It was fitting, the way the 2015 Cowboys were taken out behind the barn and put out of their misery by the Carolina Panthers, who administered a 33-14 beating. The team that dumped Greg Hardy after he was convicted of abusing his ex-girlfriend took out the team that took Hardy on. The team that's successfully handled losing its best receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, in the offseason rolled over a Cowboys team that couldn't win a single game without its starting quarterback.
The Cowboys' season, which started with as much expectation as any in the last decade, never had a chance either. Romo, who won't play again this year, started the season's first two games, missed the next seven and then returned for a game and a half before reinjuring his left clavicle. Dez Bryant broke his foot in week one and missed five games. This was not a team that was equipped to survive extended absences from its two best players. Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassell, the quarterbacks who've played in place of Romo, aren't successful as NFL starters. Terrance Williams, the wide receiver expected to pick up Bryant's slack, has regressed in each of his three years in the league. Hardy, who was supposedly so talented that he was worth the trouble, failed to record a single statistic against the Panthers, who are now 11-0. He had no tackles, no sacks, no interceptions and didn't force or recover a fumble. The team is now 3-8 with Cassell back at quarterback.
They won't make the playoffs and it would be good if they didn't win another game. Romo is 36, and has now broken his left clavicle three times. He broke bones in his back in 2014 and had back surgery after a separate 2013 injury. The Cowboys need a quarterback, one who isn't on the roster now and one who won't be available on the scrap heap the team usually picks its backups off of. They need to draft a signal caller, and each loss the team suffers improves its draft position. They have the worst record in the NFC right now, and with a little effort, the Cowboys can finish with the worst record in the league and the number one draft pick.
For the entire middle section of the season, as the losses mounted, it was tough to put the season to bed. If only Bryant would get back. If only Romo would get back. On and on, if only things would go exactly right, the season could be salvaged. The NFC East, the Cowboys' division, was so bad that the Cowboys just needed to be not horrible. Even Thursday, the Eagles, the team thought to be the Cowboys' biggest rival for the division crown heading into the season, were torched by the Lions to drop to 4-7. The Cowboys, had they won — and they were inexplicably one-point favorites at kickoff — would've caught them.
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Now though, the tease is definitively over. The 2015 Cowboys are dysfunctional, incredibly unlucky and completely lack resilience. They've been bad and will continue to be bad enough to guarantee a top five draft pick next year. That, at least, means the offseason will be pretty fun.