With running back Ezekiel Elliot in action for the Dallas Cowboys, it is another hit to Roger Goodell’s power in the National Football League.
The 2016 National Football League season saw the Dallas Cowboys re-emerge as a power. The Cowboys went 13-3 which tied their franchise best mark which was set in 1993 and 2007. And just like 2007 when the Cowboys had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, they were one and done in the postseason. But even in defeat the Cowboys can hold their heads high as they were put in this position by a pair of promising rookies.
Running back Ezekiel Elliot was the fourth overall pick of the 2016 National Football League Draft and he delivered in a big way this season for the Cowboys as he had 1,631 rushing yards which led the league while also having 15 rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Dak Prescott didn’t come to the NFL with lofty expectations as he was a fourth round pick out of Mississippi State University. But when starting quarterback Tony Romo suffered an injury in the preseason, it opened the door for Prescott to become the Cowboys starting signal caller. Prescott was merely expected to keep the seat warm until Romo got healthy, however the wins kept piling up for the Cowboys with him under center and thus head coach Jason Garrett decided to stick with him.
And when the Cowboys faced the Green Bay Packers this past Sunday in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, before you blinked they were down 21-3 at home. However it was the combination of Prescott and Elliot who got the Cowboys back into the contest. With just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys managed to tie the score at 28. Even when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was able to put Green Bay in position to kick to go-ahead field goal to make it 31-28 with 93 seconds remaining, Prescott drove the Cowboys down the field to give kicker Dan Bailey the opportunity to once again tie the contest. But with just 35 seconds left, Rodgers found a way to get his team into field goal position which was highlighted by finding tight end Jared Cook and a 36-yard completion on third-and-20 which set up kicker Mason Crosby to make a 51-yard field goal as time expired to win the game for the Packers, and dash the Super Bowl dreams of the Cowboys.
And now as the Cowboys are left to lick their wounds after their heartbreaking loss, it is up to team owner/president/general manager Jerry Jones to address his defense.
The Cowboys were 14th in the National Football League in total defense this season and plus-five in the turnover category which was tied for ninth in the league. Dallas also managed to tally 36 sacks which were 13th in the NFL, but as they had game changers on offense, they were missing that element on defense.
The Cowboys lacked an edge rusher that could consistently put stress on an opposing offensive line, a menacing linebacker, or a game changer in their secondary. And even though that the Cowboys entered the playoffs with the best record in the NFC, it wasn’t a slam dunk that they were going to make the Super Bowl due to their inefficiencies on the defensive side of the football. The Cowboys were able to score points to keep up with the Packers as their rally was sparked by an interception by safety Jeff Heath in the second half. But when Dallas needed their defense late in the fourth quarter to prevent the Packers to get into scoring range, they were missing in action.
As good as Rodgers is, under no circumstances should he be allowed to make a 36-yard completion on a third-and-20 situation as he had enough in the pocket time to make dinner reservations if he needed to. And this is something that the Cowboys must address in the off-season if they want to become a realistic Super Bowl contender.
Jones attempted to remedy this by using a second round pick on defensive end Randy Gregory in 2015, but he has more suspensions (three) by the National Football League for failed drug test than he does sacks (1) as he cannot help the team win games while he is rehab. Last spring the Cowboys selected linebacker Jaylon Smith in the second round of the NFL Draft, but a knee injury that he suffered in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl while playing for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish forced him to miss this NFL season. The Cowboys also attempted to acquire defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson from the New York Jets this season. But the two sides could not agree on the compensation as the Jets wanted a first-round selection for Richardson, while the Cowboys were only willing to part with a third.
Improving the defense must be the Cowboys top priority in the off-season as it isn’t a guarantee that Elliot and Prescott can have these kind of seasons in 2017 due to the fact that teams in the National Football League will now have a year’s worth of game film on them. You can’t also overlook that all three of the Cowboys losses came within the NFC East this season as this division is on the verge of once again being one of the best in the league. The microscope will be concentrated on Prescott as I don’t see any scenario in which the Cowboys will keep Romo next season as they’ll definitely look for a trade partner being that so many teams around the league are desperate to have a quality starting quarterback which means that it is Dak’s time.
Jones has once again created a buzz around his franchise as he has constructed the Cowboys in the same fashion which led to three Super Bowl Championships over a four-year span in the 1990s. But Jones doesn’t have those impact players on defense in the mode of Charles Haley, Deion Sanders, and Darren Woodson that could take over a game. And until Jones addresses this issue, his beloved Cowboys won’t get any closer to winning the Super Bowl than they did this season.
