Maybe it was the Zeke screen touchdown against the Steelers. Or the time when Prescott spun out and threw to a wide-open Jason Witten to beat the Eagles. It could have possibly been when Dez Bryant came on a reverse to hit Witten as well as the Cowboys rallied to route the Lions. Sensation after sensation. It spelled out the season for the Cowboys in 2016. Two rookies became giants in the league, to only return to their team’s roots a year later.
Who knew an investigation in the NFL could become so bothersome? Appeal after appeal, the NFL and NFLPA battled it out to determine Elliott’s innocence. Beginning from a filed July 2016 police report in Columbus, Ohio by a woman claiming Elliott physically abused her, and not coming to an end until week 10 of the 2017 season after Elliott’s team withdrew its lawsuit.
Big news: #Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott is withdrawing his appeal, his agents Rocky Arceneaux and Frank Salzano tell me. Elliott will serve his full 6-game suspension. The statement: pic.twitter.com/BV3jPyX4ap
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 15, 2017
“This decision is in no way an admission of any wrongdoing…”
The fight was over with Goodell, but what did this mean for the Cowboys? A personal identity would be shaken through the media, and the team felt it as a whole.
Just a week before news hit of Elliott’s withdrawal was when the NFL officially suspended him. As they sat 5-3, coming off a sounding victory against the Chiefs, the Cowboys season took a hard left. Elliott would be across the country’s border, and the 2017 injury bug to all-stars landed in Dallas. They would be without Tyron Smith to start the game and lost Sean Lee early due to a lingering hamstring injury. 6 sacks by Adrian Clayborn and 27 points later, the beginning to the end came for the Cowboys.
Dallas was officially disoriented after dropping their next three games, including the loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
The offense would only be able to score one touchdown. A Lee-less defense witnessed opposing offenses march up and down the field on them with ease. Teams were averaging 30.7 points, while Dallas totaled for only 22 in this period of time. Coaching went dead as if it ever existed for the organization, and anger grew among fans. Blank faces stared across the sidelines as they sat in the midst of a 5-6 record.
It became a shift to point total blame one someone or a group. The easiest target became the coaches, and rightfully so. An outdated system that relies on talent to supersede the adversary, was never adjusted. Receivers were limited to usual routes, playcalling in different situations remained predictable, and Dak Prescott’s growth was being stunted as a player. Garrett is the “puppet that claps” and Linehan just follow his footsteps. Then it falls down onto Prescott’s shoulders. He would throw for a combined 0 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, and:
Dak Prescott is the first Cowboys QB with consecutive games of 0 TD passes and multiple interceptions. since Troy Aikman in 1990
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 24, 2017
Also leading the league in pick-sixes at four on the season, worry has left the building for Cowboys fans and the desire for a new quarterback entered. Starting well on the season, Prescott started his sophomore slump at a time that called him to perform. At the very least, people wanted to see if he was able to lead even when all odds are not in his favor.
Lastly, an o-line that has been regarded as one of the league’s best, and in NFL history, played extremely sub-par to their usual standards. Plus, the receivers in a span of a year are now unable to run routes and are being called to clean house. They also have the league’s leader in drops on the 2017 season that never improved in his on-field relationship with Prescott.
Dez Bryant led the NFL in drops (12), which was 9.5% of his 126 targets.
Other notables in targets/drops:
DeAndre Hopkins 164/5
Larry Fitzgerald 153/4
Antonio Brown 155/4
Mike Evans 132/3
Michael Thomas 139/2
JuJu Smith-Schuster 77/2
Doug Baldwin 112/1
Sammy Watkins 66/0
— Jody Smith (@JodySmithNFL) January 4, 2018
Downfall of the Cowboys
After all of this, Dallas would then advance to a four-game winning streak. Off the heroic season-saving effort by Heath against the Raiders, it came down to the Seahawks. The final worthy game for Dallas and playoff implications were in place.
Both teams needed to come out victorious, while receiving some outside help from others. Elliott finally returned to the team and was fresh as ever. Though it sounded great, the issues that came with the Cowboys in 2017, embodied this single game. An odd pick-six by Prescott, then an interception on the very next drive to Dez that argues who’s fault it was, and a neglection of running Zeke at the three-yard line drew boos from the fans and an early departure from Jerry Jones.
Questions grew in every direction from the media. Will Jerry keep these coaches next season? Is Prescott the answer? Has Bryant career finally come to an end? As quick as the Cowboys can usually hit the news, this was different. The reasons that have stereotyped into who people think the Cowboys are, were true.
Incompetence and ignorance dwindled throughout the whole organization. The future remains a blur as to what to expect. Will the Cowboys fall back to their recent roots of averageness, or will the triple D create a new era of continued success?