3 things that Dallas Cowboys fans can be thankful for
By Mitch Larson
3. Coaching changes
There is a lot you can say about the job that Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy has done this year. One thing you can’t say however is that the Cowboys should have kept former head coach Jason Garrett in Dallas for another season.
Garrett was long overdue for a change of scenery. After a decade at the helm of the Cowboys, it felt like Dallas was no closer to winning their sixth Lombardi Trophy than they were when he took the job from Wade Phillips in 2010. It certainly took owner Jerry Jones and the team longer to give up on him than the fanbase, but regardless the Cowboys and Garrett both needed to go in new directions and they finally did.
In Garrett’s place entered the former head coach of the Green Bay Packers, Mike McCarthy. His first season has been challenging (at best). As the Cowboys look up at the rest of the NFC East from the cellar with a 2-7 record after their bye week, it’s safe to say McCarthy’s first season hasn’t been the rousing success many had hoped for when he was hired last offseason.
While the on-field result has left a lot to be desired if McCarthy can hang his hat on anything it’s that injuries have absolutely decimated this team in 2020 and he hasn’t been able to truly coach this full roster. Outside of the San Francisco 49ers, the Cowboys have been one of the most injured teams in football. Worse, the injuries that have happened have been severely consequential for the Cowboys.
They’ve lost any combination of impact starters like Dak Prescott in addition to star tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, tight end Blake Jarwin, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Trevon Diggs, and even punter Chris Jones for extended periods of time.
The Cowboys have had different combinations of all of them on injured reserve this season and they’ve only played just over half a season’s worth of games. These injuries have significantly changed the way that the Cowboys have been able to play football this season.
When healthy though, at least on offense, the Cowboys were electric. They seemingly were forced into scoring 40 points a game to have any sort of chance, and it almost didn’t matter. Unlike in previous years, the progression for Dallas to get better and go on a legitimate run was clear and obvious.
A quick look at the New York Giants’ offense that Garrett now runs likely doesn’t have anyone magically wishing he was still patrolling the Dallas sideline either. After ten games the Giants currently rank 27th in total points and 25th in total yards.
When McCarthy came to Dallas he promised to do so with analytics at the forefront of his decisions, a big data-driven departure from Garrett. His aggressiveness on fourth down has been one area where this change has been crystal clear.
Following their bye week, the Cowboys lead the league in fourth-down attempts (18) and are converting them 50% of the time. Under Garrett in 2019, they went for it on fourth down 16 times all season and converted less than half of them. To say the team left a lot of points on the field in 2019 would be an understatement.
After a decade of Jason Garrett at the helm, and blind loyalty to mediocrity, the mere fact that the Jones’ went in a different direction is an encouraging piece of growth. McCarthy may or may not be the long-term answer for the Dallas Cowboys, but the mere fact that he is here signals openness to try something new. And after two decades of playoff failure, that surely is something to be thankful for.