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The Dallas Cowboys’ Problems Start at the Top

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As I'm sure you all know, the Dallas Cowboys are 5-6 and are long shots on making the playoffs this season. When we take a look at what the Cowboys have struggled with this season the list is rather long.

Whether it's the injuries to Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, or Dan Bailey, the six game suspension that the NFL smacked down on Ezekiel Elliott, or maybe the coach's inability to adjust, there is plenty to talk about when discussing the weaknesses of this Dallas Cowboys football team.

The biggest problem with the Dallas Cowboys comes from the top. Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Will McClay deserve a lot of blame for what has happened to this football team.

In recent years, the Dallas Cowboys front office has been looked at as geniuses for drafting guys like Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, or signing guys like Benson Mayowa and George Selvie, unfortunately that luck has run out.

Cowboys 2016 Draft Class: Who Will Stand Out In 2017?

Dallas Cowboys during rookie minicamp, Front row left to right: Dak Prescott (4), Maliek Collins (96), Jaylon Smith (54), Ezekiel Elliott (21), Charles Tapper (79). Back row Anthony Brown (30), Darius Jackson (34), Kavon Frazier (35) and Rico Gathers (80). Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

Over the last few weeks I evaluated every draft pick the Cowboys have used since 2013. In my evaluation I pulled out guys who I had graded as above average and pro-bowl players. I was shocked to find out that out of 42 total draft picks, I had only seven draft picks graded out as above average players based on their careers so far.

(* = pro-bowl caliber player)

That is not a successful formula for building a super bowl team.

The lack of ability to draft, sign, and develop players to play at a high level is something that this team cannot afford to do, especially with the way they handle free agency.

Last offseason the Cowboys signed Damontre Moore, Stephen Paea, and Nolan Carroll in free agency. None of those players are currently with the team. In 2016, the Cowboys signed Benson Mayowa and Cedric Thornton to pretty big contracts. Benson Mayowa has yet to record a sack in 2017 and Cedric Thornton was one of the Cowboys' final cuts before the '17 season.

How do you fix this problem? It may be time to let Will McClay walk and try to help another team build its roster.

Practice Squad Poaching

While Will McClay has certainly helped this team a lot over the years with drafts and bringing in other guys off the street, he's struggled in building a championship team.

As we all know, the last time the Cowboys won a Super Bowl was January 28th, 1996, that's also the last time the Cowboys won an NFC Championship. That is a 21-year span that the team has gone without playing in an NFC Championship game.

Will McClay obviously knows what he's doing, but similar to the Cowboys coaching staff, he and Stephen Jones seem to be very stubborn in the way they do things. Like I mentioned above, McClay and Jones don't like spending big money in free agency, as we've learned over the last few off-seasons.

I understand why, but you better be able to hit on a good percentage of your draft picks if you're not comfortable paying proven veterans.

That stubbornness from the front office is something that must change in order for the Cowboys to get back to a championship caliber team. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like that's going to happen anytime soon.

On Stephen Jones radio show today with 105.3 The Fan he all but confirmed my "stubbornness" comment.

Jeff Cavanaugh on Twitter

It's very difficult for us to think we can pick a shorter defensive end and have success." - Stephen Jones on draft DEs.

This is something I will never understand with this front office. Their lack of ability to evaluate defensive talent has put this team in a bind for years now, and it doesn't seem like they are interested in changing their ways.

The comment from Stephen was made after Jeff Cavanaugh asked about Carl Lawson (7.0 sacks) and T.J. Watt (5.0 sacks). Jones practically made it clear that they will stay away from short pass rushers with short arms, hints the Taco Charlton pick. That is absolutely ridiculous seeing as some of the better pass rushers in the NFL are undersized (Carl Lawson, Melvin Ingram, Brandon Graham).

This type of mentality concerns me as someone who covers the team and as a fan.

