Dallas is currently in the midst of a three-game losing streak, where they’ve been outscored by a combined 92 to 22. The season is definitely on the brink right now. And head coach Jason Garrett could be fighting for his job with how dismal the Cowboys are playing.
Can Dallas turn things around? Will Garrett’s team play well enough to save his job? Let’s discuss these matters along with what Garrett must do to avoid being fired.
Why is Dallas Playing so Badly?
The Cowboys can’t pin all of their struggles on the coach. After all, several factors have caused them to go from a 13-3 finish last season to a below-.500 team this year.
The recent schedule hasn’t been kind to the Cowboys either. They’ve been destroyed by the Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, and a resurgent LA Chargers team over the past three contests.
Owner Jerry Jones has been fielding a lot of questions about his team’s struggles and the coaching staff’s future. Jones, who has supported Garrett over the years, says that he “feels good” about the coaches. But how good will he feel if the losing streak continues any longer?
This is especially the case when considering that Dallas has two winnable games coming up. They face the Washington Redskins at home, and the New York Giants on the road.
The Redskins have been inconsistent throughout this year. And the Giants have been a non factor in the NFC East. I’m not saying that these are both must-win games. But Garrett’s job status will be far more comfortable if he can win these contests.
Of course, for Dallas to get back to playing good football, they need to show some fight on both sides of the ball. Neither offensive coordinator Scott Linehan nor defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli have their units playing as well as last year. And both coordinators will face job security issues if this team doesn’t grab a playoff spot.
The Roster can’t be Changed Much, but the Coaches can
Dallas isn’t a serious contender for the Super Bowl title right now. This means that they’ll be trying to improve their team for a stronger run in 2018.
Of course, this is going to be hard because there’s little salary cap room if the team gives defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence a big pay raise as expected.
The team has few options to restructure their main core. But one possibility includes trading some veteran pieces to free up cap room. Another could include cutting wide receiver Dez Bryant, who’s starting to show his age.
Even if Dallas does any of these things, it won’t solve some their main issues.
One problem is that quarterback Dak Prescott hasn’t thrown very well this season. He’s missing open receivers and relies on play-action too much.
Another issue is that Bryant hasn’t gotten much separation on routes. He’s also failing to win most contested balls.
The offensive line, often considered a big strength of this team, doesn’t have much depth. And the fact that Elliott drew a 6-game suspension has really slowed the running game.
Moving to the defense, the secondary is full of young players who’ve made plenty of mistakes. And the linebacking core has done a poor job of covering pass-catching running backs without Lee in the lineup.
This is mostly the same team that was last year’s NFC darling en route to compiling a 13-3 record. But all the problems have made a repeat campaign nearly impossible. In fact, this is bordering on being a lost season for the Cowboys.
If the team wants to make a change, the most likely route will be the coaching staff. Maybe Garrett, Linehan, Marinelli, or all three need to go.
Garrett could be Losing the Lockerroom
One of the most disturbing things about the Cowboys’ descent is that the players are getting frustrated. Ian Rappaport reported on NFL GameDay that players are becoming disengaged. Here’s a look at his report:
“Owner Jerry Jones has been outspoken in his support of Jason Garrett and his coaching staff. However, inside the locker room, a little bit of a different story. I’m told there’s growing frustration from the Cowboys players about their coaching staff.
“And it really stems from two things. One, just the lack of adjustments that has gone on over the last couple of weeks. The Chaz Green disaster at tackle when Tyron Smith was out was just one example (where) the team did not help him and really didn’t alter their game plan when it was clear that he needed some help.
“That was one issue that certainly has left the players grumbling. Another one is just how simple they are. I had one person tell me that Philip Rivers, out on the field on Thursday night, was actually calling out the Cowboys blitzes before they happened on the field.
“Not a good sign for the Cowboys. And obviously a huge game this Thursday (vs. Redskins) where they really need to bounce back for.”
Jerry Jones Expresses Support for Garrett
Garrett can feel some relief because Jones still sounds supportive of him.
“Jason Garrett was named Coach of the Year of the whole NFL last year,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. “That was yesterday. This is today. The point is, I like this coaching staff.”
Garrett dodged reporters’ questions about his job security last weekend.
This isn’t the first time that Jones has had to answer questions about Garrett’s job status. The latter has remained the Dallas coach for the past seven seasons, with some years being more tumultuous than others.
Another good sign for Garrett’s job security is that he doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight or personnel decisions with Jones. But if things keep up like they are, including the 70-point disparity over the past three games, it’s hard to see Garrett keeping his job.
“We haven’t played as well as we need to in the second half of these ballgames,” said the embattled coach. “We’re looking at that as a coaching staff, how we can do that better and how we can sustain consistent execution for an entire ballgame.”
The best thing that Garrett can do is go out and win a few games to end the season. Maybe Dallas will get hot and win enough to finish with a 9-7 or 10-6 record. This would be enough to keep his job for sure.
But the way the team is playing now, they simply need to focus on winning the very next game against the Redskins.