At the quarter mark of the 2020 NFL season, it's clear that not everyone is living up to preseason expectations.
Through the first four weeks of the season, some of the league's most notable players and teams haven't been able to meet the hype that had built up for months. And while there's still plenty of time to turn things around, there's been enough action for some troublesome trends to take hold.
With that in mind, we asked reporters and columnists from USA TODAY Sports and around the USA TODAY Network: What's the biggest disappointment of the first quarter of the NFL season?
Texas. Not knocking UT here (should I?), but when the Cowboys and Texans are a combined 1-7 it reflects so poorly on the Lone Star State. I mean the state oozes with so much pride about its football culture. They say things like, “There are only two sports in Texas: football and spring football.” Yet this is what we’re seeing from the professional operations? What bad examples for all the little Texas kids wanting to grow up to become gridiron legends. Hold your nose and look elsewhere, kids. Houston, the AFC South champ last season, has already fired Bill O’Brien, the man who traded away DeAndre Hopkins on top of a few other questionable moves. Dallas, which dumped Jason Garrett after last season, is off to a horrific start under Mike McCarthy. The only victory was gift-wrapped by “hands team” of the Falcons. And Mike Nolan’s defense has been as bad as it gets. There ought to be a law against the Cowboys being able to set “pandemic-record” attendance marks at JerryWorld, given the embarrassing product. Sure, football fans in the Big Apple can feel the Texas pain. The Jets and Giants are a combined 0-8. But at least The Empire State is represented by the undefeated Bills. Texas, meanwhile, is left with a long, long season that is another reminder of just how twisted stuff can get in 2020.
I’m definitely disappointed that so many young stars — Saquon Barkley, Derwin James, Nick Bosa — were almost instantaneously sidelined by serious injuries. Hoping they all fully recover in time for 2021. As for pure football disappointments, the Atlanta Falcons have to be the biggest letdown. So many talented players, a classy coach in Dan Quinn who’s hard not to root for — and a golden opportunity to be relevant again at a time when the playoff field is expanding. And though injuries have again played a significant part in ATL’s 0-4 faceplant, it sure does seem like better situational awareness and execution should easily have them sitting at 2-2. All is not lost with the Panthers (twice), Lions, Vikings and Broncos next up on the Falcons’ schedule. But Quinn’s troops must rally much sooner than they did last year — 6-2 finish following a 1-7 start — to save him this time around.
In August, Mike McCarthy said it’d be “nonsense” not to set his eyes on a Super Bowl. “I’ve always been very upfront about it with every team I’ve ever coached,” he said. “We’re in this to win a championship. Make no bones about it.”
A quarter way through the 2020 season, the Cowboys look nowhere near Super Bowl contenders or even playoff-bound. They’re not atop a division in which no team has a winning record. In McCarthy’s first season, Dallas is 1-3 for the first time in a decade. Serious issues plague their personnel, technique and schematic understanding. Their offensive line play has declined substantially, their defense has regressed in its ability to defend both run and pass, and offensive veterans who historically exemplified ball security are propelling a minus-7 turnover ratio. Jerry Jones hired McCarthy with hopes he’d front the better coaching staff every Sunday. That hasn’t proven the case in Quarter 1. At 77, Jones says he doesn’t have time to have a bad time. If the tide doesn’t turn soon, he’ll need to take a hard look at the organization.
I think it’s the start that Mike McCarthy and the Dallas Cowboys have gotten off to. I really expected that the former Super Bowl-winning coach would come into Dallas and help elevate that team. I didn’t expect a difficult re-acclimation process for McCarthy and his staff because after getting fired in Green Bay, he and his out-of-work coaching buddies (many of whom are now on his staff) held weekly film-study and planning meetings. I expected them to hit the ground running in Dallas. But that hasn’t been the case. The offense leads the league in total yardage, and Dak Prescott is rewriting record books. But Ezekiel Elliot hasn't been used as effectively as he could be and still doesn’t have a 100-yard game. Dallas currently ranks in the bottom third of the league in rushing yardage per game. Defensively, things are much worse where the Cowboys rank 30th in total defense, dead last in points allowed. McCarthy has a roster capable of dominating in a really weak NFC East, but instead, this squad ranks among the greatest underachievers of the young season.
Bob McManaman, Arizona Republic
It has to be the latest news concerning so many positive COVID-19 tests, especially those involving the Titans. It’s put the entire balance of the NFL season at stake and it could, sadly, result in a truncated season or worse, the cancellation of the entire 2020 season. What could be more powerfully disappointing than that? Absolutely nothing.
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