We’ve spoken before here at Cowboys Blitz about the frequency with which the Cowboys have gotten in trouble with the league office. Since 2014, Dallas has had 15 suspensions handed down, split among 11 players, totaling 100 games. All three of those figures lead the NFL in that time, and suspensions for Ezekiel Elliott, Nolan Carroll, Damien Wilson, and Jourdan Lewis could conceivably still come down before the season.
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But do the Cowboys have an issue of character in their locker room? After all, breaking the rules of the league office doesn’t necessarily equate to breaking the law, or even doing something morally objectionable. David Irving, for instance, tested positive for PEDs because he was simply misled about the ingredients of a supplement that he was a paid spokesman for.
I reached out to a number of media members this week who cover the Cowboys. My question was a simple one: do the Dallas Cowboys have a character problem?
“The Cowboys don’t have a character problem, they have a shortcut problem. Because they’ve invested so much in offense, they’ve had to take talent risks to try and get some impact on defense. It happens. I’ve got no worries about them organizationally when it comes to character or the locker room.”
– Jeff Cavanaugh, 105.3 The Fan
“Are there Cowboys players who have a character problem? Probably. But does the entire organization have a character issue? I’m not ready to say that. There are too many good people in the Cowboys locker room for me to lump the entire organization into a ‘character problem’ description.”
– Pat Doney, NBC DFW
“The Cowboys supposed ‘character problem’ is a criticism as old as the franchise, just as stories about character date back to the Bible. When the 90s Cowboys won three Super Bowls they had character and leadership. When that well went dry, suddenly the same exact leaders – Irvin, Aikman, Woodson – weren’t leaders anymore? When this generation of Cowboys went 12-4 three years ago, it had leadership. Then came 4-12, which apparently equaled no leadership. Then came 13-3, and suddenly, magically, the leadership returned!”
– Mike Fisher, 105.3 The Fan
“Whenever several members of a team face discipline for various transgressions, questions like this get raised about the franchise. In this case such questions are appropriate because the Cowboys have not seemed to mind at all taking on players with so-called ‘red flags.’ They’ve drafted them, signed them as free agents, and have repeatedly taken them back for so-called ‘second chances.’ For many of these players those contracts actually represented third, fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh chances. Greg Hardy and Josh Brent come immediately to mind here. In some cases it appeared their head coach may not have wanted some of these players in the locker room (Hardy? Randy Gregory?). The Cowboys have by their actions created the basis for asking questions about their culture or character problems. Until they demonstrate they have changed their approach in this regard it will be totally appropriate to keep asking whether or not this organization ‘asks for trouble’ by the way they ‘look the other way’ to problems players demonstrated before they ever arrived in Dallas.”
– Norm Hitzges, 1310 The Ticket
“The Cowboys have a character problem the way churches are full of sinners. The core group, the leaders of the squad in Jason Witten, Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant, Travis Frederick, Sean Lee, Byron Jones, and Dan Bailey are high character guys. It’s the surrounding cast that has the chance to delve into low character territory, and that’s probably why they don’t have such privilege with the team. It is also why there is consternation surrounding Ezekiel Elliott. He has all of the makings to be a core leader for the team, and his off-field antics jeopardize his chance to be that, which ultimately hurts the team.”
– Mark Lane, All 22
“I don’t think the entire team has a character problem. The concern is that you have players constantly being told about accountability and some don’t seem to be getting the message about the bigger picture. Will they ever understand that message? The Cowboys have to figure that out. I will say, I don’t believe in just cutting a player to send a message. You have to handle each incident individually.”
– Jon Machota, Dallas Morning News
“The Cowboys’ off-the-field issues receive more attention than other teams. It seems like these annual suspensions for violating the drug policy are more problematic than anything. Why can’t the Cowboys get a handle on that? I do think a draft strategy that almost seeks character risks in the second and third rounds is flawed. And of course having a head coach with no real authority to punish players is an issue.”
– Matt Mosley, The Doomsday Podcast
“Nolan Carroll. David Irving. Damien Wilson. Ezekiel Elliott. These are names hovering over the minds of Cowboys fans with so much uncertainty and disappointment. The facts, numbers, and indisputable data don’t lie…there is certainly cause for concern.”
– RJ Ochoa, Blogging The Boys
“I don’t know about a ‘character problem’ as a whole, but they definitely have bad character guys. Even if they don’t have a character problem, it looks like they do, which is just as bad.”
– John Owning, FanRag NFL
“To presume the Dallas Cowboys have an overall character issue is akin to professing a glass of water is equivalent to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s key to remember everything’s bigger in Texas, even when it’s actually not.”
– Patrik Walker, 24/7 Sports