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Spagnola: Please Don't Buy Into Perceptions


FRISCO, Texas – Welcome to 2019.

Where perception becomes flamed into a distorted sort of disease.

Take this real-life scenario four days after Cowboys 24, New York Jets 22, dropping the Cowboys to 3-3 and still in a first-place tie with the equally 3-3 Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday night's opponent at AT&T Stadium.

Just minding my own business in the solitude of the health club steam room when I'm soon to discover disgruntled Cowboys fan enters, this an illustration of what this world has come to.

Disgruntled Fan: So I hear Jerry Jones is looking at Lincoln Riley as the Cowboys' next head coach.

Me: Where did you hear that?

DF: Read it on ESPN.

Me: Was that an opinion piece or was there a source for a factual news story? Who wrote it?

DF: Not sure, just read the notification headline.

Me: Oh, so you're not sure what the story really was. Could have been just an opinion.

DF: And what's up with that new offensive coordinator? Heard he was a genius after the first three games and now folks want to get rid of him after these last three games.

Me: Par for the course, overreaction on both ends.

DF: Yeah, gotten beat bad least last three games.

Me: How many points have they lost two of the past three games by?

DF: (Silence.)

Me: Two.

DF: Oh, yeah.

Welcome to our world when trying to use common sense when deciphering what really has gone wrong over these past three weeks of losing instead of simply subscribing to hastily formed perceptions.

Like what I heard the other day about how the Cowboys "got killed" by the Jets. Seemed that way, didn't it, since that was a winless team beating them. But the reality is, the Cowboys lost on the road by two points, and not until the final seconds of the game when failing on a two-point conversion. And this in a game where the Cowboys piled up 398 yards total offense, not exactly an annihilation.

Then there is this: After the first three games when the Cowboys outscored their opponents, 97-44, and in these three losses have been outscored 70-56, suddenly Jason Garrett has resumed designing the offense. Or as Michael Irvin said the other day, so when the Cowboys went 3-0, Garrett got no credit for the wins, that was new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, and when they lost these past three games the head coach then gets all the blame.

Yep Mike, seems that way.

But in reality, six turnovers in those first two losses went a long way toward ending that three-game winning streak. Look them up, two lost fumbles against the Saints (end-of-game Hail Mary notwithstanding) and then two missed field goals against the Packers, along with three interceptions, one of those a dropped pass that could have been a touchdown and the third caused by a blatantly uncalled pass interference. Then against the Jets, a missed highly makeable 40-yard field goal and another bum pass interference call turning a touchdown into an ensuing field goal. Plus the crazy 17-second sequence of not converting the fourth-and-2 at the Jets' 7 and the ensuing 92-yard touchdown pass on the very next play.

Just sayin'.

Let's continue.

That the Cowboys have fallen behind in five of their first six games by a combined score of 75-12 from the opening kickoff through 5:54 left in the third against the Packers is evidence they are not prepared to play these games.

So if that's the case, then why did the Cowboys come back against the Saints to actually take a 10-9 lead? If that's the case, why did the Cowboys storm back against the Packers, down 31-3, to pull within 34-24, and had they made a 33-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter, would have been attempting an onside kick down a touchdown? And same thing against the Jets, down 21-3, pulling back into a two-point conversion short of sending the game into overtime?

Did they get prepared during the 12 minutes of halftime or what?

Same thing with this nonsense Garrett has lost this team, that they no longer are listening to him.

So at halftime they simply decide, to hell with it, we're going to start playing or start listening.

Come on. Let's be reasonable. Let's use some common sense here.

No, the Cowboys aren't playing consistently enough. Turnovers matter. But you think that Jason Witten wasn't prepared to play when he lost that fumble against the Saints? That Amari Cooper was disinterested in that Packers game when, with the Cowboys driving on their first possession, he dropped a catchable pass into an interception?

Missed field goals matter, too, Brett Maher just four of his last seven kicks. Are you telling me he's not motivated?

Injuries matter. There is no way you can expect Cam Fleming and Brandon Knight, an undrafted rookie moved from tackle to guard in training camp making his first start in the NFL then at tackle, is going to play even close to the level as Collins. Or that suddenly Tavon Austin is lining up outside as a receiver at times in place of Cooper and Cobb makes no difference.

See, the hard part to swallow with this offense is the Cowboys are moving the ball. But, as Dak likes to say, "we can't get out of our own way." He refers to turnovers here and there. Missed field goals. A missed block or an incompletion thrown.

You realize in that Jets game the Cowboys' offense totaled those 398 yards – three-ninety-eight now. But listening to the frustrated masses you'd think they barely gained 200.

Or realize that against the Packers, the Cowboys piled up 563 yards total offense, fourth most in franchise history. Or that with this suddenly perceptional-changed offense, you realize Prescott threw for 463 yards and two touchdowns, despite three interceptions, second most in club history.

"Frustrating . . . frustrating – that's the most frustrating, you just got to go back to work," Dak said of all these yards not turning into a corresponding number of points. "The (ahem) doesn't hit the fan, and you don't start over and try to create something new, all right. We're going to do everything we've been doing but be better at it because we're right there, the plays are there, we're just not making them, not getting out of our own way.

"So that by far is the frustrating part. But should be the motivating part as well."

Here is all I ask. Just look at the facts. Just look at the tangible reasons why the Cowboys are losing these games. No need to make stuff up.

Don't buy into perceptions. There are tangible reasons for these slow starts offensively. Like take the Jets game. All they had were three offensive snaps in the first quarter until they drove to that field goal on the first play of the second quarter.

Don't buy into mere headlines. Don't let your emotions dull your common senses.

Again, as Dak said, "I know we have a great team . . . we're right there, we're just not playing like a great team right now."

Sunday night would be a great time to start, along with a great time to get healthy. Hard to win with three Pro Bowlers sitting, another trying to play through a bad back and ankle.

Just be reasonable.

Oh, and another thing. Please, if the Cowboys win, don't anyone come in on Monday morning saying, "Well, big deal, the Cowboys still haven't beaten a team with a winning record."