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Thread: Watkins: What’s wrong with the Cowboys? We searched for a diagnosis

  1. #1
    One-armed Knife Sharpener Iamtdg's Avatar
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    Watkins: What’s wrong with the Cowboys? We searched for a diagnosis

    What’s wrong with the Cowboys? We searched for a diagnosis
    By Calvin Watkins 6h ago

    The​ Cowboys’​ 2018 season is​ nearing a point of no return.

    Eight​ games remain in a campaign that began with promise but​​ is precariously falling apart. Sunday night the Cowboys visit Philadelphia to begin a five-game stretch where they face three division opponents. In interviews with people inside and outside the organization, there is no consensus on whether the Cowboys can salvage this season.

    Defensive end Tyrone Crawford said the team came to meetings this week “in their feelings.” Quarterback Dak Prescott said the team was pissed. Linebacker Jaylon Smith said he was still pissed off three days after a Monday night loss to the Titans.

    Troy Aikman, who won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys, said the entire organization needs a complete overhaul. An AFC scout who has seen the Cowboys play said the issues reside with Jerry Jones.

    An executive from an AFC team said the Cowboys can still save their season because they have four division games remaining on their schedule.

    A Cowboys source had this to say about the team’s current stretch: “We are searching for answers.”

    Asked if the team is underachieving, he said, “no.”

    But when asked if the Cowboys were an eight-or-nine win team, he remarked, “potentially six or maybe seven — if we don’t start playing better.”

    The Cowboys are coming off a disheartening 28-14 loss to the Titans, stunning many in the organization. The upset prompted owner and general manager Jerry Jones to go on the offensive. He offered support for coach Jason Garrett and confidence his team would recover from what ails it. The next day, on his radio show, Jones endorsed another member of the organization who has endured heavy criticism: Prescott.

    “Dak is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan. “He’s young and he’s going to get extended.”

    Garrett and Prescott are central to the Cowboys’ problems. Garrett is 70-58 in eight seasons as the head coach, and while he’s respected in the locker room, an agent with a client on the Cowboys offered this view.

    “I asked 10 players, they said they are one of the worst-coached teams they’ve been on,” said the agent, who was granted anonymity so he could speak freely. “Lack of attention to detail and the attention to detail is on the wrong thing.”

    This statement is surprising considering how well-respected Garrett is across the league. He was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 2016 and has won two division titles. As an offensive coordinator, his offenses were ranked in the top 10 in five of the seven years he called plays.

    Garrett speaks to the team constantly about doing the little things; whether it’s taking an extra step near the first down marker, securing the ball when getting tackled, or keeping your head up when tackling. At times, the little things have eluded the Cowboys. Even simple things like knowing the play.
    One unnamed player said the Cowboys’ current 0-4 road record is attributed to not hearing the entire play call in the huddle.

    “Sometimes you get to the line and just look at the center for when the ball is going to get snapped,” the player said.

    Not getting the entire play call can be attributed to a player not paying attention when Prescott calls the play in the huddle more than being in a noisy stadium.

    While the Cowboys play loud music during their practices, communication remains a constant problem, particularly with the offensive line. Garrett replaced offensive line coach Paul Alexander with assistant Marc Colombo last week. The Cowboys continued to have issues with the line, as Prescott was sacked five times, but the offensive coaches attributed just two of those sacks to the line. Running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 61 yards and touched the ball only six times in the second half of the loss to the Titans.

    Prior to this season, the Cowboys rushed for over 100 yards in 28 of 30 games. This season, the Cowboys have rushed for over 100 yards just four times.
    “It’s been inconsistent,” Elliott said of the run game. “I think we made some good strides last week early in the game, but still not where it needs to be. Still not at the level that it should be.”

    Garrett’s conservative approach has cost the Cowboys two possible victories this season.

