Here we are one game into the December schedule and already we’re one loss into our usual December performance. It’s not that losing is always a bad thing, I mean some games are just inevitably lost, but this game was a truly saddening one to lose.
Tony Romo was already under fire for his play in recent Decembers while the rest of the team seemed to be getting a reprieve from Cowboys fans – for some unknown reason. But now it’s just gone too damn far, and yes I said damn … damnit.
Tony Romo may not always say the right things, such as his answer to a question about how he’d get his team to the Super Bowl this year – “I don’t know, I’ve never been there.” Can we say Dufus!?!
And we all probably get tired of the same old line … “We just have to keep getting better and working hard …” blah, blah, blah. Everyone keeps pointing out he is good as far as stats go, but sucks in games – um, did I miss something? How can that be? Football is essentially just stats, I mean it’s not heart that wins football games, it’s points.
So yeah we headed into Giants Stadium with a black cloud hanging over us, so what? The Cowboys go out and shut down them Gnats in their house for the first quarter of play. Good job! The only problem was that they got just as many points – 0.
But throughout the game there were several points of interest that are worth noting here. I didn’t see nearly as many penalties for us during the game and that’s always a good thing to see a reduction in that stat. Of course there was that stupid, stupid penalty by Dum-Dum Adams against a very defenseless Justin Tuck to end the half. Real high class move there Adams.
Second, Romo seemed to be spreading the ball around pretty well, not perfectly but better than usual. I mean Williams, Crayton, Austin, Jones, Barber, Witten, and Bennett all caught at least a pass or two. That’s a big deal for this team, this year.
Of course Martellus Bennett was just as unspectacular as he has been all year. I guess he was too busy trying to remember all the people following him on Twitter to really make anything happen besides the catch itself, and he even missed that too.
Witten – he set a career high for yardage right? 156 yards for him on like 15 catches, just one short of his career high. Can’t be upset about that. Roy Williams not only caught a pass, but he caught two in the endzone, and believe me, that is a shocker. But he played better; I just wish he’d stop with the damn Longhorn pride when he scores a COWBOYS touchdown. Seems a bit of a traitor when he does that, doesn’t he?
The defense seemed to be chasing their tails all day though. I mean assume that’s why they let Brandon Jacobs go 70 something yards on a dump pass for a score. Either that or they wanted to see if he could run that far – who knows. What I do know is that absolutely horrible play caused by bad decisions on the field cost us a tie game.
And the same can be said for the punt return, and we’ve all heard by now just how rare it is for a team to return a punt against us for six, even when our special teams sucked so bad last year we still didn’t give that kind of crap away.
That play cost us the game. But Tony Romo played great.
Yeah, yeah, get it out of your system already. The Cowboys lost a game in December and Tony Romo wasn’t at all the reason. I can feel your stares …
The guy played good football. He had 3 touchdowns, didn’t throw any picks, didn’t fumble it, was only sacked twice, and had career high yards. You can’t expect your quarterback to help the defense and special teams do their jobs.
Though it is somewhat to very alarming that we can never get firing on all cylinders. Either the defense plays great and the offense sputters, or the offense blows the roof off and our defense sucks it back down. Maybe this is the December when we figure out how to all play well at the same time. Maybe.
Did DC Rod Marinelli Have Increased Role in Cowboys Loss at Rams?
The Dallas Cowboys Divisional Round loss at the Los Angeles Rams is still fresh on the minds of their players, staff, and front office. So much so that the team had to fan the flames on a Jason Garrett comment expecting Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan to return. Garrett himself walked back this "report" once Stephen Jones noted it's still too early for any coaching staff changes. The focus will remain on Linehan's post until it's removed or the Cowboys OC is retained, but one coordinator the Cowboys now expect to keep is Rod Marinelli on defense.
Marinelli himself disputed the season-long belief that this was likely his last as the Cowboys defensive coordinator. With Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard not taking any of the three HC positions he interviewed for, Marinelli doesn't have to worry about shuffling his title to accommodate Richard - who called the plays from week one this season anyway.
Rod's title does include his specialty as defensive line coach though, a unit that the Rams dominated with their offensive line to a historic degree. The Rams' season-high 273 rushing yards was provided by both Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson surpassing 100 yards on the ground, the first time in team history they've had two backs reach this mark in a single playoff game.