Having confidence as an NFL general manager is one thing, being stubborn and not having the ability to adjust is another. Stephen Jones and Jerry Jones are not going anywhere, we know that. But it may be time to start thinking about getting someone new in the building to evaluate talent and make personnel decisions. The track record proves itself.

The Cowboys can't keep drafting projects or signing journeymen in free agency if they want to compete for a Lombardi trophy. Especially when you take into account the window you have with an extremely cheap franchise quarterback.

Do you think Will McClay is the right guy as the Dallas Cowboys "General Manager"? Let me know below!



Born in 1995, loved Football but more importantly the Dallas Cowboys since day one. Living in Redskins Country flying the Blue and Silver flag as high as possible. Covering the Dallas Cowboys for InsideTheStar.com and CowboysNation.com. Catch me on twitter @ConnorNFLDraft!

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20 Comments
  • Randy Martin

    I was a little taken aback when you made the statement that YOU only had 7 of 42 players with draft grades above average as I’m not sure what your credentials are? Should you be looking for a position with an NFL team? But as I set that aside and just went with the gist of the article I began to mull the idea. Will McClay has been enjoying a reputation as somewhat of a draft guru and someone that other teams would like to poach as a GM. Oddly though, his background and experience is all arena league from the Dallas Desperadoes which happened to be JJ’s team as well. A bit of an odd pedigree from a man in this position. It is also my understanding that McClay wanted TJ Watt in that pick and Garrett was pounding the table for Taco. When you say the problems start at the top, it’s really the very top. The best coach Jones ever hired was Jimmy Johnson and he was fired simply because the two egos could not co-exist. Since then it has been a cavalcade of yes men. Men that Jones could trust would, in the end, do his bidding. The long drought of super bowl appearances can be hung at the feet of Jerry Jones because in the end all the staff and player personnel decision are the responsibility of the owner by hiring the right personnel and delegating and letting them do their job. Jerry is unable or unwilling to do that. Dallas ownership will likely forever remain in the hands of a Jones family member so unless, until something happens to Jerry, and we see a different style from another family member (Stephen) I don’t expect to see a lot of change. You can hear it in everything that is said and everything that is done. As they say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. All I hear is “we’re staying the course” and they don’t see the iceberg dead ahead!

  • JAMIE STARR

    When will they implement a draft for coaches ? These Cowboy coaches are not having this team ready to play games. Do you remember the GB game in the playoffs last year ? How do you have two weeks to prepare and you are down in the first half by 20 points ? Sounds like a coaching issue to me…… LET’S GET SOME REAL COACHES IN THIS B. TIME FOR JASON GARRETT TO GO !!!

  • Frego 17

    Great article my friends not too many call it, has it is, you do on this article, lots of people are afraid to criticized a rich man like Jerry, you do.
    That’s great.

    Money makes everyone stubborn, in you’re frame of mind you belive that you know it all,
    They have their right the Joneses, there the owners,
    But I really second guess this people if they really want to win. Everything points they don’t, the Jonese’s are bussiness people, not football talent evaluaters, but there so stubborn and ego maniacs, and they want to prove the world that is was them. not JIMMY.
    My question , is how long is going to take them to realize, there not good at What there doing.. 22, years in my opinión should br enough , to realize they need to step aside, and let someone do the talent evaluation.
    They are a super great, and I mean great bussiness family , but that’s about it.
    Thank you for you’re article was great..

  • Travis Diggs

    Connor you should be ashamed of yourself for implying that it starts at the top but put it on Mcclay, He’s at the top??Really??? Who signed Carroll, Thorton, Paea, and others??, It wasnt Mcclay, We all know who signed them, are yall that nieve at insidethestar. Jerry makes the final call, You and everybody knows that. You can’t fix a average defense with just the draft and one year deal players. This team is loaded with talent, its up to Jason Garrett how far they go and Rod Marinelli does what he can do with just ok players who only wanna play if Sean Lee’s with them. Talent is not the issue here. Jerry continues to mess up but writers and whoever else puts blame on everybody and anybody else without pointing the finger at the key issue here, Jerry

  • Duncan

    Repeating the obvious – we will never win unless changes are made in the front office and we all know that will never happen.
    The inability of our coaches have also put this team in peril – it’s painful to watch year after year.

