I have frequently cautioned about runaway optimism for the coming season (right, Ironman?). But sometimes, I see something that just makes me want to throw away caution and mix up a big, cold pitcher of Kool Aid and down it. I'm having cherry flavor today.
OCC put up an article about Tony Romo's development that got me dreaming, and got my mouth watering. So, in what I fervently hope is my last lockout post, let me lay out what I read between the lines in OCC's article.
First, consider the ongoing debate about whether Tony Romo is an elite quarterback or not. In a very real sense, that is totally beside the point. The real issue is simply that the Cowboys have not had significant playoff success with Tony as the signal caller. This is not a subject for debate, it is a simple statistic: 1-3 playoff record so far. This is what all the anti-Romo crowd point to with cackling glee. They reinforce it with comments about his lack of leadership, his golf game, or his parade of celebrity ex-girlfrends. All of which is patently absurd. The leadership thing seems to spring from (a) his failure to foam at the mouth on the field and (b) a questionable tweet from a player who sometimes puts the "twit" in "twitter". The golf game makes no sense at all, unless you believe that an NFL player should never do anything except work out, practice, and study game video. Perhaps they are jealous that he is awfully good at a game they probably suck at. And speaking of jealousy, I'd like to see pictures of all the hotties the critics have dumped in the past few years. I'm sure they would reject a proposition from Jessica Simpson because she falls so short of their standards.
The pro-Romo crowd is mostly concerned with a different perspective: What trajectory will Tony's career follow this season? The belief, among the optimists anyway, is that he is primed for a very good year. He will get to work under Garrett as head coach, with a (hopefully) improved Oline. I have already stated that I think the leadership Garrett brings to the team is important. This man went 5-3 with John Kitna as his quarterback and with one of the key offensive weapons, Dez, going down with an injury. I think Tony will thrive. I also believe the Oline will be better, not just because the draft was apparently targeted at improving it, but because I think the current players are going to get coached up. I won't rehash the entire Wade vs. JG argument here, but I think this is one of the many areas where the team will benefit from the change.
Now, it is always good to remember that little blurb you hear when some investment firm advertises on television. "Past performance is no guarantee of future results." True. But have you noticed that they always say that after they give a sales pitch built on past performance? Certainly the NFL offers many examples of teams that experience rather abrupt reversals of fortune in both directions (just look at the Cowboys past few seasons). In this situation, this is more of a favorable thing for Dallas. The sudden turnarounds in performance are not as much a factor for individual players, barring injury. Players tend more to have a smoother trend line, not jagged swings. All reports are that Tony has fully recovered from his broken bone, so I would expect him to pick up where he left off last year on a clearly good trend.
And when you read what OCC compiled on his statistics, that has to make you want another glass of Kool Aid.
But wait. There's more.
Where was the real problem last year? Based on the rankings compiled at CBSSports.com, the team ranked 7th overall in offense, and 23rd overall indefense. Now which of those numbers most contributed to the Pickett's Charge that the Cowboys' season turned into? Before you choose, let me add that Dallas ranked 6th overall in passing, but only 16th in rushing. So the passing game carried the team offensively, with most of the season quarterbacked by a man who will never be confused with Usain Bolt. What does that portend for next year? Well, the new head coach is the old offensive coordinator. I would think that would indicate that we will probably be a top ten offensive team at least. And the fired head coach also served as the defensive coordinator. He was replaced by a coach whose scheme is designed to rain panic and confusion upon the opponent, as is explained so well by Coty's latest post.
Here is where a little thing called synergy comes in. If the defense is more effectively stopping the other team and sometimes turning the ball over, the offense, and by extension the quarterback, will be playing from behind less. This should open up the playbook, let the offense dictate their own pace and stick to the O-coordinator's design, and make the man under center look more effective.
Your glass need a refill? Let me pour you some. Red and cold and delicious. Oh, yeah.
This part is my in-your-face to all the Romo haters. The man knows how to win. He posted a 13-3 season. He was having a very good year last year but not getting any real support from certain key areas. The playoff failures are, in my humble opinion, as much a result of the overall team character as the ability of the quarterback.
Certainly, as the quarterback of America's Team, Tony will never be judged a success until he takes this team to a championship. That is just fact. If he does manage to win a bling, there will not be any legitimate argument against him being elite. (Note I said legitimate. Some haters would argue against him just like they argue against Troy.)
The one big question that seems to be facing the team concerns how much improvement will there be in the problem areas. I lean towards a lot, partly from my belief that the coaching changes will have major impact on the performance of all the players. I also am encouraged the possible existence of a "Jerry Jones Rule" and by the initial report (as I write this) that the cap is $142 million total, counting salary and benefits.
I am not quite ready to join Ironman in predicting 19-0. But as I wait for word on the player vote, I am ready to have another tall, cold glass of "The Cowboys are gonna play some good football this year" Kool Aid.
Led by Tony Romo. Elite quarterback.