Plenty of Hate to Go Around
There was something kind of poetic about watching it rain garbage in Jerry World as fans hurled everything within grabbing distance at the refs as they ran off the field as time expired. The trash storm was the perfect metaphor for the preceding three-plus hours of sloppy, uninspired play from the home team. You had to laugh as the Cowboys’ season ended with a comical sequence of blunders punctuated by a sprinting zebra colliding with QB Dak Prescott, who was frantically trying to snap the ball.
Head mouth-breather Mike McCarthy railed against the refs after his squad’s 23-17 loss to the 49ers, deflecting blame for his team’s historically poor performance. The Cowboys’ 14 penalties for 89 yards tied a franchise playoff record. If Mr. Mojo wants to find someone to blame for the loss, he should take a long, teary look into ye ol’ looking glass.
McCarthy, who won a Super Bowl as the head coach of the Packers 900 years ago in NFL time, was given the Dallas job based on his experience in this exact scenario. He failed. His team was unprepared, unfocused, and uninspired. In the final sequence of the game, which Prescott said the offense had repeatedly practiced, neither Dak nor center Tyler Biadasz appeared to know the rules: The referee has to touch the ball before it can be snapped.
There’s plenty of blame to go around after Sunday’s loss as a 12-5 division-winning team floundered and faltered in every phase. Below is the order in which I am focusing all of my hate this week.
He can’t manage the clock. His team led the league in penalties. He’s not involved in game-planning. What in Jerry’s dark cloud was that bizarre play after the team’s successful fake punt? Dumb. That’s what.
I hope this is the last we’ll see of him, but that would mean Jerry would have to all but admit that hiring McCarthy was a mistake. We’re probably going to have to endure at least another year of this bullsh.
The QB1 looked timid, indecisive, wildly inaccurate, and, at times, just not qualified to be a starter. As he always does, Prescott made the game interesting late before his mental error cost the team its season. You can’t clench your butt cheeks for three quarters and expect to win, especially in the playoffs.
As Pro Football Focus noted, “Prescott went only 3-of-10 for 82 yards on passes thrown 12-plus yards past the line of scrimmage.”
No. 4 has looked terrible since returning from a mid-season calf injury. I don’t know how much of his struggles were physical or between the ears, but the team won games in spite of him down the stretch.
The Team’s “Stars”
Randy Gregory, CeeDee Lamb, and Tyron Smith played abysmally on Sunday. Those three are supposed to be key cogs in a championship core. They weren’t alone in shitting the bed on national TV, but when your stars play like a goat’s ass tastes, the team is going to look bad.
Smith allowed seven pressures on 51 pass-blocking snaps after only allowing 11 pressures all season. Gregory was penalized three times, two of which were of the pre-snap variety. Lamb saw two passes slip though his hands, committed a costly penalty, and generally didn’t show up to the party.
I know I singled out Smith, but the rest of the dudes were generally cock-slapped for four quarters. At least we’ve probably seen the last of Conner Williams.
The league figured out the erstwhile wunderkind after about Week 8. He’s not going to be a head coach next season, so I hope he figures out that 28 wide-receiver screens per game does not an offense make.
Everyone on the planet knew the Niners’ game plan: run, something involving Deebo Samuel, and run some more. Quinn still couldn’t figure out how to stop it.
Now the Dallas faithful have most of a year to ponder how to fix this aging roster, deal with the coming coaching changes, and convince ourselves that that next year will be different.
This had better be an offseason of sweeping change, or we’ll just end up here again. It’s time to take out the trash. — B.J.
Almost 99 Problems
Though we should be well-conditioned to it by now, it’s still jarring when nearly six months of buildup and anticipation evaporate into their component molecules of failure and resentment over the course of just a handful of hours. The single-elimination aspect to the NFL playoffs allows no adequate time for coming to peace with your favorite team’s inevitable demise. If your squad is getting its brains beat in over the course of a seven-game series as it would in any other of the “major four,” the drawing out of the violence somehow allows for a gentler comedown. Not so in football. The Band-Aid is ripped clean off with skin and all attached. At best, you get four rapidly disappearing quarters to come to terms with the sobering reality that this is the last of your team you will see until next year.
