After Sunday's frustrating loss to the Panthers, the Dallas Cowboys are left looking for answers. For fans, a disappointment like that leaves them looking for someone to blame. Depending on who you ask, Head Coach Jason Garrett and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan are usually their two favorite targets.
With only 232 total yards and eight points from the offense last week, all attention is currently on play calling. This goes back to last year, when Dallas' offense was accused of being predictable and was clearly inefficient, especially when Ezekiel Elliott was out of the lineup.
Even though Linehan runs the offense, Garrett's history as the team's prior OC stills pulls him into the discussion. If nothing else, he is the head coach and accountable for all aspects of the team's performance.
It's been quite a turnaround since the 2016 season. Garrett was Coach of the Year and Linehan was credited with helping rookie Dak Prescott have an exceptional season. This coaching staff looked ready to lead the Cowboys back to championship contention.
But then 2017 happened. Roger Goodell's persecution of Ezekiel Elliott happened. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten getting older and less effective happened. Tyron Smith's injury happened. Chaz Green happened. And either coincidentally or as a result of all these things, Prescott's sophomore slump happened.
If one or both of Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan weren't on the hot seat before Week 1, that ugly offensive performance raised the temperature a bit. But if Jerry Jones does wind up making a change, who will be the first to go?
Garrett has the benefit of a broader of range of responsibility, and thus more areas to point to for success. If you're going to assign Jason blame for the struggles of Linehan's offense, then you also have to credit him for Rod Marinelli's defense.
Jason also has the support and admiration of the owner, who handpicked and groomed Garrett for this job and desperately wants him to succeed. Jerry loves the way that Garrett conducts himself as a leader and representative of the organization.
That isn't to say that the Joneses will tolerate failure indefinitely. They certainly didn't with Wade Phillips, who got fired midway through the 2010 season after the Cowboys' woeful 1-7 start. Just a year before, Dallas had gone 11-5, won the NFC East, and won their first playoff game since 1996.
But in 2010, Jason Garrett was waiting in the wings as Offensive Coordinator to take Wade's job. That guy may not be on the coaching staff right now.
It's too soon to think that Kris Richard, current Defensive Backs Coach, is that guy. While his fiery demeanor has been a welcome addition to the staff, it takes more than a big personality to lead a team. Just ask the 49ers what they thought of Mike Singletary's work.
Barring a total disaster, like the 2010 season, I can't see Garrett getting axed in the middle of the year. Jerry didn't do that even with Chan Gailey or Dave Campo. It only happened in 2010 because Garrett was already the handpicked successor.
That brings us back to Scott Linehan. Right now, he's got the hotter seat; a far easier scapegoat and target for a mid-season shakeup.
For one, Dallas can hand the play-calling duties to Jason Garrett if Linehan were fired. It wouldn't be the first time that Jason has handled that role which also serving as head coach.
They also have Tight Ends Coach Doug Nussmeier, who was the offensive coordinator for top college programs such as Alabama, Michigan, and Florida since 2012. He could assist Garrett with the OC duties in some capacity.
Linehan's firing wouldn't be unwarranted. He's shown an inability to find creative ways to deal with adversity, be it a missing running back or starting center. The team seems to crumble unless every single piece is in place.
It's been clear the last few seasons that the Cowboys are trying to move to an organizational model that mirrors what the New England Patriots do. One of the key traits of the Patriots' success has been their ability to adapt to whatever happens on the roster and keep winning.
You could argue that not having Tom Brady is why Dallas can't do the same, and it's fair to criticize Dak Prescott for his role in the current offensive issues. Even Jerry Jones said following Sunday's game that receivers were open but the ball wasn't coming their way; a clear criticism of his quarterback.
But that problem is now becoming two years old, and Dallas isn't going to turn to Cooper Rush or Mike White to fix it. If Jerry feels the need to make a change on offense, Scott Linehan is clearly the guy who will bear the brunt of that desperation.
It's just one week and one loss, so we may all be singing a very different tune by next month. Dallas could still go 3-1 in September and nip this discussion in the bud.
But if they don't, Scott Linehan may soon be joining his good buddy Dez Bryant in unemployment.
Ezekiel Elliott vs Byron Jones Part II: The Case For Paying Zeke
It's a debate that has raged on social media for some time now and it likely won't slow down as the offseason progresses and the Dallas Cowboys begin to hand out massive contracts to their top players. Pay Ezekiel Elliott? Pay Byron Jones? If you could only pay one, which would you pay?
