The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of work to do if they want to be competitive in 2021 and a lot of it has to do with more than the names that occupy their depth chart. While they deserve credit for turning it around near the end of the year (some low-quality opponents helped with that), the Cowboys were a disaster early on after Dak Prescott’s injury. Consider that before October even ended there was a report of discontent between the players and the staff in their first year under head coach Mike McCarthy. Again, those waters stabilized, but the problems clearly go beyond the action on Sunday afternoons.
At the risk of sounding overly-dramatic, the Cowboys have work to do within their locker room. Their culture is one that is at the very least worth questioning and it is fair to say that Mike McCarthy has been through a project like this before after his first season with the Green Bay Packers (2006). A lot of change had to happen before the organization lifted the trophy named after their great coach four seasons later.
This is obviously the best-case scenario for the Cowboys. Hopefully one day we look back at the lost season of 2020 and point to moments that demanded change that ultimately came.
How the Dallas Cowboys handle Jaylon Smith in 2021 will tell us a lot about how serious they are
There are a number of decisions that the Cowboys have to make this coming spring. They are more than one or two moves and/or decisions away from seriously contending, although getting back the players that they dealt without for most of the season will boost their cause quite a bit.
One of the things that the Cowboys have to do this offseason is get a proper handle on the linebacker that they were very quick to elevate to prominence - Jaylon Smith. Talking about his deficiencies as an actual player seem like low-hanging fruit at this point, as do his continued antics in response to them.
Consider that during the team’s latest game, a loss where they were in a must-win situation to keep their season alive, the Cowboys defense completely cratered in the first half against an offense that was coordinated by a head coach that a vast majority of Cowboys fans believe was mediocre at best when at the helm of America’s Team.
After Smith made some interesting comments about caring how the team is perceived earlier this season, it is no surprise that we continue to see the highest-paid linebacker on the team still not get it.
A premature celebration by Jaylon Smith?— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) January 3, 2021
What are the odds?
Nobody celebrates at the wrong time more than Jaylon Smith.— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) January 3, 2021
Consider that these are tweets that are over an hour apart from one another, signaling an improper celebration from Jaylon Smith multiple times in the same game. This would be embarrassing enough during a normal contest, but as mentioned, this was literally a game where the season was on the line and Jaylon committed this 100% preventable error again even after he did so the first time.
When is enough for the Cowboys?
For what it’s worth, Smith is by all accounts an incredible person off of the football field. His story has been well told and the fact that we can even sit here and complain about him as a player is a testament to his own internal will and drive. He deserves tremendous praise for even reaching this point, and he deserves the kudos that come with being the Cowboys nominee for The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.
With regards to the football side of it, Smith is not somebody that helps the Dallas Cowboys and their quest towards having success. In fact, he hinders that effort. Smith’s on-field play might only be second to his on-field priorities in terms of negative qualities to his game. What’s amazing is that he seems to think that everything is just fine with his game on top of it all.
Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith on if he expects to be back next season: “Me? I mean, watch the film. ... The guys that know football and know our scheme and watch film, um, I don’t have to speak on myself. It’s all love.”— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) January 3, 2021
It would cost the Cowboys $9.4M in dead money to move on from Jaylon Smith this offseason and while that is obviously not ideal, it might be for the greater good.
We have seen this team continually give preferential treatment to a handful of players and there is no doubt that Jaylon Smith is at the top of that list. If things are truly going to change, if Mike McCarthy’s vision is ever going to reach fruition, we need to see something reflect that.
This would be a good place to start.