Three Questions for Divisional Round Losers: Dallas Cowboys
Another year, another divisional round loss for the Cowboys. At times Dallas looked like a world-beater this season. At other times, they looked like a stale product in need of change before they can take the next step.
But what does that change look like for the Cowboys?
Is Dak Prescott still the guy in Dallas?
After seven seasons in Dallas, Dak Prescott still hasn’t gotten the Cowboys past the divisional round of the playoffs. Which begs the question, is Dak Prescott still the guy in Dallas?
While Cowboys fans should be disappointed with another early exit, I don’t think the plans are changing under center anytime soon. Prescott signed a four-year, $160 million contract in March 2021, so there’s that to consider.
Although, Jerry Jones did say in 2021, when he signed the extension, that the Cowboys needed more out of their franchise quarterback. Still, Jones needs to find a way to help Prescott give him and the Cowboys more.
Prescott’s second-best option in these playoffs was tight end Dalton Schultz, who will be a free agent this spring. Tony Pollard will also be a free agent, and Ezekiel Elliott looks cooked. CeeDee Lamb is really the only playmaker on Dallas’ offense that scares opponents.
I think Dallas could win a Super Bowl with Prescott, but the supporting case casts a drastic makeover for that to be possible.
Mike McCarthy is staying, but should he?
Mike McCarthy has the blessing of Jerry Jones, at least for one more season. In all honesty, McCarthy did lead the Cowboys to back-to-back divisional-round playoff runs the past two seasons, so there is some merit to that confidence.
Still, many Cowboys coaches have been fired after trips to the postseason. Jones’ expectations are much different than most owners, who are more hands-off than the face of the Cowboys.
McCarthy has overseen a two-year stretch in Dallas that has seen the Cowboys post a winning percentage north of .700 for the first time since the 1994 and 1995 seasons under Barry Switzer. That’s also the last time the Cowboys won a Super Bowl. McCarthy’s consecutive playoff appearances is the first back-to-back trip to the postseason since Bill Parcells and Wade Phillips did so in 2006 and 2007.
While McCarthy has been good during his short time in Dallas, he hasn’t been good enough to warrant an extension. So the Cowboys will stick with McCarthy for now, and for now, it’s warranted.
What can the Cowboys do to help Prescott and McCarthy next season?
The Cowboys can start by changing the voice of the offense. Kellen Moore has been the voice in Prescott’s ear since 2016. While Moore isn’t necessarily to blame for the Cowboys’ lack of Super Bowl success, he isn’t without blame. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes a voice can grow stale in one place for too long.
McCarthy retained Kellen Moore when he replaced Jason Garrett. So, the Cowboys’ offense still has the blueprint that Garrett and Scott Linehan laid before McCarthy took over. Opponents know the Cowboys offense at this point, and that needs to change. A change at offensive coordinator is a good place for McCarthy to start this offseason.
There’s a strong likelihood that Dan Quinn will get hired by one of the five teams looking for a head coach. So, there will be a new voice on the defensive side of the ball next season in Dallas. All the more reason to do the same on offense.
The Cowboys have to move on from Ezekiel Elliott as well. Elliott looked like a running back with very little left in the tank this season. Especially in the playoffs. Depending on Tony Pollard’s recovery, re-upping Pollard and saying goodbye to Elliott makes a ton of sense for Dallas.