FanPost

Back To The Future: Part II

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Some Thoughts From Last Night

What I had feared all week in the back of my mind was a blowout. Before the game on the chat thread, I displayed my lack of confidence in this team. I really believed we were going to get blown out and my worst fear came true. The Cowboys came out flat and all around looked uninspired. What I don't understand is how you do that in such a big game. This was for the playoffs, win or go home. I wanted to see more fire and motivation in the Cowboys, but I just didn't see it last night until the second half.

If the Cowboys came out firing on all cylinders, that game would have been much closer. Instead they came out and played awful football. Quickly the Cowboys were down 21 points, but it felt like 121 points. Tony Romo played his tail off and did everything he could to keep the Cowboys in the game. I don't know how that man was throwing the ball somewhat accurately at all with that swollen hand. If Romo gains anything from the media and fans this year, it should be respect for his toughness and passion for the game. I have never wanted a player to get a Super Bowl win so bad in my life. Hopefully one day it comes true and I hope it does. In my opinion, Romo is such a great guy to root for and is very likable. I hope he has great success here, because his career has been a epic tragedy.

Only a few other players really stood up and truly fought back last night. I will not talk about everyone, but I will talk about some of the big names. For all of his critics, Dez Bryant plays the game with the utmost intensity. Even when we were down 21, he was in the huddle saying let's go, come on. He plays every play like his last and fights for every single inch out there. If not for Romo's hand, Dez would have had a run in touchdown. He has a great release off the line and is only getting better at it.

One problem I have with Dez Bryant is this and it's with the game planning/coaching/play calling. If we aren't going to target him at least ten times a game, then it is pointless to have him on the team. He is a play maker and one heck of a talent. You have to get him the ball and give him more opportunities. Because if we are not going to use him, then why did we ever draft him? That is one huge problem I have with this coaching staff.

Jay Ratliff is another high character football player who really showed it last night. He was fired up all game and gave everything he had. Ratliff was one of the last players to leave the field last night, he didn't tuck his tail and go running back to the locker room after that horrible loss. I pray this doesn't end up like the Terence Newman situation. We just gave Ratliff a big extension, like we did with Newman. We watched Newman deteriorate quickly and it was ugly to watch. I hope the same thing doesn't happen with Ratliff.

Those are the three individuals I want to point out from last night. That doesn't mean I didn't see other players going hard and showing some fire. But these three were the ones who stood out to me.

Now let me talk about some players who did the exact opposite. For starters there is Terence Newman and his "undisclosed" injury. He always has a "undisclosed" injury and has been injury prone his entire career. I never wanted him on the Cowboys and really see him as a big time failure. Yes, he was a serviceable cornerback for a good length of time, but we passed up on some premier talents. That is all hindsight of course, so let's not dive too deep into that pool.

Newman was the target for the Giants all night. He was routinely beat and his lack of speed really showed. At times it looked to me that he had given up, especially after it was 14-0. Newman was giving up on plays and looking around for someone else to make the play for him. His attitude and performance were very poor, a truly all around terrible performance. I don't feel bad for him and will be glad to see him gone. He was a player I never truly valued at his position. #41 will not be missed, not at all. A rookie cornerback can play at a much higher level than Newman can.

The Cowboys never wanted him back for this season, that was clear when the Cowboys tried to sign Nnamdi Asomugha. The future is promising now because we can replace Newman with a younger player who has some athletic ability and speed. A guy who intercepts the football would be nice too.

Then there was my favorite player in the world, Anthony Spencer. Boy did you do me and the Cowboys a big favor last night. Spencer was absolutely pathetic last night. His pass rushing, like usual wasn't good. He had numerous opportunities to sack Eli Manning and didn't. The best was when he had Eli by the legs and tried to untie his shoelaces on his cleats instead of tackling him. Eli probably laughed before he threw that ball down the field to Victor Cruz, who hauled in the catch to end any hope the Cowboys had left. Spencer wasn't that good in the run game either, which is supposedly the best part of his game.

I want to thank Spencer for his play last night. Instead of showing up and performing well, he played like crap and saved us from giving him a big contract. If you guys actually believe we can't do better than Spencer and his six sacks, then I don't know what to tell you. Bust out some stats or whatever you would like to, but I have watched almost every game Spencer has ever played with the Cowboys and my eyes tell me we can do better than that.

