FRISCO, Texas – Tank this.
So with seven games still to play, starting to hear the cries for the Cowboys to tank games for the sake of a higher first-round draft choice in 2021.
Why in the world at this point?
Look, with the Cowboys in their bye this week, there still are seven games remaining. Now, who knows what will happen going forward, but at least what we've seen in the past two losses of this now four-game losing streak – the longest since the four-game one to end the 4-12 virtually Romo-less 2015 season – has been encouraging.
Come on, as silly as it sounds, they are not out of this NFC East race, at least not mathematically. In fact, mathematically, this still could be a 2020 playoff season despite the unfathomable amount of injuries the Cowboys have suffered and still are suffering. Just because of the unstable NFC East.
Yep, the Eagles are in first place at 3-4-1. That's a whole one win and a tie better than the Cowboys' 2-7 at this point. And the Eagles are playing at the Giants (2-7) this Sunday as the Cowboys kick back watching. As for the Washingtons, they are 2-6, playing at Detroit (3-5).
Someone has to lose these games, right?
And let me remind you that the first time around, the Eagles beat the Giants by all of one point, 22-21, and needed to score two touchdowns in the final 4:38 to do so, with the winning TD a fine Carson Wentz dime dropped on running back Boston Scott with 40 seconds to play.
Think about that. What if in that game, or this one, if the Giants, at home, can beat the Eagles, improving to 3-7 and dropping the Eagles to 3-5-1. The only thing the Cowboys should be thinking about is winning that third game.
Also, consider this: Baltimore on the night of Dec. 3 is the lone team remaining on the Cowboys schedule with a winning record (6-2). Plus, the Cowboys have another shot at their three NFC East bedfellows: Washington on Thanksgiving Day and then Philly and the Giants in the final two games of the season.
And let me drop this one nugget on you, too. The Cowboys are one of 15 teams – 15 now – with no more than three wins going into this Week 10 of games. Seven of those teams have three wins; six with no more than two wins; and then there are the Jaguars with one and the Jets with none. Don't get seduced with this talk that if the draft was today the Cowboys would have the third pick. It's not today.
Oh, and now there is further incentive to keep playing for keeps. The NFL owners have approved a contingency plan moving forward to account for potential games lost to COVD-19 causing an unequal amount of games played by upping the playoff system from 14 to 16 teams.
Who in their right mind would even think of tanking now?
OK, opening shot fired.
- QB Prize: So the idea inciting all this losing would be a shot at quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields or, and don't go to sleep on this guy, even though you might be sleeping Saturday nights when BYU is playing, Zach Wilson. Just remember, quarterbacks drafted in the first round are never sure things. Discounting this year's first-rounders, between 2016 and 2019 there have been 14 quarterbacks selected in the first round. The jury still is out on eight of them: Dwayne Haskins, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Mitch Trubisky, Jared Goff, Patrick Lynch and Goff, plus count me on the fence with Daniel Jones. Also did this, looked at the 10 quarterbacks drafted in the first rounds between 2012-2015. Five of them aren't even with their drafting team: Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. Careful what you wish for.
- Huge Incentive: Assuming Andy Dalton clears concussion protocol by next week and also is eligible to be removed from reserve/COVID-19, the Cowboys have voiced commitment to the veteran returning in a starting role over Garrett Gilbert, the new QB flavor of the month. And you can be darn sure Dalton doesn't want to hear anything about tanking. Remember, while he's been guaranteed $3 million on his one-year contract, he has another $3 million based on incentives. The first one? Why, if he takes 50 percent of the regular-season snaps and the Cowboys qualify for the playoffs, that's worth 1 million smackeroos. Also there is this: If he takes 35 percent of the regular-season snaps and 50 percent of the playoff snaps, and the Cowboys win a first-round game, that's worth another $500,000. With Dak Prescott now out for the season, those incentives are still in play with seven games to go.
- Fortuitous Bye: First, the Cowboys needed it. Right now. Second, gives Dalton an extra week to clear concussion and COVID-19 protocol. Third, with the Steelers' Vance McDonald testing positive for COVID-19 on Monday, the Cowboys were forced to vacate The Star for the next several days, having to cancel the Wednesday practice during the bye week with the players required to then receive four consecutive days off, Thursday-Sunday. Had they had a game, they might have only been allowed one practice or possibly have been susceptible to pushing the game back to Monday. And third, for sure now if they had a game since on Wednesday defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford has been placed on reserve/COVID-19, further intensifying COVID-19 restrictions for the team.
- Blood Boiling: So went back a second time to watch the illegal contact call on Jaylon Smith with 8:36 left in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys still leading 19-15. Christmas sakes, the Pittsburgh receiver runs right into him, loses his balance and the flag comes flying in from at least 25 yards behind the play while Crawford is recording a sack-fumble on Ben Roethlisberger that Aldon Smith recovers and returns to the Pittsburgh 21. Would have been a huge turn of events. Instead, the 5-yard penalty moved the ball to the Cowboys' 48, Pittsburgh ending the possession with a 43-yard field goal. And even that further thanks to the bogus unnecessary roughness penalty on Leighton Vander Esch that if you go back and see the guy hanging onto LVE's facemask, darn it, it was necessary.
- Shots Gone Bye: You know on that Cedrick Wilson cross-field pass to C.J. Goodwin on the punt that Goodwin first began retreating back downfield, acting as if he pulled a hamstring? Well, special teams coach John Fassel points out that since the punt went so far, Goodwin had to start sprinting to catch up to where Wilson caught the ball … Guess the Cowboys weren't interested in defensive end Takk McKinley, released by Atlanta after the Falcons brass got fed up with his constant social media posts about wanting to be traded. So they cut him in the final year of his contract, and he was claimed by Cincinnati (2-5-1), meaning the 2-7 Cowboys, higher on the claiming list, didn't put one in on him.
Last word once again goes to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones when asked if it would be crazy to think the Cowboys would use a high first-round draft choice on a quarterback in 2021, saying" Yes! Yes, it would be crazy."