Jerry Jones The Showman was nowhere to be found as the dust settled on the Dallas Cowboys‘ lifeless home loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Instead, the public got Jerry Jones The Realist.
“We just got outplayed,” Jones said in a Tuesday radio interview, via the team’s official website. “Sometimes when you have a game that you can point your finger directly at the issues and field position, turnovers, some of the just specific reasons why you didn’t win the football game, it’s easy to point to those. The facts are that we were just outplayed.”
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He might have demurred on pointing his finger, but his hand was forced by an embarrassing “effort” on both sides of the ball Monday. Jones was also made to confront the uncomfortable truth about his 2-4 club: They just aren’t good — borderline unwatchable, really — sans franchise quarterback Dak Prescott.
You can blame Dallas’ historically futile defense. You can question the play-calling and preparation. You can claim, as multiple anonymous players did, those in charge shouldn’t be.
Andy Dalton’s insertion under center dwarfs all.
“That was the pretty glaring difference out there last night,” Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan, via USA Today. “But it doesn’t have to stay that way.”
In his first start for Prescott and in a different-colored NFL uniform, the former longtime Bengals QB completed 34-of-54 balls for 266 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions, finishing with a 65.8 passer rating. He absorbed three sacks behind an offensive line that’s now missing stud tackles Tyron Smith (injured reserve) and La’el Collins (IR) and fill-in OT Brandon Knight (knee), center Joe Looney (short-term IR) and All-Pro right guard Zack Martin, who sustained a concussion versus Arizona.
Dalton wasn’t the reason the Cowboys got blown off their own field — Ezekiel Elliott’s fumbles and Mike Nolan’s latest defensive disaster were bigger culprits — but he didn’t inspire much confidence, either. The three-time Pro Bowler averaged only 4.9 yards per pass; as a result, none of his Big Three (Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup) cracked the century mark. Elliott was held to 49 scoreless yards on 11 carries.
The most fervent Prescott detractor would admit Dalton was the absolute furthest cry from the guy who tallied 450-plus air yards in three consecutive games, who was on pace for a record-breaking 5,939 single-season yards, who singlehandedly led Dallas to an improbable comeback in Week 2, and with whom even the impossible always felt possible.
Although the Cowboys’ ever-present czar, Jones has eyes and a brain like everybody else. And the former told the latter that Dalton won’t be — can’t be — Dak. The resignation was sobering for Jerry The Ultimate Showman, who could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves.
His toughest task yet in an unprecedentedly challenging campaign is selling himself on the 31-year-old bridge backup. Which he did, because of course.
But not without acknowledging the irreparable crack in the foundation.
“We can get the most out of our team and it could be enough with Andy Dalton,” Jones said, via USA Today. “We didn’t last night. He contributed to the turnovers early. We had a play that could have been a turnover right off that would’ve been significant. But we can get there with Andy.
“He’s going to be challenged. I wish we had been in better shape protection-wise there, I wish we had a better run game and could get in better field position and better points in the game to work with.
“When Dak had those things, we did well. Dak was able to take us when we didn’t have those things and keep us in the ball game and get a couple wins.”
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McCarthy Answers Criticism from Anonymous Players
The nameless Cowboys gum-flappers who allegedly blasted the coaching staff stood at attention Wednesday morning as head coach Mike McCarthy addressed the fractious locker room and spun front-page news into what he dubbed a “teachable moment” for his spiraling squad.
“The anonymous is something I think we all don’t want to recognize,” McCarthy told reporters, via USA Today. “But I’ll just say this: Any time, especially this year of all years, being our first year together, I think it is important to recognize anything and everything for a teachable moment.
“So any time I have a chance to teach and make it clear what our expectation is, always moving that needle toward winning, that’s my approach.”
Under the veil of anonymity and after initially agreeing to keep grievances in-house, multiple players trashed their superiors in comments made to NFL Network’s Jane Slater on Tuesday.
“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.
Slater, for obvious reasons, never disclosed which players said what, nor whether they were remarking on Dallas’ offense or defense. Regardless, McCarthy conveyed, all parties involved — staff included — must be held accountable for unacceptable on-field play. And should a future discrepancy arise, he emphasized, “handle things as men.”
“I mean, if you do have something to say publicly, I think it’s important to say to the individual, particularly in a group dynamic setting,” McCarthy said. “Especially in the game of football. Especially the Dallas Cowboys.”
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