Next on my blast list is the ever so skilled and talented, Gerald Sensabaugh. For the life of me, I cannot believe that an NFL football team actually gave this guy an extension during the middle of the season. Nobody signed him last year, nobody obviously wanted him. So we reward his mediocrity mid season, that is mind boggling to me. Instead of using that money elsewhere, we locked up another JAG. Sensabaugh was awful last night and showed me what he does most of the time. He whiffed on tackles, which I have become accustomed to seeing from him. He was out of position many times, which I have also become accustomed to seeing from him. He lacks coordination and is very goofy. Gerald isn't a smart football player either, he lacks intelligence to play at a high level.

So instead of going out and looking for another option, we will be stuck with Sensabaugh for a couple of years. What a complete waste of money this guy was. As soon as he got his cash, Sensabaugh fell off. He started off the year actually playing decent football, but as towards the end he tailed off. I shudder at the thought of this guy starting for us next year. Another problem with it is that he is a strong safety playing free safety. At least move him back to strong safety and get ball hawk type free safety. That would be at least, ideal.

I briefly want to talk about Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan. I didn't like Garrett's game plan for this game. Instead of coming out passing and going into attack mode, which has been our one true strength against the Giants, we came out playing conservative. Too many times have I see this approach by Jason Garrett. Don't play not to lose the game, play to win the game. Last night everything was on the line and we should have been in attack mode. I think Garrett is a good young head coach, but still has a lot to learn about being a head coach. This can only come from time and experience. Garrett needs time and we should give him time. If we fire Garrett, it will be a huge mistake. I like Garrett's approach to the game and his philosophy. Let him continue to build this team with his tactics and we will get somewhere. It's going to take time, but at least we are moving in the right direction.

Honestly, I believe Rob Ryan never got a fair opportunity this season. The lockout and lack of time to prepare his defense was a big reason for a lot of our problems on defense. He really only got to bring in two players, Kenyon Coleman and Abram Elam. He got one player in the draft and most of us knew Bruce Carter was going to take a year to get on the field, more or less a red shirt season. Ryan is a good coach and defensive mind. We brought in a great linebackers coach, Matt Eberflus and a great defensive line coach, Brian Baker.

If we can devote our off season to bringing in defensive talent through free agency and the draft, Ryan will have real talent to work with. Give this man some talent before we run him out of town. Firing him would be another huge mistake, who are you going to replace him with? If Jerry Jones is going to give Garrett time, then he needs to give Ryan time as well.

The Future? Far Out Doc....

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The Draft

Let us start by talking about the NFL Draft coming up in April. The Cowboys will be picking 14th overall and that is a real good spot to be in.

Take a look at the recent 14th overall picks.

  • 2011- Robert Quinn DE UNC- A pass rusher we could really use. Mike Pouncey and Ryan Kerrigan went right after Quinn and both are players who would be great fits for us.
  • 2010- Earl Thomas S Texas- A safety that we could really use. Jason Pierre Paul, Mike Iupati and Maurkice Pouncey went after Thomas. We could definitely use either one of those players.
  • 2009- Malcom Jenkins S Ohio State- Another top notch safety we could really use. Brian Cushing, Alex Mack, Percy Harvin, Michael Oher, Clay Matthews and Vontae Davis were all taken after Jenkins. Another good history of draft picks in that area of the draft.
  • 2008- Chris Williams OT Vanderbilt- Most likely a bust and there were quite a few that year. There were some good players who went in that area of the draft though.
  • 2007- Darrelle Revis CB Pittsburgh- Probably one of the best 14th overall picks in the history of the draft and one of the best cornerbacks of all time. Lawrence Timmons, Michael Griffin, Leon Hall, Dwayne Bowe, and Jon Beason went after Revis. Solid players were taken in that area.

The 14th pick for the most part has produced really good talent. This is one of the few bright spots the Cowboys can look forward to right now. If we won that game, we would be picking in the 20's. Had we gone on to beat Atlanta, we would be picking even later in the draft. Picking this high gives us a better chance to land a great prospect.

The Cowboys need to add talent on the defensive side of the football. I would assume almost all of us are in agreement there. It looks like the Cowboys could land a top tier cornerback or pass rushing prospect with the 14th overall pick. The lone offensive player who could be available and makes the most logical sense is Stanford guard David DeCastro. Guard and center are the only true holes on the offense. For the most part this should be a defensive draft. At cornerback, Dre Kirkpatrick may be available and would bolster the secondary. At pass rusher, we could have first dibs and South Carolina wonder kid Melvin Ingram would bolster the pass rush.

Let's take a look around the net and see who is popping up on big boards and mocks at #14.

