For the second straight year, the Cowboys choked in a do-or-die, winner-take-all, divisional title game. Let’s break down some of the reasons the Cowboys lost this game and lost the season. This one hurt:
1. Tony Romo was terrible
We’ll go ahead and get this one out of the way. For a guy who has a host of stigmas (some warranted, some unwarranted) attached to his name, he didn’t help himself out in this one. Romo threw 3 interceptions, the most costly of which came toward the end of the game — and it wasn’t pretty either. Romo was completely fooled on the play and only gave more life to the idea that he “can’t win the big one”, and “chokes” when it’s on the line.
But let’s be clear. Romo has carried a mediocre team all year long. It’s a team that had only led 23% of the time, and has had to come back in each of it’s 8 wins. Without Romo, this is assuredly a 4-5 win team at best. What people don’t understand about that is befuddling to me.
He isn’t the problem. He’s part of the solution. He’s not the one missing blocks, tackles, committing game-ending penalties, or calling the plays.
2. Injuries, injuries, injuries
The defense was ravaged by injuries. Besides Lee, Ratliff, Church, Scandrick and Carter being out, DeMarcus Ware was playing with two rough injuries, in the same anatomical area. This is a defense that had Lissemore, Sims and Connor up the middle, down the stretch and for the better part of the season. It certainly showed tonight, as a number of players looked confused and/or unaware of their assignment. That, and they were steadily out-coached by the Shanahan family.
The injury issue was compounded by the fact that every healthy receiver on the roster decided to get hurt at some point during the game. First Austin, then Dez, and then they started dropping like flies — Beasley looked shaken up, and no one knows what happened to Harris at the end of the game.
Injuries were a big part of 2012, but can’t be an excuse for how this team performed on a whole. It’s a roster of 53, and losing more than handful of key players (while damaging) is expected in today’s NFL.
Even with injuries, it still comes down to execution. Rob Ryan couldn’t figure out the ‘Skins run attack (to be fair, no one has) and it’s ultimately his job to make the best of what resources he has, scarce as they may be. But for being a “defensive guru” that apparently uses a lot of different schemes, I didn’t see anything that warranted him being regarded as a defensive genius. His defense was gutted by two rookies and the head coach’s son all night.
4. Jerry Jones
For the second straight year, we’ve been lied to. The players, coaches, and ownership have all fed us the same company line — “this team has enough talent to make the playoffs” or “we have high expectations”. Romo even went as far as saying this was the “most excited” he’s been, in regard to the talent on the roster — really?
Let’s be real — it’s a mediocre team, at best. A laughably underperforming offensive line, a defense that couldn’t create pressure or turnovers, a team that wasn’t remotely efficient in the redzone, being the most highly penalized team in the NFL — there’s a host of evidence that says this team ISN’T good, and not much evidence that says this team is good.
So where does Jerry fit into all of this? He’s the ultimate decision maker. Sure, Garrett can choose who to play, but there’s a fundamental issue within the organization when the owner is making all personnel decisions. When you don’t have accountability at the top, you can’t expect accountability within your organization — from coaches, to players, to staff, to video-editors, etc.
If this team is to go anywhere in the Romo-era, Jerry Jones is going to have to do one of two things:
- Hire a “consultant” to help him with personnel decisions. (No, not Stephen Jones aka Mini Jerry)
- Give up the GM title
Neither of those two are going to happen, which leads me to my bold prediction for 2013: