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Another Problem: Jerry Jones' Cowboys Don't Defend NFC East Titles

Cowboys' 30-year drought, Mavs' meltdown, overrated coaching and Dallas ain't as friendly as you think, all in this week's DFW sports notebook ...

 WHITT’S END: 1.21.21

Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End …

*Beware next season. Repeating as NFC East champs is always dicey, evidenced by the division producing 17 consecutive different winners. And the first-place schedule – in 2022 the Dallas Cowboys will host Tom Brady’s Bucs and Joe Burrow’s Bengals and visit Aaron Rodgers’ Packers at Lambeau – always gives them fits. 

Their last four seasons following a division title: 6-10, 4-12, 9-7 and 8-8.

*Honestly, it doesn’t matter that much if Mike McCarthy stays or goes as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Because – I’ll say it again – coaching is the most overrated aspect of sports. 

Give me the best players with the worst coach and I’ll bludgeon your team of the worst players with the best coach. No? McCarthy didn’t drastically alter his style or substance from 2020 when the Cowboys finished 6-10. The reason they improved to 12-5 in 2021 was the arrival of Micah Parsons and the return of Dak Prescott. You think coaching is key? 

Bill Belichick is a football God who in eight NFL seasons without Tom Brady has exactly one playoff win. 

Same for San Antonio Spurs’ royalty Gregg Popovich, who in 19 years with Tim Duncan won five NBA championships but without him hasn’t sniffed The Finals and the last two seasons has missed the playoffs. 

In baseball, revered manager Joe Torre won four World Series with the Yankees but in 17 other seasons with four different teams – without the likes of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera – went to the postseason only twice. 

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Moral to the story: Cowboys fans should be happier that Will McClay is returning more than “Charlie F*ckaround”.

*The stars seemingly were aligned Thursday night for the Dallas Mavericks to continue one of their most impressive months in years and be a “thing” again in the NBA. Recent wins over the team with the league’s best record (Warriors), one with a nine-game winning streak (Bulls) and another one with an 11-game streak (Grizzlies) had pushed Dallas up the standings and onto the front burner. Now the league-leading Suns came to town, accompanied by TNT’s curious cameras but not injured star center Deandre Ayton. Thanks to a sweet steal-and-three, the Mavs took an eight-point lead into halftime and kept it through three quarters. They outrebounded Phoenix by 10. They made more 3-pointers (11-8). And they held the Suns below 50-percent shooting (45.3). Add it all up and … I’m still not sure how they were outscored, 35-19, in the fourth quarter of a deflating eight-point loss.

Tim Hardaway clanged a couple of open 3s (one from each corner) in the final two minutes. Devin Booker made a monster block on an aggressive drive by Dorian Finney-Smith. Somebody named Bismack Biyombo made clutch plays in the paint. Luka took only three shots in the fourth. Jalen Brunson again struggled against long defenders, committing a season-high six turnovers. And, in the end, the Mavs could only muster six points over the final seven minutes. Hard to win against a good team when your two primary ball-handlers (Brunson and Doncic) combine for 14 turnovers.

They pride themselves on a new-and-improved elite defense. But against the Suns they got a reminder of what it looks like to have a championship defense.

*Last week’s loss ensures the extension of an unfathomable Cowboys’ drought. Since they’re not playing the Buccaneers in Tampa this weekend, they will go 30 years without a road playoff win. Last one: The 1992 “How ’Bout Them Cowboys?!” NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park. Since then they’re 0-8.

*Brady has thrown more touchdowns since he turned 40 (168) than Troy Aikman threw his entire career (165). For what it’s worth, Brady (44) is also older than remaining NFC playoff coaches Sean McVay (35), Kyle Shanahan (42) and Matt LaFleur (42).

*Great hire in Gary Patterson for the University of Texas. And props to Steve Sarkisian’s ego for allowing another big persona with a huge resume into the club. Patterson built legendary defenses at TCU.

Believe me, when you are the 100th-ranked defense that allowed 200+ yards rushing per game and a whopping 57 points to Kansas at home, you need all the help you can get on defense.

*Wanna see something as mysterious as it is maddening? Go back and watch Dallas’ final drive vs. the 49ers. On the second play, Prescott flips a pass in the left flat to Tony Pollard for 10 yards. Should’ve been a lot more. Out in front to block, by design, was receiver Amari Cooper. But he nonchalantly jogs as if in a walk-through, ultimately not laying a pinkie on the 49ers defender that continues unimpeded to push Pollard out of bounds.

I’m not saying Cooper didn’t care enough; his body language said it for him.

*The Mavs have now held 22 consecutive opponents under 50-percent shooting, third-longest streak in the NBA this season. In those games, however, they are “only” 14-8.

