Cowboys Changes: What Would Jimmy Do?

Mike Fisher

ARLINGTON - Early on Sunday morning, I issued a tweet about a piece of information given me by a person I identified as "an ex-coach.'' What that person told me after film study of the awful Dallas Cowboys defense:

"The Cowboys defense IS hustling. The reason it doesn't look like it is because (scheme-wise) the players don't know what they're supposed to be doing.''

Interestingly, at the same time I was reporting this, ex-Cowboys assistant Dave Wannstedt was saying essentially the same thing on the "NFL on FOX'' pregame show. More interesting still?

Earlier in the week, ex-Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson had said the same exact thing.

Johnson appeared on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” early in the week and offered thoughts on an assortment of things, highlighted by his believe that Dallas can win with Andy Dalton QB'ing in place of the out-for-the-season Dak Prescott. Via Jon Machota of The Athletic, Jimmy's four key points:

1) "I think Dalton will be a perfect fit. In fact, he will help that defense. As long as he manages the game, and utilizes that supporting cast, I think they shouldn’t miss a beat.''

2) "They’re in the NFC East. If you (Cowherd) were the quarterback for the Cowboys, you’d win the NFC East. So I think they’re in good shape.”

3) "How you protect the defense is you eliminate the negative plays and you increase your time of possession by running the football with Ezekiel Elliott.''

4) "That defense is really struggling. They went from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and half the players really don’t know what they’re doing.''

From a Cowboys perspective, Point No. 1 is a hope; we will see, starting tonight, if Dalton is the "elite bus driver'' I believe him to be - meaning he can help a good team win games.

Point No. 2 is especially valid now that we've seen Sunday's Week 6, with Philadelphia and Washington losing again. The entire NFC East, including 2-3 Dallas, now has five wins total. Ideally, the Cowboys, who play Monday Night hosts to the Cardinals here at AT&T Stadium, will be suitably inspired.

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Point No. 3 is one I've made often, and one Dallas coach Mike McCarthy has pooh-poohed, preferring to believe that the answer is simply to score quick and plenty. That concept doesn't work when the Cowboys defense is allowing foes to do the same thing - often doing it better.

Some football rules never change. Time of possession can still matter. Zeke - obviously among this team's best players - can still matter.

Point No. 4? That's what this story is really all about. McCarthy and his defensive staff, led by coordinator Mike Nolan, instituted philosophical changes that simply are not working. It's left even his good defensive players uncertain and hesitant.

My source says so. Wannstedt says so. And the esteemed Jimmy Johnson says so. "Half the players really don't know what they're doing''? is a blanket indictment of the problem ... and while "stubbornness'' is often locked into a coach's DNA, a "WWJD?'' consideration is obviously merited here by McCarthy's Cowboys.

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