Amazingly, they have arrived at this unlikely point.
After the "good will" that was deposited in the "good will bank" during the unlikely 2016 season as well as the bright future promised by what would wait ahead in 2017, the Cowboys offensive coaching staff has seemingly overdrafted the account already with a November that was so poor in so many ways that their futures must be in complete jeopardy.
Yes, they can still save their jobs, but the time is running out quickly. Yes, they are missing a vital piece, but they are not necessarily being asked to be dominant without Ezekiel Elliott. They are just being asked to be average without a guy they knew since late July they would likely lose for 6 games. They haven't been close to either. It would be one thing if this was the result of losing a franchise QB as his mental capacity is difficult to replace on short notice.
But, this has been the loss of a running back. There is a reason that running backs are often started immediately as rookies. Not to say that they are not valuable, but they are often thought of as independent contractors. They work with the offense, but often, if they understand the scheme a bit, they can jump right in and join the battle.
So, they had months and months to prepare for the loss of a running back. A very good one, mind you, but still, a RB. And we expected the Cowboys' production should reasonably drop 10-20 percent. If that was the case, they would slide in around NFL average or slightly below it. Instead, as you can see below, they have fallen past the NFL average and down to the worst in football.
"Dallas with Zeke" is a measurement from the start of 2016 until the Kansas City game this year. Over that stretch of 24 NFL games, the Cowboys were safely in the top 5 in the NFL with 383 a game. New Orleans, Atlanta, and New England were above 400, but that is it. Washington and Dallas rounded out the top 5. The worst in the NFL during that stretch of time was the Los Angeles Rams with 320 yards a game. That was the worst in the whole league.
Are we being unrealistic to expect the Cowboys - without Ezekiel Elliott - to at least reach the dizzying heights of the worst team in the industry? If we are, then we are paying the coaching staff too much money and should give everyone's money to this RB (who in all his wisdom sits and serves his NFL suspension in Cabo). Maybe just give everyone's money to him if he is this valuable. Again, the goal is NFL average. Instead, also with points per game, this is what they get:
We could understand a 10-20 percent drop-off. We cannot understand a 73 percent drop-off over a 3-game stretch. This is truly a complete and utter failure that simply cannot be rationalized.
Like we said, there is still time to write the ending in a more pleasing fashion and save this season and perhaps this coaching staff. Their next three games are against Washington at home, at New York (a team with 2 wins all year), and at Oakland (a team with 3 wins since Week 2). But, as it stands, they are treading in territory where you would suggest that nobody can survive this.
WEEKLY DATA BOX VS CHARGERS
As you look at some of these wretched numbers, you can actually take solace in the fact that many of them are improved from the other two games in this stretch (at Atlanta and vs Philadelphia). 5 yards per play is a massive improvement from those two games when they sat below 4 yards per play. Again, the NFL yards per play this season is at 5.3, so all of these numbers are quite poor. It is just a matter of which poor numbers we want to fixate upon.
Let's look at the weekly use of the RPOs and Play Action. Just for definition sake, a RPO can also be a play-action play, so just keep that in mind. RPOs can be included in play-action passes, if they end up throwing out of it. Making sure everyone follows that.
WEEKLY PLAY-ACTION RESULTS
Something that really bothered me during this stretch is that the Cowboys seem to have been chased off their own bread and butter. Teams know the Cowboys' plays - we have discussed the rather small playbook - and now sit on the play-action rollouts and bootlegs. Because they sit on those tendencies to the point where opponents aren't falling for the fakes, the Cowboys have stopped running them. They literally tried one play-action play on Thursday. One. No wrinkle that would burn the hands of the defensive ends crashing on Dak. No determination to make them pay. Instead, they just didn't run them anymore after Derek Barnett's sack last Sunday night.
I have pretty big issues with this because it is your offensive identity. I understand that the defense is now adjusting to you. Fine, now counter their adjustments. Don't tear the section out of your playbook.
Here is Dak's throw chart - which looks like we have a few more yellow dots - interceptions - to figure out again. The QB is really struggling. You can see it in his posture. You can see it in his decision making. And you can see it in his production.
Also - not clearly noted here but more as an aside - most QBs struggle to throw to the opposite sideline. Right handed QBs throwing to the left sideline is an issue as you see below. Also, with that, you generally see the top cornerback locking up on the right side so that he must deal with that obstruction if he chooses to go to his strong side.
DAK PRESCOTT THROW CHART
Unfortunately, this chart above demonstrates that the Cowboys did not accomplish much in their base offense. S11 is the 2-minute drill/3rd down offense and when you call behind by 20 points, they do most of the lifting in what we refer to as "garbage time".
To pass well from under center - all the groupings without the "S" next to it - you need a play-action game and the Cowboys have decided to stop using it. I don't know what they are trying to do right now beyond counting down the days on their calendar to the return of Elliott, to be honest.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
You know how I love to break down videos and particular plays, but the NFL has not put up the All-22's at this point and the show must go on. Also, if you were ever going to not look at videos of issues with this offense, maybe Thanksgiving week would be the one to miss, anyway.
Three of them were mop-up games at the end of seasons where the Cowboys sat their QB1 because there was no reason to play him. Of the other 14, six were played by backup QBs because the QB1 was injured. That leaves 8 games where the Cowboys' starting QB was present and accounted for and still couldn't past those two low thresholds of points and yards. Four for Tony Romo and four for Dak Prescott. The four for Romo were ALL against the Philadelphia Eagles (2006, 2007, 2011, and 2014).
That leaves Prescott. The Giants game last season and then the last three weeks. This should tell you all you need to know. We aren't talking about winning and losing. We aren't even talking about being close (they have lost the last 3 games by 70 points). We are talking about simply reaching the threshold of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Until they can do it - with or without a RB - no coaching job should be beyond examining. This is brutal and there is no way to spin it any other way.
Unfortunately, asking them to fix it immediately is pointless. They pretty clearly have no idea how to do so.