Just like that, the Dallas Cowboys 2023 season has ended in the blink of an eye. Dallas had the perfect scenario set up for them to reach their first NFC Championship Game since 1995. As the No. 2 seed, the Cowboys had two home games in the playoffs at their feet, and riding a 16-game home win streak, the stars were perfectly aligned to make a deep postseason run. Unfortunately an old playoff nemesis, the Green Bay Packers, had other plans for the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon.
It was a disaster from the start. Green Bay marched down the field like an HBCU band with relative ease on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead, and the floodgates opened. With just under two minutes to go in the first half, the Packers had a 27-0 lead after a 64-yard interception return by Darnell Savage, a fitting last name for how the Packers treated the Cowboys in this matchup. Green Bay ended up winning 48-32 with some empty production from the Cowboys to make to score look better than what everyone saw. The point total by the Packers was the most surrendered in a playoff game in Cowboys' history.
This epic failure starts at the top with head coach Mike McCarthy. Yes, he's won 12 games for three seasons in a row, and that's to be respected. However, in four playoff games under his watch, the Cowboys have lost three of them. Last season against the San Francisco 49ers, the game was tied at 12 in the fourth quarter, and if the Cowboys got anything from Dak Prescott and the offense, they could have easily won that game. In the two other losses, the Cowboys have looked completely unprepared on both sides of the ball, which is inexcusable for a coach who has accomplished what he has. Their one win was against the 8-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022, who they were clearly better than, and it would've taken something unforeseen for them to lose.
Nobody is denying that McCarthy can coach. At some point, though, regular season success has to turn into postseason wins, especially with a roster as talented as the Cowboys have. He's the man who drives the bus, and more often than not, he's driven it into a brick wall when it comes to preparation in the biggest moments which is the playoffs. Now, questions are circling about his future with the Cowboys with one year left on his deal, and rightfully so. These types of meltdowns simply can't happen, and if the Cowboys decide to move on, it will be completely understandable.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn also has to be looked at. He's turned the Cowboys' defense around since arriving in 2021. They led the league in turnovers in back-to-back seasons (2021, 2022) and finished tied for sixth-best this season with 26. As good as that is, he hasn't shown the ability to make adjustments at times when his defense has been shredded, especially in 2023. The tape from the Cowboys' losses to the Arizona Cardinals, 49ers, and Buffalo Bills proved that. Also, his unit gave up 169 rushing yards to the 49ers in their 2021 playoff loss, and Jordan Love and the Packers offense had a field day on Sunday, and Quinn had no answer whatsoever.
Everyone knows that without Quinn and his ability as a defensive coordinator, the Cowboys don't win 12 games three years in a row. With that said, these playoff performances by his unit, or lack thereof, can't be denied either. His name is high on a lot of head coaching searches, and he could very well take one. If he is to return, he has to find a way to get his side of the ball to perform when it matters the most, or the 2024 campaign will need to be his last in Dallas, although it could likely be the case before that.
Then, there's the players. They have to be held accountable as well.
Dallas led the NFL with nine All-Pro selections in 2023. So, the talent is there. However, when is enough going to be enough? All the media hype around them is cool and even warranted with how many games they have won lately, but at some point, they have to get fed up with being all sizzle and no steak. Their performance against the Packers was atrocious, there's no other way to put it. So much so that former head coach Jimmy Johnson laid into them during halftime, and Hall of Famer Michael Irvin showed his frustration after their embarrassing loss to the Packers.
JIMMY JOHNSON IS FIRED UP— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) January 14, 2024
You have to hear this message he had for the Cowboys! pic.twitter.com/cSc70hdIoz
The Cowboys are a good football team, very good, but only in the regular season. That's the harsh reality of the situation. More times than not, the Cowboys lay down when they get punched in the mouth, and as players, it's up to them to show some pride and fight back besides sitting there and taking it. It's easy to celebrate and have fun on the sidelines when everything goes right, but that's not the reality of the NFL. At some point, you'll be tested for the entirety of a game, and they have to show that they can handle that a lot better when everything is on the line.
When it comes to the Cowboys, glitz and glamor come with the territory when you're the NFL's most popular franchise. However, that's not what it's all about. Dallas has eight Super Bowl appearances with five victories, tied for the second-most in league history. There's a tradition of winning in Dallas, on the field, not just when it comes to television ratings and making a dollar. The Cowboys have gotten away from the ultimate goal since the 1990s, and it's been highlighted the last three seasons with how well they've performed and set themselves up to make deep playoff runs but ended up falling short in either of the first two rounds.
This is why the media talks with such vitriol when it comes to the Cowboys and why they don't have any faith in them once the postseason rolls around. The Cowboys keep giving them all the ammunition they need. So, why would it change? They're perfectly within their rights to keep criticizing the Cowboys year after year because it's become the standard for them. Eventually, they always fold, no matter who the players or the coaches are.
It sucks how the Cowboys are perceived, it truly does. However, they deserve all the criticism they get, and it won't, nor should it stop, until they change the narrative. This is who they are until proven otherwise. Bottom line.