'The Candymen': How Do Cowboys Grow Some 'Backbone'?

'The Candymen': How Do The Sugar-Coated Dallas Cowboys Grow Themselves Some 'Backbone'?
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FRISCO - The Dallas Cowboys wasted a great deal of time in the week leading up to their spineless 25-3 loss at Washington by fibbing about problems rather than fixing them.

Oddly, coach Mike McCarthy's theme in the Sunday postgame media session was about ceasing with the "candy-coating'' of truths.

"We're not doing the basics,'' he said in a way that made it sound like the revelation it is not. "Let's not candy-coat it.''

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READ MORE: No More Cowboys 'Candy-Coating,' Says McCarthy

Strange, because first-year coach McCarthy has so far fit hand-in-glove with Jerry and Stephen Jones as "The Candymen,'' with two months of all three of them telling Cowboys Nation that everything about this team that is distasteful in every possible way - from emotion to stats - is something they can take tomorrow, dip it in a dream, separate the sorrow and collect up all the cream.

The Candymen can!

Now, let's be frank, point-by-point, about what lies beneath this organization's artificial-sweetener-highs and inevitable sugar-crashes:

*The injuries have been a plague. But injuries aren't why good receivers drop passes, aren't why good tackles fail to hang on, aren't why fast guys look slow. An injured team has an excuse to lose a close game; it does not have an excuse to be in position to be blown out, every week, for six straight weeks.

*The Dak Prescott story is no longer about his season-ending injury. (Nor is it about how a single QB would be making up 20- and 28-point deficits every week. That's not a reality for Dak or for any other QB in NFL history). The Dak story now is a convoluted one: Is is truly safe to assume the ankle going to be 100-percent, no issues? Is he the $40 million cure to most of the problems? Or is he a $40 million luxury on a crummy team? And could Dallas really be bad enough to draft high enough to select his replacement at a fraction of the cost?

Some of those ideas were not really in play a few weeks ago. But Dallas is now twice the embarrassment it was a few weeks ago - and more, this organization would be wise to revise everything it thinks it knows. And "everything'' must include quarterback.

*It can also be argued that Ezekiel Elliott, maybe fading or maybe just buried behind an awful O-line, is a wonderful $16-million piece on a championship team but an albatross on a rebuilding-from-crummy team. 

*McCarthy convinced the Jones family - and the world - that a winter in a Wisconsin barn represented a football renaissance. He brought to his Dallas interview not only "Super Bowl credentials'' but also a promise of being a "cutting-edge'' thinker who'd mastered such mysteries as "advanced analytics'' (even though a few years ago he opened scoffed at such eggheadedness).

Is McCarthy really smarter, better, than his predecessor? Or, more importantly, smarter and better than the coach on the opposite sideline? Is his "coaching brother'' Mike Nolan really smarter and better than his? And while you rush to an answer, consider this: It doesn't matter what positive thoughts you have about the new regime if those thoughts are not shared by the players who actually work for these coaches on a daily basis.

If you respect your opinion of McCarthy and staff ... why wouldn't you respect the opinion of the disgruntled Cowboys players who have clashed with McCarthy and staff?

*The locker-room discord is real. We take no pleasure in being "vindicated'' here; it's just that facts are facts. 

The Cowboys sort of came clean on that on Sunday, after a week of denial. At halftime of the Washington foolishness, FOX's Pam Oliver reported that McCarthy told her the team needs to dump its "woe-is-me'' mood, and that he's preached this until he's "blue in the face.''

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After the game, DeMarcus Lawrence admitted his team lacks "backbone.''

And sandwiched between those damning truths: The Nutshell Moment of the 2020 Dallas Cowboys, QB Andy Dalton being illegally assaulted by Washington's Jon Bostic, with not a single soul with The Star on his head or chest so much as raising a voice or lifting a finger in Dalton's defense.

What would be the proper way for a bad and angry football team to respond to such malevolence? Every TV viewer with an ounce of adrenalin flowing through his body knew.

But the Cowboys players?

"I don't know,'' said Amari Cooper when asked what would be a proper response.

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*Could the NFL trade deadline help? We're not sure if the Joneses truly know whether they should be "buyers'' or "sellers.'' "Buy'' to add to a 2-5 team? Why? Sell overpriced talent? How?

*The Jones family's constant and insistent belief that "everything will be OK,'' by the way, is also among the reasons everything is not OK. Everything might be OK with the "branding'' side of the business - but even that comes with blemishes, as I've long believed that the way the organization prioritizes "branding'' has a trickle-down to players ("#53Brands'') who figure that what's good for the franchise is also good for the player.

*How about firing coaches? Maybe. But if McCarthy is fired, Kellen Moore would surely be elevated. If defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is fired, Jim Tomsula would surely be elevated.

Does that equal Dallas winning games?

*Does this team have a thick talent base? One reason it's misleading to "blame the injuries'' is that on Sunday, as an example, this maybe-worst-ever defense was missing only two projected starters: tackle Gerald McCoy (hurt at the start of camp) and cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. 

Of the top 10 projected DBs, they had nine of them. Of the top six projected linebackers, they had five of them. Of the top 10 projected D-linemen, they had nine of them.

Upfront, Randy Gregory returned for the first time in two years to bolster the D-line. And the first-team corners were Trevon Diggs and Anthony Brown, who might've vaulted ahead of Awuzie, anyway.

In other words, the Dallas defense on Sunday at Washington was no more "injured'' than most any other NFL team. And yet the Cowboys defense, part of a franchise that is definitely troubled and maybe lost, did something highly emblematic of a franchise that thinks it can take a rainbow, wrap it in a sigh, soak it in the sun, and make a groovy lemon pie.

It again gave away points and victories like, well, like candy.