The more Jason Garrett changes the Cowboys’ culture, the more things stay the same.
The Cowboys win a big game to start the season at the hated New York Giants, the defending Super Bowl champions.
The next game, they lose to the unremarkable Seattle Seahawks, 27-7.
Classic Cowboys. Same old same old.
Garrett has done much to change the culture of entitlement around the Cowboys in his short tenure as head coach but that’s difficult to do without eradicating an entire legacy.
Somehow the Pittsburgh Steelers have won six Super Bowls and been able to retain a blue collar work ethic.
When Garrett tries to instill the same ethic in the Cowboys, owner Jerry Jones inks another sponsorship deal based on the premise that five Super Bowls and a star on the helmet makes the team special.
The Cowboys aren’t special enough to win a game in Seattle without complete focus. They lacked focus from the start.
Felix Jones fumbled the opening kickoff. The Seahawks blocked a punt for a touchdown. Romo threw an interception.
And that was all in the first 11 minutes of the game.
It was such a bad day, even the ever-reliable Jason Witten had a case of the drops. Of course, can you blame him when Romo’s high passes leave him open for more shots to the spleen?
Dez Bryant also couldn’t hold onto the ball, after displaying a new focus and intensity this season.
Garrett has done a lot to turn over a roster gone soft under the Wade Phillips regime. But players such as Felix Jones, supposedly a favorite of the owner, remain to subvert Garrett’s idea of how the Cowboys should play.
While Garrett wants preparedness, focus and intensity, Jones failed his fitness test at the start of training camp. He’s never been one to slash and dash, but now even his straight-line speed seems gone.
Jones is not a troublemaker, but he seems content to be DeMarco Murray’s backup. He doesn’t seem to be playing with a Garrett level of intensity. In addition to his game-opening fumble, he made poor decisions to return kicks deep out of the end zone.
You could see this coming in Jones, who was a complementary back to Darren McFadden in college and then a complementary back to Marion Barber III early in his Cowboys career.
You could also see this Seahawks game all the way from New Jersey. (Not that it’s an excuse, but is it fair for a team to start the season with road games on each coast?)
The Cowboys had 10 days between the Giants and Seahawks games to wipe away the aura of the season-opening, prime-time win. And they still couldn’t do it.
Seattle is one of the toughest road environments in the NFL. And it wasn’t even raining. Garrett tried to simulate the noise factor by blaring speakers during practice last week, but you can’t simulate the intensity the Seahawks have against one of the NFL’s “glamour” teams.
As much as the Cowboys contributed with mistakes and lack of focus, the Seahawks didn’t exactly have to play over their heads to win. Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson was rarely pressured or forced into making decisions. The Seahawks just physically whipped the Cowboys.
The good news for Garrett is that even the Cowboys of the ’70s and ’90s would lose games they weren’t supposed to. The bad news is those teams shook it off and went on to win Super Bowls.
If the Cowboys can shake off this bad loss and string together a series of wins, then we’ll know Garrett is succeeding at changing the culture at Valley Ranch. Otherwise, there’s more work to be done.