The saying is that everything is bigger in the State of Texas and that definitely can be said in regards to the support that the Dallas Cowboys receive. The Cowboys are one of the National Football League’s iconic franchises as the star on their helmet is as synonymous is the Lone Star State as the oil derrick. And when the Cowboys are winning, their devotion by fans borders on sacrilege. The Cowboys have won five Super Bowl Championships which is only bested by the six that the Pittsburgh Steelers possess. But the Cowboys have not won the Super Bowl in more than two decades as team owner Jerry Jones has been putting his resources into getting back to the championship, only to continuously come up short. Since 2006, Jones has rolled with Tony Romo as his starting quarterback and he has gotten mixed reviews. On one hand Romo is the Cowboys all-time leader in passing yards with 34,154 yards, while he has become a household name alongside other Dallas starting quarterbacks such as Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. However unlike Staubach and Aikman, Romo has been unable to lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl which is the gold standard for this franchise. Romo is 36-years of age, but multiple collarbone and back injuries have taken away from his effectiveness, and you have to wonder if his time in Dallas will soon be coming to an end?
Romo was expected to once again be the Cowboys starting quarterback here in 2016, but he suffered a compression fracture in his back during the preseason that forced him to miss the start of the regular season. And because of this Romo could be on the verge of receiving the Wally Pipp treatment in Dallas.
Romo’s injury meant that the Cowboys would begin this season with rookie quarterback Dak Prescott under center. The Cowboys selected Prescott in the fourth round of this past spring’s National Football League Draft as he was viewed as a project.
In Prescott’s first game, he was 25-of-45 passing for 227 yards as the Cowboys fell to the New York Giants 20-19. Prescott would follow this up by going 22-of-30 for 292 yards the following week as the Cowboys defeated the Washington Redskins 27-23. Prescott was showing that he could do a solid job of keeping the seat warm until Romo returned, but nobody could have expected him to do what he has been doing.
With Prescott under center, the Cowboys find themselves with a record of 7-1 which is tied with the New England Patriots for the best record in the National Football League. Prescott has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL as he has completed 66.5% of his passes, while he is doing something that Romo has failed to do throughout his career which is to protect the football. On the season Prescott has only thrown 2 interceptions. Prescott would set an NFL record when he completed 176 passes before he threw his first career interception as he has shown maturity beyond his years in regards to protecting the football. And with Prescott under center, the Cowboys have the formula needed to make a playoff run.
The Cowboys possess one of the best offensive lines in the National Football League which has produced the top ranked rushing attack in the league that has featured rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot who currently leads the NFL in rushing with 891 yards. Prescott understands this and subsequently he isn’t trying to do it all by himself which is a trait that the veteran Romo doesn’t possess as team ball is fueling the Cowboys surge here in 2016. And as Jones has always displayed affection towards Romo, the time to part with him is now.
There aren’t that many quality quarterbacks that are in the National Football League which means that Jones could trade Romo and get valuable draft picks in return. A team such as the New York Jets which has the talent to be a playoff contender, but they have issues at the quarterback position would make sense as far as being a potential trade partner with the Cowboys. Romo would still be in a big market, while he would be providing his services to a team and fan base that is desperate for any ray of hope.
When healthy Romo can still get it done at a high level in the National Football League, but it shouldn’t be with the Cowboys anymore. Prescott has shown that he is more than capable of getting it down in the NFL, and making Romo the starter once again might divide the locker room which is always a recipe for disaster. Romo has been cleared to practice, but why ruin a good thing with Prescott?
We all remember the situation for the Patriots in 2001 when quarterback Drew Bledsoe suffered an injury early in the season which opened to door for Tom Brady to be the team’s starting quarterback, and the rest is history. At the very least the Cowboys will be in contention for a wild card spot here in 2016 which should be enough for Prescott to maintain his current status, while making Jones think long and hard about who should be his starting signal caller.
In the past Jones has allowed his ego to cloud his judgment which included him letting former head coach Jimmy Johnson to leave in 1994 after winning two Super Bowls, and his clash with Bill Parcells which saw him step down as Cowboys head coach in 2006. Jones cannot make that mistake again and allow Romo to hang around which won’t do anything positive for anyone who is affiliated with the Cowboys. Romo will be remembered as one of the better quarterbacks in Cowboys franchise history, but in a what have you don for me lately society, it’s now Prescott’s time in Dallas.