  • Suave Freddie

    ALL of ComboyNation should express what they feel about this team. Year after year, the Cowboys become the drama king of the NFL. They just make it easier for the HATERS to hate the Cowboys even more. J.J. & Stephen just don’t get it anymore. If you don’t know how to build a playoff caliber team, then it’s time to step down and hire those that have experience and ingenuity to build one. The Cowboys were better off before J.J. came into the picture. I’m sure there would have been/be flexibility to be a playoff caliber team by now without J.J.. This team is very STAGNANT in which it has been built. TOO PREDICTABLE!! NO ENTHUSIASM!! NO EXPLOSIVENESS!! NO ACCOUNTABILITY!! NO DISCIPLINE!! TOO EASY TO READ their playbook. Read article that Tony Romo would be a good head coach for the Cowboys.That would be something different to start of with. He’s an EXVELLENT commentator. Why noy as a coach. J.J. does not have anything to lose. Players would RESPECT him more than Garrett. Tony would discipline the team and hold them accountable.Just look at the Rams. IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE!! But in this real world of the Joneses, don’t expect too much.

  • Jamminn

    We all know it’s garrett and his layed back laxidasial approach to the game. Hisnpmay colling was vanilla when he was a off coordinator I said it then we will never win a sb with him here then they made him coach and I said it again he’s lame no balls approach clapping every damn game ? Saying even thought we lost 3 game we did some good things? Really? What good did we do sweep the locker room? This guy is a joke and Jerry is a business man he is a good business man but let me tell you if I owned a 4.5 billion$ franchise I would have the best coach money could buy not a back up washed up QB trying to learn how to coach on the fly which he’s not thank you Arron Rodgers 2 years in a row showing us. Can’t manage a game clock etc. see a real coach coaches takes young kids and turns them into power houses . Bilicheck takes a whole defense rebuilds it ends up in the super bowl. Remember when we played the 49ers and Steve young was out they had Elvis grirbach for crying out loud come in here and shalack the Boys moved rice to the slot taking Deon out of the game that my friend is coaching making adjustments. 1 player and you can’t win a game we have had great teams 12/4 13-3 teams before 11-5 etc 2 playoff wins? Really wasted Romos career now we are on our way to wasting Dak and Elliot’s .Go get John Gruden he’s a Dak fan who knows how to call plays and make adjustments go get Bill cower who will yell in a guys face in front of the whole nation hold a player accountable but oh yea Jerry’s they movie star here I remember now he’s the one in the spot light guess what u are a fool a rich fool but a fool non the less .until Jerry makes the best move and understands he has let at least 4 Super Bowl teams slip thru his rich fingers or croaks we will always be outside looking in 72-78-92,93,95 Super Bowls 22 years ago is HISTORY

    • pdstix78

      You would think they’d get tired of getting embarrassed on national TV. I’m sure Cousins will come out during and put numbers up. Nobody fears this team, especially on defense. Opposing offenses look forward to having their way every week

  • eric jensen

    I agree! Long arm Def players, not players that short arms ,not fast, and short in height!! Need players 6’4 or better, but faster 4:32! Look at B.Hayes, need that kind of players,but coaching staff & owners staff need to get their head out their asses!!

  • http://www.dallascowboyschat.com Cowboysdude

    What this writer is failing to understand is the obvious…..they aren’t trying to build a SB winner, they are building a bank account winner. They KNOW 2 things…..Cowboys fans are delusional about their team and 2. They just say what the fans want to hear and they just buy it.. YES both are true and it blows my mind totally. I don’t purchase anything Cowboys and haven’t since they hired the red headed clap monkey they loosely call a “HC”….. Could you imagine what the fan base of other teams would do if they hired a coach and told the fans he was “learning on the job”? WTF? At this level? UUhhhhhhhh No, just no. Wake up cowboys fans….. you are being taken for a ride….. quit paying the fare…..

