Happy New Year everyone. It won’t be for the Dallas Cowboys as their loss to the Redskins on Sunday officially ended their season. Certainly wasn’t the way the Cowboys wanted to go out. Losing 28-18, allowing well over 200 yards rushing, more questionable decisions from Jason Garrett, and three more interceptions by QB Tony Romo.
We’ll start with Romo and beat the dead horse. Romo had a terrible game, no ifs ands or buts about it. All three of those picks seem to be on him. Sure WR Kevin Ogletree might not have run as hard as Romo expected on the first pick and WR Miles Austin once again let a cornerback win a jump ball, but both throw were pretty horrible. It might be nice if Cowboy receivers could break up a pass every now and again, but in the end, Romo has to make better throws. For the sake of honesty, I’ll let it be known that I’m a believer in Tony Romo. I believe he is a top eight quarterback in the NFL, but his numbers in games in win or go home games are terrible. I can make excuses for most of those games. Against Philly when they lost 44-6, the whole team was pathetic. Same against the Vikings in the playoffs. Last year versus the Giants he was playing with a banged up thumb that certainly looked to hinder his abilities. Now we do know that Romo cracked a rib during the game Sunday, if it occurred early in the game, than perhaps he has another excuse, but after a while, it just doesn’t matter, you have to win the game.
As for Jason Garrett, he deserves props for how he handled a season that began with a 3-5 start, the death of LB Jerry Brown, the indictment of DT Josh Brent in that death, and the loss of over 100 man games due to injury on defense, but in the end, he still has problems with game management and makes to many questionable decisions. Not going for a 51-yard field goal with under a minute left in the first half with a slight wind at your back made no sense. Kicker Dan Bailey had only missed one FG all season, granted, it was a 52-yarder against Baltimore, but still, you have to trust him there.
As for the defense, it wasn’t a shock that Washington was able to run the ball down the throat of the Cowboys. They were missing their top three defense tackles, top two inside linebackers, and top safety, not to mention OLB DeMarcus Ware was basically playing with one arm and probably shouldn’t have been playing at all. The defense did the best they could and in the end it wasn’t enough. A turnover or two would be nice but this defense hasn’t been able to do accomplish that feat all season. They did a great job early on of holding the Redskins in check after two early turnovers by the offense and were in position to give the ball back to the offense only down six points (assuming the Skins kicked the field goal) before a roughing the passer call against DE Jason Hatcher.
I took some heat on twitter for questioning the call on the Hatcher penalty. Sometimes it’s hard to explain in 140 characters or less what you’re talking about. Technically the call was correct. Hatcher did hit Washington QB Robert Griffin III in the head when he came down after jumping to try and knock the pass down. The hit was not malicious, didn’t even knock RGIII down. What really bothered me however was that the officials had decided to let both teams play throughout the entire game, basically throwing the flags away, keeping them in their pocket. Then to call that penalty, thus for all intensive purposes, ending the game, just really bothered me. Once again, I’m not blaming the referee for the Cowboys’ loss, that squarely falls on Romo, but when you don’t call penalties all game, then you can’t call that penalty in that situation either.
As for Romo, he had a terrible game. Perhaps the cracked rib played a part of it, perhaps not. That being said, this is who Dallas will ride with for the next 3-4 seasons. Is he going to get better at this point in his career. Unlikely, he is 32 years of age. He does need however to make smarter throws. He also needs receivers however that will be where they are supposed to be. Ogletree needs to go. Dwayne Harris deserves the number three role. Austin needs to stay healthy for the entire season and live up to the big contract that he signed a few years back. Running back DeMarco Murray also needs to stay healthy. Murray is a quality back, but you can’t keep missing half the season. Would also be nice if Murray would use his vision to avoid defenders rather than just run them over.
One final thought on the Skins game. Even if Dallas had won, they would be playing Seattle on Sunday either without Miles Austin (ankle), Dez Bryant (back, finger), and Romo (rib), or they would be severely hindered. Their execution would’ve just been delayed a week.
As for the off-season. Dallas is approximately $20 million over the projected 2013 salary cap. So they have decisions to make. NT Jay Ratliff, RB Felix Jones, and DB Mike Jenkins are probably gone. Romo will need to be re-signed. Is Austin asked to take a pay cut, possibly even released (unlikely) because of the cap issue? Any chance they hire an offensive coordinator or at least a top QB coach for Romo? The team needs players on both lines, a pass rusher, and a safety. If they would’ve stayed healthy (many teams could say this) they would’ve had a 10+ win season. Problem is, injuries are part of the game, you need to have depth, and the Cowboys don’t have much, and with their salary cap situation, it’s hard to see that changing next year. Keep in mind Dallas also will be penalized $5 million for trying to circumvent the cap during the uncapped season. Might be hard to see this team doing much better next season.
See you in the spring.
Feel free to follow me on twitter, @georgeKurtz