The Redskins are very beat up and have little to play for in this game, but the Cowboys still have a 27% chance of making the playoffs. The Cowboys were doing well early in the season, but never seemed to do well against winning opponents. Right now, their wins have come against the Giants, Redskins, Dolphins, Eagles, Lions, and Rams, while their losses have been to the Saints, Packers, Jets, Vikings, Patriots, Bills, Bears, and Eagles. There are a lot of losing teams on that first list and a lot of winning teams on that second list, which doesn’t bode well for their chances if they do make the playoffs. It has been a disappointing season for Cowboys fans too, even though their playoff window is still very much open.
I asked Dave Halprin of Blogging the Boys five questions to better understand the state of the Cowboys and what to look for in this game.
1. What have you seen out of Dak Prescott this season, good and bad, and why hasn’t he already been extended? On a scale of 1-10, with 1 meaning he should be off the team in the offseason and 10 meaning he’s a surefire franchise QB who will lead the team to a Super Bowl, how would you rate him?
If you stopped the year about two-thirds of the way through, Dak Prescott’s stats and game play would have landed him in the top-tier of QBs for the 2019 season. There were actually points of the year where different media were talking about him as a dark horse MVP candidate. He was playing that well and his numbers reflected that. Unfortunately, the last five games or so have seen his play slip and the Cowboys fortunes have also dipped. He is by no means the only reason the Cowboys have stumbled, but he is certainly a part of a team that has had a poor finish.
Prescott looks like he has full command of the offense in terms of getting the Cowboys into the right play and his mechanics for the most part have improved. His footwork looked good, but sometimes that breaks down and he can throw high or off-target. Still, he put together some great numbers this year and he’s a fantastic leader of the team and has full respect in the locker room. As for why he wasn’t extended yet, most accounts say that the Cowboys made a decent offer but Prescott’s camp decided to play out this year to try and get a better deal this offseason. The two sides will come to terms at some point this offseason, but they might end up tagging him first. I’ll pass on assigning a specific number of 1-10 because I would need to take into account who his coaching staff will be in the future, how well the Cowboys do in holding a decent roster together, and the ever-changing moods of Jerry Jones. But I have total confidence the Cowboys can win big with Prescott with a proper roster and coaching staff around him.
2. If you had to assign a percentage share of blame for the Cowboys somewhat disappointing season and especially losses in critical games, how would you assign it to the top few culprits (could be coaches, players, or front office)?
Ultimately, I always put the most blame on players. They are the ones that have to execute on the field. You can coach them all week to not lose gap discipline, or what the proper keys to read are, or the best technique for not dropping a pass, etc. In the end, though, if they aren’t doing it on the field then there’s not much else that can be done. So for the most part, it always comes down to the players but as the old saying goes, you can’t fire the roster so you fire the coach.
That’s not to say the coaching staff is blameless here. There is a laundry list of complaints about things they have done this year that have hurt the team. From curious offensive strategies that include relying on the run too much at times, to not calling enough play-action, to a defense that seems to be kind of stale and easy to read, to a special teams unit that is atrocious and probably should have had a new coordinator early in the year. There is also the conservative nature of Jason Garrett, especially during road games, and his refusal to use analytics in an aggressive way. All of this will cost him, and probably most of his staff, their jobs this offseason unless a miracle run happens for the Cowboys IF they even make the playoffs.
3. What changes are you expecting to the Cowboys in the offseason (coaches, players, front office) and do you think they’re justified? Are there any changes that should happen, but probably won’t?
As alluded to above, unless some kind of major miracle happens to end this season, I think Jason Garrett will not be offered a new contract and that much of the coaching staff will change over based on who the new coach wants to have on his staff. There are a few coaches who I wouldn’t mind staying, like I think that Kellen Moore could turn into something special with a little more experience and a different head coach with a new philosophy. But for the most part, if the Cowboys whole coaching staff is turned over this offseason, I think that will be justified.
As for the roster, I don’t think you have to re-tool there too much. The one change I think every Cowboys fan would want to see is the team hire a real GM, but with Jerry Jones there, that will never happen.
4. If Garrett is gone this offseason, who are the likely head coach candidates the Cowboys will consider and why do they make sense for the Cowboys?
The names that have popped up most frequently are college coaches like Lincoln Riley and Urban Meyer, NFL coaches like Ron Rivera, Josh McDaniels or Robert Saleh. Lincoln Riley’s named has been linked to the Cowboys for the last few years and given how much smoke there has been around that it would surprise me if the Cowboys didn’t at least talk to him. Given his offenses in college and his ability to work with quarterbacks, that obviously has some appeal. Ron Rivera is someone the Cowboys were reportedly interested in the last time they went searching for a new head coach and the work he did in getting Carolina to get to the playoffs and a Super Bowl with what at times didn’t seem like an elite roster is commendable.
It’s just really hard to know what direction Jerry Jones will go in. I don’t think the Cowboys will promote from within, and Jerry might try something like putting an all-out blitz on trying to bring Sean Payton back to Dallas, but I don’t think that has any chance of succeeding.
5. What is your honest assessment of your 3 division rivals; not just where they are now, but what their range of outcomes is likely to be in the next year or two?
The Eagles are at the top of the list as far as the Cowboys NFC East rivals. They have some solid pieces in place including quarterback Carson Wentz. Plus, Doug Pederson seems like a good coach that is aggressive and is in tune with today’s NFL. The issue with the Eagles is they have relied on some aging parts and older players get injured more often. Their challenge will be to renew their roster without suffering a major downturn.
The Giants have started their rebuild and to everyone’s surprise it looks like Daniel Jones has a chance to be good. If you have a decent QB to go along with a total stud like Saquon Barkley, you got something to build on. They still have issues like upgrading their o-line and adding some defensive pieces, and they still have to work out their coaching situation, but they seem to be on somewhat of an upward trajectory.
Washington has some work to do. It looks like Dwayne Haskins has a chance to be the guy, so that is the most important challenge, finding a quarterback you can build around. Obviously they need a new coach/staff and to find their identity as a football team. They also have the Daniel Snyder situation to deal with, so it’s hard to know where that will lead the organization. Right now, it just feels like Washington has more issues than any team in the division.
Thanks again to Dave Halprin for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the Cowboys.
As of right now, Vegas has the Cowboys as 11 point favorites over the Redskins. How would you bet?
This poll is closed
Cowboys win by more than 11 points
Cowboys win by 11 points or less
Redskins win outright
As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 45.5 points. Which would you bet?
This poll is closed
46 or more total points are scored (both sides combined)
Fewer than 46 total points are scored (both sides combined)