BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Jerry Jones will turn 80 years old on Oct. 13. He hasn’t seen the Dallas Cowboys win a Super Bowl title since January 1996. He is stuck with three Super Bowl championships as a Cowboys owner.
After the Cowboys took a 23-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the first round of the playoffs on Sunday at AT&T Stadium, they won’t win a championship for the 26th straight season. They have gone 11 straight appearances without reaching an NFC Title Game. For the seventh time in the past 11 playoff appearances, they are one-and-done. They won four playoff games in 26 years.
It’s easy to wonder if Jones will ever see a Super Bowl championship again. He always fields the best talent, and his teams come up small when it matters in January. Maybe Sunday’s loss shouldn’t be stunning.
It certainly hasn’t been for lack of trying. He and his front office staff drafted well in the last 15 years, The Cowboys fielded great offensive lines year in and year out. They boast skilled athletes. This is a team that should win a Super Bowl or at least gets there with this roster. There’s no reason to be a perennial disappointment every year.
Make no mistake. Someone will pay the price for this colossal loss. It has to happen because there has to be accountability for this. It will likely be Mike McCarthy losing his job as a Cowboys head coach, even though it’s hard to blame him for why Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott came up small, especially in the final play of the game when he ran for a quarterback sneak at from the 49ers’ 41-yard line when he should have taken a shot to the end zone.
Will firing a head coach truly make a difference, though? McCarthy did a poor job having the team disciplined and ready to go with 18 penalties (playoff record) to show for it, but the postseason is all about the players. They need players to shine in this setting. They have to translate pressure into diamonds. For most of the game, everyone on the Cowboys roster came up small.
It was hard to come up with one Cowboy coming up big on Sunday.
It’s easy to blame McCarthy. Coaches always get the blame when everything goes wrong. That’s the way it is in pro sports. His 10-9 postseason record does not give him the benefit of the doubt when he had Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback as the Green Bay Packers head coach.
But again this comes down to the players. When Prescott came up as small as he was all game long, what exactly can McCarthy do?
It wasn’t just the final play that raises questions about Prescott’s ability in the postseason. He struggled to read defense for most of the game that had him slow to react. He had no idea how to use clock management, and at times, he had no self-awareness when he had the ball.
A head coach needs his quarterback to come up big in January, and McCarthy didn’t get that from his quarterback on Sunday. I find it hard to blame the Cowboys head coach for everything that went wrong. If Prescott played great despite the team’s 18 penalties or threw the game-winning touchdown pass, we would be saying a different narrative.
It was even a miracle the Cowboys were in a position to maybe win a football game in the end despite how bad Prescott and the team played all day long.
Understandably, Jones was stunned and disappointed after the game. He thought this would be the year. Even I fell into that bandwagon and I have questioned the Cowboys for a long time. Shame on me.
He mentioned when a team has this combination of players together, success must come. He is so right. With this talent the Cowboys assembled, this should have been a run to the NFC Championship Game at least. Instead, they are searching for answers.
They have to wonder if they have the right quarterback to get it done. That’s a problem in itself. Then it has to be their wide receivers. When Prescott spends time ripping the refs after the game, you wonder about his mentality and his leadership right there. The little things like that show if a player has it in him to get it done.
Mark Messier, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Michael Jordan and the late Kirby Puckett serve as a barometer of what a leader is. A player who knows how to deliver. A player that you expect to. Comparing Prescott to them would be an insult to them. Prescott is simply not an elite quarterback at this time. Maybe he figures it out. Maybe he does not. Time will tell.
Here’s the problem: Jones is not getting any younger. He desperately wants to win a Super Bowl while he still has his faculties. He has been waiting forever now., and he has had best teams and they fell short all the time.
Maybe it’s still karma that he foolishly fired Jimmy Johnson when he got his second Super Bowl championship in 1994 because they both argued about who deserved more credit.
It’s fair to wonder if Jones will ever win a championship again.
Right now, he certainly does not have the players to help him get that happy ending.
This Cowboys team is so close yet so far.