  • oneputter

    Watt only looks better in Pittsburgh because of the talent next to him and behind him. you put him in dallas and he looks no better than TC does right now….c’mon people!

    the scheme is outdated, we run the same darn stunt on nearly every play….we blitz the same player every single time, c’mon you know who and from where it’s coming, my 11 yr old son can recognize our one blitz…..that’s the frkn problem with this defense.

    • pdstix78

      That’s what happens when you gotta proven loser running your defense

      • oneputter

        ba-lee dat!!!

    • Tommy Davis

      Defensively, Marinelli is the problem. He put 9 players on the line and left 2 defensive backs to defend the entire field on 2 occasions resulting in touchdowns, that is unacceptable. Also, not utilizing your best cover corner (Jordan Lewis) more while allowing Anthony Brown to play outside corner when he is a major liability on the outside is unfathomable. Jeff Heath is too slow to be a starting safety, he does not have close out speed to be able to help in deep coverage. Jaylen Smith should play outside linebacker, not the middle. He could be a terrific pass rusher coming off the edge with his speed. We have a very good D-line, but we need to put the best players on the field in the secondary. When the cowboys utilize a four man front, 2 linebackers and 5 defensive backs, they are an excellent defense. They rarely line up that way.

  • Duncan

    Why is everyone on this forum so much smarter than the Clowns in the Cowboys front office who are making millions of dollars – that includes the coaching staff.
    After reading these post it’s comforting to see the passion of our fan base and how everyone is on the same page with the Jones’s family and the head coach.
    Watch Kirk Cousins will light us up Thursday nite on National TV “AGAIN”.

  • billy jack

    i dont know I thought Jerry was the general manger so he should be fired and let Mcclay given the chance to prove what he can do

  • John Williams

    Well written Connor.

    It’s tough man. Jerry Jones is the decision maker on the team and he puts a lot of trust in Garrett and McClay. Will McClay has done a great job streamlining the communication process between the scouts and the coaching staff and I think has done a good job finding diamonds in the rough.

    I had a huge issue with Stephen talking about a DE profile. He was the one guy in the room that I thought was open minded and willing to adjust if necessary. To me that’s evidence that Rod Marinelli hsa way too much influence in evaluations and in draft selection. I think Taco proves it.

    There are a lot of problems, but who knows what changes, if any will be made.

    • pdstix78

      This team is just a mess. Jerry won’t acknowledge it, but they’ll continue to spin their wheels with this current coaching staff

  • Gilbert Perez

    Jerry acting like a GM has been the problem for 22 years. Why not give Will McClay a shot at being GM. Can’t be any worst than Jerry’s decisions over the years

  • Jonathan Young

    Will McClay is not the PROBLEM. It’s Jerry Jones & his EGO, people have said this for years that Jerry needs to get out of his own way. Other than Jimmy Johnson, Bill Parcells would be the only other coach that really coached the Cowboys. Until Jerry Jones is unable to be in the way. Then Stephen Jones or whoever wants to really put their heart into the day to day operations of the team we’re only going to be as good as we have been over the last 25 year’s…

Star Blog

Bye Week and Amari Arrive After Cowboys’ Rally Stripped Away by Redskins

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Bye Week and Amari Arrive After Cowboys’ Rally Stripped Away by Redskins 1

Strange things happen when these two NFC East foes tangle and you can add Sunday’s latest chapter to that list. As Dallas was driving late in the fourth-quarter and looking to take their first lead of the game, Dak Prescott was strip-sacked by Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan which was "returned" for a touchdown. That gave the ‘Skins a 20-10 advantage and a lead they would never relinquish.

It didn’t help that in the waning moments Cowboys’ long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur was flagged for moving the ball pre-snap. The attempt was moved back five yards, which certainly didn’t help kicker Brett Maher knock what would have been a game-tying field goal through the uprights.