According to Forbes.com, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has a net worth of $5 billion. Prior to purchasing the Cowboys in 1989, Jones made his fortune in the oil industry. And in being a self-made billionaire, Jones loves to win while also refusing to take no for an answer. Jones was one of the National Football League team owners that wanted league commissioner Roger Goodell to sternly reprimand New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady which resulted in a four-game suspension for the upcoming season, while he also led the charge as far as the Rams returning to Los Angeles.
In Jones’ first seven years as the owner of the Cowboys, he had immense success. The Cowboys became the team of the 1990’s as they won three Super Bowl Championships in four years and people once again referred to them as “America’s Team”. But the last 19 years have not been as kind to the Cowboys as they’ve only managed two playoff victories without another Super Bowl appearance. Since winning the Super Bowl at the end of the 1995 National Football League season, the Cowboys have been a mediocre team. And as Jones has had a front row seat for the Cowboys mediocrity, he has taken risks on some players in the effort to get another championship which is still eluding him.
Over the years Jones has taken chances on players such as wide receiver Terrell Owens, cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, and defensive tackle Tank Johnson as these players had either worn out their welcome with other teams, or had off-the-field issues. The most controversial move by Jones came last year when he signed defensive end Greg Hardy who has a checkered past which includes domestic violence towards women. Jones has done this because he is desperate to win and he keeps attempting the same formula which still isn’t working.
As the Cowboys are preparing for the 2016 National Football League season, there are several defensive players that are staring at suspensions for the upcoming season. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence will miss the first four games as he failed a drug test. Defensive end Randy Gregory is entering his second year in the NFL, but he’s already failed two drug tests and there is a strong possibility that he could miss the first 10 games of this season. And like Gregory, inside linebacker Rolando McClain is expected to miss the first 10 games of the upcoming campaign as he has failed his second drug test as well. But if this isn’t enough, linebacker Damien Wilson recently injured his eye during a paintball excursion, while in a non-related incident, four people were killed after their vehicle collided with a bus that was carrying members of the Cowboys staff. The Cowboys issues have reached the level that the organization could be subject to punishment by the NFL which includes a fine, and/or the loss of draft picks. But in no way shape or form should anyone feel sorry for Jones as he and his ego which is the size of AT&T Stadium have to take some of the blame for the team’s issues.
When the Cowboys were in the midst of winning Super Bowls during the 1990’s, Jones ran off Jimmy Johnson as the team’s head coach and he has never recovered. With the exception of Bill Parcells from 2004-2007, each coach that Jones has hired since Johnson left in 1994 has been a “yes man” as Jones could easily control and enforce his power as the team owner over them. This is magnified by the situation with the Cowboys current head coach in Jason Garrett who stands on the sidelines waiting for puppeteer Jones to pull the strings.
Aside from being the Cowboys owner, Jones is also the team’s president and general manager as he has the final say in all personnel decisions. Jones has drafted players with individual talent, but he hasn’t been able to put together a collective unit that would be able to produce a championship in two decades.
After defensive end DeMarcus Ware refused to take a pay cut in 2014, Jones released him. Ware landed on his feet with the Denver Broncos and he was able to win a Super Bowl Title this past January. The players that were supposed to replace Ware’s production on the Cowboys roster were Lawrence and Gregory, but neither has done it on the field or in the locker room where Ware was a leader. This time last year saw the Cowboys attempting to recover from the loss of running back DeMarco Murray who was allowed to leave in free agency after he led the National Football League in rushing in 2014 with 1,845 yards. The Cowboys were ninth in the NFL last season in rushing, but they lacked a home run hitter at running back all season long. This forced Jones and the Cowboys to select running back Ezekiel Elliot fourth overall this past April. But already Elliot has been accused of assaulting a woman in Columbus, Ohio.
And as the Cowboys could be hit with a $250k fine by the National Football League because of the issues of some of their players, don’t expect many people to feel sorry Jones as he led the charge to suspend Brady for four games over something that most people don’t care about.
Whereas people tend to make more mistakes when they are desperate, Jones is no different as he has taken chances on players with character issues that doesn’t out trump their talent. And at some point Jones must realize that this strategy isn’t working as he isn’t getting any closer to claiming another Super Bowl Championship with a locker room that needs more leaders and less headaches.