Dallas Cowboys: What is responsible for the disappointing 9-7 season?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 31: Quarterback Dak Prescott
PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 31: Quarterback Dak Prescott /

What is the reason the Cowboys are home this weekend instead of preparing for the Divisional Round of the Playoffs?

To say the Cowboys disappointed in 2017 would be an understatement.  Coming in following a tremendous 2016 season, the expectation was that this year would be the year.  That, however, was not the case.  The Cowboys finished an underwhelming 9-7 and there are many possible reasons for it.

Many people would point at Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension and Roger Goodell for derailing a promising season.  The well documented Ezekiel Elliott saga which carried on through the regular season no doubt played a part in the sub-par finish.  Some people would blame Roger Goodell for abusing his power and illegitimately (for lack of a better term) suspending Elliott.  After the suspension of Tom Brady and now Ezekiel Elliott, Peter King of Sports Illustrated really put Goodell’s recent history into perspective by tweeting: 

"“There was a time when Roger Goodell’s top two most powerful allies were Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones.  Times have changed.” -Peter King, Sports Illustrated, @SI_PeterKing"

 Whether Elliott deserved the suspension or not is up for debate, however, the fact is, the Cowboys could not overcome it.

Another possible reason is due to how young the Cowboys are.  Since the Cowboys Front Office revolution in 2013, the Cowboys have become as fiscally responsible as possible.  Instead of paying top-dollar for above average free agents, the Cowboys have been committed to building through the draft.  Building through the draft is fine, but it takes time.  When it comes to key moments in the present, the young players do not have the experience to overcome certain situations.

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Arguably the main reason why the Cowboys underachieved in 2017 is due to the coaching.  I’ve already gone into detail about Jason Garrett in my article: Dallas Cowboys: It’s Time to Move on From Jason Garrett.  As for the other coaches, 2017 really exposed Scott Linehan’s playcalling. The lack of creativity within the offense showed.  In years past, the Cowboys offense would simply lineup and outplay the opponent with pure talent and skill.  When some of that talent and skill was missing, they could no longer do that and the offense suffered.

Injuries are simply a part of football and since the injury bug bit some key players, injuries are another reason for 2017 not living up to the hype.  This year, unfortunately like many others, Sean Lee suffered a lingering hamstring injury this year and missed 5 games.  Without Lee in the lineup, the Cowboy’s defense falls apart, especially in the run game.  Tyron Smith, the anchor on the offensive line, has been dealing with back injuries for years now.  This year during Smith’s absence, the sacks noticeable went up with the culmination being the 8 sack disaster against the Atlanta Falcons.

Compared to his exceptional rookie season, Dak Prescott had a down year.  Whether or not you call it a sophomore slump is up to you.  In 2016, Prescott had 23 touchdown passes and 4 interceptions to go along with 3,667 passing yards.  In 2017, the interceptions skyrocketed as he threw it to the other team 13 times with touchdowns and passing yards going down to 22 and 3,324 respectively.  His passing rating also dropped significantly from 104.9 in 2016 to 86.6 in 2017.  Not having Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup did not help.  Having another dynamic player helping absorb the defense’s focus allowed Prescott to flourish.  Not to say Prescott cannot flourish on his own, he has not yet obtained the experience to carry the team on his back.

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9-7 is not a bad record.  The Browns at this point would do anything for 9-7.  However, the fact that Dallas had such high expectations coming off a 13-3 season makes 2017 look more disappointing.  Although, it’s Super Bowl or bust every year in Big D.  Anything short of that is a disappointment.