ARLINGTON, Texas – Bill Parcells is one of my favorite NFL personalities of all time. Just about everything he says is gospel to me.
But I'm going to have disagree with one of his all-time quotes that he stands by when he says, "You are what you are."
He never wanted to hear that a team was better than their record because of injuries or other circumstances. He never thought a player was at a "Pro Bowl level" if they didn't actually make it to the Pro Bowl. To him, it was always pretty black and white. You are what you are.
Well, Bill, I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you about this year's Cowboys, at least with what we're seeing right now.
Their record is 5-5. But that's not what they are. They aren't an average team that is just a couple of games away from a playoff spot.
This is much worse than that. It's amazing how things have fallen off so quickly after winning three straight games.
You can blame this on injuries and suspensions if you'd like. Clearly, that has a factor in all of this. But if your defense looks that night-and-day different because of one linebacker, then it has to be on the coaching staff as well. If losing the left tackle makes the entire offense adjust this much, that's a problem.
And yes, not having Zeke is a lot to make up, but I thought that's why the Cowboys were stashing two veteran running backs on the roster, even though for some reason they chose not to play one of them after practicing him all week. The running game really wasn't much of an issue in this game, although it did fail them at times when they needed just a couple of first downs.
Obviously, this is a players' league, but the coaching staff has to do a lot more with the players that are available to them. Every team in the NFL is going through injuries. Maybe not to this extent, but you've got to be able to manage more than three field goals in a game at home.
There really is no excuse for having a 9-7 lead at the half and seeing it go to 37-9 in a little more than a quarter. We saw one team adjusting and another that didn't. And that's basically two weeks in a row this has happened.
I'm really not trying to talk – or write – out of both sides of my mouth here. Yes, playing a football game without Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, Sean Lee and Dan Bailey is already an uphill battle that is tough for any team, regardless of the opponent. Then you factor in that the opponent had won seven straight games and has the best record in football, it makes it even more daunting.
But in this league, where parity is everywhere and it's designed for teams to be somewhat equal, there's really no excuse to lose at home by four touchdowns.
Let's start with the quarterback. I remember back in the summer, Philly's head coach, Doug Pederson, made some headlines when he said his own quarterback, Carson Wentz, had it tougher than Dak, who really didn't have to carry his team last year. While I'm all for a coach supporting his own player, he said more than once that he felt like is quarterback was still the better player. It sounded odd at the time, considering Prescott was coming off Rookie of the Year honors and Wentz had just led his team to a 7-9 record.
Well, Pederson seems to be very right about that assessment right now. This week, I saw a lot of national headlines that had Wentz vs. Dak in the title, suggesting that this is some kind of debate. But it's really not.
Trust me, I like everything that Dak brings to the table and I think he's already a really good quarterback. I don't think I'd trade him for anyone. But as it stands right now, Wentz is definitely a more polished quarterback who is making the most of the new weapons around him.
From a pure passing standpoint, Wentz really makes every throw. His 17-yard touchdown over the middle to Alshon Jeffrey was Aikman-like. But yet, he's got mobility and pocket presence that is more like a running quarterback.
I honestly thought Dak was a better player going into the season, but that's not the case. Again, not a slam on Prescott by any means. He's just not at that level right now.
And he needs help. He's not getting it, especially like he got last year. The offensive line is not the same with Smith out. The running game, of course, has dropped off dramatically. And the wide receivers just aren't helping matters either. These guys dropped a lot of passes Sunday night, and don't seem to create much separation in their routes.
All in all, the offense just can't get it going on any level.
Flip over to the defense and I thought it was a valiant effort for a while. But eventually, the bottom just dropped out. Losing Lee was tough and then Anthony Hitchens went out with a groin injury and the Cowboys really had no answer against the run.
When you don't force a single turnover and you never get one sack, it's hard to win. Especially when the offense only put up three field goals on the other side.
Apparently, after the game, Jason Garrett told his team there are still many options on the table for how this season will finish. Prescott relayed the message that Garrett said it's the players who must decide whether it's going to be an 11-5 season, somewhere in the middle, or perhaps even 5-11 if things don't change quickly.
Right now, it's a 5-5 record for a team that looks much worse than that.