Was it talent or attitude?

I feel almost greedy, pumping out multiple posts like this.  But it is so much fun, and it's not like I have a social life.  The hardest part, and I think a lot of you know what I mean, is coming up with something that is interesting to me, likely to be interesting to the readers, and that gives me something to say.  More than once I have sat at the computer, stared at the screen for a while, and never completed anything because it just didn't fit the criteria.

Then sometimes, you get a gift.  On OCC's post Big-Name Free Agents May Not Be On Cowboys Agenda, meisternance commented

 We were ready to compete last year

We just did not have our heads in the right place! To many mental errors,breakdowns all stemming from non concentration. Our coaching staff will have our Boys heads right  this year – Im sure of It. FS Help is a dire need!

If ever I saw something begging for a poll and discussion, that is it.  So, with thanks to meisternance for playing the role of the muse, let's ask the poll first.  I would like to put it here, but I think it will be at the end of my post, so might I suggest you go ahead and answer it before I tell you my thinking.  I'll wait.

Here is my point in this:  If the team doesn't figure out what the real problem is, we will be solving the wrong thing.  If the issue last year was truly the attitude, and these guys just need to be coached up, then it is pointless to worry about FA acquisitions.  There is no problem to fix that way.

On the other hand, if the problem was a lack of talent, then the shrunken window for signing free agents becomes a make or break situation.  The brain trust will have to make some fast decisions and get some people signed.  Which means Jerry will have a bigger role to play in all this.  I find that a bit risky.  Whatever you may think of JJ, I don't like him going into wheeling and dealing mode.  That smacks too much of reverting to old, bad habits.  Or think of it as more of a gambling approach, where the chances for scoring big are offset by the possibility of pooches being screwed.

Now, to consider this question is to engage in one of the things that sometimes drives me crazy, which is to say we know what would have happened if we had done X instead of Y.  (I could get really worked up about this on a politcal blog, but I try to limit my exposure to such a toxic and morally corrupting environment.  It's almost as bad as going to BGN.)  It's actually nonsense, of course, since the only certainty we have is how things actually turned out.  But I won't quibble too much about that , since that kind of thing represents about 87.3% of all the discussion on this site.

So, let's pretend that the reset button I mentioned in my last post would allow Jerry to go back to the 2010 offseason.  He calls Wade in and gives him the news, then passes the baton to the RHG.  And just suppose that they are not able to make major changes in the rest of the staff, having to go with pretty much what they had for coaches at midseason, with some OTAs and the full preseason ahead.  And assume further that the personnel entering training camp are the same, i.e. no changes in personnel except what would come from evaluating the roster during the preseason.  How much difference do you think it would have made?

Personally, I would bet that it would have meant three or four more wins.  Once upon a time, I was a Wade supporter, but by the time 1-7 rolled around, I had to face the cold, hard realilty that he just was not head coach material.  More importantly, he had created a wildly dysfunctional atmosphere that neutralized the talent he had.  Or perhaps it was more a case of the culture aggravating weakness.  There were still strong performers in some positions, but it seemed that the 2010 'boys were able to minimize ability, rather than amplify.  Just look at how many players seemed to take a step back.  Jenkins, TNew, Davis, Bennett - just off the top of my head, and a lot of you can probably come up with a more thorough list.  My gut, and my experience in the military and out, tell me that the leadership had something to do with that.

And then there is talent evaluation.  Even with the same group entering camp, I have to think there would have been some changes in how the team started the season.  For instance, maybe Barron wouldn't have been in the lineup to do such a sucky job in the first game, and then who knows?  Get some confidence building, that mystical momentum rolling your way, and I think the team might have made it into the playoffs.  Maybe deep.

Now, flip it.  You still have Wade, but Jerry and Stephen work some magic, and bring in some free agents, or execute some more trades, and there is now a definite upgrade in talent in places like the OL and the secondary.  How much difference would that make?

My guess:  Not much.  8-8, maybe 9-7, but still no playoffs, definitely no hometown Superbowl.  I think this was a team where mediocrity was being taught, where the team leaders (and I do believe there are leaders on the team) were having to work against the culture.

So my choice is the first option.  I blame Wade, or more accurately, the whole ownership/coach relationship and dynamic.  Which is a highfalutin' way of saying that Jerry shoulders some of the blame for setting the situation up and then taking too long to recognize what had to be done.  Maybe most of it.  You really can't expect Wade to see his own faults and be able to fix them, or to step aside.  He was doing what he thought was best, and was just not a good fit for the job.  And obvoiusly I think the coaching change could have affected the whole season.  If you had thrown in some additonal talent for Garrett and crew to work with, or brought in the 2011 coaching hires, or equivalent people - but that is just speculation.

Jump back to now.  To reality.  The subject of how much cap space is available for free agent acquisition is hot and heavy. 

My (totally worthless) vote:  Don't mortgage the future any more.  I know it's not my team or my money, but it is time to take the long view.  The more I think about OCC's post on free agents, the more I like the idea of staying away from big money acquisitions.  Find out what the coaches can do.  Don't get into a win now at all costs mentality.  Start looking at the long haul. 

The Cowboy Way is not about one season.  It is about being a premier organization, year in and year out.  Build through the draft, and go with younger free agents, not people near the end of their careers (unless they are a real bargain).  And make sure they fit.  (see Williams, Roy, WR).

So, meisternance, I guess I agree, at least somewhat.  Don't know if they had SB potential, but they sure as heck should have done a lot better.

Oh.  One more thing.  Keeping the coaching staff from being able to work with the players:  Yet another reason why this m!@#$%^&*g lockout has to end.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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