Groundhog Day with the Dallas Cowboys
Some thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys’ humiliating 48-32 playoff defeat to the Green Bay Packers:
- Here we are again, lamenting the premature end of a promising Dallas Cowboys season. For a 28th consecutive season, America’s Team came up short. Their interminable wait for a Super Bowl continues as the same gaping deficiencies were once again exposed. This has become an annual rite of passage, a clichéd January staple. The stasis is infuriating.
- Dallas did not just lose to Green Bay. Dallas was humiliated by Green Bay. The final score showed a 16-point deficit, but the Cowboys were never that close. At one point, they were down 27-0. Then 34-10. Then 48-16. The Packers dominated every facet of the game, and Dallas barely belonged on the same field.
- To understand the magnitude of this defeat, and to appreciate its gnawing pain, some context is needed. You see, this Cowboys team was supposed to be different. This Cowboys team was supposed to breeze past Green Bay, swat aside the Rams or Lions, then battle the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. This Cowboys team – featuring Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb at the peak of their powers – was supposed to rewrite the narrative. Instead, this Cowboys team joined all the others in recent memory as glorious failures. The intransigence is stultifying.
- Most prognosticators gave Dallas their best shot since 1995 of returning to the Super Bowl. If not now – facing two potential home games amid a 16-game unbeaten streak at AT&T Stadium – then when? Legitimate answers have never seemed further away.
- Right from the start, something felt off about this game. With its muffled atmosphere and its climate-controlled opulence, AT&T Stadium never strikes me as a hostile cauldron of rage come playoff time. Rather than aggregating raw, unrefined passion, like a spartan Arrowhead or a rugged Lambeau, Jerry World resembles a plush museum where connoisseurs gawp on in hushed admiration. It is a nice place to play, and most NFL quarterbacks relish that relative tranquillity.
- Just look at Jordan Love. Making this first playoff start, the Packers’ third-year quarterback was serene Yes, he was 16-21 and threw three touchdown passes, but those numbers do not tell the full story. Love was completely unruffled. He was cool, calm and collected – dropping back confidently and flicking the football wherever he saw fit. Allowing a 25-year-old phenom to do that shows the Cowboys’ recurring fragility. Nobody fears a playoff game in Arlington.
- The Packers are 6-0 all-time at AT&T Stadium. I rest my case.
- More than anything, the Cowboys are just too soft. I love the glitz and glamour. I respect the grandiose heritage and the pristine image. But when the rubber meets the road, the Dallas Cowboys are never nasty All too often, when the going gets tough, they roll over and have their bellies tickled. There is no substance to the sparkle, no concrete beneath the charisma. They are a castle built on sand, and the turrets get washed away every 12 months.
- Prescott is the Dallas Cowboys incarnate, quite frankly. He is good, but not good enough. He is flashy, but folds when it matters most. I like the guy, and I want him to succeed, but he has now lost five playoff games with a star on his helmet. At what point do we consider him incapable of taking the next step? At what point do we give up on him getting Dallas over the hump? We have to be pretty close right now.
- Head coach Mike McCarthy was supposed to address these baseline issues and instil sturdy foundations in Dallas, just as he did in Green Bay. Well, four years down the line, it all still looks a little Jason Garrett-y, and the same banal nightmare continues to haunt Cowboys fans. Their team is a perennial contender and a consistent laughingstock. Groundhog Day may never end.
- After this defeat – its mere existence and its embarrassing texture – McCarthy may well lose his job. Jerry Jones looked shellshocked – again, an annual occurrence – while speaking to the media last night, and at 81, he may be compelled to enact radical change. With many intriguing candidates available on the head coaching market – including Bill Belichick and Jim Harbaugh – the Cowboys may take a more expeditious route back to respectability. They may need to, in all honesty, because insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.
- More than anything, the Cowboys need a culture change. They need a head coach who will make them tough to beat – a disciplinarian who will ensure the team does not go limp in primetime. Suffice it to say that a Belichick or Harbaugh team would never fail to show up like Dallas did yesterday. Sure, they may lose games, but they would never produce such a dud in the biggest game of the year. Make of that what you will.