I certainly share in the frustrations all fans do in the way this year’s version of the perennial one-and-done Cowboys played out, yet, for me, the wounds are still too raw and the emotions too spent to muster much of a profanity-laden tirade about it. (I’ll leave that to Bo.) Besides, what would be the point? We all know that the spectacle we were forced to witness — eyes held open like some plenny moodge in A Clockwork Orange. This past Sunday was the perfect cap to what has truly been the most Cowboys-like season I can ever recall. From the unjustly inflated expectations to the lackadaisical papering-over of very obvious flaws, the bewildering in-game decisions, and the infuriating lack of accountability, all ultimately leading to horrible self-inflicted failure, the hits Jerry and Co. played this year were more predictable than your average Paul McCartney cash-grab tour. We also know that nothing is likely to change. It’ll just be rinse/repeat every year until Jurrah dies. Or I do, whichever comes first. Don’t think for a second that man does not have a stockpile of baboon hearts and illegally harvested kidneys procured from Eastern European black markets at the ready. He’ll still be sipping Johnny Walker on Mars with Bezos and Musk while the rest of us fall victim to the consequences of climate change 50 years from now.
Compounding the depression creeping in from every corner of my blacked-out room are a few unsettling revelations laid bare by the back half of this season on top of the disappointing early exit.
1.) If I hear another national media personality describe the O-line as “great,” or “solid,” or even “competent” again, I will scream until my vocal cords rupture. This line is terrible in both pass protection and run blocking. Thank god Connor Williams holds. Otherwise, he would get blown up every play and likely get Dak put in traction.
2.) I love Zeke as a leader on the team, and his pass protection is maybe the best in the league, but whether because he’s played for weeks on a torn ligament or because age and overuse are catching up, he’s no longer the best back on the roster — not sure he would be even if Tony Pollard wasn’t on it — and McCarthy’s or Kellen Moore’s or Jerry’s refusal to recognize that cost this team dearly this year.
3.) Our receivers are overrated. Amari Cooper has earned a reputation as one of the league’s best route runners, but whether he struggles against zone coverages or Dak simply isn’t finding him, he disappears in too many games. CeeDee Lamb is electric with the ball in his hands, but he must get it in his hands first. Drops plagued him all year.
4.) There is something very wrong with Dak Prescott, maybe always has been. He is Patrick Mahomes if his line can block and the Cowboys can run, but when opposing pass rushers can routinely get home with four and the best your supposed RB1 can muster is dragging a pile for two yards after getting hit in the backfield, Dak reverts to a fairly spot-on Ben DiNucci impression. His once stalwart pocket presence has been replaced with a scatterbrained happy foot who can’t roll through progressions fast enough and holds onto the ball way too long.
5.) All the above is here to stay. Six of the top seven highest-paid players on the team are on the offensive side of the ball. Those six (La’el Collins, Cooper, Elliott, Zack Martin, Prescott, and Tyron Smith) will account for nearly $128M against the cap next year. That’s more than 55% of the entire $230M devoted to the whole damn team! Each of them simply costs too much to cut even if you wanted to.
The improved defense this year is encouraging, but we’re likely to lose Dan Quinn as a coordinator, and the cash-choked elephant in the room in the form of the stagnant, aging offense and the inevitable return of Moore and McCarthy is enough to squash any enthusiasm for the “we’ll get ’em next year” set. All we’ll get next year is another heartbreaking early-round exit. That’s if we make the playoffs at all. Recent history shows that we may have at least a season or two to go before the Cowboys will even have another opportunity to get prematurely bounced. Nothing to do but lick our wounds down to the bone until then. — P.H.