Spagnola: These Aren’t Last Year’s Cowboys
Three more practices, and here we go.
Cowboys-Buccaneers, 7:20 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 9, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. A nation watching on primetime television. No doubt the Bucs raising high their second Super Bowl championship flag.
And the Cowboys, on the road for the first of two consecutive games. Underdogs. Coming off only their second losing season at 6-10 since going 6-10 in 2010.
Not in this game, particularly, but for the 2021 season. What to expect? What should you expect?
Darn well needs to be better than last year’s 6-10. Much better. But will it be?
Well, been watching this team since leaving for training camp on July 20 through Friday’s final practice of this week. A full 45 days. Practices in Oxnard, one even with the Rams. Games in Canton, Ohio, and Glendale, Ariz. Practices here at The Star. Two games at AT&T Stadium.
From what we’ve seen covering the Cowboys traveling road show, this season will be better, health permitting. OK, there, said it. And not for having suffered some sort of heat stroke out here the past couple of practices with the high humidity pushing “the feel like” temperature into the hundreds.
Look, here is the fallacy assessing this team. That abominable 6-10 season is rubbing off on this year’s expectations. Clouding the coaching ability of Mike McCarthy. Shrouding this defense in clouds of darkness.
Well, here to tell you, 2020 is dead and gone. Buried. This is a new year. A new team. A more talented team. A healthier team.
Now normally ‘bout this time of year, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is asked for his assessment, many poking him in the ribs, hoping he will predict a Super Bowl championship on the horizon. Predicting an end to the now 25-year drought. Heck, that’s so long ago the Cowboys still have the rights to 71 guys in this building who were not yet 2 years old when the Cowboys beat Pittsburgh, 27-17, on Jan. 28, 1996, in Tempe, Ariz.
The self-admitted naïve Jerry most always looks at the glass, not just half full, but overflowing. Yet thought his assessment Friday morning on 105.3 The Fan was spot on. Pragmatic, saying what I would have said myself when asked his thoughts of his 2021 team.
“I feel this is the team that I thought we were going to have last year,” Jones began in full assessment. “Of course, that was before Dak’s injury. That was the euphoria for me over having Mike as our coach; not necessarily appreciated what our lack of practice over COVID and all of that, and how it was going to impact the actual team. Certainly not anticipating the injuries and certainly not anticipating the breakdown we had in defense.
“But this year, with what we addressed – and boy did we go at it, and I’m sure you’ll give us that – we’ll see how the results are. But man, did we change it up. You change something up about as good as you can change it up, and correct it up, and what we lost when we lost Dak. We hope we got back our protection and our front line on offense … and now No. 88 is just better. All of those things give me the same feeling as I had last year.
“We’re going to be a good team.”
As we remember, this offense was smoking last year, even in those first five games when going 2-3, but already playing without La’el Collins for the entire season, Tyron Smith for just two games, Blake Jarwin for just the season opener. And then in the third quarter of the sixth games losing Dak Prescott for the entire season, along with backup quarterback Andy Dalton for two games and parts of a third.
That’s a lot to overcome, and the Cowboys did not overcome.
Especially when your defense gives up 473 points, the most in franchise history. As I keep saying, historically bad, like 153 points worse than in 2019 when the Cowboys’ total defense finished ninth and their run defense 11th.
Last year, though, is last year.