It’s hard to take the high road. After the Dallas Cowboys were embarrassed by the Green Bay Packers in their home playoff game, the attention of Cowboys Nation shifted to last Monday’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As some expected, the Eagles were outclassed by Tampa Bay and beaten soundly as they marched off the field at Raymond James Stadium and into the offseason along with Dallas.
Philadelphia’s loss won’t take the sting out of a Cowboys season with a lot of promise that crashed and burned, but it does numb the senses in the short interim. The Cowboys will undoubtedly need to look inward and assess what changes they must make if they hope to find the postseason success that has eluded them for nearly 30 years. Whether people are ready to face the reality or not, their 2024 season starts now.
However, they aren’t alone, as every NFC East team will be on their couch watching the remainder of the postseason. The NFC East hasn’t had a repeat champion since 2004, and with seasons like the one we just witnessed, one could understand why. While the Cowboys have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks, so do their division counterparts. Here are the most significant topics and areas of intrigue for the NFC East this offseason, some of which bear similarities.
Washington is searching for a new head coach after dismissing Ron Rivera, who went 26-40-1 in his four seasons with the Commanders. Washington’s defense was one of the league’s worst units. It was routinely picked apart in the passing game, culminating by surrendering a four-touchdown performance to Dak Prescott in the season finale. Their 2023 first-round pick, Emmanuel Forbes, struggled mightily as a rookie and was in the crosshairs of several offensive coordinators. Forbes allowed a passer rating of 103 when targeted in the passing game.
The Commanders have gone outside conventional thinking after hiring former Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers to the front office to work with new general manager Adam Peters. Washington holds the second overall pick in this year’s draft, and early rumors are that they will look to draft USC quarterback Caleb Williams. Their starter in 2022, Sam Howell, was prone to turnovers. Hence, a fresh start with a new trio of general manager, coach, and quarterback seems to be the most logical direction for Washington under new majority owner Josh Harris. Other areas of need are the offensive line and the secondary.
New York Giants
The Giants entered the season hoping to build on their first season under Brian Daboll. New York made the playoffs in 2022 and advanced to the divisional round. This season was highlighted by regression from Daniel Jones before his subsequent season-ending ACL injury and injuries to their secondary and wide receivers, along with Darren Waller having a stint on injured reserve.
New York finished the season strong with inspired performances against the Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, and the Green Bay Packers, who all made the playoffs. As if their season wasn’t disappointing enough, there are lingering questions about the viability of Daniel Jones to play to the level of a franchise quarterback despite making $40M per year. New York is also rumored to be in the quarterback market, holding the sixth pick in April.
A rift between Daboll and now former defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has left the Giants without a defensive play-caller, and they are likely headed for a change in the defensive scheme. This topic is practically evergreen when it comes to the Giants, but they also need to target offensive linemen in the offseason as well as make a decision if they want to proceed with Saquon Barkley as their running back and what cost.
The Eagles’ disappointment is perhaps the greatest amongst all teams in the division because of where they were from last year until Week 13 of the regular season. Philadelphia was on the cusp of their second Super Bowl victory in six seasons before they were narrowly edged by their former head coach, Andy Reid, and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Eagles became the first team to start 10-1 and fail to win 12 games after going 1-5 to close the regular season. The downward spiral continued into the postseason on Monday night, where they went 0 for 11 on third down and missed a lot of tackles on defense.
This season was meant to serve as a last dance for the Eagles with several of their veterans, such as Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox, in the final year of their contract. Jason Kelce left the field Monday visibly emotional and informed his teammates that he is retiring to conclude what’s been a Hall of Fame career. Then, the turmoil led to the Eagle’s late-season swoon. AJ Brown’s interactions with the media have been mercurial at best; the Eagles changed defensive play-caller midseason and offensive coordinator Brian Johnson looked out of his depths as the running game was underutilized.
These problems have led to questions about the regression of Jalen Hurts as a pocket passer despite having a contract of $255M and the leadership of Nick Sirianni. Rumors have hinted at the Eagles making a change at defensive coordinator, but Sirianni may also be in the storm that is the wrath of Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. It appears the sun is setting on this iteration of the Eagles as we know it.
The Cowboys are almost a mirror image of the situation in Philadelphia. The Cowboys didn’t exactly inspire hope to begin their season, but they started to trend in the right direction, and there was hope that this team was different. Some opined that this was Dallas’ best chance to make the Super Bowl. Those hopes crashed along with the rush defense, and once again, the grim reality set in that this team was not good enough.
After a disappointing loss in the postseason, no conversation is off the table, starting with Mike McCarthy. He finds himself in the hot seat once again. Dallas was unprepared for a playoff contest for the second time in three years and outmatched early. McCarthy has guided the team to 36 wins over the last three years, but that isn’t enough for a roster that boasts this much talent.
Excellent coaches are available after the Tennessee Titans let go of Mike Vrabel and Bill Belichick parted ways with the New England Patriots. Other options include Ben Slowik of the Houston Texans and Ben Johnson of the Detroit Lions. Jerry Jones will need to act quickly on his impulses or hold steadfast on McCarthy, but that is just one of the Cowboys’ question marks.
After a dismal performance by the defense, Dan Quinn has come under fire. Quinn has been scheduled for head coaching interviews by the Commanders and Seattle Seahawks, but he may be on the outs in Dallas anyway. Philosophically, the Cowboys were using safeties as linebackers, which hurt them in stopping the run. A change in that belief may signal the departure of Quinn.
Dak Prescott has drawn the ire of the fanbase after he threw two interceptions Sunday, and they must decide on whether they can carry Prescott at a cap charge of $60M for next season or extend him to lower his cap figure. Following Sunday’s game, fans aren’t happy with that, but something has to be done for the team to work out contracts with CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons. Additionally, Tony Pollard and Tyron Smith are set to be free agents. Their draft strategy should consist of having a keen eye on the offensive line, running backs, and safeties. Simply running it back with the status quo may not be an option, and times have to change in Dallas.