With the 49ers ousting Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the divisional round, does this change how the Cowboys, and more so how Dak, is viewed for losing to them in the wild card round? How would things change if the 49ers made it to the Super Bowl? — KENNETH PARKS / MEBANCE, NC
David: It doesn't change anything for me. I didn't need to see the 49ers win that game to know they're a good team. The core pieces of that roster made it to the Super Bowl two years ago, and they swept the Rams this season. They're much better than being the No. 6 seed would suggest. My problem is that the Cowboys showcased the ability to hang with the NFL's best throughout the 2021 season. They didn't show that in the playoffs. Give plenty of credit to San Francisco. They were good enough to win that game, regardless. But we didn't get anything close to the Cowboys' cleanest or best game that day, and that's disappointing.
Nick: I think this question/answer all depends on your general outlook in life. If the 49ers having success and maybe making it to the Super Bowl makes you feel better because the Cowboys lost to a better team than we thought, then that's probably a very positive and optimistic approach. Other people might view this as even more frustrating because of the opportunity the Cowboys had in front of them. If they had just come out and played with more urgency, scored a few more points early in the game, it's possible they could've won the game. And then based off what happens this weekend, the Cowboys could've been good enough to still be playing. Personally, I tend to side with the latter approach. Losing to the 49ers now seems worse than it did a week ago. But that's just me.
Seems to me that the lack of production in the running game came from lack of blocking. Is this a talent or coaching problem? — DAVID MONGOLD / ENID, OK
David: Given what we saw from them down the stretch, I think it's fair to question everything. The Cowboys' interior got taken advantage of several times throughout the season, so that's something to consider in 2022. I thought the tackle play was solid overall, but Tyron Smith's health continues to be an issue that needs to be considered. And I think it's fair to say the scheme seemed to put the offensive line at a disadvantage at times. Not to mention, how can you not call it a coaching problem to have such a problem with penalties? It's all stuff that needs to be evaluated moving into this offseason.
Nick: Are we sure it's not both? For me, most of these types of questions have multiple answers to them. While it's real easy to blame the coaches for the scheme or blocking style, let's not forget how many lineup changes we saw this past season. So offensive line coach Joe Philbin might be criticized for his scheme, he was constantly switching guys in and out. Now, talent wise, I've made it clear all year and even in the offseason, I thought they needed to be stronger and more experienced in the middle. And it plagued them all season long. That has to get better in 2022. They need more competition at center and left guard.