This week fellow Inside The Star Staff Writer, Kevin Brady took to Twitter to poll the populous and his results were a bit surprising to me.
if you can only pay one it should be
The results inspired me to see what would happen if I put the same poll on my timeline.
Inspired by my teammate @KevinBrady88, if you can only pay one, which would it be?
On Monday, Kevin wrote a piece looking at one of the difficult decisions facing the Dallas Cowboys this offseason or next. If the Cowboys could only extend Byron Jones OR Ezekiel Elliott, who should they choose? Kevin, as am I, is a firm believer in Byron Jones ability and says the Cowboys should extend them, and I agree. But let's look at the other side of the argument.
To begin, the Cowboys should and probably will get both guys contract extensions either this offseason or next. It's not impossible with the cap continuing to increase at a rate of about $8-12 million per year that the Cowboys will have the space to get the deals done that they need to get done. Ezekiel Elliott and Byron Jones included.
Byron Jones settled in nicely at cornerback during his first full season at cornerback and knowing what we know about Jones, he won't be satisfied with a second team All-Pro appearance. Expect him to get better. However, if there's a single player that represents the current identity of the Dallas Cowboys, it's Running Back Ezekiel Elliott.
The Cowboys made him the fourth overall pick in 2016 and haven't looked back in their plan to establish the running game. For his career Elliott has averaged 26.9 touches per game over the course of his 40 games.
Here's a look at what Elliott's per game and per 16 game paces look like through the first three seasons of his career.
As you can see from the table above, Ezekiel Elliott is averaging 131.2 total yards per game for his career. In his rookie season he had 1,994 total yards and he sat out the week 17 game against the Philadelphia Eagles when the Cowboys had the NFC and home field advantage locked up. In 2017, Elliott sat out six games and still had nearly 1,000 yards rushing. In 2018, Elliott broke through the 2,000 total yard barrier after seeing a huge increase in his targets and receptions.
Ezekiel Elliott has been everything the Dallas Cowboys could have hoped for and more. With the leadership role he's taken with the team, he's a player that leads both vocally and by example. There are few players on the Dallas Cowboys that give as much effort as he does each snap. How many times has it looked like Elliott was about to get dropped for a two or three yard loss only to grind through tackles to pick up a four yard gain? How many times has he bounced off tacklers to get to the first down marker? Ezekiel Elliott is the human personification of dirty yards, but don't let that fool you into thinking that Elliott can't take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Elliott's is a game breaker who threatens the defense every time he steps on the field.
In 2018, Elliott led the NFL in yards after contact, per Pro Football Focus. His 949 yards after contact in 2018 would have ranked 13th in the NFL in rushing, which was better than David Johnson's 940 yards rushing last season.
Not many running backs effect a football game like Ezekiel Elliott does.
Few players outside of the quarterback position are as much of a focal point for their offense while being an attention grabber for opposing defenses like Ezekiel Elliott is. In 2018, he saw eight or more men in the box on nearly 25% of his carries in 2018. Some of that is related to the Dallas Cowboys insistence on using two tight ends on 50% of their running plays (per Sharp Football), but the other aspect is related to how much they respect the Dallas Cowboys running game. Since the 2014, the Cowboys have been synonymous with running the football. DeMarco Murray, Darren McFadden, and now Ezekiel Elliott have been the faces of that running game behind the Cowboys elite offensive line.
Even in a down year for offensive line play from the Dallas Cowboys, Elliott still managed to lead the NFL in rushing for the second time in three seasons. Elliott made the Pro Bowl for the second time in three years as well. Were it not for the railroad job done by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2017, there's a really good chance that Elliott leads the league in rushing three years in a row and that the Dallas Cowboys make the playoffs all three seasons.
Sure, the running back position is undervalued in the NFL and rushing yardage can be replaced, but there are intangibles to Elliott's game that are very difficult to replace. His ability to grind out the dirty yards, break big plays, create yards after contact, pass protect, be a threat as a receiver, and his leadership make him a player that is difficult to replace.
Yes, Byron Jones was really good in 2018 and deserves to get paid by the Dallas Cowboys as well, but you'd be hard pressed to find a player on the Cowboys roster who has been as consistent and dominating week in and week out as Ezekiel Elliott has been over the last three years.
BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb
According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.
Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T
The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.
During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.
After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.
This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.
Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!
REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur
L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.
Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.
The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e
Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.
Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.
Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.
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