I’m an optimist. One may call me an eternal optimist.
Even as the game seemed to be getting out of hand with your local heroes getting down 21-3, I felt like I was one of only a few people who still had hope our Dallas Cowboys could turn things around.
Think about it. There was a ton of time left in the game after Green Bay scored its third touchdown, and some were already conceding.
I saw tweets that said “ballgame” and “It’s over.” But what had we seen from the Dallas Cowboys all season? They repeatedly showed an ability for Dak Prescott and the offense to respond and the ability for the defense to make adjustments.
Dallas was down 18 points, and then outscored the Green Bay Packers 25-7 to tie it at 28 before trading field goals. That led to one of the most heartbreaking finishes to a sports game that I have witnessed.
The only games that can compete with that heartbreak were:
- Dallas at Green Bay in 2014 (Dez Bryant caught it)
- 2011 Texas Rangers to clinch the World Series in Game Six (Nelson Cruz didn’t catch it).
Dallas’ comeback in the game on Sunday, though it ultimately wasn’t enough, raised a lot of eyebrows in Cowboys Nation, mine included. The eternal optimist, while disappointed in the loss, can only see a great and mighty future coming for the Dallas Cowboys.
Much To Look Forward To The Future Has Arrived
So much has already been said about our rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott, but he passed another test in my eye.
What do you do when you’re down by three scores?
Rally the troops. You make the plays that are available to make and get points where you can get points, while at the same time realizing you can’t do it all yourself.
The quarterback of the next 10 to 15 years has arrived
We won’t have to live through another batch of QBs like Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson, or Ryan Leaf for some time. We have the next Franchise quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. An esteemed list that includes; Roger Staubach, Don Meredith, Danny White, Troy Aikman, Tony Romo, and now Dak Prescott.
Prescott showed the ability to win games in the NFL when teams made him do it.
Defenses attempted to take Ezekiel Elliott away and make Dak Prescott beat them all season long. And on many occasions, including Sunday, he did just that; beat the defense in front of him.
We saw a quarterback who can not only make plays with his arms and his legs, but also win the mental side of the game. He made adjustments to what the defense was throwing at him. The biggest thing — to me — that showed a ton of maturity was “living to fight another day.”
For Dak Prescott, punts aren’t a bad thing.
Let’s also give the coaching staff a ton of credit as well. When they got him on the field, they saw in him the reason to pass on Nick Foles and Josh McCown. They and the other quarterbacks on the roster got him prepared to play every week and he did that pretty much every week.
Only the New York Giants were able to “figure out” the offense. Every other NFL team left scratching their head about the way they played against the Dallas Cowboys offense.
No Longer an Identity Crisis
Over the last several years, the Dallas Cowboys have found an identity as a physical run-first football team.
They’ve committed serious resources to the offensive front and established the Dallas Cowboys as the premiere running team in the NFL. And everything that the Cowboys are about is built on the foundation of that offensive line.
The core of the offensive line is still very young in offensive line years. They’ll be protecting Prescott and paving the way for Elliott for years to come. They will likely replace Ronald Leary with La’el Collins and have to find someone to replace Doug Free, but the core of the line, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin, will be here for a long time.
Solid Building Blocks
The defense, while showing flaws, has some really nice pieces to be excited about.
Anthony Brown has a chance to be a player on this team for years. Maliek Collins is looking like the three-technique the team’s been looking for since the beginning of the Rod Marinelli era. Don’t forget about Sean Lee and his first-team All-Pro performance.
Byron Jones, who admittedly played his worst game at the worst time, is still a heck of a player. J.J. Wilcox is likely going to return and showed marked improvement as the year went on; he may have a chance to unseat Barry Church at the strong safety position.
And guess what?
The defense will receive an injection of talent from a couple of 2016 draft picks. Projected middle linebacker Jaylon Smith and defensive end Charles Tapper (who I’m really looking forward to seeing) look like they will be ready to go at least by training camp.
Still Got Those X-Factors
While there’s a good chance Terrance Williams and Brice Butler are with another team in 2017, the team will return its two leading receivers in Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley. Bryant has always been great, and he showed it again on Sunday with his best game of the season, and at the most important time.
Cole Beasley, who led the team in receiving in 2016, is now considered one of the best slot wide receivers in the NFL. I expect him to continue to get better. He is now the second receiving option for the Dallas Cowboys.
Continuity is Key
The coaching staff continues to get better, and with maintained continuity they will continue to grow in their communication, game planning, and execution. It doesn’t seem like Marinelli or Scott Linehan are going anywhere and I think that’s for the best. For Dak Prescott, having continuity in the coaching staff can be huge to his development.
After years of the front office bungling the draft and free agency, I now have high expectations and a high amount of confidence in the front office. Every offseason they’re going to make the right moves and the right draft picks to make the team better.
Jerry Jones, Will McClay, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett have figured out how to balance the scouting reports with the coaching desires. And they’re just getting started if 2016 is any indication of what’s to come.
A Bright Future
The organization as a whole is getting better and that is translating to success on the field.
Be disappointed in the outcome of the game. Be disappointed that a team who looked ready for a deep run got beat by a future hall of Famer who played his tail off. Losses happen, but the winners learn and grow from their setbacks.
With Dak, Dez, the OL, Elliott, and the coaching staff, I have a ton of belief that by this time next year the Dallas Cowboys will be poised for yet another deep playoff run.
Only this time with a much different result.
What is your dream scenario for the 2017 offseason to help the Dallas Cowboys contend again next season?