Cowboys In a “Do Something” Season Now
ARLINGTON — Coach Jason Garrett’s unchangeable monotone demeanor in the face of adversity is a strength, really it is. But that doesn’t mean it dulls the pitchforks or extinguishes the torches of a fan base that often screams for the Cowboys to “Do Something!’’ during what is now a 4-10 season.
“I’m proud to be a part of this football team,’’ Garrett recited, maybe by rote, after Saturday’s 19-16 home loss to the Jets. “Unfortunately, tonight and (in) a lot of the games this year, it hasn’t worked out.’’
So, with “pride’’ about the only thing dismal Dallas can cling to…is “doing something.’’ It is continuing to play Kellen Moore at quarterback after he received his very first action of his four-year NFL career in relief of the embarrassingly bad veteran Matt Cassel…and yes, the former Boise State star with the paper-boy look delivered in the sense that he gave this going-nowhere team some hope.
“Games like that, we’ve managed to figure out ways to lose ‘em rather than win ‘em,’’ Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told me. “You’ve just got to say we’re not good enough to win those games.”
It is conceding, finally, that there is no longer playoff promise. Dallas is mathematically eliminated now, so “organic tanking’’ can take complete hold, with two more games (next week at Buffalo and then closing at home against Washington) in which the Cowboys can play like they’re “proud,’’ but lose at the same time and they improve their NFL Draft position, as they presently would own the No. 4 overall pick in 2016.
It is not quitting on its coach, which is always the test of a dead-on-the-water team and a compliment to people like Jones as they are about to launch into an off-season of evaluation.
“The reality is, we’ll play Buffalo and Washington, then that old cold, hard light of day hits you that you’re not getting to play any more,” Jones said. “Then we’ll start up and have all your assets for coming years. We’ve got to take advantage of this, the entire system. The rules call for you, if you’ve had the season we’ve had, to get an advantage in talent.’’
And an advantage with a last-place schedule, which the Cowboys have earned since losing QB Tony Romo for the bulk of the season to a twice-broken collarbone.
Romo’s return will be the centerpiece of the coming year. But the draft will help. And maybe Moore will, too. Even as a 40-yard field goal by Jets kicker Randy Bullock with 36 seconds ended the Cowboys’ hopes, there was reason to be buoyed by an offensive line that bullied the fine New York D for 133 rushing yards, by a defense that but for a late bust that gifted rookie Byron Jones claimed was his fault, and by Moore.
The Cowboys don’t just need to find the eventual heir for Romo. They also need to find No. 2 QBs, understudies, prospects, live arms, smart big guys, or even smart little guys who overcome their lack of status and stature to succeed. Like Romo, who once did that. Like Moore, who kind of did it here.
“I’ve been 6-feet, 200 pounds for a long time,’’ said Moore, who was 50-3 as a starter at Boise State but may be inflating those other numbers. “I know who I am. I’m not going to change overnight, so we’ll see what happens.’’
So what needs to happen?
Blue-chip youngsters like Byron Jones and Demarcus Lawrence (who had a sack Saturday to vault his team-leading number to seven) get better, while young prospects like Terrence Mitchell (as of a few days ago unemployed but now the recorder of a rare Dallas interception) and Moore (a hero for simply going 15-of-25 for 158 yards, a TD and three picks)…get chances.
What else needs to happen?
Rare talents like Dez Bryant (with a TD catch here but otherwise an ineffective season plagued by injury and bad quarterbacking) ponder getting better, while a rare talent like Greg Hardy is the subject of pondering whether you want him back.
And what else?
Something more positive than kicker Dan Bailey’s fortunate habit of caroming field-goal tries off the goalposts, and in the rare comedic effort that’s ended up as a Cowboys plus this season.
The arguably unprecedented early-game play during which a stumbling Cassel and the offense were flagged for a variety of crimes, including “intentional grounding’’ on a pass so unintentionally poor and too much of a lollipop to ever reach the ground that the Jets intercepted it with ease, leading to the elevation of Moore and the likely end of Cassel’s troublesome Dallas career.
“I was trying to throw it out of bounds,’’ Cassel said of his ridiculous low-point interception. “I slipped. Couldn’t get enough on it. It was really the ultimate no-no that we’ll probably be watching for years and years, (so) quarterbacks will be taught what not to do.’’
This entire season is a lesson in that. And now, even with two games left, the off-season begins…with a chance for some meaningful “do somethings.”