Everything is bigger in Texas, as is the case for the expectations for the Dallas Cowboys this season. Having won a playoff game last season and off to a 4-2 start, the team sits a game and a half behind the best record in the NFL. Fans everywhere would like to fully embrace high hopes, but are reluctant to trust this team after a groundhog’s day of postseason disappointment. The Cowboys haven’t gotten to an NFC championship game since 1996, and a sixth championship has eluded America’s Team for almost three decades.
That said, accomplishing that feat is difficult, and some teams in the NFL have to achieve simply one title. Winning a Super Bowl is a collaborative task, not attained by only a great team but a great organization. Taking football aside, the most successful companies have the best leadership.
Football is synonymous with that sentiment, and achieving greatness starts with achieving greatness at the head of the organization. For this year’s Cowboys team to succeed at the highest level on the field, they need their leaders to be at their best in the boardroom and on the chalkboard. The Cowboys need more from their leaders if they hope to win in January.
As many fans would opine about what needs to improve for the Dallas Cowboys to have tangible success in the postseason, everything starts from the top. Jerry Jones has owned the team since 1989 and has accomplished plenty to bring it to the prominence it once had. However, the Hall of Famer can do more to help his team reach the heights it did in the 1990s. Jones needs to actively improve his roster to make a postseason push.
Take the Philadelphia Eagles for example. Philadelphia has seen consistent success over the last seven seasons, making two Super Bowl appearances, winning one of them. They achieved this despite having two different head coaches and two different starting quarterbacks. The Eagles continue improving and are always aggressively looking to get better. Just this week, Philadelphia again traded marginal draft capital to acquire All-Pro safety Kevin Byard despite having the best record in the NFC.
Jerry Jones broke his usual stagnant pattern in talent acquisition when he made an offseason trade for Stephon Gilmore, which he does deserve credit for. The trade after losing Trevon Diggs has proven to be an excellent safety net for a thin cornerback room behind Diggs and Gilmore, and the team would be in bad shape without Gilmore.
While kudos are due for the deal, the trade should serve as credence as to why he can’t rest on his laurels and needs to add to the roster; it is not sufficient vindication the team has done enough to get better. The NFC is still wide open, and the Cowboys could stake their claim as the conference’s best if they are willing to make changes.
A few teams are not as good as they thought they could be and are in sell mode. The Denver Broncos are off to a 2-5 start and could be a trade partner. Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy could be on the market if the Cowboys pick up the phone. Patrick Surtain is another player the Cowboys could try to pry from Denver, although the cost would be high to acquire him. Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson could also be a player of interest. If Jones wants his team to compete, he needs to act fast. Every team has a price, and Jerry Jones has a large budget. He needs to buy today and not worry about saving for tomorrow.
As stated, everything starts from the top and has a trickle-down effect, from the front office to the coaching staff and the players. The Cowboys require more from their leadership. Jerry Jones is at the helm and is one of the most visible and loquacious owners in all sports. However, the owner has entrusted a coach with a winning pedigree to carry his multi-billion-dollar sports franchise back to their glory days. Since taking over as head coach in 2020, the Cowboys have become more consistent in the win column.
Under the old regime, the team was constantly teetering in playoff contention, with several seasons of .500 football. Under McCarthy, however, the team has compiled consecutive 12-win seasons and has a win percentage of .600 with the Cowboys despite a forgettable 2020 season. In totality, McCarthy has done a “good” job. Yet, good isn’t good enough for Dallas or for the roster McCarthy has.
The defense is arguably the best the Cowboys have had in the last 20 years. Micah Parsons is already one of the best pass rushers in the franchise’s history. Dan Quinn is an exceptional defensive coordinator who has transformed the back end of the secondary in his brief time in Dallas. The team could be better this season on the offensive side.
Thus far this season, the offense has mysteriously seen a lack of a vertical passing game. Under former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, the Cowboys’ offense resembled more of an Air Coryell approach that attacked defenses down the field. In contrast, McCarthy transitioned the offense to a West Coast offense, emphasizing the quick passing game and quickly getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands.
In theory, this approach is to minimize risk. The new philosophy has also led to a more equal opportunity approach, with the ball distributed more evenly among the skill position players. However, it has alienated their best offensive asset, CeeDee Lamb.
Through six games this season, Lamb has been targeted 42 times. Lamb has demonstrated his displeasure with the amount of volume he has received, and when looking at his involvement last season, it’s understandable. Through six games last season, Lamb was targeted 60 times, which also coincided with Cooper Rush as the starting quarterback after Dak Prescott was injured in Week 1.
The problems with the offense go beyond the passing distribution. In this excellent breakdown by Kurt Warner following the Cowboys’ loss to the 49ers, he details the unimaginative play design and why the details in the route concepts have made things more difficult for the offense.
Further, on Warner’s point of a lack of creativity, the offense has seemingly removed Dak Prescott’s aggressiveness in the middle of the field. When looking at the placement of Prescott’s targets, routinely, they consist of short passes outside of the numbers.
Additionally, the Cowboys need to be more efficient in the red zone. Presently, the Cowboys are 26th in the NFL in red zone conversion rate at 39%. Last season, they led the NFL in that category. Unfortunately, this is eerily reminiscent of the reports from Green Bay that led to McCarthy’s untimely firing. Such concerns about McCarthy consisted of uninspired play-calling and complacency. McCarthy needs to undo all those unfavorable stigmas about himself, which must happen immediately.