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Learning Opportunity: Cowboys Play to Lose, Escape Minnesota 11-1

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - Learning Opportunity: Cowboys Play to Lose, Escape Minnesota 11-1

Last night’s narrow 17-15 victory over the Minnesota Vikings was tough to watch. Though any win’s a good one, it was arguably an even uglier performance for the Dallas Cowboys than their Week One loss to the New York Giants.

Michael Irvin

Michael Irvin, former Cowboys WR

For one former Cowboy, though, it may have been the best of both worlds.

Before the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving rematch with Washington, the legendary Michael Irvin said that he hoped Dallas would lose the game. In a radio interview on 105.3 The Fan, Irvin actually advocated losing to our greatest rival.

“I need a loss in here on the way to the playoffs. To re-identify, refocus.”

This obviously sounds funny coming from The Playmaker, a guy who Stephen Jones recently said was his favorite player from the 90s dynasty. However, Irvin made it clear that he had the Cowboys’ best interests in mind.

“YOU WANT TO HANDLE THIS KIND OF ADVERSITY AND GET REFOCUSED. I DON’T WANT TO GO INTO THE PLAYOFFS WITHOUT THAT. BECAUSE THEN WHEN YOU WIN NINE, 10, 12 GAMES YOU ALMOST FORGET HOW BAD IT FEELS TO LOSE.”

As we all know, the Cowboys did not lose to Washington. I wouldn’t be surprised if, as he watched that game, Michael Irvin got caught up in the moment and forgot about his original position. Losing on Thanksgiving Day to a NFC East rival would’ve been a high price to pay for a chance to refocus.

You don’t always have to lose to be disappointed in your performance. Regardless of what the scoreboard said, the game tape shows mistakes just as vividly in victory as in defeat.

Last night’s win over the Vikings wasn’t a loss, but it really should have been. The Cowboys had four fumbles, losing two of them, to go along with several foot-shooting penalties. They allowed Dak Prescott to be sacked three times, the most he’s been hit since Week 2. It was also the most frustrated that running back Ezekiel Elliott has looked in a long time; his lowest rushing total and worst average per-carry since Week 2.

The defense had its own problems. The NFL’s worst rushing offense, missing its starting center, averaged over 4.6 yards per carry. The return of Barry Church did little to stop Sam Bradford from completing throw after throw.

Despite their 6-5 record going into the game, the Minnesota Vikings were not a good team. Last night was their sixth loss in seven games. Their head coach wasn’t even there as Mike Zimmer recovered from eye surgery.

Dallas set the table for a loss. Fortunately, the Vikings just were’t good enough to take advantage.

Michael Irvin should be happy. That game was full of frustration and flaws; plenty of fodder for Jason Garrett and his staff to work with in getting this team ready for the postseason. The Cowboys may get all of the benefit of a loss without actually feeling it in the standings.

The timing was also ideal. Dallas has ten days to get ready for a critical Week 14 showdown with the New York Giants. The extra rest is big, but now they also have the negatives from the Minnesota game to use as teaching points and motivation.

“I want a searching of ourselves one time before the playoffs; 14-2 is a great record.”

I think Mike will get his wish this week. A rematch against the only team to beat you is a cause for searching. The week following an ugly, almost even embarrassing performance is a cause. The compound effect should have a hungry, focused, and rested Cowboys team headed to New York next week to clinch the NFC East.

If the Cowboys do end up 14-2, let it be because Mark Sanchez was the starting quarterback in Week 17. Just a few more wins and Dallas will likely have their division and conference all locked up. This isn’t the time for a backwards step.

The Cowboys stumbled last night but ultimately fell forward. Coach Garrett will make sure that it’s all the wake-up call that they need.

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Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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2 Comments
  • https://insidethestar.com/ Bryson Treece

    I agree with Irvin; winning week after week is great but the mind starts playing tricks on you the more something doesn’t change. You get comfortable, complacent even, and you start to feel like it’s automatic. Right now, the Cowboys can lose a game and the worst they’ll face is outside perceptions based mostly on what past teams did and did not do. Now is a good time to lose because it doesn’t cost anything but a digit in the win/loss columns. If they lose in a month, they go home. No chance to let that loss educate the young players, no cause for the veterans to engage the rookies and be the leader we all believe most of them are.

