The regular season ended with a bang yesterday, as the Redskins downed the sad sack Cowboys in dominant fashion. To add to the fun, the beat-down came in front of several members of the Dallas ring of shame. Why they trotted out these has-beens to witness the end to the worst Boys’ season in nearly 30 years, is anybody’s guess. Let’s see if The Dallas Morning News has any ideas.
Cowboys avoid doing something foolish, lock up high draft pick after miserable season
Louis DeLuca/Staff Photographer
Washington Redskins defensive end Chris Baker (92) mows over Dallas Cowboys quarterback Kellen Moore (17) to recover a fumble after Moore fumbled the snap in the first quarter during the Washington Redskins vs. the Dallas Cowboys NFL football game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Sunday, January 3, 2016. (Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News)
By David Moore , Staff Writer
ARLINGTON — The problem with being your best regardless of circumstance, the danger of playing hard week in and week out with nothing at stake is that a team can stumble into an inopportune victory.
Don’t worry. The Cowboys weren’t impulsive, efficient or good enough to compromise their draft status with something as foolish as a win in the regular-season finale.
A miserable season ended on a fitting note Sunday afternoon as Washington beat Dallas 34-23. The latest loss at AT&T Stadium ensures the Cowboys own the No. 4 pick in the April draft. Tennessee and Cleveland are the only teams to finish with fewer victories than the Cowboys this season.
“I’m just really taken aback by the fact that we’re sitting here with four wins after this year,” owner Jerry Jones said of his team’s 4-12 record. “This was never anticipated.”
Only two Cowboys teams have finished with more losses than this star-crossed bunch. The eight-game drop from 2014 is easily the largest one-season decline in franchise history.
“I thought we did one of the best offseason jobs of addressing our needs and really acquiring some serious talent where we had the most need,” Jones said.
“Last year, you guys [media] made me the Executive of the Year. This year I think I’m on my way out. And I had it figured the other way. I thought last year was going to be the exit strategy.”
How bad did it get?
Let us count the ways.
The Cowboys haven’t won a game at AT&T Stadium since they beat the New York Giants in the season opener. The seven-game losing streak at home is the second longest in franchise history.
The defense forced a franchise-low 11 turnovers this season. That equals an NFL record of futility shared by the Baltimore Colts (’82) and Houston Texans (’13).
“The season sucked,” defensive end Greg Hardy said. “You’ve got to win to be relevant, so we didn’t win enough.”
The Cowboys did end a five-game streak of being held to less than 20 points.
But the 275 points the offense scored is its lowest total in 13 years. Dallas finished with 26 touchdowns, tying for the third lowest total in franchise history.
“It’s probably as difficult of a season as we’ve been a part of,” tight end Jason Witten said.
Head coach Jason Garrett escaped the shackles of three consecutive 8-8 records last season by presiding over a 12-4 team. Following that up with 4-12 shows he’s inexorably drawn to .500.
“We all have to be accountable for it,” Garrett said. “We’re all a part of it. We all own it.
“No one owns it more than I do.”
It was clear from the start that the Cowboys weren’t about to reverse their fortunes against Washington.
Kellen Moore, who finished with 435 yards passing, threw an interception on the team’s second possession. He fumbled the snap from center the next time he took the field.
Dallas trailed 21-0 entering the second quarter and never drew closer than 10 points the rest of the afternoon.
Receiver Terrance Williams, who more than doubled his best output of the season with 173 receiving yards on eight receptions, stopped rookie Lucky Whitehead in the tunnel leading to the Cowboys locker room after the game.
“We’re going to be back next year,” Williams told Whitehead. “This is going to make us stronger.”
Garrett said afterward that a team must be built the right way to overcome the adversities that are thrown its way over the course of a season. These Cowboys weren’t built to succeed.
“We’re not that team,” defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford maintained. “We have too much talent on this team to only have four wins.
“It’s just unacceptable and we have to do a lot better.”
Injuries to receiver Dez Bryant and quarterback Tony Romo began this unexpected turn of events. But this season exposed a number of deficiencies.
“We all know that we’re short fundamentally,” Jones said. “We’re short on execution. We’re short in many ways of where we should be, not just at quarterback, but we’re short.
“Can we correct that and is it possible to do that within this offseason? It is possible to do.
“Yes. Yes. And we intend to go for it and try.”
The fans: Down
Yes, it’s been a miserable season for the Cowboys. Fans have been forced to generate their own entertainment and excitement in most games at AT&T Stadium. But starting the Wave while Washington’s Dashaun Phillips lies motionless on the field before he’s carted off the field on a stretcher is the epitome of poor taste.
