The first six games of the Mike McCarthy era have not gone as planned. Injuries have decimated a Dallas Cowboys squad that entered the season as a Super Bowl favorite. With the team struggling on both sides of the ball, unnamed players recently blasted McCarthy’s coaching staff with some unfavorable remarks.
However, Leighton Vander Esch isn’t letting that slide. The talented linebacker just called out those anonymous teammates with a stern message that leaves no room for interpretation. But will his words galvanize a 2-4 Cowboys team that somehow still remains in the hunt for a playoff berth?
Discontent in Dallas
From losing Tyron Smith for the year to watching Dak Prescott snap his ankle, the Cowboys have been dealt a number of devastating injury blows this season. As a result, Jerry Jones’ team has started the season with a disappointing 2-4 record.
Already dealing with a number of challenges, Mike McCarthy recently added another one to his plate after several unnamed Cowboys players ripped into his coaching staff following the team’s 38-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football.
“This coaching staff is totally unprepared,” one unnamed player told the NFL Network’s Jane Slater. “They don’t teach. They don’t have a sense of adjusting on the fly.”
Another anonymous player told Slater, “They just aren’t good at their jobs.”
Based on those comments, it certainly sounds like there’s discontent in Dallas. But luckily for McCarthy, he just got some assistance from one of his most important players.
Leighton Vander Esch calls out his teammates with a stern message
After a fractured collarbone forced Leighton Vander Esch to miss four games, the 2018 first-round pick returned to action on Monday night. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, his return did not lead to better results on defense.
Dallas surrendered 438 total yards in the 28-point loss to Arizona. Kenyan Drake and Kyle Murray combined for 238 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Murray also threw two touchdowns despite completing just nine passes. The poor effort led to Cowboys players expressing their displeasure about their coaches.
Even though his teammates could be correct in their assessment, the manner in which they ripped McCarthy’s coaching staff did not sit well with Vander Esch. In speaking with the media on Friday, he called out his teammates with a stern message.
“I think if you’re going to put it out there and not put your name on it, I think you’re an absolute coward,” Vander Esch said. “Simple as that. Own up to it.”
The third-year pro deserves credit for addressing the issue directly. While his teammates elected to make their comments anonymously, Vander Esch showed great leadership and maturity by putting them on blast. But will his words galvanize the Cowboys? Or will his stern message cause a further divide within the locker room?
Can the Cowboys turn their season around?
In most cases, a 2-4 team doesn’t have a shot at making the playoffs. But thanks to playing in the NFC East, the Cowboys actually have a chance at “earning” a postseason berth.
However, given the chemistry and injury issues that exist within the walls of AT&T Stadium, it will be a challenge for Dallas to turn its season around.
This week, the Cowboys should get back on track against the Washington Football Team. Ron Rivera’s squad has gone 1-5 and does not have any sense of identity on offense. Washington ranks 30th in scoring and has topped 21 points just once through six games.
Then again, Kyle Allen and Co. could break out of their slump against the NFL’s worst defense. Dallas ranks dead-last in points allowed at 36.3 points per game. If the Cowboys can’t slow down one of the most putrid offenses in football, they don’t have a chance of turning their season around.
If there’s any silver lining, at least Dallas does not have a difficult schedule. After their Week 10 bye, the Cowboys face just one team that currently has a winning record. Leighton Vander Esch and his teammates still have to play the Philadelphia Eagles twice. They also will take on Washington again in Week 12 before finishing their season with another divisional game against the New York Giants.
Somehow, despite all of their problems, the Cowboys may not be done just yet.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.