    It’s a weird thing to say, I know, but I want this team to lose before the playoffs, and I want them to lose a game like this. The Steelers got close, but we still scored easily enough. The Redskins gave us some trouble, and the Vikings should have owned us. The sloppy play last night could easily suggest the team is already feeling the comfort of an 10-win streak, and 11 isn’t going to be much better, not if they don’t focus on the mistakes.

    Good read, Jess.

  • Gbear

    We don’t need “no stinkin loss”! Tony will be playing, not Sanchez. Go Cowboys #Dak4MVP #Zeke4ROY

Dallas Cowboys

Can Cowboys Trust Guard Jonathan Cooper in 2018?

Jess Haynie

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Jonathan Cooper

One of the big decisions facing the Dallas Cowboys in the 2018 offseason is at left guard. Veteran Jonathan Cooper started 13 games last year and is now a free agent. Should Dallas bring Cooper back, or should they look elsewhere for next season’s starter?

With a lot of money already being spent on the rest of the starting offensive line, the Cowboys need a bargain at left guard. They didn’t re-sign Ronald Leary in 2017 for that very reason, hoping Cooper or Chaz Green would be able to handle the job for a fraction of what Leary got from the Denver Broncos.

Cooper took over for Green in Week 4 and held the job the rest of the season. The Cowboys rushing attack remained one of the league’s best, even performing well later in the year when Ezekiel Elliott was suspended. It looked like Jonathan could become part of future plans.

However, in Week 17, Cooper went out of the game with a knee injury. It thankfully wasn’t serious and he is expected to be ready for 2018. However, it was a reminder of the injury-plagued past that has caused the former first-round pick so much trouble.

Jonathan Cooper

Dallas Cowboys Guard Jonathan Cooper

Taken seventh overall in 2013 by the Arizona Cardinals, Jonathan Cooper was one of the true blue-chip guard prospects in recent draft history. He seemed like a can’t-miss pick, and interior linemen don’t often go that high in the draft. The Cowboys have even said they coveted Cooper in that class.

But constant battles with injuries caused Cooper to be traded, released, and discarded by the Cardinals, New England Patriots, and Cleveland Browns over his first four seasons. While 2017 was looking like a turning point for him, Jonathan’s injury in the season finale was a sobering reminder of why he’s become a bargain-bin player.

Still, at just 28-years-old, Cooper has good years left and will now have another offseason for continuity and chemistry development with the Cowboys.

Dallas should have to pay more than a few million to keep Cooper on the roster.

If Dallas is leery (no pun intended) of Cooper, they will have options. La’el Collins could move back to the guard position, allowing the Cowboys to go find either the best guard or tackle who would fit with their existing group.

Given so many other considerations this offseason, Dallas will likely try to simplify things by giving Jonathan Cooper another chance. His history is a red flag, but sometimes you have to take those gambles and save salary cap space to handle other needs.

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Orlando Scandrick Talks Cowboys’ Disappointing Season on FOX Sports

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Headlines - Forget the Triplets: Cowboys Need The Underrated to Shine in 2016
Ashley Landis / The Dallas Morning News

For better or worse, the Cowboys don’t even need to play football to be all over national TV. I guess it’s just part of being the one and only America’s Team. For the second consecutive week, Fox Sports had a Dallas Cowboys’ player on set for Fox’s “Undisputed.”

Just a week ago, Brice Butler made waves with some controversial comments that failed to make him look like a “great teammate.”

This time, Fox’s guest was Cowboys’ Cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Unlike Butler, I really think we should give Scandrick credit for being a very good teammate, and acting like one on his TV appearance.

Throughout the segment, it feels as if Orlando is being tricked into saying something against his teammates. Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe start bashing on Dez Bryant‘s performance and the fact that he should be replaced.

