The 2009 campaign, as it approaches, has got to be one of, if not the hardest season I’ve ever seen in terms of what to expect. At this point results ranging from a 6-10 disaster to 16-3 Super Bowl Champion would not be surprise me. We’ve seen flashes of brilliance at almost of every position while additionally seeing stretches of horrific play from the same players. We’ve seen game plans that seem to catch the opponent completely off guard and other strategies that were so predicable you would have thought the opposing coordinators had been allowed to read over the Cowboy’s playbook the night before the game. We’ve seen brilliant Novembers and disastrous Decembers. The up and down nature of this team has resulted in 9-7 finishes in three of the past four seasons.
The coaching staff has been an absolute joke for the past couple of seasons. From the way they conduct training camp to the way they game plan; this staff has been unable to put a consistent result on the field. Wade Phillips is admittedly hesitant to play younger players unless he absolutely has to and as a result will sometimes start a less talented player (see A. Henry). The offensive play design and play calling has looked near high school like. There was almost never anyone in motion or even lined up in a different position in any sort of attempt to create a mismatch last season.
The Cowboys used to be a model franchise when it came to coaching. For 29 years Landry roamed the sidelines and for most of that time was a true innovator. His 20 consecutive winning seasons (1966-1985), are an NFL record that hasn’t even been challenged yet and it remains one of the longest winning streaks in the annals all of professional sports. He was followed up by Jimmy Johnson who won again brought some innovation to big D with an emphasis on team speed. Four years later he won the Super Bowl w/ the youngest team in the NFL at that time. Unlike Wade, Jimmy had no fear of playing a rookie in crucial situations. As an encore Jimmy coached Dallas, to their franchise first, “back to back” title (Damn it! Had he stayed I’m convinced they would have been the first to win 3 straight).
Some will point to the 2007 13-3 season as an example of what this staff can do but to them I say that was more of abnormality than anything else; take a look at these teams for example:
Seattle (2005; 13-3)
Chicago (2006; 13-3)
Green Bay (2007; 13-3)
These 3 teams like Dallas have had one random great year (that fell short), preceded and followed by mediocrity. Why, because quite frankly the NFC is inferior to the AFC right now and there is no consistency in the NFC at this time. While the AFC brings the same teams to the playoff table nearly every year, i.e. New England, Indy San Diego, and Pittsburgh; the NFC consistently has had at least 4 new teams in the post season from one year to the next. In Belichick, New England has got perhaps the best strategist the game has ever seen; Indy had, until this off-season, one of the most solid HC’s of the past 15 years in Dungy and Pittsburgh has won the Super Bowl with each of their last 3 head coach selections.
On the bright side it really does seem like the coaching staff is taking a different approach this year. First and foremost it was great idea (if Jerry is determined to keep him) to make Wade the D-Coordinator / HC. This is where the man truly shines, putting aggressive schemes on the field, that put relentless pressure on the opponents offense. His prior approach of being a loose administrator that leaves the bulk of the work with the assistants just has never really threatened to bring home a Vince Lombardy trophy anywhere he has ever been.
Another bright spot is that with Joe DeCamillis the Cowboys have made a definite upgrade to Special Teams coaching.
Garrett, well, we’ll have to see…