He missed, Dallas lost, and here we are.

As the Cowboys ride off into the sunset for the next couple of weeks, it should be noted that this is a team that has been as good at home as they have been abysmal on the road. In Jerry’s World, the team is bathed in milk and honey winning all three games at home while on the road their slate stands at 0-4 after their Week 7 loss to Washington.

It’s an interesting dichotomy and one that will be scrutinized by players and coaching staff alike. But one thing the Cowboys have not done is fill the void vacated by Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. The latter retired voluntarily while the former was essentially made an offer he could most definitely refuse, a severe pay cut. As a result, Dak Prescott has yet to find an elite target to call his own.

Cole Beasley has done an admirable job stepping up but he checks in at No. 45 in receiving yards and is essentially a slot receiver as opposed to a speed merchant screaming down the sidelines. The Cowboys are ranked 29th in passing yards and 26th in points scored, which means something had to give - and it finally did.

Dallas swung a deal with Oakland for two-time Pro Bowler Amari Cooper who is struggling through his most difficult season yet. The 24-year-old Alabama product had a stellar rookie and sophomore campaign but 2017 proved to be his first not eclipsing 1,000-yards receiving and this season is even less impressive with only 280 yards and one touchdown thus far.

In return, Dallas sent their 2019 first-round pick to the Raiders who will now have three in the opening round next April.

If the Cowboys were going to make a deal for a skill player then they picked the perfect time. Cooper will have two weeks to get up to speed with the Dallas playbook and foster a relationship with Prescott. Without a legitimate deep threat, the Cowboys were going nowhere and this helps even the playing field.

The question is whether Cooper is a supernova whose time in the league was brief but spectacular or if he merely needed a change of scenery to reignite what was once a promising career. The Cowboys will learn one way or the other and have paid a fairly steep price to find out. However, if this move does bear fruit, it could mean the difference between an early vacation and a postseason invitation. Let’s hope it’s the latter.

As we often do when we turn the chapter on another week in the NFL, we look ahead to see what awaits and there is no better indicator as to which way the wind is blowing than our friends at Bovada, the sports betting industry’s mainstay that is always chief among the best online sportsbooks in the world. Bovada, as well as many other top-rated sportsbooks can be found all in one place, Sportsbook Review, so when in doubt, check them out.

When the Cowboys get back to work they will welcome the Tennessee Titans into AT&T Stadium (it will always be Cowboys Stadium to us) where we will see what the oddsmakers post in terms of the opening point spread. But until then, we will hope that our 'Boys return healthy and ready to roll with a brand-new weapon named Amari Cooper stretching the field and giving Prescott a deep threat… finally!



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Star Blog

Dak Prescott: A+ Leader, But “C” Level QB Play

Kevin Brady

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Dak Prescott

Let me start by saying this: as a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, I love Dak Prescott.

Prescott is everything you want in a franchise quarterback. He's a leader the players seem to respond to, he says all the "right" things in the media and, most importantly, he competes like hell every Sunday. Never, not even when Chaz Green failed him to the tune of 6 Adrian Clayborn sacks, has Dak Prescott quit on the Dallas Cowboys.

But in the National Football League that simply isn't enough, and never was that more clear than during last Sunday's loss to the Washington Redskins.

On the surface, Sunday looks like one of Prescott's better games in 2018. He threw for over 250 yards for just the second time this year, he brought the Cowboys back from down 10 late in the fourth quarter and gave them a chance at overtime, and he battled back from a vicious head shot which Tony Romo immediately said would sideline him the remainder of the game.

As usual Dak Prescott did not quit, and he helped to give the Cowboys a chance to win.

But when you look a bit deeper than just the surface narrative you see that Prescott is more of a reason the team lost Sunday than nearly won.

Repeatedly Prescott made the same types of mistakes he's been making since his miracle rookie season came to an end, and once again they were the downfall of this Cowboys offense. Too often he holds onto the ball longer than he should, fails to recognize open receivers, doesn't trust himself to make tight window throws, and abandons clean pockets when he has seemingly no reason to do so.

