The Dallas Cowboys -- a team expected to be Super Bowl contenders -- have turned into a trainwreck

The Dallas Cowboys’ season is a trainwreck — a slow crash where each car continues to smash into the next in a flaming pile-up.

After a surprising 12-4 season in 2014 that saw the Cowboys come a catch away from the NFC Championship game, many people thought the Cowboys could turn the corner this year and contend for the Super Bowl.

Though they lost running back DeMarco Murray, they re-signed Dez Bryant, had a healthy Tony Romo coming off one of his best seasons, a solid offensive line, and a stout defence.

Instead, on-field and off-field issues have flipped their season upside down.

It started off almost immediately on the wrong foot. In their season-opener against the Giants, Dez Bryant broke his foot, causing him to miss six games and return Week 8 in an unspectacular two-catch, 12-yard outing in another loss. The Cowboys beat the Giants in Week 1 for the first of their two wins, but thanks in big part to a late-game play-calling blunder from the Giants that allowed the Cowboys to even hang around.

In Week 2, Tony Romo broke his collarbone, sending a quarterback with the most positive momentum he’s had in his career to the IR. He hasn’t played since and has only just begun throwing again.

In Week 4, Lance Dunbar, a valuable receiving running back, tore his ACL, ending his season.

This left the running back job almost solely to Joseph Randle, who was already starting in Murray’s wake. In six games, Randle was largely unimpressive. Though he ran in four touchdowns, he only passed 100 combined yards rushing and receiving twice and was only averaging 4.1 yards per carry.

In Week 6, Randle strained his oblique on his second carry, forcing him to miss the rest of the game. Following a breakout game from Darren McFadden, Randle learned he was demoted and then ditched the Cowboys training facility because he was seemingly upset. It got worse when it was revealed that Randle was facing potential punishment from the NFL after they investigated an incident from 2014 in which Randle was arrested for marijuana possession following a domestic violence incident. Reports said this news was the real reason he left the team unannounced.

Afterward, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Randle was dealing with “personal matters” and Jerry Jones expressed concern over Randle’s well-being. The 23-year-old Randle was released on Tuesday by the team.

On Friday, a whole new anvil was dropped on the Cowboys head in the form of a Deadspin bombshell report on Greg Hardy’s domestic violence incident from 2014. The report published photos of Hardy’s ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder’s bruised body after Hardy allegedly beat her in several manners, including throwing her onto a couch full of guns.

Hardy missed 15 games last season while on the commissioner’s exempt list (meaning he got paid) because of the incident. He signed a one-year, $US11 million deal with the Cowboys this offseason and then was suspended for four games.

Since returning, Hardy has been nothing but trouble for the Cowboys. Before his first game back, Hardy made tone-deaf comments about Tom Brady’s wife Gisele Bundchen. In a Week 6 game against the Giants, Hardy caused a scene on the sideline, freaking out at special teams players and shoving a coach. Jerry Jones later said he didn’t have a problem with Hardy’s behaviour, calling him one of the “real leaders” on the team.

The report of Hardy’s domestic violence incident will no doubt become a distraction, and it will be interesting to see how the team handle’s the situation.

In the meantime, the Cowboys are slowly starting to become whole again. Though they have got a gap at running back, Bryant is back and returning to full health, Romo is a few weeks away, and their defence has been as good as advertised (thanks, in part, to Hardy).

Amazingly, despite being 2-5, the Cowboys still have a shot at the playoffs, such is the state of the NFC East, where the 4-4 Giants lead the division.

The Cowboys shouldn’t be allowed to make the playoffs after all of this. Being injury-ravaged, playing poorly, and handling PR poorly shouldn’t be rewarded with a postseason berth because the rest of the division plays poorly, too. Give the Rams or the Raiders their spot. The Cowboys would still have to rattle off a small win streak to be in contention, but they’re not far off, despite not winning a game since September.

It’s been a disaster of a season for the Cowboys, and if they choose to simulate these final nine weeks and come back again next August, nobody would blame them.

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