Hey, I think a post that potentially could be one of the most important ones on this site got put up today. It could have tremendous impact on how this year goes.
Now, all we have to do is get someone to print it out and sneak into the locker rooms at the Alamo Dome and Valley Ranch and post it on the bulletin boards for the team to read. I think it would add two or three wins just in how totally urinated the team would get.
The latest argument (after all the hubbub died down about He-Whose-Name-Can't-Be-Correctly-Spelled signing with the team we most love to hate in the years the Redskins suck) is about the role of coaching in the success of the team, blended with a big dollop of negativity. I am seeing the community dividing into two camps, those who believe that this edition of the team will be greatly improved, and those who think the failure to get serious upgrades signed in free agency has doomed the team to mediocrity at best.
I know this will be totally shocking to those who have read some of my posts, but I am getting increasingly optimistic about what is happening. While there are certainly things that can go wrong, I am very hopeful that a lot of things are going to go right this year. And I am getting a little peeved at the arguments that keep getting made about what a lack of talent there is on the Cowboys. So once again, I am presenting my case, trying to build some optimism among everyone (except Ironman, who apparently has an Olympic sized pool of Kool Aid to swim in).
First, have you really been reading what is coming out of the camps? Not just from the regular suspects, but from outside? As rabble observed:
I find the reports from national media to be the most interesting, for two reasons: because they don't cover the team every day, they can see the players, coaches and operations with fresh eyes; secondly, they see a lot of teams in rapid succession, so they have a terrific basis of comparison.
Everything I keep seeing is very, very positive about the way the team looks at camp. Words like "discipline", "focus", "intensity", and "f***" keep coming up.
Oh, wait, that last one is just RR offering encouragement to the players. Or was it Chia testing OCC's patience?
Sorry. My purported sense of humor tends to divert me. As I was saying, over and over I keep hearing about what a difference there is in how the camp is being run, from all sources. And that may be especially huge this year, because of a little thing I like to call the Incredibly Stupid and Frustrating Lockout, Which Sucked. Teams are going to have to get organized and ready to go in a hurry, and all the indications are that the Cowboys are doing as good a job at that as anyone in the league. Admittedly, we will have to see the preseason games to know if this is reality or illusion, but if they are fooling people, they seem to be fooling everyone.
That's called culture change. I read a comment doubting that the culture could turn around that rapidly. I found that a little dumbfounding, since I have seen all too often how much difference can be made by a strong, disciplined leader. Maybe it is my military background, but it can be huge. And further, a bad culture can change rapidly to a good culture, but good cultures usually erode more slowly. I attribute that to the good people still trying to maintain the performance of the organization, and they have to be worn down by inadequate leadership. Does that sound familiar? If it doesn't, think Jimmy Johnson/Barry Switzer. Or, for that matter, Bill Parcells/Wade Phillips. The team tried to carry on, but could not maintain the high level of performance indefinitely.
At about this point, the argument about having talent comes into play. About how the decline under Switzer was inevitable because all the stars were aging and at the end of their careers, and not being replaced. But that does not hold up in the Parcells/Phillips transition. Romo, Witten, Ware, Austin, Bryant, Free - I don't see any serious decline there. What I do see is puzzling drops in performance, like Newman and Jenkins, that don't seem to be as much about age. I think that was attitude and coaching. Last year, it was bad. This year, I think it is good. And I think it will make a huge difference.
For those of you who have played sports, or served in the military, or had a job that required some coordinated physical skills, or even nimble thinking, consider: How do you get really good at anything?
Practice. Drill. Training. Repetition. I heard on TV (I think; sometimes stuff just gets stuck in my head and I don't know where it comes from) a while back that musicians have to put in about 10,000 hours of practice to become really good. With football, you can't put in that many hours of just practice, but you can put in that kind of time if you include preparation and conditioning going back to the beginning for today's players. On a football team, you study the playbook, then practice to internalize it. And the way you practice has a huge impact on how well it prepares you. The adage "The harder the training, the better the performance" fits here. And we are not talking about just physical preparedness. When you look at schemes and assignments, then mental toughness can be at least as crucial for success.
Quick show of hands: How many thought there were games in the horrid 1-7 stretch where some of the players clearly did not have their heads in it?
Ok, you can lower them now. And ask the obvious follow on question: Why did the team so often seem dazed and confused. Where in the world would that kind of softness come in? If you aren't sure, perhaps I can suggest you Google, oh, say, "Wade Phillips press conference." Warning: You might want to avoid actually watching the videos that come up, unless you are really into pain.
You may disagree (everybody is entitled to their opinion, no matter how mistaken they are), but I attribute a large amount of the difficulty in the secondary last year to mental breakdowns, not physical inability. And I think that can be corrected with coaching. The kind of coaching Ryan is bringing. (Campo - well, that remains to be seen, but I am hoping Ryan can compensate for any lack there.) Yes, there may be a need to bring in some safeties, but in this area I would value the ability to learn Ryan's scheme more than physical skills. We want safeties who can see in a moment when they need to be providing help over the top, or when they need to come up in support. Or come screaming in on one of his chaotic blitzes.
And while I am on the subject, the same thing applies to the offensive line. Yes, we have to have mobility and strength, but most of all, we need linemen who know their assignment. Where Ryan's role is to impose chaos on the opponent, Garrett's role is to impose the order of his offensive plan on the opposing defense. One is the Lord of Order. The other is the Lord of Chaos. (Gratuitous Dr. Fate reference.)
Right now, we have two coaches who are showing every sign of grasping these concepts. And so far, we are seeing most of the players responding.
The preseason games will tell us more. But until we have them to dissect and discuss, I choose to place my faith in the coaches. I believe that the improvement in Jenkins and Newman and Ogletree are not in our imagination.
Will the team go 6-10? 8-8? 10-6? 19-0? (Haven't forgotten you, Ironman.) Yeah, I don't really have a good read right now. I do think JG and the coaches are taking a long view, building something for the future.
But they also plan to win as many games as they can. So do the players. So does Jerry. I think he is trying to get the most he can out of what he can squeeze out of the salary cap, without saddling the team with too much burden in the future.
Right now, I am going to look for the good signs. Fortunately, I am finding a lot.