It still seems unfathomable that, with the Cowboys’ season on the line on fourth-and-eight, that their best receiver would be standing on the sideline. But that’s exactly what happened Sunday in the waning seconds of the Cowboys’ 17-9 loss to the Eagles.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett explained after the game that Cooper and Randall Cobb weren’t on the field for final fourth-down play because they “ran a lot of plays in a row.” Cooper ran a go route on the previous play.
Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Cooper was not on the field because he wasn’t playing well.
“They legitimately didn’t think having him in on 4th and 8 have them the best chance to win,” Hill wrote on Twitter. “If he is not hurt, this will be revisited in contract talks.”
Cooper said postgame he is healthy, though he has had numerous injuries this season.
“I know I didn’t play my best game at all. It was terrible,” Cooper said Sunday night.
On Monday, Garrett was asked specifically whose decision it was to have Cooper off the field with the game on the line. He pointed to offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and receivers coach Sanjay Lal.
“In terms of the personnel group to have that be a 12 personnel play, that would be Kellen’s decision,” Garrett said on 105.3 The Fan. “That’s a play that we liked in that situation for the variety of coverages that they were going to play. We felt like we had good answers with that. In regards to the receiver rotation, Sanjay Lal and . . . it’s just the communication during those on-the-ball drives. Sometimes those guys work the rotation different ways based on the routes they run and plays they’ve run and all of that.”
Cooper played 46 of 62 snaps, catching only four of 12 targets for 24 yards.
Even receiver Ventell Bryant, who has one career catch, got two offensive snaps on the final drive.
It seems obvious Garrett won’t return next season, but Sunday’s game suddenly casts doubt on Cooper’s future in Dallas. He is scheduled to become a free agent in March as is Prescott.
So the Cowboys will have a long to-do list and lots of really big decisions to make in the offseason, which looks like it will come sooner than the team had hoped.