Over the last two days we’ve seen the Dallas Cowboys trade or release three veteran defensive players as part of their response to a disappointing 2-5 start to the season. If the team is willing to shed perceived dead weight from its roster, how long until it turns its attention to the coaching staff?
On Tuesday, DE Everson Griffen was traded to the Detroit Lions for a conditional draft pick. And then late yesterday, DT Dontari Poe and DB Daryl Worley were released after Dallas was unable to find trade partners.
Before the start of the regular season, all three of these newly-arrived free agents were expected to play major roles on the Cowboys’ defense. Both Griffen and Poe were projected starters and Worley was perceived as a versatile backup with starting potential.
All three have struggled to make positive impacts. The Cowboys have had one of the NFL’s worst defenses and these veterans bear some of that blame. Nobody was asking them to be Pro Bowlers, or even a starter in Worley’s case; just fundamentally sound roleplayers.
Sadly, nothing about this 2020 has gone according to hopes and expectations. But when you see the degree of dysfunction and disappointment that currently exists with the Cowboys, eyes should quickly be on the coaching staff if they aren’t already.
You have to decipher how much the disappointing performances of the players has been a symptom or a cause for Dallas’ struggles. Given how the widespread the issues are, particularly on defense, you eventually have to find the common denominator; the coaching staff.
It’s telling that Mike Nolan hasn’t been able to cobble together even a solvent defense despite the tools he’s had to work with. The Cowboys have the 6th-worst defense in yards allowed and are the absolute worst in points allowed so far this season.
They were 9th and 11th in those same categories last season under Rod Marinelli.
Sure, there are growing pains with a coaching change and especially one that has involves some significant shifts in scheme and what players are being asked to do. Throw in the disruptions to the offseason from the pandemic and it’s not unreasonable to give Nolan some grace.
But still, this has been beyond bad. The Cowboys have been unable to stop even mediocre teams and players from imposing their will. Breakdowns are occurring on every level of the defense and one-time Pro Bowlers look lost on the field.
I’m not saying that Griffen, Poe, and Worley were made into scapegoats. Getting them off the roster may have more to do with just taking this season, seemingly lost at this point, and devoting more energy into younger talent with potential to grow.
At this point, why should guys like Bradlee Anae and Rashard Robinson lose playing time for the likes of Griffen and Worley?
But if you’re asking that question and making moves on that basis, the next logical question is, “Who do you want teaching and developing your young talent?”
Or better perhaps more importantly, “Who DON’T you want?”
I’m willing to give Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore passes for this year given everything that’s happened with COVID-19 and offensive injuries. They deserve another opportunity to prove themselves under fairer circumstances.
But with just two more games before the bye week, you have to wonder if Mike Nolan is long for this Cowboys world. The team has shown its willingness to admit mistakes and cut bait on some of its bigger free agent moves from the offseason with these recent departures of Griffen, Poe, and Worley.
At this current rate of failure, at least one of our coaches could soon share their fate.