Team first: Up
Sean Lee stood to earn a $2 million bonus if he took part in roughly half of the defensive snaps in Sunday’s game. But the linebacker told Jason Garrett before the game his hamstring didn’t feel right and he’d be unable to play. A lot of players talk about putting the team over themselves. Lee is one of the few who shows it in such dramatic fashion.
First impression: Down
The final margin wasn’t obscene. But when a team goes into a game with nothing at stake, what happens in the first quarter tells you if they’re ready to play. Dallas wasn’t. A team that allowed only 45 points combined in the first quarter of the first15 games found themselves down 21-0 entering the second quarter of this one.
As miserable season ends, Cowboys need to either get better players or better coaches
ARLINGTON — The Cowboys announced a crowd of 90,127 for their season finale against the Washington Redskins.
That extended the Cowboys’ streak of consecutive 90,000-plus home crowds to 11.
But, frankly, I didn’t see those 90,000, unless many of them came clad in white towels. The Cowboys draped a towel over every seat at AT&T Stadium hoping to drum up some hometown support in a building that lacks it. But by halftime, you could still see empty suites with towels on the seats plus rows of white throughout the upper decks.
And, frankly, I didn’t feel those 90,000. I felt the 82,000 in attendance at the Cotton Bowl in this same building the other night. There was a passion for the game and the two teams involved. But there was little to no passion on Sunday, either on the field or in the stands.
What little emotion there was in the stands evaporated by the end of the first quarter after Kirk Cousins had completed 8-of-10 passes for 114 yards and three touchdowns to stake the Washington Redskins at a 21-0 lead on the way to a 34-23 victory.
A miserable season had come to an end. The Cowboys had gone from first to worst in the NFC East, from 12-4 to 4-12.
Coach Jason Garrett took a different approach in his postgame news conference. Frankly, it was a welcome approach. He didn’t drone on about how hard his team had played and how the Cowboys would continue working to get better. He spoke of the mess the Cowboys had made of their season.
“You have to own the results, every part of it,” Garrett said. “It’s a collective responsibility. It starts with me, every coach, every player, everybody connected with the football team. You have to be honest with yourself in the evaluations, and you have to grow from the experience. That’s what we intend to do.”
Status quo didn’t work in 2015 — not after the injuries suffered by Pro Bowl playmakers Tony Romo and Dez Bryant that kept them out for chunks of the season. And status quo won’t work in 2016. There are problems on this football team beyond the health of Romo and Bryant.
And that’s where the Cowboys must indeed be honest in their evaluations.
Starting with the coaching staff.
The Cowboys led at halftime in seven games this season. They were either ahead or tied in the fourth quarter of 11 games. Yet they managed to win just four times. That’s a coaching problem.
Garrett and his coordinators were given lucrative long-term contracts last offseason to be difference-makers. It’s the job of the coaching staff to take the players they have and find a way to win with them. It’s their job to find solutions, not excuses. But this staff had no answers. Instead of finding way to win, this staff and this team found ways to lose.
That was underscored Sunday when the Cowboys twice committed turnovers inside the Washington 1-yard line that cost them touchdowns in a game where a couple of extra TDs would have come in handy.
Cole Beasley disappeared for stretches in Scott Linehan’s offense this season. So did Terrance Williams, and former second-round draft pick Gavin Escobar may as well have been a 16-week inactive. The best offensive line in football regressed. The Cowboys played 12 games with backup quarterbacks and the managed to win just once.
Either get better players or better coaches.
Rod Marinelli’s defense is designed to feast on sacks and takeaways. His Super Bowl champion defense at Tampa in 2002 collected 43 sacks, intercepted 31 passes and forced 38 turnovers. But his 2015 Cowboys endured a defensive famine — 31 sacks, eight interceptions and a league-low 11 takeaways.
Offseason additions Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory were brought in to give this pass rush some teeth. They combined for six sacks. The starting secondary of Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox combined for one interception.
Again, either get better players or better coaches.
The owner also needs to be honest with himself. Jerry Jones saw the empty seats for the finale. That 90,127 was paid admissions, not actual fannies in the stands.
Jones heard the booing in the first half and saw the waves of fans leaving in the third and fourth quarters as Washington’s scrubs were building on the lead. One of the symptoms of this 4-12 season was a 1-7 record at home. Jones needs to put a product on the field that can reward the home folk for their support and give them a reason to cheer.
Until the Cowboys figure out how to win at home, rush the passer, force turnovers and survive injuries, winning will remain a challenge. So the general manager of the Cowboys needs to take a long look in the mirror and be honest with himself.
Either get better players or better coaches.