Dallas Cowboys offensive identity is most important offseason question

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

Dallas Cowboys fans are still reeling these early days following their premature entry into the offseason. The once dominant Cowboys stumbled down the stretch, fundamentally changing who they were and ultimately whimpering out in a playoff upset on their home field.

The Dallas Cowboys began the 2021 season with a dynamic and explosive offense. They attacked downfield, ran the ball powerfully a variety of ways, and mixed in motion at the snap and creative play design along the way.

But by the time their bye week rolled around things had suddenly changed.  The Dallas Cowboys were no longer the aggressive attack we saw earlier in the season. They were no longer using presnap motion the same way nor were they getting the ball in space for their play-makers.

The Dallas Cowboys seem to be obsessed with an outdated identity on offense

With a focus on “the Cowboys way” they stubbornly pounded the rock – Despite the running game performing near the bottom of the NFL in success rate and EPA. And more importantly, despite Zeke playing on a partially torn PCL. They recommitted to the run, tying a millstone around the neck of the offense and forcing Dak Prescott to do it all on third downs.

Well, Dak couldn’t, and the archaic offensive shift to the running game was largely to blame. Granted, the O-line wasn’t doing any favors and the Dallas WR corps was performing well below expectations themselves. But it all goes back to the shift in identity mid-season.

The Dallas Cowboys offense made their name this season abusing their opponent’s weaknesses. If you were a good run defense, Dallas passed on it. If you were a good pass defense, Dallas ran on it. But by midseason Dallas decided to just run the ball early no matter how bad they were at it.

Never mind the fact very few teams are more productive on ground than they are through the air. And for those that are more productive on the ground, it’s usually because their QB1 is hot trash. Even Dak Prescott’s biggest haters are smart enough to know he’s not in the NFL’s bottom-3.

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Dallas stopped thinking strategically and became obsessed with imposing their will with a transparent between the tackles running game.

This isn’t to say they needed to abandon the running game, it’s just, in the past, the Cowboys would design their runs better. They’d bounce some outside and get in space. They’d lean on Tony Pollard, the more efficient of the two runners, and get big plays from him.

Instead, it was pound between the tackles from personnel groups that telegraphed it was a run between the tackles. Instead it was WRs running routes right into the strength of the defense’s coverage. Instead it was bubble screen after bubble screen after…

Aside from a nifty trick play here or there, the Dallas Cowboys attack was no longer the creative or opportunistic force it once was.  It was obsessed with a toxically masculine identity and valued doing things “the Cowboys way” over doing things the smart or successful way.

That is what the Dallas Cowboys need to figure out this offseason. Are they going to do dumb things for the sake of doing them? Or are they going to get back to exploiting weaknesses and doing what it takes to win. Because sometimes that won’t look like “the Cowboys way” of the 1990s.

When the season ended I called for the dissolution of marriage between Kellen Moore and Mike McCarthy. Their failures together were a lesson in ineptitude (or sabotage). there’s no reason a young creative mind like Kellen and a veteran offensive mind like McCarthy couldn’t figure out how to beat coverage heavy defenses. Yet, they could not.

Sadly, it looks like we’re stuck with the pair once again. Kellen can still improve but if McCarthy hasn’t figured things out by now, I’m not sure why he’s still coaching. But I digress.

Whoever is in charge has to figure things out. And the Dallas Cowboys front office has to let them. If directives are coming from the front office that are sabotaging the Cowboys the time to discuss that is now. Owners should not be involved with game plans or expected workloads. Even if one wears a GM hat.

Next. Why the Cowboys are wise to bring back Kellen Moore. dark

There’s much to be done this offseason

  • Published on 02/02/2022 at 13:31 PM
  • Last updated at 02/02/2022 at 13:31 PM