The two plays which really lost the Cowboys the game on Sunday occurred back to back. And, ironically, they represent Dak Prescott and his Cowboys career in a nut shell.

The first play was third and medium late in the 4th quarter. Prescott and the Cowboys were down 3 and needed the first down to keep a potential game changing drive alive. Prescott stood firm in the pocket, trusted Cole Beasley, and delivered a strike for a huge first down. The problem? Holding was called on Connor Williams and the play was brought back.

Then came third and long, with Prescott backed up near his own goal line. Despite the longer distance, Dak Prescott had at least one if not two open options down the field to convert the first down, and enough time in the pocket to make the play. Instead, Prescott felt phantom pressure and spun out of a clean pocket, getting disoriented and fumbling the ball in the end zone.

It went from 13-10 first down Cowboys, to 20-10 game over in a split second. And while, of course, the holding was not his fault, that sack fumble was absolutely egregious. Especially in their own end zone and especially as Michael Gallup and Ezekiel Elliott were both open for potential first downs.

While the Cowboys skill position players haven't been particularly good this season, the front office went out and tried to make a change to that this week by trading for wide receiver Amari Cooper. There's no more excuses left for this passing offense.

The Cowboys need to be able to play modern offense in the NFL, and to do so their quarterback has to play better than he has for most of 2018. Now that they are without a first round pick in 2019 Dak probably has another uncontested year ahead as the starter. But beyond that Prescott will need prove that he belongs and deserves franchise quarterback type money.

For the Cowboys sake, I hope he raises his play to that level soon.



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Star Blog

The Cowboys Are What They’ve Been Since ’96: Average

Kevin Brady

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Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett Disagree on Overtime Decision

Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys have been trafficking in overzealous fan hope for quite some time. For much of the past 20 years they have spent their offseasons making minor roster tweaks, maintaining the same core and swearing they are one of the more talented teams in the NFL.

If we just got one call... If Tony Romo stays heathy...If Sean Lee stays healthy...If Ezekiel Elliott wasn't suspended...

A whole lot of "ifs." That's what the Dallas Cowboys have been characterized by since they last held the Lombardi Trophy in January of 1996. And even in the more recent years, where Jerry Jones has pulled back a bit of his control and allowed Stephen and company to make the roster decisions, the Cowboys have stayed the same average franchise.

So last Sunday when Dak Prescott took an inexcusable sack in the end zone, missing multiple open receivers and handing a key divisional game over to Washington, I wasn't surprised. When Jason Garrett coached scared down the stretch, settling for a 47 yard field goal in the cold and windy weather to tie, I wasn't surprised. And when the Cowboys were called for a snap infraction to back that field goal attempt up over 50 yards, well, that's the same old Cowboys that I have always known.

If there's a way to lose a football game, the Dallas Cowboys of the last two decades will find it.

Sure there's a couple of 13-3 and 12-4 seasons in there, but there are also multiple 4-12 years to offset that. Sure there have been years where the Cowboys seemed to be just a play or two away from taking that next step, but the bottom line is they haven't.

Yes the Cowboys finally attempted to turn over their roster in recent years, but they rode "the hot hand" right into the ground at quarterback. And at this point, there's simply no denying it.

We are the Bengals. We are the Dolphins. We are the Lions. We are every average, middling, quarterback-purgatory-living franchise in the NFL. And, as usual, it starts at the top. If things are going to change and the Cowboys are going to become the Cowboys ever again, I highly doubt Jason Garrett will be the one to do it.

Ironically, all is not lost this season. The Cowboys will probably win their next game against the Titans and get back to .500 before a big game with the Eagles. And they'll probably hang around 7-9 or 8-8 this season, falsely believing they are "in the hunt" all year because that's who they are.

And unless massive, franchise changing decisions are made this offseason, that's who they'll stay.



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