Rams HC Sean McVay hardly had to reach into his vaunted 'bag of tricks' to expose the Cowboys defense in a way they hadn't been all year, but there was still an element of brilliance in his offensive game plan. It came out after the game that the Rams picked up on the keys the Dallas defensive linemen used to signal stunts and twists before the snap. While this is nothing more than just great scouting yielding an unforeseen advantage, it's left the Cowboys with more than enough time to ponder what went wrong in the Coliseum.
The Rams offensive line knew what the Cowboys defensive line was going to do before the snap on Saturday. https://t.co/oGo6Eiz4av
The answer to this may be nothing other than the coaching questions the Cowboys are already considering. With Richard's interviews in Tampa Bay, Miami, and New York coming at the beginning of the week leading up to game day, it's possible Marinelli had a larger say in the Cowboys preparation on defense.
It was Marinelli's defense that conceded 412 yards to the Rams in 2017 in a loss at AT&T Stadium. Matching him up with McVay leaves a lot to be desired, while Richard helps bridge this gap - something he was seen desperately trying to do on the sideline with a battered Cowboys defense.
As each day of the offseason passes, a change at either coordinator position becomes less likely in Dallas. On offense, the play caller has more than a season's worth of evidence showing the deficiencies of the Cowboys attack. In a league fueled by recency bias however, Marinelli certainly didn't leave his best performance on the field in Los Angeles.
Somewhere in the middle of this is Jason Garrett, safely in place as the head coach that should be personally trying to upgrade his top two assistants however possible. Marinelli signing up for another year makes this hard on defense, though Richard should resume play calling duties next season.
Again, this leaves the onus of the Cowboys improvements for 2019 on the offensive side of the ball, something that'll be realized when the shock of their defense letting them down in the biggest game of the season is gone.
Cowboys Getting Over $30 Million Cap Space from Expiring Dead Money
You may have already heard that the Dallas Cowboys will be flush with salary cap space in 2019, and that's very accurate. A huge portion of it comes from over $30 million in expiring cap penalties, otherwise known as "dead money."
Quick explanation; dead money occurs when a player is released or retires prior to the expiration of their contract. Any guaranteed money, such as the original signing bonus or money converted in a restructuring, that has not yet been paid out according to the contract schedule is accelerated.
For example, when Tony Romo retired after 2016, he still had $19.6 million in guaranteed money owed to him. Dallas chose to split this dead money over two years, and thus had a $10.7 cap penalty in 2017 and $8.9 million last season.
But now Romo's dead money, along with Dez Bryant's and several other players, is coming off the Cowboys' books. The result is a roughly $30 million infusion of salary cap space for 2019.
Here were the major culprits for last year's dead money:
(All cap figures are taken from Spotrac.com)
- QB Tony Romo - $8.9 million
- WR Dez Bryant - $8 million
- DT Cedric Thornton - $2.5 million
- CB Orlando Scandrick - $2.3 million
- CB Nolan Carroll - $2 million
- WR Deonte Thompson - $1.8 million
- DE Benson Mayowa - $1.1 million
- K Dan Bailey - $800 thousand
- TE James Hanna - $750 thousand
Those players alone make up a little over $28 million. Another $4 million or so came from over 30 players with lesser penalties that still added up.
Right now, the Cowboys have only $1.76 million in dead money on their 2019 salary cap. Nearly all of that is the $1.6 million still owed to Orlando Scandrick.
That difference is where the cap space comes from, and it will be of tremendous help to Dallas as they have major financial moves coming. They need to re-sign DeMarcus Lawrence, deal with a major salary bump for Amari Cooper, and consider a contract extension for Dak Prescott.
The 2019 number will change, of course, as the offseason rolls on. If Dallas elects to release players like Sean Lee, Tyrone Crawford, or others, some dead money will appear. But that will be offset by whatever cap savings motivated the move in the first place.
This is a good reminder of why the Cowboys' new era of fiscal conservatism is a good thing. After years of what felt like perpetual "salary cap hell," they are finally getting out from under those penalties and have complete flexibility this offseason. They may not even need to cut a guy like Crawford, who they almost would have been forced to in past seasons.
We'll be talking a lot more about individual players and their contracts in the weeks ahead, but this summary helps us see that Dallas isn't nearly up against the financial wall as they have been. We still miss guys like Romo and Dez, but we won't miss that awful dead money in 2019.
Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program
Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.
After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.
Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire
While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.
It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.
Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.
That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.
But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.
Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.
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