Once again, the Dallas Cowboys made a strong challenge in the regular season, piling up the wins, despite showing signs of vulnerability along the way. Once again Cowboys fans dared to hope that this was going to be the year. And once again the Cowboys crashed out of the playoffs.
Admittedly, bookmakers setting their odds and betting fans weighing up their Super Bowl picks were not convinced that the Cowboys were the real deal. Yet Dallas remained near the top of the betting markets as realistic Conference finalists and they at least made it to the last eight.
In many ways, the season was hard to weigh up, with highs and lows for the owner, head coach, and quarterback. So, what next for the third-best pro sports team in Dallas?
McCarthy Has Done Enough
Head coach Mike McCarthy has done enough in reaching the Divisional games, it seems, to ensure his position, at least for next season. Owner Jerry Jones was quick to reiterate his support for McCarthy after the loss to the 49ers on Sunday, and there is a case to be made for McCarthy, who has delivered two playoff spots and the first postseason win for Dallas since 2018.
Given how long Jones stuck by Jason Garrett, it is perhaps not surprising that he is still behind McCarthy. Yet there had been speculation that the aging owner might be less patient in his desire to see another Cowboys win as the moment when he must hand over the reins draws closer.
McCarthy’s playcalling in crucial games has been an issue. He was criticized for calling a quarterback draw in last season’s Wild Card loss and this time round, he came up with a bizarre trick play – in conjunction with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore – that didn’t fool the 49ers for a moment.
There is also a theory that Jones prefers mid-level head coaches who will not challenge his role or demand too much power over elite coaches who might not be happy to work under Jones’ regime. Whatever the truth, it seems that a head coaching change will not happen anytime soon.
What About Dak?
Dak Prescott’s reputation continues to fade with yet another season in which he failed to deliver the performances necessary to carry his team to the next level.
As a leader of men and one of the faces of the franchise, he has been impeccable. But he simply hasn’t been performing to the level that his reputation and his salary require.
He threw two more interceptions against the 49ers, which means he has thrown an average of 1.2 interceptions per game this season, ranking as the worst in the NFL. He also has the highest interception percentage per pass in the league, and that’s not good enough for a player on a $40 million salary.
But even if Prescott’s performances have been a disappointment, can Dallas move on from him? He is only halfway through a four-year, $126 million guaranteed contract, and although he has had a poor season, he has done reasonably well in previous years. The Cowboys will be making roster moves this offseason, but Prescott is not going to be one of them.
Contract Questions to Resolve
Defensive stalwart Trevon Diggs had a terrible postseason. He gave a strangely muted performance in the Wild Card game and against the Niners, he seemed way off the pace and missed two golden opportunities to make game-changing contributions. Diggs will be entering the final year of his rookie contract next season and given that $100 million five-year deals appear to be the standard for corners, Dallas may opt to let him go to free agency rather than use up valuable cap space.
Diggs is not the only Cowboy whose contract will be the subject of major speculation this offseason. Tony Pollard, who suffered a horrible injury during the first half in San Francisco, is in the last year of his contract, while decisions will have to be made about linebacker Leighton Vander Etch and tight end Dalton Schultz, and there is a question mark over both co-ordinators, Moore and Dan Quinn after a season in which the Cowboys did not fulfill their potential.
The Cowboys, like a number of teams in the NFL, are neither in need of transition, nor one more piece to put them over the top. They have enough talent to be regular playoff contenders but not enough to be Superbowl candidates and resolving that dilemma will take plenty of work this year.
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