Congratulations, Dallas, in the middle of what has been a trash vomit season, you had a competitive outing against an undefeated Steelers team.
But despite looking OK overall, it’s still very clear that many of the problems come from the top. Shit rolls downhill as it were.
The first and obvious criticism stems from McCarthy’s SUS play calling in crucial moments. The Boys were running the ball well all night but on two occasions, on 4th and inches, McCarthy decided to settle for a field goal and a punt. Even though he went for it on 4th and short 19 times this season, when it actually mattered, when the game was on the line, he played scared. Pretty much the opposite of the decision making pattern I want from my head coach. He’d rather try two fake punts (both failing of course) in the first half of a game, then try and put an actual victory on ice when it matters.
Another less obvious issue was how the carries were split between Pollard and Zeke. I understand the notion of giving respect to someone like Zeke and trusting what he’s done in the past, past versus what he’s done in recent memory. Actually, no, I don’t understand that. Zeke hasn’t been very good this year. That’s the truth. He also happened to be banged up with a calf injury. This team wasn’t even sure if Zeke was going to be able to go until game time. And yet, they gave the man the rock 18 times even though he was averaging less than 3 yards per carry. Tony Pollard, on the other hand, was very productive. Tony Pollard ran for more yards on half the carries than Zeke did last night. To not roll with the hot hand and to keep riding your fumbling horse with a bum leg? That’s on Mikey Mac. Big time.
Nolan’s defensive failures ultimately fall on McCarthy as well. Last night was another example. While everyone is somehow celebrating the fact the Dallas D didn’t get curb stomped (reminder: they still gave up 300+ yards and 3 TDs to a HOBBLED Big Ben), there were still major problems that have not been addressed. Take Jaylon Smith, who continues to disappoint. Up 19-16, Crawford got to Ben and forced a fumble, which Aldon Smith returned 22 yards to the Pitt 21. Guess what? Smith had illegal contact, giving Pitt a 1st down. Soon after, with Pitt facing 3rd and 10, Smith got flagged for roughing the passer, giving Pitt ANOTHER first and of course, four plays later they took a lead they never relinquished.
There’s just so many areas where this team needs help, and McCarthy isn’t helping in any of them. This team still turns the ball over way too much. For example, Gilbert had a terrible pass picked by Minkah Fitzpatrick in the end zone, and part of that is due to play calling. Forcing a pass on 3rd down inside the 10 with a rookie QB is a product of bad play calling on first and second down, especially against a seasoned secondary with a strong pass rush.
This week, McCarthy said he would not take over play-calling from Kellen Moore, but how much more of this can he watch and not step in? That’s on him. This team has not been able to throw deep since Dak went down (Gilbert had TWO 20 yard throws yesterday), meaning that the offense just cannot stretch the field.
Fortunately, this week Dallas is off, before moving on to Minnesota on the 22nd. Can anything be fixed between now and then? God, I hope not. McCarthy is CLEARLY not the coach to take Dallas into the promised land or even the playoffs. But he can surely be the one to lead them to a Top 5 Draft Pick, and that’s all that Cowboy fans have left to cheer for.
So while I want to fire McCarthy, his special brand of ineptitude may be just what this team needs right now.
PS The Steelers aren't "The World's Team" and it appears they are not elite. I said it… We're the Universe's Team.