offered it up and was honest in saying that a lack of effort from a physical perspective due to the nature of professional sports was there, but they are doing the best that they can.
Xavier Woods, asked if it's hard to watch the tape of a game like Sunday's.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) October 7, 2020
"It's not hard when you want to be better. Take that medicine like a man. Like a professional. We know we messed up. But you come in, take that medicine, and you get better from it."
Cowboys S Xavier Woods: "The effort's been good. On certain plays, some guys – I mean, me included — there may be a lack. But overall, the effort is there. We're in the NFL. You don't expect guys to (go) full speed for 70 plays; that's not possible." But team pushing hard. Full: pic.twitter.com/EfE6FJioIU— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 7, 2020
Here is the Xavier Woods quote about effort that you have likely seen on your timeline.— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) October 7, 2020
I get what he's saying, but given the way the Cowboys have played people are taking it and getting upset.
(via @dallascowboys) https://t.co/nCsklH52Y2 pic.twitter.com/w03S4EIH00
Some might read Woods’ quote as him saying they aren’t giving 100% of effort all the time, but it seems like he is simply saying that it is not possible for them to be running at top speed all of the time because it is literally impossible. I understand his point, but the wording of it will incite some fires. Give it some consideration before you throw gasoline, please.
When Mike McCarthy was asked about this comment in the press conference today, he said it sounded like a player who is frustrated with the results and that it wasn’t applicable in general. He said he had not had a conversation with Woods about it.
Part of where the Cowboys are at as a group is that nothing they say right now is going to make anybody feel better. The NFL is a results-oriented business and they don’t have the results necessary to back up the message that they are trying to put out. Quite frankly they are at a point where, as Woods noted, they have to acknowledge that they have messed up and move forward. It appears that they are doing that.
Whether or not the results follow will obviously be something we learn soon enough. If they don’t, well, there will be a lot more accountability necessary all the way around.