Dallas Cowboys: A Postmortem and a Look at the Big Picture


With a week to digest the Dallas Cowboys’ playoff loss, emotions are not as raw. The recent past was depressing, but the future is bright.

The second-guessing was inevitable. The “coulda-woulda-shoulda” mentality sunk in like clockwork. How could the Cowboys spike the ball on first down? The down was more important than the time! The refs screwed us! The litany of expected bellyaches wore on interminably in the aftermath of the heartbreaking 34-31 divisional round playoff loss.

The truth of the matter is, the fretting over late game decisions neglects to take the bigger picture into account. The spike on first down paled in comparison to a disastrous start that put Dallas into an early 21-3 hole. So if we are going to criticize the coaching staff, they need also be commended for the adjustments and decisions that got them back into the game. Unfortunately, someone had to lose.

Forgive me for going off on a bit of a tangent here. While the loss certainly stung, in retrospect, there is something poetic and beautiful about the way the Cowboys fell. It would have been so much more infuriating if they had gotten their doors blown off in a snoozer. Games like last Sunday’s leave a lasting impression. I woke up last Monday pretty bummed, but I was damned proud of how they fought back. They just ran out of time. It happens.

I also do not waste a whole lot of time complaining about coaching decisions. It’s over, and no coach is going to make the correct calls all the time. It is also dumb to bemoan missed calls by the referees. They went both ways last Sunday. All the after-the-fact nonsense doesn’t put the Cowboys back into the playoffs. Ultimately, they–and we–need to learn from it and try to improve upon what was a wildly successful season. A little perspective never hurts.

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Plus, after watching Atlanta systematically destroy Green Bay yesterday, there was no guarantee that the Cowboys would have fared any better against the birds.

The Falcons simply look like the best team in the NFL right now. Yes, that includes New England. The AFC Championship game was relatively one-sided all night and just got worse late, but Atlanta boasts a deadly offense, and a better-than-average defense.

I see Atlanta emerging as a favorite for the title, despite Brady and Belichick and their championship pedigree.

It appears that the two best teams in the league are playing for it all.

But enough about that. Amid the disappointment, we need to keep our chins up. For the first time in forever, the Dallas Cowboys are on the good side of the NFL age curve. It is absolutely huge that this is the case with the most important position in the game. If Dak Prescott continues to work and improve on a dizzying rookie campaign, the sky is truly the limit for at least a few years to come.

Of course, a relative level of health is required before we anoint these guys as the next dynasty. That is never a given in today’s attrition-based system. Key injuries kill a season. Just ask the 2015 Cowboys. But if they can avoid reaper, there is no reason to think that the arrow is pointed anything other than up. The Cowboys’ current lot can be attributed to some astute drafting and plain, old-fashioned luck. As someone who employs this strategy regularly at poker, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Moreover, the other factor to consider is everyone’s favorite elephant in the room: Tony Romo. He will almost certainly not be in Dallas next season. The question now is if he’ll be traded or released. I’m in the trade camp, and the reason is simple. If Sam Bradford yields a first rounder, then Tony Romo should as well. He is a proven commodity in the league. Yes, there are major injury concerns, but the NFL is littered with too many front offices blinded by the mere notion of Lombardi trophies.

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With that said, the return for a Romo trade must fit a particular parameter. Comparable defensive help is the asking price. That, or suitable package of draft picks. The Cowboys are currently very good. A consistent pass rush elevates this team to elite. They’re not far off. The fans know it. The team knows it. And you can bet Jerry Jones knows it. Here’s to hoping they find the right formula to turn this team into a juggernaut.