Dallas Cowboys probably not as far away as we think

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 30: Owner Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys walks on the field before the game agaisnt the Washington Redskins at AT
ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 30: Owner Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys walks on the field before the game agaisnt the Washington Redskins at AT /

As the Dallas Cowboys assume their usual position as playoff spectators, I attempt to take a clinical look at this team and their place in the league.

Let’s face it. The Dallas Cowboys are the train wreck we simply cannot look away from. The regular season ended with a spectacular thud only two weeks ago. The rancid aroma has only begun to dissipate. And like most years, we sit here and wonder what we’ve done to deserve this level of despair. Being a fan of this team is difficult.

Sure, no one wants to hear it, but allow me a little latitude here. As bad as this season turned out, they still managed to win nine games. Through all the turmoil surrounding the Ezekiel Elliott suspension, they remained in playoff contention almost to the very end. Of course, no one is rewarded for this. At the end of the day, they missed the tournament. Once again, the Cowboys are nothing more than a footnote and a laughingstock.

Also, we need to dispense with the notion that firing head coach Jason Garrett will happen. Barring a complete, team-wide case of give up, I don’t foresee that coming to pass. Is it frustrating? To an extent, yes. But I try my best not to get bent out of shape over things I have no control over. So for right now, let’s focus on the positive.

Namely, I’m talking about that old tried and true saying about defense winning championships. If you take a few moments to check some of the regular season totals, you won’t be surprised to see teams like Minnesota, Philadelphia, and Jacksonville dotting the tops of various categories. In fact, the only anomaly is New England. But the Patriots have Brady and Belichick, and we all know that song word for word.

More from Sports Dallas Fort-Worth

What might surprise you is that the Cowboys didn’t embarrass themselves in the grand scheme. Sure, they experienced some major hiccups along the way, but they ranked eighth in the league in total yards allowed, eighth in rushing yards, and eleventh in passing yards. They faltered quite a bit in points per game (21st), but that isn’t surprising given their struggles early in the season. The defense simply couldn’t get out of their own way against Denver, the Los Angeles Rams, or Green Bay. What’s worse is that the Rams and Packers games were eminently winnable affairs.

It’s the loser’s lament, but that’s the difference between 11-5 and 9-7. To me, the notable aspect of this season is that the Cowboys ranked in or near the top third of most defensive categories in the entire league. This surprised me. It also spoke to the notion that the arrow is pointed up on that side of the ball. It only stands to reason that the young secondary will improve even more as we move on to next year.

Of course, I haven’t even touched the offense. But since I’m looking at this as glass-half-full, I’m willing to give them a partial pass for this year. Did Dak Prescott take a step back? Absolutely. As the season reached its later stages, Prescott seemed wholly content to check down for underneath routes. The Cowboys lacked any real downfield threat, so the running game was only good, not transcendent.

Furthermore, the specter of the Elliott suspension hamstrung this year far more than anyone at The Star will ever admit. For this, I put the blame solely on the owner and general manger. Jerry Jones should’ve accepted his fate like a man and taken the suspension at the beginning of the season.

I don’t know if it would’ve made a difference, but neither does anyone else. All I know is that you can’t take your most dynamic player out of the lineup in the middle of the season and expect it to keep running smoothly. Conversely, you can’t just drop him back in after a six week layoff and expect him to pick up where he left off. Football is a game that craves continuity. The Cowboys’ offense had none of that.

In other words, a little normalcy will do this bunch wonders. Granted, “normal” and the Cowboys often fail to cross paths, but we can only hope that Jerry learned a profound lesson after tilting at the NFL’s windmills. One only needs to touch a hot stove once, right? The young running back also needs in on this lesson. Off the field, he must keep his nose clean and his hands to himself for this team to truly succeed.

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

So if you want off this ride, feel free. I don’t blame you. It’s easy to feel like the aftermath of a long day at Six Flags in July. You’re sweaty, dizzy, nauseated. You don’t know if you can handle another round of this heat and keep your lunch down. But for the rest of us, we’ll get back on and strap in by the time training camp rolls around. The alternative is abject boredom, and who wants that?