It was only a matter of time before disharmony permeated from the bowels of The Star. And that time is now.
Under the veil of anonymity, multiple Cowboys players trashed the team’s embattled coaching staff in comments made to NFL Network’s Jane Slater on Tuesday, the day after Dallas’ 38-10 embarrassing home loss to Arizona, which dropped the club to 2-4.
“Totally unprepared. They don’t teach. They don’t have any sense of adjusting on the fly,” one player told Slater.
“They just aren’t good at their jobs,” another said.
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How We Got Here
It was a hapless primetime showing on both sides of the ball at AT&T Stadium. The Andy Dalton-led offense was unwatchable, neutered by franchise quarterback Dak Prescott’s absence and Dalton’s pitiful 4.9 yards per completion. The former longtime Bengals starter went 34-of-54 for 266 yards, one TD, and two interceptions, with a chunk of his stats coming in garbage time. He absorbed three sacks and finished with a 65.8 passer rating.
Dalton did not have a ground game to lean on, either, as Ezekiel Elliott fumbled twice en route to 49 scoreless yards on 12 carries. Elliott’s miscues, a continuing theme this season, pushed the Cowboys’ turnover differential to an NFL-worst minus-12, prompting the $90 million running back to turn the spotlight on himself.
“I want to say I’m sorry and this one is on me and I need to be better for this team,” Elliott said.
But it wasn’t solely on Elliott. The play-calling, a joint venture between head coach Mike McCarthy and coordinator Kellen Moore, was uninspiring, and the offensive operation was hindered by yet another injury along the offensive line — All-Pro right guard Zack Martin, who sustained a concussion — which is now missing four of its five starters from 2019.
These anonymous players, however, likely are commenting on the club’s historically futile defense, led by Mike Nolan, who was powerless to stop Kyler Murray and a Cardinals attack that tallied 438 yards and 22 first downs across 11 drives. Murray threw two TDs and rushed for another. RB Kenyan Drake averaged a ridiculous 8.2 yards per carry on 20 totes and twice hit paydirt. Wide receivers Christian Kirk and DeAndre Hopkins had long gains of 80 and 60 yards, respectively.
Just how bad is Nolan’s unit? On top of doing nothing overly well, they’ve surrendered 34-plus points in five consecutive games. At its current pace, Dallas will have ceded 581 points by year’s end, shattering the league record (533) set by the 1981 Baltimore Colts.
Yet, incredibly, owner/general manager Jerry Jones is “OK” with Nolan, who doesn’t appear to be in danger of losing his defensive coordinator title.
“I like the way we came out last night defensively,” Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan. “I thought we had a good plan for the skills of Murray and what the Cardinals presented us. These aren’t excuses.”
Jerry Stands with MM
Jones also offered a similar sentiment on McCarthy, the man responsible for hiring Nolan. The man who rightfully took responsibility for the team’s third defeat in its last four opportunities. The man who’s arguably no better, if not worse, than predecessor Jason Garrett.
“What I do feel good about with the entire group is our ability,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan. “We do have the ability and we have the talent to make adjustments with the personnel we have. We just haven’t done it. We will not have success until we take our personnel we got today and put it out there not giving ourselves a big hole to dig out of.”
Sounds well and good, except for the fact that Jones’ players have begun to dig up the proverbial skeletons rather than bury them. This is a situation that may get much worse — if you could believe it — before getting better.
The 2020 Cowboys officially are a dumpster fire.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL