Cowboys Legend Trashes Cringeworthy Dallas Defense over Lack of Effort

Cowboys vs. Cardinals

Getty Cowboys vs. Cardinals

Darren Woodson chewed up the Dallas Cowboys defense and spit them back out in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated.

“The way they play, it makes the competitor in you cringe,” Woodson told Mike Fisher of “It was my job to hit people. To punish quarterbacks. To have my teammate’s back.

“But these guys … I don’t know. They’re helping up runners. Giving love taps on helmets. After the game, sure, it’s a brotherhood. But between the lines, where’s the animosity? We just don’t see anger in this defense’s veins. We see tackling like they’re playing flag football. That’s why all season they’ve been gashed.”

Woodson was a five-time Pro Bowl, four-time first-team All-Pro, three-time Super Bowl champion safety for the Cowboys from 1992-2004. He knows a thing or two about the position — about all positions on that side of the ball. Absent is a compliment for Dallas defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, who’s overseeing one of the worst units in modern NFL history.

The 4-9 Cowboys currently rank dead last in scoring, having surrendered 400 points across 13 games, nearing the all-time franchise record (436) set in 2010. They’re also 32nd overall against the run, ceding a 307-yard rushing explosion to Cleveland in Week 4 and a 294-yard ground effort to Baltimore in Week 13.

The Steel Curtain, they’re not. Admittedly not.

Remember when Cowboys S Xavier Woods — ironically among the bigger culprits for this 2020 disaster — copped to a “lack” of effort and rationalized it’s “not possible” to go “full speed” every snap, every game? How about when DeMarcus Lawrence not-so-humbly opined that Dallas’ defense has grown “soft,” void of grit and toughness.

Case-in-point for Woodson’s argument.

“Our old special-teams coach used to say ‘Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you’,” he told Fisher. “At safety, you might not always win the physical battle. And make no mistake, this isn’t a physical football team. But if you’re outmanned, you have to win the mental battles. You don’t do either of those – you get run over on one play and blow an assignment the next – that’s when the bear gets you. With this team, there’s just too many mental errors, too much ‘hero ball’.”

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Firings Inevitable

Nolan is on borrowed time with the Cowboys — as in, he’s potentially three weeks away from cleaning out his office at The Star. The Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday that while head coach Mike McCarthy will return in 2021, his hand-picked assistant and longtime pal will not.

Somewhat predictably (and tellingly, given Woodson’s remarks), Nolan refuses to confront the possibility (probability) of his removal as defensive boss of the Cowboys. He knows, but he doesn’t know. The writing’s on the wall, but he chooses to turn a blind eye. A dead man walking who won’t admit he’s dead — yet.

“I don’t even think about it,” Nolan told reporters Monday when asked about his future, via Pro Football Talk. “I just take it a day at a time anyway. It’s really not . . . . I prefer not to answer the question because it’s not what’s on my mind. Just take it a day at a time and try to win this game this weekend against San Francisco and whatever happens after the season, happens. When that time comes, we’ll deal with it if there is a change.”

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL