Cowboys not good, not bad, just stuck in middle

01/04/2014 6:40 PM

11/12/2014 3:36 PM

The Dallas Cowboys can’t say they are bad. They can’t say they are good. They can say they are both.

Right in the middle: 8-8.

For three consecutive seasons, the Cowboys have broken even, good enough to play for the NFC East Division championship in Week 17 each year, bad enough to lose each year.

Injuries are a problem, but they are for everybody.

Defense is a problem, worse than it ever has been for a franchise with a defensive heritage.

Game management is a problem — coach Jason Garrett’s decisions hurt the Cowboys against Detroit and at Arizona in 2011, at Baltimore in 2012 and against Detroit and Green Bay in 2013.

But there are strengths.

DeMarco Murray became a 1,000-yard rusher, even after missing two games. He ran behind a line that by season’s end had become the most consistent part of the team.

Left tackle Tyron Smith turned in an All-Pro season, and rookie center Travis Frederick — handed the starting position about a minute after he was drafted — proved up to the task.

And the Cowboys began figuring out how to get turnovers. They got 28 takeaways this year, getting a payoff from their emphasis on stripping the ball.

But the good balanced out the bad, and the bad balanced out the good.

For the high-powered start against the New York Giants, there was the disappointing 16 points the next game at Kansas City. For the Thanksgiving week sweep of the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders, there was a 1-3 December that followed. For the delirious optimism after the shootout against Denver, there was the cold reality of New Orleans.

Good. Bad. Both.

The Cowboys hit all three areas in what turned out to be, ultimately, a disappointing season.

Each year, that is what 8-8 has spelled.

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