  • Mel Kiper Jr's 14th best player on his big board is David Decastro.
  • Todd McShay's 14th best player is Clemson DE Andre Branch. I strongly disagree with Mr. McShay.
  • Wes Bunting runs his board differently than most, his 14th best player is Stanford TE Coby Fleener, but in his mock draft has Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick going 14th overall.
  • NFL Draft Scout's 14th best player is South Carolina DE Melvin Ingram. Rob Rang has the Cowboys taking Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard 14th overall in his latest mock draft. Dane Brugler has Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick going 14th overall in his mock draft.
  • Draft Tek's 14th best player is Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw and in their mock draft have Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick going 14th overall.
  • Walter Football's has Ryan Tannenhill going 14th overall, but we won't need a QB. David DeCastro and Melvin Ingram would be available on their mock draft for us.

So the names that pop up the most are Dre Kirkpatrick, David DeCastro and Melvin Ingram. All of them would be great draft picks for us. A few other names to keep in mind are, Devon Still, Janoris Jenkins, and Alfonzo Dennard. So as of right now, I would say there are about six prospects that will be in the mix for us.

The one player who might surprise people is Boston College LB Luke Kuechly. Inside linebacker isn't that much of a need with Bruce Carter and Sean Lee penciled in as starters for 2012, but Kuechly would be one of those BPA situations that the Cowboys may not pass up.

Two other dark horse candidates are Courtney Upshaw and Nick Perry.

Basically it needs to be DeCastro or a great defensive prospect taken with that 14th pick. At least with us picking that high, we have many different options. Trading down is not an option for us. There won't be many teams willing to trade up for the 14th pick, I just don't see that being a hot commodity this year. Also, I rather get a blue chip talent than a bunch of JAG's. The Cowboys are not good at trading down and I don't want to see that happen. We need a home run type of draft to get things moving again.

House Cleaning

If this team wants to get better, then they need to trim the fat off the roster. Losses like this hopefully send a clear message to Jerry Jones. We have under performing players on the roster that need to go. Some serious changes need to happen if this team really wants to compete in 2012.

Rainer Sabin of the Dallas Morning News

For 40 percent of the players on the Cowboys' active roster, the season finale against the Giants could be the last game they play in a Dallas uniform.

Once the 2011 season ends, the contracts expire for 21 players, including linebacker Keith Brooking, tight end Martellus Bennett, safety Abram Elam, linebacker Anthony Spencer, fullback Tony Fiammetta, receiver Laurent Robinson, linebacker Bradie James and quarterback Jon Kitna.

The status of Kitna, the team's 39-year-old backup, is in limbo after lingering back problems caused him to be placed on the injured reserve list Dec. 14.

ESPN Dallas on the coaching contracts

The Cowboys have several assistant coaches without a contract for 2012: Dave Campo (secondary), Hudson Houck (running game/offensive line), Brett Maxie (secondary/safeties), Wes Phillips (assistant offensive line), Keith O'Quinn (offensive quality control/wide receivers) and Skip Peete (running backs).

Dave Campo has to go. The technique he has been teaching his cornerbacks is awful. They never look back for the ball, ever. Hudson Houck is a veteran coach, but the game is beginning to pass him by. Tony Sparano would be a dream replacement. Brett Maxie needs to go to. His safeties have under performed for years.

Skip Peete needs to come back and I think he has done a fantastic job with the running backs. Wes Phillips is another underrated coach and should be back with the team at some capacity.

Jason Garrett on Rob Ryan

"Well, if Rob has an opportunity to go be a head coach somewhere, I think that’s a great thing for Rob, and we certainly would encourage that," Garrett said. "I think he’s worthy of being a head coach in this league. I think he does an outstanding job as a coordinator, he’s an excellent leader, he’s an excellent coach, and we would encourage that for him. I think it’s a great opportunity for him. I think that’s part of the process. You allow for that to happen if that opportunity does exist, and then we would have to obviously replace him and make some decisions of our own. But, we certainly love having him as our coordinator, and we’re excited about our opportunity to grow in that area for next year."

ESPN Dallas supports my theory that Matt Eberflus would be in the running for the DC position if Ryan is fired.

If Ryan leaves to become a head coach, linebackers coach Matt Eberflus, whom Ryan called his right-hand man, could get elevated to coordinator. Eberflus could also leave to become Ryan's defensive coordinator/assistant head coach should he get a head coaching position.

And a look at our impending free agents courtesy of ESPN Dallas.

