The Cowboys have found themselves in a position that they were not prepared for at the season’s start.
Just two seasons ago, Dallas was competing in the divisional round of the playoffs. Now, the team is 2-5, and it looks like things could get a whole lot worse before they get better.
Last season, the Cowboys went 8-8 and it appeared that they were one head coaching change away from being legitimate contenders. Jerry Jones finally got rid of Jason Garrett and brought in an experienced head coach in Mike McCarthy. Mike McCarthy is a coach you hire if your team is ready to contend for a Super Bowl, not when your team needs to rebuild everything.
You might be wondering why the Cowboys need to start over. They have a franchise quarterback, the highest-paid running back in the NFL, and one of the best receiving corps in the league. They also have one of the highest-paid defensive ends in the league, a linebacker whose contract they extended, and they brought in a group of experienced defensive linemen who were expected to pressure the quarterback and mask the inexperience of the secondary. Well, most of those things I just said are reasons for the potential incoming rebuild.
Dallas has completely mismanaged their money and gone about contracts in the absolute wrong way. That franchise quarterback I mentioned?
He has yet to be extended. Instead, they chose to pay their RUNNING BACK, who was two years away from his contract expiring. If you have watched football at all in the last couple of years, you would know that having a star running back is becoming less important. You would also see that they almost never perform on the same level after they get a new contract. But Jerry Jones caved to public pressure and gave Zeke the biggest contract the running back position has ever seen.
They also locked down Jaylon Smith after his second season in the NFL of actually playing. His first season was not good. Granted it was his first time playing football in over a year. Then, the Cowboys drafted Leighton Vander Esch, and all of a sudden, the linebacker corps, including Jaylon Smith looked great. So after only one season of solid football, the Cowboys paid Jaylon Smith.
Both of those contracts look awful right now. Ezekiel Elliott is playing like a scared, late-round rookie, instead of the veteran that this team needs. Yes, I know. The offensive line is bad. But you would think that he could still manage to do something good. I mean, he is the highest-paid running back in the league. And Jaylon Smith seems lost. It looks like he just runs around really fast but doesn’t know what is going on. Jerry Jones paid those two guys instead of Byron Jones who, by the way, is very good in Miami. He has missed three games to a groin injury, but when he has been healthy, he has only allowed nine catches on 19 targets, forcing a passer rating of 60.4. Last year, I believed that he was the best football player on the team and now that is obvious to me. I might never forgive Dallas’ front office for letting him walk. Jerry Jones also prioritized paying those guys instead of trying to acquire a big-time safety, which they had plenty of opportunities to do (Earl Thomas is still sitting in free agency FYI). Instead, Dallas has absolutely neglected the safety position and the secondary in general. I have no idea why anybody is surprised that this defense is awful.
I am not blaming this all on Ezekiel Elliott and Jaylon Smith. I am blaming this on Jerry Jones.
So how do we fix this? Well ideally, Jerry Jones is not in charge, but the likelihood of that is so low that it is pointless mentioning it.
So realistically, this is what needs to be done.
You have to fire Mike McCarthy and his staff. I do not think McCarthy is a bad football coach, but this is not what he signed up for at all. We need coaches that can rebuild with us. Younger guys who can bring intense energy every day. A guy like Kris Richard sounds awesome right now.
You have to trade almost the whole defense. Dallas has already begun this step as they traded away Everson Griffin to the Lions for a sixth-round pick on Tuesday. That is a good start but you also need to try to get almost everyone else off the team and just stockpile draft picks. Nobody is safe on the defense besides Aldon Smith and LVE. Everybody else can be dealt. I do not think you could get much for guys with big contracts like Lawrence and Smtih but surely somebody would give us something.
Use the stockpiled draft picks for defense. Maybe you sprinkle an offensive lineman in there somewhere, but remember, at full health, this offensive line is still pretty good. Every. Single. Pick. should be used for defense. I would start with the secondary and then work down to the line.
Keep the offense mostly intact, including Zeke. First of all, there is not a ton you could get for Elliott in a trade right now due to his contract. Second of all, despite what we have seen this year, he is still a great running back. Pay Dak to keep him under center. We obviously need him. Keep the receivers. Some might tell you to trade one of them, either Gallup or Cooper. I do think that is a good idea if you absolutely have to, but if there is a way to keep those three together. You may have already forgotten but just a few weeks ago, this offense was keeping games interesting even with the worst defense in the NFL. They could continue to get better and while you are rebuilding your defense maybe you can still be at least fun with this offense.
A rebuild is not ideal for a team that has a franchise quarterback, especially one that is widely considered one of the best in the league. But right now Dak Prescott is 27 years old. That might seem like it’s pretty old, but we are seeing quarterbacks now playing at a high level into their late 30’s and early 40’s. If the rebuild went smoothly, the Cowboys could easily be contending well before Dak retires.
Now, I do NOT expect any of this to happen. If Jerry Jones knew how to rebuild a team he would have done it years ago. The Cowboys probably will not fire McCarthy because for some reason they believe they can still contend. Jerry will probably use COVID and injuries as excuses to give this team another chance to win, but every year that he stays in denial takes one year off a window for winning.
The best way to get past this is to start as soon as you can. There will be some ugly years and Jerry Jones is not going to like it, but the reality is that it needs to be done.
While I have almost zero faith in this front office, I do believe that with the right man in charge, this team can get back to relevance soon.
The problem is, we do NOT have the right man in charge.
Featured Image: ---