This article is part of our Team Previews series.
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Another season, another disaster for Jerry Jones and America's Team. Officially, the Cowboys were in the hunt for a playoff spot right up to Week 17, but given the extraordinarily creative ways they found to lose games in the previous 16 weeks and an 0-for-4 showing against division rivals the Eagles and Giants, it's amazing to think that they had any kind of chance at all. To add insult to injury, after the Super Bowl the league hit Dallas with a salary cap penalty for contract moves deemed to be questionable during the uncapped 2011 offseason, hamstringing the team's ability to improve through free agency.
There's plenty of blame to go around for the poor showing. Jason Garrett, in his first full season at the helm, seemed to struggle with the combined duties of head coach and chief play caller on offense, while the truncated offseason and a cripplingly weak secondary hampered new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's ability to fully implement his complex system. QB Tony Romo spent the early part of the season alternately giving away sure wins or turning sure losses into victories (the Cowboys didn't play a game decided by more than four points until Week 7), while WR Miles Austin had a miserable, injury-plagued campaign. LB DeMarcus Ware nearly recorded his first 20-sack season, but got very little pass rush help from anyone else on the roster despite Ryan's chaotic blitzing schemes. Even the bright spots weren't that bright. DeMarco Murray exploded