After their fifth-straight loss this season, the Cowboys’ coaches are becoming the targets of increasing ridicule among the fanbase. When Tennessee fired their head coach, Ken Wisenhunt, earlier this week I actually saw members of Cowboys Nation wondering if Jason Garrett was the next to go. I thought perhaps they were joking, but a light prodding showed me that they were actually serious!
Good people, have you lost your minds?
Even if you’re not that dense, you may be one who thinks it’s ridiculous that the team hasn’t squeezed a win out of the last five games without Tony Romo. It’s certainly been tough to watch, especially given how close Dallas has been in some of these contests. But that frustration is actually a sign of the coaches getting things done, putting this team in position to win games despite missing the franchise quarterback and other key components.
In the five games played without Romo, Dallas is losing by an average margin of a little under 10 points. However, if you take their 24-point loss to New England out of that mix, the average drops to less than seven points. So, despite missing Romo and Dez Bryant for nearly all of these games, the Cowboys have managed to stay within a touchdown of nearly everyone they’ve faced. We’re calling that “bad coaching?”
In Week 4 the Cowboys went on the road to the Superdome and took the Saints to overtime. They nearly won despite having to play Brandon Weeden against Drew Brees in his own house. “Bad coaching?”
In Week 7, on the road against the rival Giants, Dallas was two special teams plays away (Dwayne Harris’ return touchdown and Cole Beasley’s muffed punt) from tying or even winning the game. Darren McFadden rushed for 152 yards despite there being no major threat from the passing game. “Bad coaching?”
Last week, facing the back-to-back NFC Champion Seahawks, Dallas held them to 13 points. A redzone blunder by the officials cost Dallas a touchdown opportunity that was arguably the difference in the game. Do I need to say it again?
Now, I’ll readily admit that I didn’t expect Dallas to drop all of these games. I expected a win in New Orleans and thought the Falcons and Giants games could go either way. To have come up short in all of them is tough to swallow, but coaching has not been the real issue.
Coaches can’t stop Julio Jones from dominating average cornerbacks. They can’t prevent Brandon Weeden from being too scared to throw a pass more than 15 yards down the field, or make Matt Cassell throw a tighter spiral. They don’t cause Beasley to drop a punt, or Terrance Williams to drop 3rd-down passes that hit him in the chest. They can’t stop safeties who take bad angles and miss tackles. They certainly can’t help what the referees do to muck things up, either.
It’s been injuries and a comedy of errors, not deficiency of coaching, that’s brought Dallas to this 2-5 record. The players have been put in positions to win in four out of five games and have not delivered.
I expect the next two games will offer similar opportunities for victory. Dallas’ defense is much stronger now than when it held the Eagles to just 10 points in Week 2 and will see them again on Sunday night. Even without Romo, the Cowboys are much more talented than the Tampa Bay Bucs and will have little excuse for a loss.
The tragedy of this season is that everything we thought about the Cowboys going in has proven right. The defense is vastly improved and the running game is doing fine without DeMarco Murray. We are simply a quarterback short right now of perhaps being 5-2 or even 6-1, dominating the NFC East as we rightfully should be.
Don’t blame the coaches. Honestly, don’t even blame the players. If you need someone to be mad at, how about linebacker Jordan Hicks from the Eagles? He’s the guy who squashed Romo against the turf in Week 2 and started this whole mess. We’d be looking at this season totally differently, basking in the glow rather than wallowing in misery, if we still had Tony running the show.
The chance to bask is still there. I’m fully confident that these coaches will consistently put the Cowboys in positions to win as the season continues. They’ve earned that trust. It’s up to the players now, and some random swings of fortune, to see if they get rewarded for their work.