NFL offenses have scored 359 touchdowns through the first weeks of the season to set a league record. It only feels as though the Dallas Cowboys have surrendered about half those scores. Luckily for Jerry Jones and Mike McCarthy, All-Pro defensive back Richard Sherman has the simple solution to the Cowboys’ complicated problem.
The Dallas Cowboys’ defense is record-setting bad
The Cleveland Browns gashed the Dallas Cowboys’ defense for 307 rushing yards and 49 points in Week 4 of the NFL season. It was a continuation of a horrid start to the season on that side of the ball for the Cowboys, one so atrocious that it puts Dallas on pace to set embarrassing NFL records.
Opponents have run up 146 points on Dallas for an average of 36.5 a game. The worst mark in NFL history belongs to the 1966 New York Giants, who allowed an average of 35.8 a game on their way to a 1-12-1 record that somehow didn’t cost head coach Allie Sherman his job.
At their current pace, the Cowboys would surrender 584 points to break the mark for raw points of 533 by the 1981 Baltimore Colts, who went 2-14 to cost second-year head coach Mike McCormack his job.
To put Dallas’ defensive woes in perspective, the Cowboys allowed between 306 and 332 points per year in each of the past four seasons. So, something has gone very wrong in a hurry for new head coach Mike McCarthy and his staff.
Growing pains under a new coaching staff
There’s an expression out there about the need to be careful what you ask for because you might just get it. Dallas Cowboys fans who couldn’t wait for the team to move on from the Jason Garrett era might be wondering what the heck happened once Mike McCarthy replaced him as head coach.
It’s not as though the New York Giants offense that Garrett now directs is setting the NFL ablaze. But the situation there is no match for the Cowboys’ dumpster fire on defense now that Mike Nolan has replaced Rod Marinelli as the coordinator.
Nolan, the former San Francisco 49ers head coach coming off three seasons coaching linebackers for the New Orleans Saints, hasn’t been able to make his schemes work thus far. The Cleveland Browns ripped off seven gains of 20 or more yards in Week 4, so the situation seems to be getting worse rather than better.
Richard Sherman says there is a simple fix for the Dallas Cowboys
The criticism heard repeatedly this week in the aftermath of the unexpected loss to the Cleveland Browns is that Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has installed schemes that are too complicated for his players to absorb and execute. Appearing on Cris Collinsworth’s podcast, All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman of the San Francisco 49ers said the problem is Dallas is easy to see and fix.
“It’s so variable. It’s so diverse,” Sherman said of the defense. “People think that means good defense, and it doesn’t. You don’t have a foundation, you don’t have an identity, so you have nothing to fall back on.”
Sherman believes having so many variables in the schemes leaves the Cowboys incapable of pinpointing what works right when the need arises to retrench. The fix is simple, but nevertheless drastic – and Mike Nolan won’t like it.
“I don’t know if changing the coordinators changes the way they run that playbook,” Sherman said, “but if you change coordinators and they go back to foundational fundamentals of running a certain defense then I think they’ll have better results. But who am I?”