    In an overtime loss at Houston, Garrett decided to punt on a fourth-and-1 at the Texans’ 42. At the time, he said he depended on his defense to get the offense the ball one more time. But it didn’t, as the Texans beat the Cowboys on a field goal, 19-16. After the game, Jones said he thought the Cowboys should have been aggressive on the fourth-down play. Garrett’s decision-making became an issue again in a loss at Washington. Garrett played for the tie instead of the win, trailing by three late in the fourth quarter. Garrett said his thought process was to only take a shot at the end zone only if it presented itself. Dallas deep snapper LP Ladouceur was penalized for a snap infraction/false start, forcing Brett Maher to attempt a 52-yard field goal instead. Maher missed and Washington won 20-17.

    Every Cowboys player supported Garrett’s decisions in both games, but those are two occurrences where losses could have become victories.

    “I mean, everybody on this team has played football for a long time,” cornerback Chidobe Awuzie said. “I’m sure people think about a high school playoff game they could have won, that’s just natural with the game. But also understand you have to learn from those things, period. There is no other outside external forces, it’s all on us. Everybody has to be introspective on what’s going on and bow down and get better.”

    It’s easy to question Garrett’s abilities to lead Dallas to the postseason, something he’s done just twice in eight seasons.

    Whether or not Garrett has the quarterback to help him is still unknown. Prescott continues to search for what made him a Pro Bowl quarterback in 2016.

    Prescott’s biggest issues this season have come on third down. He’s completed just 59.7 percent of his passes on third down, with a 74.0 quarterback rating. Prescott ranks 28th in the NFL with 350 third-down yards. Baker Mayfield (535) and Brock Osweiler (409) have thrown for more yards in fewer games.

    “It’s a collective thing, it’s our whole offense,” Garrett said of Prescott’s third-down issues. “At times we’ve been good on third down and other times not good enough. The other night was one of our better third-down performances. Five out of 11, we had one third-and-six that was called back. It made it third-and-16. It’s a challenging down and distance for everybody; typically you’re better on third down if you’re better on first and second down and those third downs are more manageable. We’re no different than anybody else in that regard.

    “It’s more than just the quarterback, it’s everybody. We all get a piece of it.”

    With Jones saying Prescott will be extended, some of the pressure on the quarterback should be lifted. But one team official said of Prescott: “He’s pressing. Lot on his plate.”

    Prescott has been asked to develop chemistry with three new receivers, including a rookie in Michael Gallup, at the start of the season — and a fourth newcomer in Amari Cooper before the trade deadline. When the Cowboys lost Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick, Prescott also helped new center Joe Looney with some line calls. Prescott also lost two reliable targets in Dez Bryant and Jason Witten in the passing game.

    For the majority of the season, Prescott has searched for a reliable target. Cole Beasley has delivered, but a deep-play threat was missing and when the Cowboys traded a first-round pick for Cooper, some thought the problem was solved.

    Prescott was excited about the addition, saying privately, “This is a different fucking dude,” when describing Cooper.

    But the critics aren’t going anywhere. In his last 10 games, Prescott has completed 62.1 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and 11 turnovers, seven of which are interceptions. He has an 84.3 quarterback rating. Of late, Prescott has struggled to handle the football — fumbling five times in the last three weeks.

    Despite these additional duties, Prescott dismissed the notion that he’s handling too much.

    “No I wouldn’t say so,” he said. “Every year is something different. This is what we’re dealt this year. Right now, we’re 3-5 and we’re working our tails off to make sure we give ourselves a great chance this week.”

    The Cowboys believe Prescott has a bright future, with a team source saying nobody is worried about his turnover problems. The team source said Tony Romo also had turnover problems during stretches.

    “They can still win with him,” a scout said. “Solid NFL starter.”

    As the team tries to get through Prescott’s problems, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has struggled to keep the offense going. A lack of creativity has been a problem, with wide receivers running the same routes, linemen not being aggressive enough and the running game struggling. And while the Cowboys have the sixth-best rushing attack in the NFL (129.7 yards per game), their passing game is dismal. Dallas averages just 188.3 yards per game, 29th in the NFL. The NFL average is 250.8. In terms of total offense, Dallas averages 317.1 yards per game, 27th in the league and 44 yards below average.

    Garrett, who also dealt with criticism as a player caller, said Linehan will remain in place for now. But if the Cowboys struggle Sunday night in Philadelphia, Garrett might take on more responsibilities. When Garrett gave up play calling in 2013 it was to focus mainly on managing the game. With Garrett’s job on the line, it could be time for him to replace Linehan.

