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Top Five: Culprits In Cowboys' 1-4 Start

We list the five primary parties at fault for the abomination that is the Cowboys' 2010 season.

Here we are just five games into a once promising 2010 Cowboys season, and we're left with little to do but assign blame. I'm not typically a fan of postmortems, but the spectacular nature of their failure this season is a wakeup call. Here are the five most culpable parties in this 2010 collapse.


No. 5 - Wade Phillips 

Phillips tops a lot of folks' lists today, but he's merely a symptom of the larger problem. He's an upper tier defensive coordinator hired to be a defensive coordinator and handle certain administrative duties, and he's done those two things pretty well. 

What he hasn't done well is eliminate mistakes. The focus level of this team has been abysmal, and the coach - even in a Jerry Jones led organization - must accept some amount of blame for that. Phillips will be fired, either immediately after the season or when Jerry Jones has sorted out how he wants to handle a strike/lockout, and he probably should be. He's a really good coordinator, and that's how he'll finish his career.


No. 4 - Jason Garrett 

Garrett is the other scapegoat for those looking to treat symptoms while ignoring the core disease. He does deserve to be on this list, though not for some of the most popular reasons. Garrett ran the ball more yesterday - to the tune of 2.5 yards per carry for his backs. The offense was perfectly balanced in run/pass until it needed big yards in little time late in the game. Some of what has been a peculiar scheme is almost certainly dictated by what the staff perceives as internal weaknesses, and we don't know how much input the owner or head coach have had, particularly recently. It did seem to take Jones' public request for Felix Jones to be more involved.

Garrett will go with Phillips, and when he gets his next coordinator job (though that could be a little while), we will have a better understanding of his tenure in Dallas, just as we did Bill Parcells aides Sean Payton, Todd Haley and Tony Sparano.


No. 3 - The Offensive Line 

Many could see that the offensive line would be a problem for the Cowboys this year. Leonard Davis and Andre Gurode had very poor 2009's, Marc Colombo was returning from a serious injury, and Doug Free would be a first time starter at left tackle. Then, as if there weren't enough issues, Colombo and Kyle Kosier, the rock of the line in 2009, suffered knee injuries that bled into the season. New backup tackle Alex Barron actually managed to disappoint, despite low expectations.

When I picked the Eagles to win the East and the Cowboys to miss the playoffs in our preseason predictions, I blamed the offensive line, but I still expected more than what we've seen. Beyond the inconsistent play, the line has committed a comedy of errors, chewing up the bulk of the team's typically high penalty yardage - much of it at the most inopportune of times - and failing to use proper technique in cut blocks, leading to costly deflected interceptions. The offensive game plans in Washington and Minnesota seemed to be specifically tailored to sidestep poor line play, and both games ended in frustrating losses. 

For the team to rebound and contend for a Super Bowl whenever there is NFL football again, there will have to be line turnover.


No. 2 - Jerry Jones 

So, yeah, Jerry is the problem. He does a lot of things well. He's a remarkable guy who clearly wants to win, but he wants to play with his toy more than that, and though it's now a clichéd criticism, it is truly at the heart of the Cowboys' problems. Jerry was miserable in the latter days of Jimmy Johnson and during Bill Parcells' tenure because they wanted to hog all of the fun. We won't see another Parcells here any time soon unless things reach dire levels (more on that in a moment), and, even if we did, it would be short lived.

Jerry makes sure that players know where their bread is buttered and creates an undercurrent of security. While those traits can exist in certain businesses and some other sports, a football team cannot be run that way. While most are acutely aware of the overriding problem, there was hope that pure talent, collected primarily during Parcells' time, could overcome. We've watched a lot of football for a long time around here. We should have known better.


No. 1 - DFW Cowboys fans 

This is Jerry's toy, yes. But he is beholden to fans, because he doesn't want to lose millions upon millions while funding his dream job. He (unfortunately) picked Greg Ellis instead of Randy Moss because he 'heard' fans' displeasure over the behavior of his players. He hired Parcells, according to many conspiracy theorists (me included) and his own (possibly sarcastic) drunk ramblings, to convince fans of his sincerity, after firing Jimmy Johnson and slogging through three consecutive 5-11 seasons - the first time the franchise had gone three years without at least seven wins since its early expansion seasons.

The only thing that can shame Jerry into changing his ways again - even temporarily - is fan disinterest. We fans, and particularly those of us in town buying tickets, retained too much faith and interest in the Cowboys to scare Jerry straight. I'm not saying that I can blame us; I'm an addict myself. But our capitulation to Jerry's terms is the one thing that has led directly to the mess that we currently have.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.