This is the worst time of the year to be a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. There will be mornings this week when we’ll wake up asking ourselves, “is it truly over”, and seconds later realize that it is. All the emotion we have invested over the last several months has culminated in yet another disappointing finish. And without fail, we’ll rinse, repeat, and do this whole thing all over again next season.
As we wallow in our sorrow, it’s normal to wonder why does this Cowboys team continue to fail? Who has put this type of evil upon us? The team experiences success and at times is touted as one of the best teams in the NFL, yet come playoff time they just can’t get it done. And fans are left being subjected to more ridiculous memes and taunting by opposing fans who love to kick us when we are down. This is the world that we must once again occupy.
So, the question is, why must it be this way? What is wrong with this organization to where they always spin their wheels and can’t make a deep playoff run?
Let’s start with the front office. Some applaud the organization for constantly putting together a competitive roster, and others criticize them for not doing enough. Making bold moves and risking your future doesn’t guarantee success. Players are still going to have to play well to advance. Instead, the Cowboys can dust themselves off and know that between another quality draft and some key low-cost free-agent acquisitions, this team stands a shot at being competitive once again.
Moving on to Mike McCarthy, what do you think of him now? It started rough for him in 2020 when the team gave up a franchise-worst 473 points, but got better last year when they reclaimed the division crown. Unfortunately, they were bounced in the first round of the playoffs. This season looked optimistic and they did win a playoff game, but here we are three years in, and McCarthy, like the coach before him, isn’t able to get his team past the divisional round. Does this mean he wasn’t the answer all along and the Cowboys should move on from him?
No, it doesn’t mean that at all. McCarthy has done a good job working with the Joneses and being the glue that holds everything together. He lets others do their jobs and he has enough sense about him to understand that Jones’ interference will always be a thing. Rather than toss him aside for being no better than the previous head coach, we should consider that the Cowboys' head coach isn’t the thing holding this team back.
If McCarthy isn’t the issue, what about Kellen Moore? The Cowboys’ playoff exit came on the heels of a great defensive effort, but not much on the offensive side. Is Moore not doing enough to allow his offense to be successful? This would be tougher to answer if we’re not subjected to flat-out brilliance at times throughout his tenure. Even early in the 49ers game, there was some impressive hat-tipping playcalling from the Cowboys' young coordinator. But in the end, players still have to make plays.
Speaking of making plays, that brings us to Dak Prescott. Could it be possible that he is not a quarterback who can lead this team to greatness? While it’s true that he was mistake-prone down the stretch of the season and made some absolutely horrible throws against the 49ers, there is nothing that we’ve seen that makes us think he can’t return to being great. Let’s not suddenly forget that Prescott has been great for the better part of the last four seasons he’s played. In fact, since Moore has taken over as offensive coordinator, Dak has delivered some of the best quarterback play we’ve seen from this organization in a long time.
The thing to remember about both Prescott and Moore is that even though there are moments of ugliness, it shouldn’t override all the great stuff we’ve seen from them in recent years. Regardless, some fans will want change and hope they move away from one of them (or both), but be careful what you ask for. There’s a good chance this team would become worse if either of those guys weren’t around anymore.
So, if the front office is good, the head coach is good, the offensive coordinator is good, and their franchise quarterback is good, then why can’t they have greater success?
Answer: they can.
The Cowboys were good enough to win a Super Bowl this year. And there have been times over Jason Garrett’s tenure when that has also been true. The problem is, in each of those years there are a few other teams who are also good enough to win a Super Bowl. The Cowboys don’t need that missing “one player” to solve the equation. They don’t need a better head coach or a better play-caller. And they don’t need a new quarterback throwing the ball. They just need to play better when it counts. They played outstanding against Tom Brady and the Bucs and they smoked them. They made mistakes against the 49ers and lost.
Of course, it also wouldn’t hurt to have some good fortune and not lose their best run-blocking offensive lineman or their most explosive running back to injury. Super Bowl runs sometimes require a little luck.
The truth is, next year likely won’t be any different. Getting to the playoffs is hard. Every year there is a turnover of new teams that make it in. Being able to repeat and get back in is not easy, and Cowboys fans should know that firsthand since 2022 was the first back-to-back season they’ve made the postseason since 2007.
For Dallas, next year could be better, but it could also be worse. The team has to operate with a quarterback taking up over 20% of their cap space so that does present challenges. But at least they are in the tier of “haves” vs. “have-nots” when it comes to possessing a franchise quarterback with the potential to take them places and that is always worth the investment.
So today, be sad. This type of disappointment stings and while we may have grown a little numb to it over the years, it’s still a deadening feeling, and we don’t like it. But take solace in that tomorrow does offer hope. There are some great players on this team and another quality draft is always on the horizon. Younger players will get better and a strong team has a shot at getting stronger.
But just remember, even if the 2023 Cowboys enter the postseason as one of the teams to beat yet again, nothing is guaranteed. They’ll still need to show up when it matters the most and we won’t know how that will go until the moment arrives. It’s the ongoing saga of the Dallas Cowboys and we all have a lifetime pass.