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Sham: It's Tricky To Find Real Solutions To Cowboys' Complicated Problems

This is not new. It's also not peculiar to Dallas-Fort Worth or the wider Cowboys Nation.

It's always the coach.

When I was a boy, just after the invention of sound recordings and the combustible engine, my uncles in Chicago were Bears fans. When a television wasn't available, which was frequently, they would sit and stand around a radio and listen to the Bears, who were frequently losing. They would loudly and colorfully decry the idiocy of George Halas, who owned and coached the team. They regularly demanded his dismissal or imprisonment or deportation, whichever could be achieved first.

That was my first exposure to coach-directed fan anger, but I'm aware baseball managers have been feeling it for decades upon decades. It was a little before my time around the team, but it's well known that media and fans regularly wanted Tom Landry's fedora on a stick in the early days of the Cowboys franchise.

Television, and to a much greater extent the internet and social media, have only thrown virtual gasoline on the fire. We're not a patient society. Perhaps you've noticed. If we don't like things right now, fire 'em all. That's always the first solution, and every coach knows it. Ninety-nine percent of coaches got their job because someone else was fired. Why would they be immune?

Because you're smart and way ahead of Your Humble Correspondent, you know this subject is broached because of the Cowboys' current losing streak. And it's not even just the losing of games, although that would surely be enough. The losing of three games that were a standstill at halftime and a disaster in the second half has pitchforks and torches being amassed and handed out in the town square.

Inevitably, a disappointing season, *particularly *one that includes such an unprecedented and totally unexpected stretch as the current one, leads to questions about the coaches. Are they culpable? It can't all be injuries and bad luck, can it?

The answers, of course, are yes and no. Yes, the coaches are culpable. Of course, they are. They're part of the team, aren't they? And no, it's not all bad luck, even though bad luck plays a part.

But everyone with a Twitter account can point a finger and lob a half-clever verbal grenade. It's much trickier and more demanding to try to find real solutions to complicated problems, especially problems your critics and customers don't think are complicated. Much tougher. So let's try.

First, although a lot of you won't like hearing it, the same staff that is bumbling its way to 5-6 out of Thanksgiving guided the team to 13-3 a year ago. With just a couple of exceptions, it's the same staff that was 12-4 in 2014. That counts for something, and it's not nostalgia.

It means these guys know how to coach. The question then becomes, why are they having problems getting desired results from this particular team?

Some of it is coaching mistakes. They don't shy away from that. Just because you don't see them all in sackcloth and ashes doesn't mean they're not having the same kinds of conversations that you and I are, except for one small item: They know stuff we don't.

It's like the misnomer of halftime adjustments. Coaches aren't just trying to fix things when you lose a game. They see what went wrong in a win, too, and they try to fix those things before they become problems.

When the history of this season is written, it may come with the evaluation that The Decision Makers may have been penny-wise and pound-foolish by letting* all* of those experienced players go. They may not have had a choice. They couldn't have matched (just for a couple of examples) the money Ron Leary got in Denver or Barry Church did in Jacksonville. That's part of the NFL, managing the salary cap.

But they miss those players. They weren't keeping Leary, who was getting money and a starting job. Could they have kept Church? Maybe, if they'd wanted to earlier in the process. But the same people who built this great offensive line and constructed the machine that two of the past three years has been to the playoffs, decided that it was time to try to retool the defense.

They drafted three defensive backs who made the team. They didn't know that all three of them would be injured in training camp and miss irreplaceable time.  The lost summer of Chido Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Xavier Woods has some part in this streak.

The front office, guaranteed, will review its veteran free-agent process. Having been burned by big money spent on veterans in the past, they made adjustments. The last few years they have tried to find bargain help in the marketplace, which is exactly how the folks who invented football up in New England do it.

Stephen Paea and Nolan Carroll were supposed to be important depth pieces, at least, in the defense. Injuries knocked them out, and with the injuries to Awuzie and Lewis slowing their progress, coaches were left with depleted talent to coach.

And "coaching" means a lot of things. It means working with players to improve technique, and it means teaching them the game plan. And yes, it means making changes to schemes and lineups on the fly when what you're doing isn't working. It's all of that.

Sometimes your playing talent is so exceptional, average coaching can't stop it. Sometimes coaches who can't see problems coming before they exist wind up getting caught behind the curve. Sometimes you have key players you're counting on take a step back and they're not the players you thought you had. The whole plan is now flawed. The best coaches see those problems coming and are able to stay one step ahead of them.

And sometimes coaches and coaching staffs have bad years, like players do. They're just harder to measure. We know what the best coaches do. Bum Phillips once said about Bear Bryant (and it's been said by others and about others), "He could take his'n and beat your'n. Or your'n and beat his'n." There aren't a lot of those, not in the 21st century NFL.

So if you are a coach without a whole lot of hardware, and you have a stretch where you can't take your'n and beat anyone's, you know what's coming. Got complicated problems? Sorry. Give us some simple solution and be quick about it. Or step aside, so they can get us someone else we'll think incompetent sooner than later. 

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