ARLINGTON, Texas -- This ought to be rock bottom for the Dallas Cowboys, but then again, who knows? There's always next week. Or the next. The Cowboys will have several chances to do the limbo under this broken limb of a game, a blowout loss at home to last-place Jacksonville. However long it takes, I fully expect the Cowboys to capitalize.
How low can they go? Not sure, but until they get there we have a new winner for biggest loser of this losing Dallas Cowboys season. Dallas had found excruciating ways to lose, from holding on Alex Barron to pass interference on Mike Jenkins, but until Sunday its five losses had come by an average of 5.8 points.
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The score Sunday was 35-17, and that was Jacksonville. No offense, Jaguars fans, but your team is what it is. And your team is not very good. Next-to-last in the NFL in scoring margin, at minus-11.3 points per game. Also 31st in scoring defense. And 30th in passing touchdowns. That's wall-to-wall badness.
And still, Jacksonville destroyed the Cowboys.
Afterward, Cowboys owner, general manager and coach Jerry Jones held court in the locker room. Serving as an asbestos shield while his underperforming players showered, dressed and left, Jones stood there and sweated in the TV lights and tried to say as little as possible. But he did say this:
"The answer is, I don't have the answer."
And he did say this:
"I'm very, very -- I'm very sorry to our fans. Sorry. Embarrassed. I'm all of that."
|Cowboys coach Wade Phillips (left) and assistant Jason Garrett look for answers, and find squat. (Getty Images)|
Coach Wade Phillips will be fired, definitely before the 2011 NFL Draft but doubtfully this week, which is fine. Why should Jones be in a hurry to get his guillotine dirty with no real candidates on staff? There have been media calls for the immediate firing of Phillips and the elevation of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett as interim coach, but that would be pointless. You don't fire the class slacker just to promote the class clown.
Garrett once was a rising star, sure, but he's in full eclipse mode. The Dallas offense is a joke. The Dallas defense is worse, and the Dallas special teams are nothing to be proud of either, but Jason Garrett isn't part of the solution. He's part of the problem.
Cowboys quarterback Jon Kitna, playing for injured Tony Romo, threw four interceptions, but he played pretty well actually. Three of his picks were off the hands of his intended receiver, causing Miles Austin and Roy Williams to note in the locker room that they had let Kitna down. Which they had. They were responsible for the two most egregious tipped interceptions.
But none of those interceptions was the low moment for the Dallas offense. The low moment came in the final seconds of the first half, with Dallas trailing 14-3 but inches from the end zone. It was fourth-and-goal, and as Kitna spun to hand the ball to Marion Barber, the Dallas quarterback and Dallas tailback ran into each other. Barber managed to grab the handoff, but his momentum was gone. The play was finished. No idea who was credited with the tackle, but it should have gone to Kitna.
The play before that wasn't any prettier. It was third-and-goal from the 1, and Barber not only avoided his quarterback -- his helmet landed on the goal line. If the football were his brain, he would have scored. But he didn't extend the ball toward the end zone until he was lying there, his face on the goal line, the ball outside it. The play was dead. Just like his brain.
But Barber wasn't the only dumb Cowboy. Don't get the wrong idea. I'm not blaming him. I'm blaming everybody, coaches included. Coaches especially.
The Cowboys were unprepared at the start, and no discernible adjustment was made as the game rolled along. For instance, Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis beat Dallas linebacker Bradie James for a 42-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The Cowboys' adjustment? Put another linebacker on him, this time Keith Brooking -- whom Lewis beat in the third quarter for a 9-yard touchdown catch.
In the first quarter, Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware lost containment, allowing Maurice Jones-Drew to gain 18 yards on a counter pitch. In the fourth quarter, stop me if you've heard this before, but outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware lost containment, allowing Maurice Jones-Drew to gain 12 yards on a counter pitch. Same damn play.
Dallas' special teams were no smarter. On one Dallas return, Dez Bryant stood there as the ball rolled past him for nearly 20 yards in lost field position. And on one Dallas punt, a 31-yard lob to the Jacksonville 10, six Dallas defenders surrounded Jags return man Mike Thomas. None of them tackled Thomas, who caught the punt and ran straight ahead for 16 yards. On the Dallas sideline, special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis was screaming at his players, "Hit him! [Freaking] hit him!"
Maybe next week, coach. A lot of things could happen next week. Dallas visits Green Bay. How low can the Cowboys go? Only one way to find out.