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Why The Cowboys Will Miss The Playoffs Again

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The Cowboys' defense was hardly an asset to the cause before Sean Lee went down, but now, it's downright destructive to it. Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images
The Cowboys' defense was hardly an asset to the cause before Sean Lee went down, but now, it's downright destructive to it. Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Last week, as part of a point-counterpoint series, I attempted to outline and argue a case for the Dallas Cowboys winning the NFC East. This week, I’m tackling the easier side. But to address all the possible reasons that could contribute to Dallas missing the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year, well, that’s more suited to a Kindle or book on tape. For the sake of brevity and optimism, I’ll rank just a few of the specific forces that could break the ‘Boys in 2014.

The Sean Lee Situation

There’s just no getting around the whopping destruction this one torn ligament could cause. When the Cowboys waved bye to DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, it was expected, like a cost built into a preliminary budget. Those losses could have been offset by Anthony Spencer returning to 2012 form and by Henry Melton adapting to the scheme as envisioned. The D-line was and is a shell of its former self. But with a healthy Spencer and George Selvie plus DeMarcus Lawrence’s potential and Rod Marinelli’s scheme, there was hope for a swift rebuild.

Lee’s injury shattered any such illusions. The ‘Boys depended on the Penn State product for a little bit of everything: he was their best tackler, mid-range pass defender and second-level pass rusher. Running plays notwithstanding, his absence leaves the Cowboys more vulnerable to the shallow crosses and catch-and-run screens that burned them so often last year. His unteachable knack for finding the ball and the action made him the team’s go-to playmaker. Even without the D-line problems, this would still look like a death sentence.

The Secondary

They have to cover better, end of story. This is just one of those football scenarios where the solution is really that simple.

The Front Office

In my opinion, Jason Garrett should be a coordinator in another town right now. But to be fair, a head coach can’t be an effective motivator and strategist if he’s just a figurehead — and that’s precisely what Jerry Jones reduced Garrett to when he revoked his longtime play-calling job. It’s a screwed up relationship between owner/GM and coach that limits the latter’s authority in game management and locker room settings. It won’t last another non-playoff season. It just can’t.

I like the Scott Linehan hiring — a lot. But it will take a few games to click. The Cowboys really need at least one statement performance from their offense against the likes of St. Louis, New Orleans and San Francisco — all early matchups. It could very easily translate into a God-awful start.

Tony Romo’s Health

The quarterback has undergone multiple surgeries in six months’ time and been limited in OTAs. I find this injury potentially disconcerting for two reasons: it could affect his elusiveness, and it could, presumably, be re-aggravated by legal hits on both Romo the scrambler and Romo the pocket passer.

Much as it could behoove Dallas to up DeMarco Murray’s touches in what’s probably his last year, you have to figure with Linehan, they’ll still be the high-flying Cowboys at heart. Kyle Orton’s future is very uncertain. Losing Romo for even a game would immediately jeopardize the offense and, thus, the team’s sole shot at postseason action. Can’t you just close your eyes and see the dozens of columns pining for Johnny Manziel and crying for opportunity lost? Who wants that?