In the end, the 2022 Dallas Cowboys’ season extended one game further than the previous season.
The Cowboys’ season ended in the NFL Divisional playoff round in a 19-12 loss at the San Francisco 49ers. Dallas, of course, advanced to this point by pummeling Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-14 on the road in Super Wild Card round Monday. Last January, the No. 3 seed Cowboys lost in the Super Wild Card round 23-17 to these same 49ers.
As a Wild Card team, these Cowboys finished the season at 13-6, including two playoff games. Last season, Dallas finished 12-6 and won the NFC East title.
So was true progress made?
It will be interesting to see how Dallas owner Jerry Jones sees it. The immediate reality of the Cowboys’ lot in the NFL as they head to the offseason is that they lag behind both the Philadelphia Eagles and the 49ers in the NFC. Dallas might be the third best team in the NFC. But is that really good enough?
With the Eagles being in the NFC East and longtime playoff adversary San Francisco ending the Cowboys’ season the past two years, it may be tough for Jones to digest this season and proclaim ultimate happiness in the direction where the team is headed.
So that needs to the question, what will Jerry do?
Of course, the immediate speculation will be centered around head coach Mike McCarthy. He is easy to pick on, but he didn’t do himself any favors Sunday. He is famous for his questionable game management skills and those have often popped up in the postseason with both the Green Bay Packers and the Cowboys.
Those clock management demons climbed between McCarthy’s head set late in Sunday’s loss. Let’s just say the Cowboys’ offensive play calling and execution on their final two drives were, well, interesting.
The final play was simply silly.
Yes, Ezekiel Elliott was at center. It did not go well.
Of course, there has long been speculation that Jones will try to soothe his longtime Sean Payton itch and he has the opportunity to do it. Payton, who has danced with basically every team with an opening this cycle, would likely prefer to go to Dallas.
Would Jones try to wash away the stink of San Francisco by throwing New Orleans a big draft-pick package to get his guy? You would think it’s crossing his mind as he deals with what he just saw and realizing bypassing the Eagles and 49ers may not be within McCarthy’s bandwidth.
Quarterback Dak Prescott was lackluster for the second time in the past three games. Could he be the scapegoat in a year where many quarterbacks may be available? Maybe, but changing coaches and hoping Prescott flourishes with Payton may be Jones’ preferred move.
Something may happen in Dallas because Jones, 80, probably isn’t interested in another short postseason run next year.