This season hasn't gone according to plan at all. After starting the season 3-0, the Dallas Cowboys have gone 5-8 and gave away a perfect opportunity to take the NFC East as an ailing Philadelphia Eagles team struggled to rack up wins as well. Instead, the Cowboys lost winnable games and never found the necessary consistency to keep themselves in the driver's seat for the division. For as much as the coaching staff has been criticized, they aren't the only ones to blame for the Cowboys disappointing 8-8 finish to the 2019 season.
Head Coach Jason Garrett has been an easy target for Cowboys fans and media for years for the team's lack of success. And while it's true, Garrett hasn't been able to close the deal on trips to the playoffs in 2014, 2016, and 2018, the failures of 2019 aren't all on him. The Cowboys failed to live up to expectations in 2019 and Garrett and others on the coaching staff will pay the price.
For better or worse, and despite my opinions on Garrett, the time has come to move on. Sadly though, he isn't the only reason the Cowboys' season is ending in failure.
It's becoming a bit of a trend for players, and fans, to lay any and all blame for a season's unmet expectations at the feet of the coaching staff. It happened with Dez Bryant and Brice Butler at the end of the 2017 season and again with Cole Beasley at the end of the 2018 season. As the 2019 season comes to a close, we're beginning to hear similar rumblings.
However, in 2019, the Dallas Cowboys didn't perform as well as they should have or were expected to. Some of that has to land at the feet of the players.
On offense, though the numbers look great, there were too many slow starts because of execution errors — like drops or turnovers — and the unforced errors like penalties that killed drives. Too many times this season was the offense slow out of the gate forcing them into catch up mode only to fall short more often than not this season.
For everything that went well for the Cowboys offense, their inconsistency and inability early in games is one of the biggest reasons that the Cowboys need help to win the division and make the playoffs. Some of that is preparation and coaching-related for sure, but a lot of the errors that the offense made early in games were focused related, such as drops.
When your wide receivers are dropping balls and your quarterback doesn't find much rhythm until the second quarter, it's difficult for any team to win consistently.
Though much has been made of the Cowboys defensive scheme being two simple and two passive, this was a defense that made it work in 2018. Though the overall numbers may look alright, again, this was a team that struggled to get off the field on third downs and couldn't force any takeaways.
Looking at the defense, again there were issues with consistency. Aside from the Philadelphia Eagles game in week nine and the Los Angeles Rams game in week 15, the Cowboys defense rarely played a complete game. They had issues tackling and gave up a lot of yards and at times made lesser quarterbacks like Mitch Trubisky look like Pro Bowl-caliber players.
They struggled against the run for most of the year and the coverage wasn't consistent aside from Byron Jones. Players that we expected to take a step forward in 2019 — Maliek Collins, Xavier Woods, Chidobe Awuzie, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch — all took a step back this year leaving the defense vulnerable, even against offenses that they should have been able to slow down.
The special teams units were atrocious. Again, some of that is coaching, but some of that is also execution. Brett Maher wasn't good. Chris Jones was okay. The return units couldn't produce anything, and when they did get a good return it was typically called back because of a penalty.
Much more was expected of this team. They needed to be better in a lot of areas. The coaching staff could have helped them at times be in a better position to make plays, but often when the plays were there to make the players didn't make enough of them. That's how you end up as one of the worst teams in the NFL in drops and turnovers. Simple execution issues.
Jason Garrett and others on the coaching staff are going to take the fall for the Cowboys failures and after this many years in Dallas, it's time for the Cowboys to move on. However, what happened this season isn't simply on the coaching staff. The players from the most important to the least important player needed to be better in 2019.
Coaching is one of the reasons that this team struggled down the stretch and failed to win the division after a 3-0 start. Coaching, though, isn't the only reason. The players need to share the blame as well. There were only a few players that excelled this season and that wasn't good enough to earn a spot in the playoffs.
As the Cowboys finished the 2019 season yesterday, they're heading to an offseason filled with questions. They have a lot of soul searching to do. From the front office to the coaching staff to the locker room, everyone deserves blame. But those who have more say than anyone about the outcome of a game, the players, need to own their part in the Dallas Cowboys 2019 colossal failure.