Things are taking on an ominous tone within the Dallas Cowboys organization after the team fell to 6-5 on the year due to their failure to muster more than nine points against the New England Patriots. It wasn't so much the issue of the former being dominated by the latter, but it was yet another game wherein the Cowboys found ways to snatch a loss from the jaws of victory.
The Patriots had to scratch and claw for 13 points themselves in a game headlined by inclement weather, but what they didn't do was succumb to myriad penalties and special teams mistakes. To make matters worse for the Cowboys, head coach Jason Garrett will be forever questioned about his decision to kick a field goal in the waning minutes of the game when the team was in position to take a shot at a needed touchdown that would've given Dallas a chance to tie the score. Instead, on fourth-and \-short, it was Brett Maher pushing the score to 13-9, and the Patriots clamped down from there.
It was all owner Jerry Jones could take, voicing an unusually scathing level of frustration about what he witnessed at Gillette Stadium -- aiming the most fluorescent bullseye at his special teams unit.
"Special teams is a total reflection of coaching," Jones said, via Jon Machota of The Athletic. "To me, special teams is 100 percent coaching. It's 100 percent coaching. It's strategy.
"It's having players ready. ... Special teams is nothing but coaching. Special teams is effort. Special teams is savvy. Special teams is thinking."
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The unit has been an Achilles heel of the Cowboys all season, and their performance in New England was easily the worst of an already disappointing year. The unit had two muffed punts (both recovered by Dallas), a missed field goal, and a blocked punt that led to the Patriots' only touchdown on the day.
Things aren't progressing at all on special teams, but are instead clearly regressing, and Jones' comments should be viewed just as a very real message to Garrett; it should also be felt in the heart of special teams coordinator Keith O'Quinn. That doesn't mean Garrett shouldn't and won't receive heat as well, because he's also responsible for overseeing special teams, and then there's the aforementioned late-game field goal decision -- partnered with the team's offense opting to get away from an effective rushing attack led by what could've been an impactful day by Ezekiel Elliott and rookie Tony Pollard.
Be it O'Quinn, Garrett and/or offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, it was a game that saw the Cowboys coaching staff let them down as equally as some of the players on the field did.
"This is very frustrating," Jones said. "It's frustrating just to be reminded that some of the fundamentals of football and coaching were what beat us out there today. ... With the makeup of this team, I shouldn't be this frustrated."
The only question now is, what is he going to do about it?
The easy answer is to send O'Quinn packing, and that might actually occur soon for a couple of reasons. The first being Jones' now verbal frustration in front of cameras, which is wholly justifiable, and the other being tied to the seat beneath Jason Garrett, who now knows he might not have a choice but to start sacrificing assistants in order to save his own hide in 2019 and/or beyond.
Time is running out for Garrett, and Jones is approaching rare levels of anger, which often ends badly for those beneath him.