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Cowboys news: Mike McCarthy’s woes, and a grateful Randy Gregory

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Dallas Cowboys v Washington Football Team
He is so glad to be here.
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Why Mike McCarthy's first year with Cowboys has gone badly – Jon Machota, The Athletic
Although the list could probably have been longer, this is still a pretty good top 10 for what has gone wrong. And perhaps the last should be first.

10. The Mike Nolan hire. An offensive-minded head coach’s most important hire is his defensive coordinator. Same as a defensive head coach’s most important hire being his offensive coordinator. McCarthy had an entire year off to evaluate who would be on his staff when he got another head coaching opportunity, and so far, his most crucial assistant has been a liability. There’s a good possibility that Jan. 3 at New York could be Nolan’s last game as defensive coordinator. Jerry Jones has publicly shown support for McCarthy and special teams coordinator John Fassel. The same can’t be said for Nolan. It doesn’t look good for McCarthy if he already has to go in another direction with such an important hire after only one season.

And the consolation prize:

Agent's Take: Contract year players who have helped themselves entering 2021 offseason - Joel Curry, CBSSports.com
Just one more way of saying that Dak Prescott is going to get PAID.

Rarely does a player increase his contract leverage with a season-ending injury. Prescott has. He was having the best year of his career when he sustained an open or compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle against the Giants five games into the season. Through the quarter mark, Prescott was on pace to shatter Peyton Manning's NFL single-season passing yards record (5,477). Prescott was projecting to 6,760 passing yards for the season. He also completed a career-high 68 percent of his passes in the five games he played.

Dallas has struggled on offense without Prescott. In the four complete games Prescott played, he was throwing for 422.5 yards per game and the Cowboys were scoring 31.5 points per game. In the other nine games this season, Dallas has averaged 219.9 passing yards per game. Points are down to 18.8 per game.

5 Bucks: Win Or Go Home; Pollard Ready For More - Bucky Brooks, DallasCowboys.com
This has been a rough year for Ezekiel Elliott, but Tony Pollard has at times been a bright spot for the team.

The second-year pro has added a spark as a multi-purpose playmaker for the Cowboys. Pollard has popped three 60-plus yard kick returns this season and shown explosive potential with the ball in his hands weaving through traffic. The field flipping returns have set the Cowboys up in prime scoring position and helped an anemic offense generate more points. On offense, Pollard has become a solid complement to Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield as a change of pace weapon. He has settled into his role as a dynamic runner between the tackles with enough juice to turn the corner on perimeter runs. Pollard has shown the potential to take it the distance (see Minnesota game) while also displaying the grit and toughness to pick up the dirty yards. If he continues to produce in limited action, the Cowboys will need to figure out ways to put him on the field with Elliott to maximize the offense's potential in the near future.

Randy Gregory opens up about NFL comeback and the 'honor' of playing for Cowboys: 'I never gave up' - Patrik Walker, CBSSports.com
When you are cheering for him to make a big play, don't ever forget the long, hard journey it took him to get back on the field.

Every morning he wakes up, Randy Gregory is thankful. The veteran pass rusher is back to doing what he loves most -- chasing opposing quarterbacks for the Dallas Cowboys -- but it's the path taken to get to this point that makes the sun shine brighter than it ever has, considering the dark he's now beaten into submission. Gregory returned from an indefinite suspension that sidelined him for all of 2019, on the heels of a promising return in 2018 from a separate one, all predicated upon his use of marijuana to self-medicate for mental illness; a league policy that's since been amended with the installation of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Will Anyone Represent the Dallas Cowboys at the 2021 Pro Bowl? - Brian Martin, Inside the Star
Just one more measure of how injuries have affected this team.

1986 and 1989 are the only two other times the Dallas Cowboys have failed to have someone represent them in the Pro Bowl (not including replacement alternates) in the organizations 51-year history. Sadly, this year could be the third.

Back on September 13 when the season began in Los Angeles the Dallas Cowboys had 14 players on the roster who had made at least one Pro Bowl. Now the majority of them are on injured reserve, including a Pro Bowl regular, Zack Martin.

In this difficult Cowboys’ season DeMarcus Lawrence has been a consistent bright spot - Calvin Watkins, DMN

Tank keeps rolling along.

Lawrence’s impact was quickly noticed in the Cowboys victory over the Bengals last week when on the second play of the game he forced a fumble with a tackle on the backside.

It set the tone for a three turnover day for Dallas as they would emerge with a 17-0 lead.

“The way DeMarcus plays is without question a great example to anyone else that does play,” defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. “He plays hard every down.”

After consecutive Pro Bowl seasons, 2017 and 2018, where he had 25 total sacks, Lawrence hasn’t reached double-digits since.

Lawrence signed a five-year $105 million deal with $65 million guaranteed before the 2019 season. The big contract led to increased expectations, something Lawrence never hid from. In 2019, Lawrence got off to a slow start after his recovery from labrum surgery. He had just five sacks and dealt with the criticism that he was a declining a player.

Cowboys, 49ers flexed out of prime time in Week 15: How did it come to this? - Todd Archer, ESPN

Hard times for the Cowboys franchise, and the 49ers.

[Dallas and San Francisco] entered the 2020 NFL season as top NFC contenders, and so excited was NBC that it had hoped to cash in on a rivalry renewed during Week 15 with a matchup on Sunday Night Football from AT&T Stadium.

But by last week, NBC opted to flex out of the game and into a New York Giants-Cleveland Browns matchup.

It was the first time the Cowboys have had a prime-time game flexed since it became an option in 2006. It was the fifth time the Niners have been moved from prime time but the first since 2018.

With a combined 9-17 record, the Cowboys (4-9) and Niners (5-8) simply do not have the cache for the big game. Instead, Sunday’s game (1 p.m. ET, CBS) is about 2021 NFL draft positioning more than anything else.

Giants announce Jason Garrett tested positive for COVID-19 - Josh Alper, ProFootballTalk
No matter what you think of him as a head coach, all available evidence points to the former Dallas head man being a truly outstanding human being. Get better, Coach.

The Giants are going to be without offensive coordinator Jason Garrett for Sunday night’s game against the Browns.

The team announced on Thursday that Garrett has tested positive for COVID-19.

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