The Dallas Cowboys are dealing with some thorny issues at the moment. On Wednesday, the team lost star left tackle Tyron Smith for an extended period of time due to an avulsion fracture of the knee. If he returns this season, it won't be until December at the earliest, per the most recent reports.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones doesn't appear to be worried. He says the team is in as good a position as it was last year, if not better.
"The offensive talent has got to step up, with a recognition that you can't count on what you might have had up there," Jones said during an appearance on ESPN's "First Take," referring to the offensive line.
Yet Dallas is not just dealing with the absence of Smith. The team also let left guard Connor Williams leave in free agency for a contract with the Miami Dolphins, and cut ties with right tackle La'el Collins, who quickly caught on with the Cincinnati Bengals. That's three spots along the offensive front where the team will have new starters, all of which figure to be downgrades from their predecessors.
Not only that, but Jones seems to think that football in 2022 works the same way it did in 1992, when the Cowboys won their first Super Bowl during his ownership tenure. That's evidenced by his thoughts on running back Ezekiel Elliott and his centrality to the team's success.
"He's [Elliott] in the best shape he's ever been in," Jones said. "Now, it is still a fact: We go as Zeke goes. I know it's a lot on Dak [Prescott]'s shoulders, but we go as Zeke goes. He's very capable of being everything we've ever wanted him to be. The wild card, though, is the guy that's playing beside him: [Tony] Pollard. And so, we put Pollard in some plans, that with Zeke, for the defenses to have to work against mid-week and be ready to play. Then, you've got Pollard. I really like where we are at running back. But it all starts and stops with Zeke."
First of all, this is simply an antiquated view of football. It is not true that NFL teams do go as far as their running back goes in 2022 -- if it ever was. It has been proven time and again that pass offense and pass defense is what drives team success, and that whether or not a team has success running the ball has little bearing on its passing success. Second of all, this is a distorted view of the Cowboys' running back room. Pollard has out-performed Elliott every season he has been in the league, and has done so by increasingly dramatic margins.
If anything, Pollard should be eating into Elliott's workload and pushing the incumbent starter into more of a short-yardage and red zone role, rather than operating as a change of pace. Alas, the Jones family does not see it that way.
Jones also signaled extreme confidence in head coach Mike McCarthy, stating, "If there was another person on this planet that I thought I could put in Mike's spot and do a better job of getting us to a Super Bowl, [that coach] would be here." Considering McCarthy's recent track record, as well as Jones' track record of loyalty to coaches such as McCarthy's predecessor, Jason Garrett, the confidence seems at least somewhat -- if not entirely -- misplaced.
Jones has repeatedly stated this offseason that he expects big things from this Cowboys team, despite the talent losses it suffered this offseason (in addition to Williams and Collins, the Cowboys also lost Cedrick Wilson and Randy Gregory in free agency, and traded Amari Cooper). If they don't live up to his high expectations, one would figure that might spur massive changes across the board. Given how Jones is talking about some of the principle actors on the team, though, that might not be the case.