The Dallas Cowboys came into the 2019 season as one of the favorites in the NFC to make the Super Bowl. Coming off their second double-digit win season in three years, the Cowboys had all the momentum to make a deep playoff run. Unfortunately, this season was a continuation of how the Cowboys have operated over the last five years.
In 2015, the Cowboys were coming off of a 12-4 season that ended just six points short of an NFC Championship Game appearance. Former Quarterback Tony Romo had just completed the best season of his career with 34 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. Dez Bryant was also coming off a career year with 16 touchdown receptions which were tops league-wide and a new franchise record. Also, Running Back DeMarco Murray wasn’t to be outdone either as his 1,845 yards gave him the rushing title and set a new franchise record as well.
However, things would get off to a rocky start as Bryant broke a bone in his foot in the season opener which would force him to miss seven games. He wouldn’t be the only one to get with the injury bug as Romo broke his collarbone on multiple occasions and missed 12 games himself. All this led to the Cowboys finishing a disappointing 4-12 and gave them the fourth pick in the next NFL Draft.
2016 would see a franchise shift in Dallas. All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott’s selection in the first round gave the organization a workhorse running back for the foreseeable future. Linebacker Jaylon Smith would be taken in the second round despite a horrific knee injury that kept him from being a sure first-rounder. The most important pick, however, came in the fourth round when the Cowboys selected Quarterback Dak Prescott as the heir apparent to Romo’s throne.
Prescott and Elliott didn’t waste any time making an impact. The former won 11 consecutive starts at one point and was named Offensive Rookie of the Year, while the latter led the NFL with 1,631 rushing yards and was named first-team All-Pro. Dallas finished 13-3 and secured the top seed in the NFC heading into the postseason. A heartbreaking 34-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers would end their season prematurely but the foundation was set for success going forward.
2017 was supposed to be a magical season for the Cowboys but there was a dark cloud hovering over the franchise. Ezekiel Elliott found himself in the middle of a public relations nightmare as domestic violence allegations surfaced. A six-game suspension would be handed down by the league, however, continued injunctions would keep Elliott on the field for the first eight games as the Cowboys started off 5-3. Unfortunately, after a long battle with the NFL, the star runner would accept his punishment and miss the next six games.
The Cowboys struggled in his absence going 3-3. When Elliott returned the Cowboys still had a shot at the postseason but an unfortunate 21-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks ended any and all hopes. The Cowboys finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
The 2018 season started out shaky for the Cowboys. Their offense couldn’t seem to find any consistent rhythm and the team went 3-4 in its first seven games. Help would be on the way, though, as the Cowboys gave up a first-round pick to acquire Wide Receiver Amari Cooper from the Oakland Raiders, and they took off. They won seven of their final nine games to finish 10-6 and won the NFC East for the third time in five seasons. A second-round loss to the Los Angeles Rams ended their hopes of a Super Bowl run but it was clear they were headed back in the right direction.
There were several positives to build on for the Cowboys going into the next season. Elliott’s 1,434 yards gave him his second rushing title in his first three seasons and another all-pro selection. Jaylon Smith took the NFL by storm with 121 tackles and rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch did the same as his 140 tackles led the team and earned him a second-team All-Pro selection.
Lastly, we get to the 2019 season. The Cowboys were one of the favorites to come out of the NFC and make it to the Super Bowl just like they had been two years earlier. Things began well with a 3-0 start as Prescott and Elliott got off to the best starts their careers. However, multiple three-game losing streaks including dropping four of their final six games forced the Cowboys to miss the playoffs this season for the second time in three years. What’s so frustrating about it is that the Cowboys controlled their own destiny all season long only to fold when it mattered most. 8-8 isn’t what anyone saw coming for this team.
After getting a six-year 90 million dollar extension with 50 million in guarantees, Elliott responded with another excellent season. He finished fourth in the league with 1,357 yards, fourth in rushing touchdowns, and his seven 100-yard games were tied for the most in the league with Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans. Also, he was selected to his third pro bowl in four years. Dak Prescott had the best season of his career with 4,902 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup also had productive seasons as both went over 1,000 yards.
One thing stopped the Cowboys from making the postseason in 2019, inconsistency. While their offense finished as the top-ranked unit in the league, the continuously got off to slow starts which made them very one dimensional and easy to defend. Defensively, they took a step back from the top seven-unit they were a season ago, especially defending the run.
So what have we learned here? Well, it’s simple, the last five years have been a rollercoaster, to say the least for the Cowboys. One year they’re in the playoffs and the next they’re on the outside looking in. This is a trend the Cowboys must put to an end quickly or they’ll be in danger of wasting the careers of several top-level players on their roster.