Is the term Dak-friendly going to make a return?
“This whole thing revolves around No. 4,” said Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones last week at the Senior Bowl. “That’s what this league is all about, it’s a quarterback-driven league. We feel like we’ve got one of the best in the business, if not the best. It’s all about him. We’ve got to continue to put the pieces around him.”
It feels like ancient history at this point, but it’s fair to say Dak Prescott played at a top-tier level through the first half of the season. If anything, what makes this past year so frustrating is that Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense were unable to snap out of a nine-week funk after achieving such dizzying highs.
Regardless of how the season ended, the quarterback position isn’t the Cowboys’ problem. But as Jones noted, putting Prescott in the best position possible to succeed isn’t something they did with enough regularity last year.
“I think we put Dak in some tough situations with penalties, with having some struggles in the run game,” he said. “We had games where we ran the ball well, but we’ve got to be more consistent.”
The bit about running the ball is obvious. The Cowboys averaged an absurd 164 rushing yards per game during the first six weeks of the season, making life much more manageable for Prescott. And even if it’s not fair to expect an NFL ground game to consistently produce at that level, it doesn’t account for the dropoff. In their five losses after the bye week – to Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Arizona and San Francisco – the Cowboys averaged just 69 rushing yards per game.
Did we just over-estimate how good the Cowboys were in 2021, or was it really a loaded team tht stumbled in the playoffs?
Do you think, like myself that this was a great team, a hungry team, one of the best accumulations of talent I can remember? So do you think we lost because we were so undisciplined or we just weren’t as good as I thought? — JOHN HERR / NORFOLK, VA
David: It’s a cop out to say this team was overrated, in my opinion. The Cowboys might not have a singular, generational talent like a Patrick Mahomes or an Aaron Donald, but their roster stacks up favorably to just about every team that made a deep postseason run this year. The lack of discipline definitely killed them, as did their lack of ability to generate any consistency or balance on offense. There are a lot of culprits, but I don’t think it’s fair to say this team wasn’t talented enough. That’s what makes this season so disappointing.
Nick: I think you could be right on both statements. Because the team was undisciplined in terms of penalties and costly mistakes, they weren’t as good as we thought. I know I had higher expectations for them once the playoffs started. I kind of thought all along they would get it together. But they weren’t able to, and against the good to great teams, they never could all season. I’m always uneasy about using the word “overrated” because my question is always, “what’s their rating?” and “who’s rating them?” But in this case, the Cowboys’ rating was 12-5, division winner. And usually, that carries a little more weight but this year, it was simply a first-round exit. So yes, I think you’re right about your assessment/
There appears to be a new assistant coach heading to Dallas.
The Houston Texans will be in the market for a new receivers coach in 2022.
For the Texans, it is another vacancy across the entire coaching staff. Houston fired Tim Kelly as offensive coordinator, and defensive line coach Bobby King left to become the inside linebackers coach for the Tennessee Titans. Multiple teams have also been interested in quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton to fill their offensive coordinator vacancies.
Prince has big ties to Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who was on the Detroit Lions in 2014, the year that Prince joined the NFC North club as a receivers coach. Prince also coached at Boise State, Moore’s alma mater, from 2001-02 and later from 2011-13.
With the Bengals sudden turnaround into Super Bowl participants, a list of other turnaround teams includes the Cowboys.
8) 1991 Dallas Cowboys
Record: 11-5. Playoffs: Lost in the Divisional Round.
The Cowboys obviously would be higher on this list if they had won a Super Bowl this season, the third year of their turnaround. They actually achieved that in Year 4 under head coach Jimmy Johnson, in Super Bowl XXVII, but nobody’s complaining about that little blip. Dallas became the team of the 1990s, with three Super Bowl wins in four years. Johnson wasn’t around for the last championship, following the 1995 season, after a fallout with owner Jerry Jones led to him resigning and Barry Switzer coming on as his replacement. What Johnson did do in building those Cowboys into a dynasty can’t be underrated. Dallas went 1-15 in 1989, his first year on the job. They were 11-5 two years later, but not even a loss to Detroit in the NFC Divisional Round was enough to deter people from thinking the Cowboys were going to be a monster for years to come. The most important move of that 1991 season actually proved to be Johnson’s decision to hire Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator. Turner helped the maturation of quarterback Troy Aikman while also developing a running attack that put Emmitt Smith on a path to become the league’s all-time leading rusher. It also didn’t hurt that the Cowboys cut their teeth in the NFC East, back when the Giants and Washington won Super Bowls in that decade, as well. “People talk about your football family being your second family,” said former Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston. “That’s what we had in Dallas.”
The Cowboys return all their main coaches, but opinions vary on how good that is for the team.
But things began to fizzle. The Dallas Cowboys still finished the season as one of the top ranked teams, their offense was still at the top, and their defense was still improved. But they lost much of their luster.
The Cowboys offense struggled against decent defenses. The O-line couldn’t protect, the running game couldn’t get positive gains, Dak couldn’t create magic, and the play-calling couldn’t beat the coverage-heavy looks. Unstoppable suddenly became inefficient and untrustworthy.
One first round playoff exit later, and the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff suddenly wasn’t so highly regarded. Dan Quinn, architect of the defense, still received deserved praise but even he couldn’t flip that into a head coaching gig this offseason.
After multiple outside interviews with multiple teams, both Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn are on their way back to Dallas. To continue what they started and prove to the rest of the league they made a mistake not hiring them this winter.
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