Sad ending to a sad season – Cowboys go down in flames

It has taken me awhile to be able to talk about the Dallas Cowboys and their complete and total failure this year. In a must-win game against the division rival Philadelphia Eagles, you shouldn’t need a game plan. You play this team twice a year. As a matter of fact, the Philadelphia Eagles have used the same formula for victory for over 15 years. 15 years ago the dynamic quarterback was Randall Cunningham. Now it’s Donovan McNabb. Both quarterbacks are streaky and they’re surrounded by average receivers. The engine that runs the Eagles is their defense. Punts are victories and turnovers are self-inflicted stab wounds. It’s that simple. So, what ever you do, don’t turn the ball over.

I didn’t really have to watch the game in order to know what happened (I did watch every freaking pitiful minute). If someone would have told me that the Cowboys lost 44-6, I would’ve told them that Tony Romo had several turnovers. Someone else fumbled the ball once or twice. The offensive line looked like Swiss cheese. Our defense look good for a quarter and a half and then it was as if the offense broke down. That is in fact what happened. Why? I don’t play football and haven’t since ninth grade. I’m not some high-paid football analyst. Yet, I knew the keys to victory so why didn’t the Dallas Cowboys?

I’ve complained all year about the offensive line. Without Kyle Kozar, what was a good offensive line became extremely average. During the Dallas Cowboys’ Super Bowl run in the early- to mid-90s, offensive linemen got hurt but there was a competent backup to step in his place. There was no competent backup this time. Four years ago, with Drew Bledsoe as quarterback, the Dallas Cowboys were playing these very same Philadelphia Eagles at home when Flozell Adams blew out his knee. Instantaneously, we went from being able to do whatever we wanted to on offense to being stuck in the mud.

The offensive line is the Cowboys’ chief problem, but it is not the only problem. Let’s look at the high-profile acquisitions that we’ve had over the last 12 months. There’s Adam “Pac Man” Jones. Early in the season he seemed to have some sort of positive impact. A combination of injuries and a well-publicized fight at a Dallas hotel got him sidelined for around six weeks, making him completely useless. He was released today. How about Roy Williams?  Here’s a big, tall gifted receiver who has no work ethic. He’s completely useless. It may be that over the summer he’ll be integrated into the offense but the problem with the Cowboy offense was not a lack of receivers. Instead, the problem was quarterbacks running for their lives because of a lack of offensive blocking. Take Zach Thomas. Zach Thomas will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Thankfully, his career does not depend on this year. He was completely invisible as a Dallas Cowboy. I guess he was supposed to bring leadership but that didn’t happen. I would like to add a bit about Tank Johnson. With the Chicago Bears, Tank Johnson was a one-man wrecking crew. He is big and strong and extremely athletic. Yet we’ve seen none of these properties as a Dallas Cowboy. You only have 52 men on the roster. You can’t have four high-profile free agents that are all worthless. These were supposed to be playmakers.

Just to balance the scale a little bit, the Dallas Cowboys did have more than their share of injuries this yearTony Romo was out for three games and he was just not the same when he returned. He was throwing the ball high and without velocity. Felix Jones is the rookie running back out of Arkansas who was an incredible surprise early this year. With his blazing speed, he could take it to the house from almost anywhere on the field. He pulled a hamstring and two or three weeks later we heard that he tore a ligament in his toe. I know I’m only a trauma surgeon but I don’t understand how those two injuries could be related. Anyway, he was put on injured reserve and a major offensive weapon was removed from the lineup. Marion Barber was out for several weeks with a dislocated toe and when he returned it is not the same. Roy Williams, our hard-hitting all-pro free safety broke his arm early in the season. He was also placed on injured reserve. Patrick Watkins, our third safety and special teams expert, was hurt early in the season and never seemed to regain full strength. I mentioned earlier the injury to Kyle Kozar but Montrae Holland, his backup, only played two games before he got injured also. Finally, two of our wide receivers were basically hurt for most of the year. Sam Hurd had reportedly been working hard all summer and was ready to take a bigger role in the offense. He was supposed to be the man that was going to step up. He had been injured late in preseason and I’m not sure if he ever saw the field during the regular season. Isaiah Stanback was also hurt and was placed on injured reserve early in the season.

So, where do the Dallas Cowboys go from here? I hope that Tony Romo understands that he is not going to win a Super Bowl by smiling and dating celebrities. The offensive line needs some help. We need some competent backups in case some of the starters go down. On defense, it’s time for a few of the third and fourth year players to live up to their expectations or be cut… Anthony Spencer, Marcus Spears and Bobby Carpenter.

In my opinion, the Dallas Cowboys’ most valuable player has to be Demarcus Ware. He had an amazing season. If he hadn’t been injured I think he’d have been a force in the last two games of the year. Bradie James gets runner-up. The biggest surprise of the year was Felix Jones. He can be a great running back in this league if he can stay healthy.

The Dallas Cowboys need some heart. They need someone like Michael Irvin who got in players’ faces and pushed them to play harder. Everyone knew that Michael Irvin was the last one to leave practice. We need someone like Ken Norton on defense. There is no excuse for playing as poorly as we did against the Philadelphia Eagles. For that matter, there is no excuse to let a season like this one and the last slip away without going deep into the playoffs. Our window of opportunity may be closing. Soon there will not be any next year. It is time for Wade Phillips to coach his ass off!

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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