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Friday, January 20, 2012
Fixing the Cowboys: Improve their fragile psyche

By Jean-Jacques Taylor

The is the final installment of Fixing the Cowboys.

Fixing Cowboys
Jason Garrett can fix the Cowboys. First, though, he must stop lying to himself.

He can add a pass-rusher from the draft, or a guard and a cornerback in free agency - and it still won’t matter.

Garrett needs a comprehensive study of why his team keeps collapsing every time the season turns to December and the games become more important.

It’s not a fluke. Or a coincidence. There’s something wrong with this team’s intangibles, and if Garrett keeps running from the truth instead of addressing it, then the problem is never going to go away.

Garrett likes to explain away the end-of-the-season collapses by saying each team is different.

Sometimes, he’ll just refer to it as a lack of execution. If that’s the case, then the players either aren’t good enough or smart enough.

TBD
Jason Garrett has to deal with the Cowboys' psyche as well as their personnel.
Usually, Garrett says a common thread doesn’t exist.

Then why do the Cowboys seemingly fall apart every year when it matters most?

After all, the Cowboys have entered the final month of the season at least three games over .500 six times since 2005, but Dallas has made the playoffs just three times.

Since 2007, they’ve entered the final month of the season at least three games over .500 four times. They’ve made the playoffs once.

Garrett has either been the offensive coordinator or head coach on each of those teams. So it’s not good enough for him to say he doesn’t know why the annual swoon occurs.

That’s not good enough.

If this team needs weekly visits with a shrink, then so be it. If it needs to spend an hour a day using visualization techniques, that’s cool too.

But the players know they shrink at winning time.

Maybe they’re scared. Or overwhelmed by the moment. Perhaps the pressure gets to them.

All we know for sure is the Cowboys are 14-20 in December and January since 2005.

In 2009, Dallas went 11-5 and won its last three of the regular season to get into the playoffs and temporarily end the chatter about the failed Decembers. It represents one of only two winning December/January months this team has had since 2005.

Once Garrett studies the report, he can implement some new strategies to improve the Cowboys’ end-of-the-season performance.

Then he can turn his attention to finding a pass rusher, because Anthony Spencer can’t do it.

The 3-4 defense is all about the outside linebackers putting heat on the quarterback. DeMarcus Ware had 19.5 sacks this season; the rest of his teammates had 21.5.

You can’t win in today’s NFL if you can’t rush the passer because every single rule is designed to throw the ball. The Giants are in the NFC Championship game because they harass the passer better than most with just their front four.

The pass rush will make Orlando Scandrick, Mike Jenkins and Gerald Sensabaugh better. And that will make the Cowboys better.

Baltimore, the New York Giants and San Francisco are proof that you can still win with defense in the NFL. The Cowboys’ defense failed to compete in the first half of their win-and-get-in playoff game against the Giants.

Quarterbacks under duress make mistakes. That aspect of the NFL hasn’t changed in 50 years.

Until the defense gets fixed, Dallas isn’t a serious threat to do anything but be first-round playoff fodder.

This team lacks playmakers on defense. Ware and Sean Lee -- that’s it.

Jay Ratliff, consistently double-teamed at nose tackle, doesn’t make enough plays. That could change if the Cowboys move him to defensive end, as they should, and take advantage of his athleticism.

Another pass-rusher paired with Ware might make Mike Jenkins a playmaker again.

The defense needs to be fixed. We all know that.

But nothing he’ll do will matter if Garrett doesn’t find out why this team has a fragile psyche that consistently results in late-season collapses.