The Dallas Cowboys were the on-paper favorite to run away with the NFC before the season kicked off six weeks ago. They had a stout offense with some rising stars, a defense that wasn't the best, but was good enough to win some games, and a new-look special teams. But now Dallas sits at 1-4, a Monday Night loss away from saying goodbye to the 2010 season. Who deserves the blame, and who is getting too much of it from fans and reporters alike?
Jerry Jones: It always seems like Jones is the type of owner that wants to be on the field with a headset attached, but this season he's had a chance to actually make some changes for the better and has looked the other way. When your team is as talented as the Cowboys, and keeps losing, you need to shake things up, but Jerry refuses to do so.
His ego has always been a big part of who Jerry is, but it seems this season, he refuses to do anything different because this was the team assembled to be great. It isn't working, yet nothing changes. Listen, it is apparent to us all that some coaches have "juice" and some don't. All the players continue to rave about playing for Wade Phillips, but I'm sure more of that rests with the fact that things are fairly laid back. You need a coach that will get on his team like Jimmy Johnson would have if this was still his team (obviously, pre-"Survivor" Jimmy). Wade seems like a great man, but if he isn't motivating your cast of superstars, it is on you to make a move, and make it before Week 8.
Secondary: Here are the quarterbacks the Cowboys have faced this season, in order: Donovan McNabb(notes), Jay Cutler(notes), Matt Schaub(notes), Vince Young(notes) and Brett Favre(notes). Now, that isn't exactly a "Dinner for Schmucks" lineup, but it does bring in a load of quarterbacks that take a lot of chances into coverage, yet Dallas has two interceptions all season?!? How is that possible? Favre normally throws two interceptions per Wrangler commercial take. The opposing offense is having too easy a time against Dallas, and being able to thread the ball down the field is one of the main reasons. Only the Bills (one INT) have a worse secondary statistically than Dallas.
Special Teams: A year ago, Nick Folk(notes) was coming off a Pro Bowl season with the Cowboys at kicker but got in a funk and couldn't get out of it. He missed some important kicks that cost Dallas some games, and they ended up letting him go after the season. While it seemed like an understandable move, Folk was snagged by the Jets, and has made 13 of 15 kicks this season, with his long being 56 yards. David Buehler(notes), on the other hand, hasn't been so reliable, missing three of his nine kicks in crucial moments in the Cowboys' first three games.
On top of that, the kick coverage has struggled, including at the end of the Titans game, when they let Marc Mariani(notes) run 73 yards down to the 6, setting up a touchdown that would lose the game for the Cowboys.
The Running Game: You can put a touch of this blame on the putrid offensive line, but the Cowboys have done absolutely nothing on the ground. Felix Jones(notes) has rushed for 224 yards this season, 34th in the league. Three teams have two running backs ranked higher than Jones on rushing yards.
Maybe this is more a fault of Jason Garrett, but the Cowboys have to establish something on the ground if they want to do anything when they have the ball. They haven't done that for fives games, and it doesn't seem to be changing. What's weird is both Felix and Marion Barber(notes) seem like capable backs in the right system, Garrett just continues to force the ball in the air and away from these two backs.
Not At Fault
Celebrations: For the past two days, every NFL expert has been screaming at the Cowboys coaches for not doing anything about this excessive celebration stuff. Sure, it's annoying when the flags come their way, but is this really on the coaches? Have any of these experts chatted with a famous athlete before? Do you really think telling these egos to avoid celebration when they score a touchdown is going to work? They're going to do whatever they want, whenever they want to.
Your team is in need of a boost, and if getting the crowd and defense excited with some fun after a score is what they need, what's the big deal? Obviously it's a pain when you lose yardage for it, but this is a part of football, like it or not.
A lot of this stuff is just how the players are. Jason Witten(notes) scores and wants to get an offensive lineman involved? Big deal. Roy Williams scores a touchdown and salutes his college team, while another player joins him? Seriously?
These are minor problems, yet everyone keeps pointing at the coaching staff. The issues are a lot bigger than two 15-yard penalties.
Tony Romo(notes): I think at this point, we can all agree that Romo is the sixth or seventh best quarterback in the league. He is never going to be better than that. Just off the top of my head, Romo falls behind Brees, Manning, Brady, Rivers, Schaub and Rodgers, with other names in the conversation. So, why do we always dump the entire blame on Romo?
Simply look at some of his stats this season: Romo is 10th in the league in passer rating (he was eighth the last two seasons), and has a passer rating of 93.6 in his first five games, very consistent with his 95.4 career-passer rating. Romo has tossed seven interceptions, but one was at the end of the Titans game when they were charging with no time left on the clock, just hoping for a miracle. Another, this past week, wasn't his fault. While the interceptions are high for Romo, it isn't always his fault, and really his last pick against the Vikings was the only real head-scratcher.
Romo came into the Dallas spotlight because his predecessor was ineffective, and he has done a respectable job at his position. No, he hasn't ever been amazing, and no, he won't ever be the guy that leads the league in every category, but this season has been pretty Romo-ish. On top of all that, it seems that he's getting Williams more involved, which is only a good thing for the Cowboys moving forward.
Wade Phillips: I don't really know what you want this guy to do. He might seem like a dopey guy on the sidelines, but as we've seen over and over again, he isn't a head coach! He's a coordinator that got misplaced on the sidelines. Why are you blaming him for this?
Anytime a situation crumbles, the head coach is going to be a marked man, but you can't blame Phillips for a weak offensive line and struggling secondary. Phillips will most likely get the axe if this team keeps dropping games, but the fault of the team continues to be pointed at a guy that isn't the main problem.
Thus the travails of being a head coach in the NFL (under Jerry Jones).