FRISCO, Texas – What a year.
March 25, 2020, was the date of my first Mick Shots from home, dateline, SHELTERED IN PLACE, Texas. Seems eons ago.
And there we were, working from home until this on Aug. 14, dateline, NO LONGER FROM HOME, Texas:
Finally, finally, after 141 days, and those growing longer by the day, believe me, it's FRISCO, Texas.
Now we're done, all coming to a screeching halt 145 days later, the coaching staff finishing up exit interviews, the players done, and frankly, today, our part of The Star is pretty deserted.
And the season's postmortem begins, trying to dissect just why the Cowboys, with so much promise, finished 6-10 and in third place in the NFC East when never intending to earn the right to pick 10th in the upcoming NFL Draft.
And even though two other teams finished 6-10, the Cowboys' 6-10 is considered worse because of their strength of schedule. That's thanks to playing six of 16 games against members of the NFC East, all of whom had losing records. Cowboys' opponents ended up with a .471 winning percentage, averaging only 7.4 wins, and just five of their opponents finished with winning records.
There are shots to be taken.
- Most Revealing: There are so many reasons the Cowboys finished with a 6-10 record, matching their second-worst record (2010 and 2004) since going 5-11, 5-11, 5-11 from 2000 through 2002. The worst record since going 1-15 in 1989 is the 4-12 of 2015, Tony Romo finishing only two of the four games he started that injury-plagued year – the last time the Cowboys had started four quarterbacks in the same season, by the way. In fact, the previous three times the Cowboys finished 6-10 – that forgettable 1997 season being the other – the head coach got fired: Barry Switzer after the '97 season, Dave Campo after 2002 and Wade Phillips during the 2010 season.
- QBs Matter: Here, tell me what these quarterbacks have in common: Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Ryan Tannehill, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson, Philip Rivers and Baker Mayfield? Uh, all 11 have their teams in the playoffs. Eight of those 11 finished with a QB rating in the top 11 of NFL in 2020. Two more, Rivers and Mayfield, finished in the top 15. The four who didn't are Ben Roethlisberger, Mitch Trubisky, Jared Goff and Alex Smith, all former first-round picks. Three of these playoff quarterbacks were first picks in the draft: Smith, Goff and Mayfield. And seven others were first-rounders: Allen, Jackson, Trubisky, Rodgers, Rivers, Tannehill and Roethlisberger. The only three who weren't? Why, Brady, Wilson and Brees. Yep, quarterbacks do matter, and to think Dak Prescott had a QB rating of 99.6 through five games before his season-ending injury in that Game 5.
- No Defense: Meaning, hard to defend what happened to the Cowboys defense. Think about this: Last year the Cowboys finished with the ninth-ranked defense, giving up 327 yards a game. They finished with the 11th-ranked rushing defense, giving up 103.5 yards a game, and we thought that was bad. Well, a year later, the Cowboys finished with the 23rd-ranked defense, giving up 386.4 a game, their lowest ranking since being 32nd in 2013. And against the run, the Cowboys finally climbed up to 31st, giving up 158.8 a game, and that their lowest ranking since finishing 31st in 2000 (164.8), their all-time lowest ranking in a 16-game season. Man, maybe those four lost starters from 2019 mattered: Byron Jones, Maliek Collins, Robert Quinn and Jeff Heath.
- Here Comes The Judge: The Giants rookie head coach didn't think kindly of Philadelphia head coach Doug Pedersen not seemingly doing all he could to beat Washington in the final game of the season, not only keeping nine significant players out of the game, but then pulling rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts late in the game for Nate Sudfeld, who hadn't taken a snap all season long. Had the Eagles beaten Washington, then the Giants, Cowboys and Washington all would have finished tied for first in the East at 6-10, with the Giants winning the tiebreaker. Ah, but the Eagles lost, 20-17, prompting Judge to lash out, "To me, you don't ever want to disrespect those players in our effort and disrespect the game," insinuating the Eagles didn't try their best to win. Here is how I feel: Hey, Giants, win seven games on your own. But then again, my guess is, had the Cowboys beaten the Giants and an Eagles win would have given the Cowboys first place at 7-9, and Pederson did that, Cowboys fans would have been throwing their remotes through their big screen TVs. But as I always say, the NFL helps those who help themselves.
- Go LVE: Tough year for Leighton Vander Esch, coming back from last year's season-ending neck surgery only to suffer a fractured collarbone in the season opener this year, missing four games, and then missing the final two with a high ankle sprain. Day after the season finale, LVE vowed this: "I'm going to train my frickin' butt off this offseason. I'm not really going anywhere. I'm going home for two weeks and I'm coming right back. I'm going to be here training all the way through February, March and April. That's just what it is. I'm already looking forward to it. I'm on a mission, and I think all the guys should be, too." Maybe he can drag a few of his defensive mates along with him. Goodness knows they need it.
- Jason II: Could Jason Garrett be one and done as the offensive coordinator for the Giants? He's now a candidate for the Chargers vacant head coaching job after they firing head coach Anthony Lynn, the former Cowboys assistant coach. Guessing the Chargers recognize not only Garrett's head coaching skills, but how he has a keen ability to develop quarterbacks. Think Tony Romo, in his first year (2007) as the Cowboys' fulltime starting quarterback, a guy who came into the league in 2003 undrafted. And then how Garrett brought along 2016 fourth-round draft choice Dak Prescott when forced into the starting role his rookie year.
Oh, after all, this is a quarterback-driven league, right?