    Garrett said he wants to empower his coaches, something defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has taken advantage of. Marinelli has given up some play-calling to passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach Kris Richard this season.

    The defense has done well this season, but that isn’t the Cowboys problem.

    This probably won’t shock you, but discussions with people outside the organization say Jerry Jones remains a problem.

    “Jerry Jones, the GM,” a scout said of what troubles the Cowboys.

    An agent with a client on the Cowboys said the offensive staff is dysfunctional and it’s hurting Prescott’s ability.

    “They need to straighten things out,” said the agent. “Just look at how they play on offense.”

    There is a perception that Jones meddles in everything the Cowboys do. While this is true on some levels, he has given his son Stephen — and Will McClay, vice president of player personnel — more say about the roster. Jones listens to both men and takes their advice when it comes to small matters such as when to release a backup player or sign someone for depth. But the Cowboys’ inablity to replace Bryant in free agency has now cost them a first-round pick. It set Jerry into motion, as he told his son to make the deal for Cooper following a loss to Washington.

    The addition of Cooper is supposed to help both the run and pass game, though it didn’t manifest Monday night against the Titans.

    So now the Cowboys visit the Eagles with so much on the line.

    “Pissed off Monday night after the game,” Jaylon Smith said. “Tuesday morning pissed off. Now, with all the success and adversity comes perspective. Now it’s time to turn it on.”

    2018’s playoff fates lie with a team that at times looks emotionally spent. After the loss to the Titans, Beasley stormed off the field in disgust. Prescott sat at his locker looking dejected. Awuzie said the team was upset for about 12 hours on Tuesday but had to move forward because of the short week.

    The facts remain that the Cowboys have yet to win away from AT&T Stadium and their offense is below average. Prescott hasn’t performed to a Pro Bowl level, but Garrett is quick to point out he’s improving. The next five games will determine a lot for this team, and while they’re not taking a global approach, the harsh reality of a season crumbling around them is real.

    “Yeah, I mean it was a tough one,” Prescott said. “I don’t like to lose. To be 3-5, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a record like that in my career, ever. It’s not something I’m used to and it’s not something I ever plan to get used to. It’s just about taking all of that in. I think that was what that moment was. It’s moving forward. It’s being positive, knowing the team we’ve got, the offense we’ve got and where we’re going to go.”
    2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion

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  3. #2
    One-armed Knife Sharpener Iamtdg's Avatar
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    Pretty damning stuff here. They can't hear the entire play in the huddle? What kind of Pop Warner bullshit is that?
    2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion

  4. #3
    Senior Member bbgun's Avatar
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    Awuzie is this year's Anthony Brown. Big step back for him.

  5. #4
    Super Duper Moderator mcnuttz's Avatar
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    Thanks for the post, but WTF is up with the Chiefs avatar?

    Kelce is right, bunch of bandwaggoners around here!

  6. #5
    One-armed Knife Sharpener Iamtdg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcnuttz View Post
    Thanks for the post, but WTF is up with the Chiefs avatar?

    Kelce is right, bunch of bandwaggoners around here!
    I'm not a Chiefs fan, per se. More of a Mahomo.
    2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion

  7. #6
    Senior Member p1_'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcnuttz View Post
    Thanks for the post, but WTF is up with the Chiefs avatar?

    Kelce is right, bunch of bandwaggoners around here!
    Gaining on .500

  8. #7
    Diagnosis?



    The ONE constant in decades of futility.

  9. #8
    Senior Member DLK150's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BipolarFuk View Post
    Diagnosis?



    The ONE constant in decades of futility.
    Yup. The only thing he's good at is making $$.

  10. #9
    Senior Member DLK150's Avatar
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    Anyway, what's wrong? The team sucks overall, it can't stay healthy, it's poorly coached, poorly run and there is no real leadership. It's a fricking rudderless ship.

  11. #10
    Hotlinking' sonofabitch NoDak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iamtdg View Post
    I'm not a Chiefs fan, per se. More of a Mahomo.
    Doesn’t make it any less gay.

    Wipe your chin, Cotton.

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