First off, let us dispel any myths: this is a rebuilding year. A team does not start 3 rookies (essentially) on its offensive line when it believes it’s making a super bowl run. A team does not cut 5 of its 10 highest paid players if it’s not a rebuilding year. So let’s admit what it is, this year is a rebuilding year.
Rebuilding years are not always terrible things. They can be; the 49ers have been in a rebuilding decade, mired in mediocrity – a sad state of affairs for a once-proud franchise. When fans think of rebuilding, images such as these stoke their fears. But they are not always so. After the break we will explore why this rebuilding year could be a great step forward for the Cowboys.
The 2010 Patriots. When you think of that team, what jumps to mind? Quite a few things I’d imagine, but do you think rebuilding? Without a doubt the Patriots went through 2 rebuilding years in 2009-2010. In those two years they gutted some of their most high-profile players. A star of their 2007 perfect season, Richard Seymor was traded to Oakland. The star receiver Randy Moss send packing to Tennessee. Ty Warren was placed on IR and released. Adalius Thomas cut.
In the place of the old veterans, the Patriots got young in a hurry. In the 2010 season an amazing 11 players from the 2009 and 2010 draft classes started games.
A youth revolution was everywhere, but they did hold on to some of their core. They never wavered from their QB or a key dependable chain-mover in Wes Welker. Their nose tackle Vince Wilfork is not only the centerpiece of their defense but a locker-room leader for Bill Bellicheck’s mindset. Wilfork was extended. The Patriots held onto their core while the youth revolution exploded around them. And during this rebuilding year the Patriots went 14-2.
The 2011 Cowboys are undergoing a similar youth revolution. Do you see the parallels? The QB is unchanged despite moving into his 30s and has the absolute full confidence of the team. A dependable chain-mover in Jason Witten mans his post. The nose tackle Ratliff, a centerpiece of the defense and the right kind of guy in the locker room, gets his contract extended.
Meanwhile, a youth revolution explodes around this core as well. Competition is fierce in the interior offensive line where a new mobility doctrine expands Garrett’s play-calling capabilities. In an amazing feat, the average age of the offensive line went from 30 to 25 in one season – from the oldest O-line in the NFC East to its youngest. While other teams are signing short-lived running backs to monster contracts, Dallas gets even younger with DeMarco Murray and Phillip Tanner. On defense the Cowboys could field an entire D-line of 23 year olds with Josh Brent, Sean Lissemore and Clifton Geathers only having been able to buy a drink for 2 years. In the past the Cowboys would be held hostage by 1st round picks threatening to leave in free agency. This year the tables are turned as Victor Butler threatens the starting job of Anthony Spencer.
In fact, it is the positions that are not being rebuilt that give Cowboys fans the greatest concern. How much indigestion does our safety position cause you? Our cornerback? Bradie James and Keith Brooking? Is it not the positions untouched by the "Cowboys Spring" that concern you the most as a Cowboys fan?
Rebuilding can be frightening because it’s a leap into the unknown. But going into the unknown does not guarantee a bad season. Your rebuilding Cowboys may even have one of the best seasons in recent memory as the Patriots did. Even should they fall short, this is doing the right things to take those necessary steps towards a 6th Super Bowl ring.
This, my friends, is why you should learn to stop worrying and love Dr. Strangegarrett and the rebuilding year.