Of course, this is the kind of stuff fans in Cowboys Nation are thinking about. Heck, I really wouldn’t even mind if Dez isn’t wearing a star next season. However, I really disliked Butler’s comments when asked if he would’ve done a better job if given the same opportunities as Dez.

Scandrick’s responses were awesome though. When asked if he would defend Dez, he didn’t even hesitate.

“I don’t think he’s lost any confidence. He’s one of the most confident players I’ve ever been around. I think it can all be fixed. I think he just needs to get back to work and get back to the basics.” – Orlando Scandrick on Dez Bryant.

Scandrick also answered questions about what went wrong with the Cowboys this season by pointing out the fact they lost one of their best players because of a suspension, and some injuries. But he also said what’s been in our minds for a long time. When asked what was the biggest reason they struggled, he said some painful, yet truthful words: “We played some bad football against some very good teams.”

Later, he was asked about how Sean Lee’s absence affected the defense, he insisted they didn’t step up. At the end of the day, the NFL is a league in which you can’t be that dependent on a single player.

Sean Lee is an awesome player, but I think we’d all like to see this defense be a little less dependent on him.

Scandrick even had to defend Dak Prescott.

Dak was highly criticized after a sophomore season in which he struggled, alongside the entire team. But in the words of Orlando, we should “give him time.” Dak had a lot on his plate, but he made a lot of progress for the Cowboys.

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Orlando Scandrick’s time in Dallas may be coming to an end, especially with young guys like Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis taking over. He’s signed through 2019, so who knows; maybe we see him wearing the star for a bit longer.

“It’s always a possibility.” – Orlando Scandrick on potentially not returning to Dallas next season.

Even still, it’s nice to see him support his football team and his friends on a show which featured a non-starting Cowboys’ wide receiver taking shots against his team. Orlando Scandrick deserves an applause.

Tell me what you think about “Orlando Scandrick Talks Cowboys’ Disappointing Season on FOX Sports” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

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Dallas Cowboys

Should Cowboys Pursue Veteran Backup at Quarterback?

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys en Español: Cooper Rush
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys only have two quarterbacks under contract right now, starter Dak Prescott and backup Cooper Rush. With only three years of combined experience between them, one could argue that a veteran presence would be useful. Should Dallas make a veteran QB a free-agent priority in the 2018 offseason?

Of course, there’s plenty of other QB experience on the Cowboys staff. Head Coach Jason Garrett played professionally from 1989-2004, and started his coaching career with quarterbacks.

Scott Linehan has been coaching offense with an emphasis on the passing game for 30 years.

Kellen Moore, who is taking over for the departed Wade Wilson as quarterbacks coach, has played very recently and will bring a fresh perspective.

However, losing Wilson’s experience from the room, and the lack of any veteran player at QB, shouldn’t be dismissed.

Dak Prescott has said veteran Mark Sanchez — who was with Dallas in 2016 — was a major help during his whirlwind rookie season. Tony Romo enjoyed veteran advice from guys like Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, and Kyle Orton throughout his playing career.

This isn’t to say Dallas would want to bring in a veteran to knock Cooper Rush down the depth chart. After a surprising preseason, Rush took the backup job from Kellen Moore and certainly has intriguing upside.

If the Cowboys were to add a veteran, that player would have to come in with the understanding he’s competing with Cooper and may not be guaranteed a job.

The good news is that it’ll be a buyer’s market for veteran quarterbacks this offseason.

Guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and Matt Moore could all be available. Even a player with more pedigree, such as Sam Bradford, may have trouble finding starting work with many jobs taken among the NFL’s 32 teams.

Dallas could even consider bringing back Mark Sanchez, given his previous relationship with Dak Prescott. He only had a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears.

Given Prescott’s seeming durability, Dallas will likely only keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in 2018 and for years to come. Because of that, they may be content to focus on Dak and Cooper Rush, and just get through the offseason with training camp bodies.

However, the case can certainly be made for adding another veteran player with the desire to teach to help these young quarterbacks develop. Prescott was not the same guy in 2017 that we saw as a rookie, and perhaps the absence of guys like Sanchez and Tony on the sideline had something to do with that.

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