Let the real fans like me simmer, and the bandwagoners jump to another team. Here goes my rant.
What a wild season of high highs and low lows, the last of which was the unsurprising round-1 playoff exit at the hands of SF — exactly the sort of run-based team with a stout DL that has given the Cowboys the most fits this season.
I told Elke the day before that I was not optimistic about this game, for exactly the reasons that played out. Setting a playoff record for penalties on one game will not win it…and yet, somehow, there was (but for a couple more stupid penalties) a chance to win in the final 3 minutes, after a 4th quarter when SF behaved with the same sloppy, self-destructive foolishness we had all game.
Alas, it was not to be, all the effort of the comeback being too little, too late. A promising season for a team with Super Bowl talent on both sides of the ball went away just like that. We also had Super Bowl-caliber teams in 2007 and 2014, and in both seasons, wasted Tony Romo’s prime and one of his last good years on a mid-round playoff loss, thanks in part to poor coaching by Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett.
What a strange season 2021 was, too. This team could whip an opponent by 5 touchdowns on any given Sunday, and the next, play like the penalty-ridden, disorganized, aimless bunch we saw for 3 quarters yesterday, and lose to anybody (except the Foreskins…so glad the Boys still whipped their butts twice, even on a sloppy day!). A good comparison in the NFL is the Chargers, who similarly have great talent but can boggle the mind with play that whipsaws from awesome to awful, game to game. When one sees the Cowboys execute to brutally efficient offensive and defensive levels what they’re capable of doing, it is (and was!) tons of fun, like the second Foreskins game. It makes the heart all the more sour to see them fall far short the next game, or even the next half or quarter.
The inconsistency was maddening, none more so than the drive-killing (for us) and drive-resurrecting (for opponents) penalties. That was the most disappointing part to see, as it involves shooting oneself in the foot, not anything the opponent is doing. Many of those were pre-snap manifestations of lack of discipline: offsides, lining up in the neutral zone, false start, illegal shift, failure to set, delay of game, and other ticky-tacky brain-fart technicalities. I also lost count of drives killed by offensive holding, and sustained for opponents by defensive holding or personal fouls. That’s how a super talented team loses games, playing without self-discipline.
I put that squarely on coaching. I gave Mike McCarthy and the 2020 team a full mulligan because of the avalanche of season-ending injuries to many key players, including the quarterback. Wipe the chalkboard and start over.
This season, we led the league in penalties (or nearly so). That’s MikeMac’s year 2. I’ll give him one more to instill some discipline and accountability in this bunch before I call for his removal. I don’t want to see still more championship-quality talent on both sides of the ball wasted to untimely and frequent mental errors.
Now I fully realize it could be worse as a fan. I could be rooting for a team that has been even longer without a Super Bowl, and is worse now, and has a decidedly worse organizational culture, such as the Foreskins. Or a team that never has been to a Super Bowl, loses far more games year in and year out, and is devoid of talent (though they at least fight hard), such as Detroit. Or a team like Jacksonville or the Houstink Toxins, both of whom are league-wide laughingstocks of losing, managerial and player dysfunction, and stunning front-office incompetence. So I do have to maintain perspective.
At least I’m not a fan of one of them. Perhaps five Super Bowl titles in my life before age 30 spoiled me. But championship-level play is my expectation, for better or worse.
Rookie LB/DE Micah Parsons was the highlight of the year — an absolute animal, at times completely unblockable, the unquestioned best draft pick by any team last year, already an All-Pro and record-setter as a rookie, and will only improve. He reminds me so much of what you’d get if you could hybridize Lawrence Taylor (strength, determination, motor, raw talent) with Mike Singletary (quick-burst speed, maneuverability, field smarts). Sure-fire Hall of Famer if he stays healthy, and I have only made that proclamation of one other rookie in recent history (OL Zack Martin, who is still an All-Pro, and is on glide path to HoF entry 5 years after whenever he retires).
Now begins what should be an intriguing offseason of coaching and some player losses. Will McClay (team VP and defacto GM) has made some great draft moves and talent acquisitions the past few years, and at least Jerry just re-upped his contract. That was a smart move. Draft and free-agency foci should be for safety (free and strong), corner (Brown, not good), tailback (sorry folks, Zeke’s done), and offensive line (run-blocking…poor!). Strengths: edge rusher, linebacker, wide receiver, one corner position, 2-3 OL positions, QB, and Pollard’s part of the running-back rotation. The interior DL is young and improving. Dak is a better passer than most fans want to admit, but he does need to step up his game against good teams, run a little more in relatively safe situations, and be less streaky with his accuracy. And Randy Gregory, for all his skill, absolutely must turn on his brain with respect to dumb penalties at crucial times.
Now, in the dead of winter, we settle in for a long, plodding football void before the draft, by which time I’ll already be in storm-chase mode (or very close thereto, if it’s a late-starting chase season). The interval between football and spring storms long has been my least favorite time of year — partly because it’s also tax season, when we submit to governmental extortion demands. Bring on the springtime supercells!