I’m not feeling like I thought I would feel.
Oh sure, the pain is there. The Cowboys teased me with their late season surge only to have it all end in another non-competitive contest, this time at the hands of the Vikings.
I’m not nearly as distraught as I thought I would be after a drubbing like that. I know the final score looks like we were destroyed, and I know they will say the QB failed to play up to his billing and lost another big game, but…I’m not ready or willing to go there. I’ll watch the game again in a couple of weeks when I’m more detached from the outcome. Right now, it looks to me like they were beaten by a better team.
Meanwhile, on the surface, it would be hard to contend with the notion that Dallas made some significant strides this year. And before I start poring over the DVR recordings of the players I’ve been spying for the NFL draft, now is as good a time as any to look back on the roller coaster ride that was the 2009 season. Here’s what I liked and didn’t like.
Things I liked
I already made note of my affinity for Keith Brooking. The guy was an injection of energy and passion into an otherwise drab group of defensive players.
I liked what Mike Jenkins accomplished in year 2 of what I hope is a multi-pro bowl run in Dallas.
You had to like seeing Anthony Spencer emerge into a bona fide bookend rusher opposite Ware. After last season, people were floating the “B” word around Spencer as if it was a disease that was spreading virally from Bobby Carpenter. Remember???
I liked how Felix Jones seemed to get better every game. Playing 16 games next season should be his goal. I'll even settle for 15.
John Phillips made some good blocks and played well for an unheralded rookie.
Buehler was a huge leg as advertised. He was probably the Cowboys’ Rookie of the Year.
The Eagles games. Hey BGN, how about THEM Cowboys!?!?!
Overall, the defense. The middle of the field was suspect and when Dallas’ rush was stymied, the safeties gave up too many plays in the passing game, but the run defense was stout and they made some good adjustments during the halftimes of many games. They aren’t elite or dominant, but they were the best they have been since Mike Zimmer left town.
I liked the overall makeup of the team…not that it was Romo-friendly, but that it was sans T.O.-stupid. These players were all likeable guys. A whole season went by without an off-field fiasco. When was the last time THAT happened?
Best of all, I liked Romo. He took a major step in the right direction and developed a sense of how important it is to protect the ball. I’ve written several posts on this issue and how great QB’s don’t become great until they put aside their wildness and understand how the mental aspect of playing QB is so much more important than the physical one. I don’t know if he will ever lead us to the Promised Land, but this was by far his best season as our QB.
Things I didn’t like
I didn’t (and still don’t) like Martellus Bennett – and the really sad part is that we could have gotten Cincy’s #1 for him mid-season!!! I hated this pick when they made it, thought I might be wrong last year when he showed a spark, but am back to believing I should have stuck with my gut. I’ll just call him M.B. for Major Bust, not Martellus Bennett.
The draft class – really, this was a major dud (duh) and there were some impact players Dallas could have drafted for this year, and the next several. Reminds me of those Shante Carver drafts. With an expiring CBA and most Free Agents becoming ‘restricted’ instead of true FA’s, doing stupid things with your draft choices because you think you’re smarter than every other GM will be a death blow to the franchise. Take note, Jerry.
Roy Williams – seems like anyone with this name that plays for Dallas brings lots of promise, teases fans with flashes, then flames out. In all fairness to Romo, he was playing with a guy who clearly could not get open and Dallas got flimflammed in the trade with Detroit. Let’s draft a guy named William Roy just to see if we can reverse the trend.
The Giants games. ‘Nuff said.
Dave Campo – is it me or is Wade more dissatisfied with his unit’s play than the fans? I think this was the 4th time this season I saw Wade flop his belly around in disgust during a sideline interaction with him.
I disliked the play of the DE’s. I’ve said this before, and know it is somewhat unpopular, but our DE’s are just big guys who take up space. Watching the Jets yesterday, who were without their stud NT, and who lack a set of OLB’s resembling anything close to what Dallas has, I saw what having active Defensive Ends can do in an aggressive 3-4 defense. We simply have to upgrade that position and I continue to think that Ratliff is the guy we need as a base End, but not before we bring in a 340-pound hulk (a la Haloti Ngata, Kris Jenkins, Vince Wilfork, Terrence Cody) to battle guys like Jamal Jackson and Chris Snee.
Marion Barber’s overall play was dislikable and he ended another season with an injury limiting his burst and, thus, his effectiveness. He got tackled behind the line too often. Unlike Jerry, I don’t question his heart or toughness, but I question whether he can hold up. If he stays, shouldn’t his role change to solely that of the late game closer?
Worst of all was the offense. While some people (like DalaiLuke and Nisri) will want to argue with me (however poorly), yesterday was another perfect example of a failure on offense that led to perceived failures on defense. There were several stretches of play where the offense sputtered and played mediocre football this year and there is no single place or person to point the finger at. Yesterday, it looked like the O-line broke down. Early on in the season, Romo was off and his passes were sailing. At one point in the season, the offense got too run oriented and seemed afraid to throw. Later, they aired it out and forgot how to run. Not at one time during the season (save for maybe the beginning of the Saints game) did Dallas show that it could throw the ball deep down field adroitly. If all of these issues revolve around T.O. being gone, okay. If it’s all about Jason Garrett’s play calling, okay. Put it all on Flozell? fine. Whatever it is, this offense is not a single player or coordinator away from being great…or even consistently good.
The question that has to be answered is this;
Was this game against the Vikings the parallel to a game once played by a young Dallas team in the post-season nearly 20 years ago against an Eric Hipple-led Detroit Lions team? After all, that was the springboard to a few solid personnel moves and the emergence of a dynasty for the ages. Or was this just the latest in a long line of season-ending blowout losses that the Dallas Cowboys under Jerry Jones (in the post-Jimmy era) have become known for? It’s almost like an episode of True Blood or Big Love or Lost (I had to throw that in because of my infatuation with Evangeline Lilly) where this was a cliff hanger for next year.
Regardless of how you feel, this version of the Dallas Cowboys provided some playoff excitement the likes of which haven’t been felt by our fans for over a decade. Am I satisfied? No. Am I shell-shocked by the magnitude of the loss? maybe. Was I pleasantly surprised by the team’s ability to play its best football at the end of the season after another bland December? As the guy who has been accused of settling for nothing less than blings (true dat), I’m almost ashamed to say it, but, yeah, I kinda am.
So, I must apologize, because I’m finding it difficult to write a suitable epitaph on this season because of how…schizophrenic it was. I invite you all to take your shots at it.