A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Ralph Waldo Emerson
I love it when great people give you great excuses.
I'm taking a break from the normal cheerleading today. The quote is just to warn you that this is going to be a little more critical view of the Cowboys.
As for the forecasting, I am not talking about the W-L record here. I am talking about trying to figure out where the problems are likely to be, and try a little different take on expressing how bad they might be. One of the things that tends to happen is that we too often discuss things as a yes/no or black/white scenario. You know, "Jerry Jones is a living god among football owners! Fall down and worship his omniscience!" "No, he is Satan incarnate! He must be hunted down and scourged and cast into the eternal darkness!" A lot of yelling and anger, but not much enlightenment.
So I am treating this like weather forecasting.You all understand the part I am going to use. The precipitation percentages. 30% chance of rain. Gives you a pretty good idea of what they think will happen. (Whether or not they are accurate is another matter.) So, a little parameter setting: My percentages are the likelihood I see of problems developing in a given area. I am going to try to list all the different things that can go wrong, with an explanation of where my forecast comes from. If I leave anything out, please feel free to add it in comments.
One thing you won't see is a 0% or 100%. Nothing is perfect in life, either good or bad. Even the best thing on a team can go south, with injuries for instance, and occasionally the weakest link will overperform.
Finally, these percentages are meticulously derived and researched SWAGs. And all represent the opinions of the author, who reserves the right to be stupid.
Quarterback One thing I have noticed: No one is talking about Tony Romo around here. None of the angry words about whether the Cowboys can win with him or not. The consensus seems to be that he is one of the better quarterbacks in the league, probably in the second five and perhaps nudging the top five. And he is the leader of the Cowboys, organizing the team workouts during the stupid lockout. That seems to be settled. His stats last year were quite good.
It doesn't mean there is no chance of problems here. Remember, no absolute certainty is possible. And the backups certainly have their limitations. Still, I think this is one area where we know what the team has, and feel pretty dang good about it. CHANCE OF QB BEING A PROBLEM: 10%
Running backs The Barbarian is gone. The Cat is the man. Everyone seems pretty confident here. But hold on a second. The number two slot is projected to be a rookie who is injured and not practicing. And the third player is expected to be Tashard Choice. Who, I think, will not be with the team when the 53 man roster is announced. I suspect that he will be traded for whatever the team can get, and Lonyae Miller will likely be the third RB, unless some FA goes ballistic in camp. That prediction is just based on what I was seeing two or three weeks ago. I don't always call 'em right. But sometimes I do. Anyway, I think there are some possibilities of issues here. Not big, huge issues, but there may be times the ground game may sputter a bit. CHANCE OF RB BEING A PROBLEM: 30%
Tight end/H back First off. The Dallas Cowboys have the best tight end in the NFL. Period.
A major bit of controversy exists over who the second TE will be, and that is of some importance with the role of the two TE set in Garrett's offense. Bennett vs. Phillips is an ongoing argument. Many are anxious for Marty B to get shipped off, but I see that as unlikely. It is almost certain that there will be a total of four players on the 53 for these positions when you look at the tight end/H back combined. And with the new philosophy that everyone has to compete, I think Bennett and Phillips are both likely to improve, with one being more a swing TE/H back. Classic win/win.
For the fourth body, the question seems to be Gronkowski or Chapas. I suspect Chapas will get this. Something to do with collarbones.
So one of the team's absolute studs makes this a pretty solid area. CHANCE OF TE/H BACK BEING A PROBLEM: 20%.
Wide receiver Again the top of the charts look really good. Miles and Dez are both fast and physical, and most of us are drooling at the thought of having both of them on the field. The rest of the WR corps is a bit wide open. Ogletree seems to be making a move in San Antonio, and the other two or three players may be determined as much by Coach D's needs on ST as anything. Having that third slot undetermined is a bit unsettling, but as has been pointed out, it is really the fourth receiver with Jason Witten on the team. Still, we obviously need some quality backup here, and we don't really know, now, do we? CHANCE OF WR BEING A PROBLEM: 30%
Offensive Line Oh, boy. The good news is that Free is signed and Smith is getting some good grades, and the rest of the younger linemen are getting some good work. Bigg is gone, Colombo is gone (although his name kept coming up when that need for one more OG is discussed), and we are going to be taking the field with a retooled offensive line. And Holland still represents a question mark for most of us, if not an absolute negative. One day I think these players are going to be a really good offensive line. But is that day going to be in 2011? Early in the season? Late? The steps have been taken to fix these issues. It's just a matter of time. I worry about when, and am terribly ambivalent. CHANCE OF OL BEING A PROBLEM: 50%
Defensive Line Here things get a little murky, because we have a new defense being installed. This is very interdependent with the forecast on coaching. Obviously, there is a lot of excitement about the way the Big Robowski will use Rat and the other linemen in combination with the linebacking corps and his blitzes. But there is also some concern about the rest of the DL besides Rat. They may be very good or they may be more average. Really don't know for sure and need to see how they do. CHANCE OF DL BEING A PROBLEM: 40%
Linebackers Again, we have the best in the business in DWare. And I think that it is likely that at least one of the other backers will have a breakout year, and possibly two. Lee obviously. Spencer may finally get over the almost tag. Or maybe Victor Butler or even Bruce Carter will stun us this year. But, and it's a big but, there is some youth and inexperience there, and Spencer may also just still be Spencer. Still, DWare in what we think RR's defense will be is exciting. CHANCE OF LB BEING A PROBLEM: 30%
Defensive backs Oh, boy, again. Still waiting for another signing, and hoping the Sensabaugh move works. We have to put a lot of hope in Jenkins and TNew returning to what they were a couple of years ago. I am going with a bit of worst case scenario here, and having a bit of faith that the front seven plus RR's schemes will cover for this unit. CHANCE OF DB BEING A PROBLEM: 70%
Special teams I have faith in Coach DeCamillis. The big question here is obviously the battle at placekicker. With a third candidate in camp, it is obvious that the team is not sure what the answer will finally be. CHANCE OF ST BEING A PROBLEM: 40%
Coaching Things look really good. I have been a strong proponent of the coaching being a huge part of the solution to the problems, but there are some nagging questions. Is Rob Ryan really what we think he is? For that matter, is JG really the RHG we hope? And will the relationship we see right now from our vantage point going to hold up like we want? I think the real test will come under adversity. There will almost certainly be a game when the offense will play good enough to win, but the defense will let the team down. Or vice versa. I am hoping that the coaches will understand that this happens and keep the team together, but until they face this, we won't be certain. This is to a certain extent the great unknown. I am being a bit optimistic here. CHANCE OF COACHING BEING A PROBLEM: 30%
Jerry Jones The unique thing about the Cowboys, our owner/GM/possible evil genius. So far, he seems to be letting JG do his job, but we have all seen him get too involved before. I want to believe in him, but I have seen too much to believe too much. And we still are waiting to see how FA plays out. CHANCE OF JJ BEING A PROBLEM: 40%
There. I wanted to kind of get it all in one big package. One additional note. If I think there is a 30% chance of a problem, obviously I am thinking that it's 70% it will be all right. There are almost certainly going to be some problems. This is just my take on where they are most likely to be. And it is also a handy way for you to put your own ideas into your own forecast.