*Prescott wasn’t great against San Francisco. He slid too late and on way too many occasions he threw too late. It’s obviously nitpicking on a guy who threw for 4,449 yards and a franchise-record 37 touchdowns, but for all his assets Dak still doesn’t have that uncanny knack of instinctively – like Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes – throwing his receivers open.

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'Randy Replacements': Gregory Broncos Injury News as Cowboys Tout DEs

"I know that we’ve had some people concerned because Gregory got out of here,'' Jones said. "But I feel good about where we are.”

Still, Drew Pearson calling him a “$40-million-a year disappointment” seems harsh.

*We think of ourselves dripping with southern hospitality and all, but is Dallas really “friendly”? Nope, not according to a new study of America’s most neighborly cities. The research, which surveyed residents on things like satisfaction with neighbors and sense of community, ranked Dallas behind Austin and Houston in Texas and barely in the Top 20 (19th) of America’s 30 biggest cities. I’m guessing they did the survey last Monday morning after you-know-what soured everyone’s mood.

*Excruciating as it was – is – the Cowboys’ loss to the 49ers barely cracks the Top 10 of the most painful season-ending losses of the Jerry Jones era.

*Hot.

*Not.

*Cowboys coaches’ record after their first two seasons: Landry 4-20-2; Jimmy 8-24; Switzer 24-8; Gailey 18-14; Campo 10-22; Parcells 16-16; Wade 22-10; Garrett 16-16; McCarthy 18-15.

*Good ol’ Cracker Barrel, the country store serving comfort food in a vibe we all wish America could return to. Except … in 2014 a waitress at its restaurant in Tennessee refilled a man’s water glass with commercial-grade bleach. A jury awarded the man $9 million and now the country folk with American values aren’t handling it too well. Cracker Barrel is appealing the verdict because it was “an unfortunate and isolated incident that occurred at one of our stores eight years ago." Warm biscuits. Cold response.

*Hilarious story about the 1990s Cowboys I’d never heard … until Daryl Johnston told it this week. Super Bowl stowaway?!

*Note to companies sending me spam: The email address I want you to stop sending spam to is the same email address you just sent spam to. When you click “unsubscribe”, why do you have to type in your address again? It’s like someone calling you and saying “Well, if you want me to stop calling you please tell me your phone number.”

What the what?!

*Iconic Cowboys’ radio voice Brad Sham called his 900th game last Sunday. “I haven’t gotten fired yet,” he joked, “so let me see if I can stick around to a thousand.” Still weird that – because Sham left to do Texas Rangers games 1995-97 – that the last person to call a Cowboys Super Bowl is Dave Garrett.

*Cough and tough don’t rhyme, but through and threw do. Cool, got it. Totally makes sense.

*27 NFL teams scored 500+ in the regular season. Only two failed to win a playoff game: 2000 Rams and, yep, 2021 Cowboys. Ouch.

*Cowboys have now made 11 consecutive trips to the playoffs without making it to a Super Bowl, a dubious NFL record. Double ouch.

*How do we let resorts get away with charging us a “resort fee”? Same spineless way we slowly let airlines raise ticket prices while discontinuing serving real food while tacking on baggage fees. Has any wing of American government failed more miserably than the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection?

*If you would’ve told me before the game that Jimmy Garappolo would throw an interception and that 49ers’ tight end George Kittle would have only one catch for 18 yards, I would have predicted the Cowboys winning by 10+ points. Sadly, if you would’ve told me the Cowboys were going to be called for 14 penalties I would’ve merely shrugged.

*Autopsy of a Hail Nary: For the umpteenth – but likely not last – time, the more I watch the final, fatal seconds of the Cowboys’ loss the more I want to know why umpire Ramon George lined up 15 behind the offense on one play and then backpedaled five yards behind the defense on the game’s final two plays. Does not compute.

*Went to a Mavs game last weekend and lo and behold it was “Pride Night”, complete with cool T-shirts. See, Texas Rangers, it’s not that dang difficult to be inclusive of everyone in your fan base. Try it. Dare ya!

*Beware next season. Repeating as NFC East champs is always dicey, evidenced by the division producing 17 consecutive different winners. And the first-place schedule – in 2022 the Cowboys will host Brady’s Bucs and Joe Burrow’s Bengals and visit Rodgers’ Packers at Lambeau – always gives them fits. Their last four seasons following a division title: 6-10, 4-12, 9-7 and 8-8.

*This Weekend? Saturday let’s play some tennis, indoors obviously. Sunday let’s watch the Cowboys play the, er, let’s watch some NFL Playoffs, indoors obviously. As always, don’t be a stranger.