Spagnola: Let's Play Maybe Two Games Before Coming To Dire Conclusions

IRVING, Texas – Boy, that didn't take long.

         Already – already! – the Dallas Cowboys have more issues than a weekly magazine.

         They can't get the ball to Dez Bryant.

         They don't throw deep enough.

         Why, what's wrong with Ezekiel Elliott? Time to start Alfred Morris?

         Jason Garrett is boring.

         Scott Linehan is too conservative.

         They need to open up the offense; enough of this completing 17 passes to Jason Witten and Cole Beasley.

         They need to bench Doug Free, move Zack Martin to right tackle and Ron Leary to right guard.

         They treat draft picks cavalierly.

         They no longer can win at AT&T Stadium.

         They suddenly need to put up curtains at AT&T, pleats optional.

         All this based on a 2016 gigantic sample of …

         One game.

One game!


Geesh, would have thought the Cowboys were clobbered like 38-6 this past Sunday by the New York Football Giants.

Would have thought they didn't outgain the Giants, 328-316.

Would have thought they didn't pass for more yards than the Giants, 227-207.

Would have thought they had problems hanging on to the football, that they weren't the ones owning time of possession over the Giants, 36:43 to 23:17.

Would have thought they didn't win the sack battle, 2-0.

Would have thought they didn't win the takeaway battle, 1-0.

Hey, they lost by one point, one measly point, 20-19, starting their rookie, third-string quarterback, along with a rookie running back, the first time starting a backfield of such rookies since 19-freaking-69.

They did so with three presumptive starters suspended for violation of the league's substance abuse program.

They did so with their starting defensive 11 playing all together for the first time … ever.

And against not just some dude at quarterback, but 13-year veteran Eli Manning and his trio of receivers that just might be the best threesome in the NFL.

Yet, there is no joy in Mudville, the mighty Cowboys are 0-1 and heading into the nation's capital for a noon kick at FedExField.


Who knows, and maybe some of this biting criticism will come true over the course of this season, and certainly most of this is precipitated by going 4-12 in 2015, ignoring Cowboys Pro Bowl quarterback of 2014 Tony Romo started just four games in that season – finishing just two – coupled with Bryant never really being totally healthy after making that Dude Perfect catch in the end zone against the Giants in the opener. Guess missing Lance Dunbar, eventually Joe Randle and Orlando Scandrick didn't matter either.

Hey, 4-12 is 4-12.

But what you say give rookie Dak Prescott, the team's presumed third-string quarterback when training camp began, at least maybe two NFL starts before making sweeping global judgments about this offense. Maybe the same with running back Ezekiel Elliott, who came into the game with all of seven carries in live football under his belt since New Year's Eve.

Gosh darn, why the venom out there?

And it's not just the fans, either. In fact, come across many with a certain modicum of common sense. But the media, too.

         Heard the other day that the Cowboys need to move Dez around more in the formation, not just line him up wide to the left. Well, he lined up left. He lined up right. He lined up in the slot. Actually went in motion a time or two. Lined up as the middle guy with three wide to one side. The inside guy, too.

         See, the humorous part of all this is the pregame narrative: The one about how these real games for the raw rookie Prescott would speed up from the preseason, where he was surprisingly effective and impressive. Boy, he'd better watch out. No more vanilla defenses.

         Then he goes out there completing 56 percent of his passes, doesn't turn the ball over, engineers scoring drives on five of his nine full possessions and marches the Cowboys with 1:05 left in the game and no timeouts to the precipice of a game-winning field goal when time expires, and all we hear is …

         Why can't Dak get the ball to Dez?

         Hey, that's some rocky road out there. So sorry if those hypothetical's concocted about the Cowboys going 6-0 with Dak in charge causing the Cowboys to consider benching Romo when he's healthy enough to return got crushed with that season-opening loss.

         Now look, I've been around Cowboys owner Jerry Jones long enough to realize that he's the eternal optimist. No one wants to win more than he does. No one stews over losses more than he does.

         But Jerry did have this overview of what took place in that first game, that yes, was winnable, and would have been even more winnable if the offensive line had played better and if the defense, the one creating such concern over pass-rush ability, could have stopped the Giants from running the ball their last possession when everyone in the dang sun-lit building knew they were going to run the ball:

         "I'd love to have a game, and I want to improve – nothing is perfect when you play a football game – but if we can have a game go that way against a team that does have a seasoned quarterback, against a team that does have a better defense than they had last year, if we can play that game and get that kind of play out of Dak Prescott and what we should expect in the future, that's a positive, a very, very positive.

"And again I want to emphasize, boy do we miss Romo."

Ha, what about you?

Look, not suggesting anyone be happy about losing to the Giants. No one is, especially those out here. That is why when the Cowboys went indoors for practice on Thursday at the Ford Center, there, burning into their consciousness on the ribbon scoreboard, was 20-19, a reminder of what was but would could have been. It was there again on Friday, this time just 18 seconds left.

         Just asking for a measure of common sense. Just be reasonable. Let this thing simmer for a while.

         That was a rookie quarterback, with a rookie running back. That was a defensive front that had never played together in a regular-season NFL game. Those were three different starters on the defensive line from last year. Two different starters at linebacker from last year. Scandrick playing his first NFL game since January of 2015.

         But in retrospect, I get it. When the Cowboys lose, someone has to be blamed. Been going on since Don Meredith was quarterback, and why he eventually threw up his hands after the 1968 season and retired. Got tired of always being blamed for the Cowboys shortcomings. Danny White still gets blamed for the Cowboys losing three consecutive NFC title games during his first three years as the team's starting quarterback.

         Heck, can remember Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman getting toasted back in 1994 for a 19-14 loss to Cleveland when on what turned out to be the final play of the game from the Browns' 6-yard line with no timeouts remaining, he threw the ball underneath to Jay Novacek, hoping he'd run the ball into the end zone only to come up a half-yard short of scoring the winning touchdown as time expired. Was called every name in the book that first full year of 24-hour sports talk-radio in DFW.

         Imagine that, the legendary Aikman wasn't perfect.

         So really, maybe just chill a tad. Let's see what happens against the Redskins on Sunday, then the next Sunday against the Bears.

         As Cole Beasley reasonably said after that tough loss to the Giants, "We have a lot of football left in the season."

         Would have never known seeing all that hair being pulled out over a one-point, season-opening loss with a rookie quarterback starting the first NFL game he'd ever been on the sideline for, and again, actually driving the Cowboys with only 1:05 remaining and no timeouts to the edge of attempting the game-winning field goal before time ran out.

         And to prove this stuff ain't easy, the Giants began celebrating like it was 1999 when the clock expired, heaving a huge sigh of relief. They almost didn't get it right either.

         So the Cowboys try again.

Take Two!

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