Unrestricted free agents
Alan Ball
Martellus Bennett
Keith Brooking
Derrick Dockery
Abram Elam
Montrae Holland
Daniel Loper
Mat McBriar
Sammy Morris
Laurent Robinson
Anthony Spencer
Frank Walker
Bradie James

Restricted free agents
Kevin Ogletree
Tony Fiammetta
Chauncey Washington

Exclusive rights free agents
Clifton Geathers
Jermey Parnell
Jesse Holley

Wow, where do I begin? Let's start with the guys I don't want back on this team and shouldn't be resigned.

  • Alan Ball- Not that good of a player, has been here for years.
  • Martellus Bennet- Already running his mouth about how he is a starter and doesn't want to be behind a hall of fame tight end. Another huge bust, let's move on unless the deal is cheap. Personally I think he is the total opposite of the RKG. I don't want him here.
  • Keith Brooking- old
  • Derrick Dockery- old
  • Abram Elam- Solid for us most of the year, great leader. A cheap deal makes sense but we have two strong safeties starting, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Maybe Ryan gets a shot to draft a safety in the second round like Markelle Martin and have another TJ Ward type success.
  • Jon Kitna- Serviceable last year, but has back problems and most likely will retire. Big problem, means we have to go out and find a reliable back up, McGee is not that guy.
  • Daniel Loper- Cut like twenty times and I believe he was cut before the game anyway.
  • Mat McBriar- A punter with a serious foot injury is not kosher. Chris Jones has been somewhat decent or they will have to go out and find a punter. Sucks McBriar is this hurt.
  • Sammy Morris- Just too old, wish he had more left in the tank, total RKG.
  • Anthony Spencer- We have talked about #93 enough, peace.
  • Frank Walker- Inactive on the last game of the year speaks volumes about his status. We can do much better.
  • Bradie James- Great Cowboy, just old as dirt and he isn't even that old. Thanks for your service, time to move along.
  • Kevin Ogletree- Inconsistent and not very good. Peace.
  • Chauncey Washington- His spot will be taken by Phillip Tanner.

Those that need to return.

  • Montrae Holland- At the very least a back up and gives us good depth. Good value contract right here.
  • Laurent Robinson- Free agent priority number one this off season will be locking up Robinson. Losing him would be a huge blow and would make us draft another wide receiver or hit the free agent market. Robinson was a huge part of the offense and if not for him, may have gotten ugly. You need multiple wide receivers in the NFL now. Brees, Manning and Rodgers have multiple wide receivers for a good reason. This will be a loaded wide receiver class in free agency and that could play to our advantage. Also, Robinson has stated he wants to be back, thank god.
  • Tony Fiammetta- At least he is restricted and gives us some security in case we lose him. We have been looking for a fullback of his caliber for years. Sign him and move onto the next one.
  • Clifton Geathers- Still hasn't reached his talent level yet and can still grow into something. Cheap signing and good depth.
  • Jeremy Parnell- Our only backup offensive tackle, need to resign him. Has a lot of upside, still is learning the position. Look for the Cowboys to draft or sign another offensive tackle.
  • Jesse Holley- Key special teams player who made plays when his name was called. May never wow you or score touchdowns, but he does so much more for the team. Total RKG, cheap signing for depth and special teams. I wouldn't be surprised to see him get more looks on the offense, he has stepped up every time this year and made clutch catches.

ESPN Dallas is reporting that practice squad players have started to sign 2012 deals.

The Cowboys signed four practice squad players to futures contracts for 2012 on Monday, including defensive tackle Robert Calloway, linebacker Orie Lemon, wide receiver Teddy Williams and cornerback C.J. Wilson.

Because of the impending free agencies of Bradie James and Keith Brooking, Lemon would be seen as having a chance to earn a roster spot in 2012. He had a productive training camp and preseason before spending the year on the practice squad.

Cornerback Mario Butler is expected to re-sign on Tuesday.

Punter Chris Jones, who spent the majority half the season on the practice squad, signed a three-year deal on Saturday when he was added to the active roster prior to the season finale against the New York Giants.

Orie Lemon has a real chance to make this team in 2012. If he can step up, it would save us a draft pick or money in free agency at the position. I expect Lemon to make big strides next season.

Mario Butler needs to be resigned. He should have been on the team this year and performed better than any cornerback on the roster in the preseason. I will not be pleased if we lose Butler.

I guess the Cowboys knew something was wrong with McBriar. Signing Jones to a three year deal is a smart one because he has looked decent except for his 26 yard punt last night.

Conclusion

Boy there is a lot of work that needs to be done. I hope a loss like this wakes the franchise up and allows them to fix the problems they face. We have a high draft pick and over 20 million dollars in cap room. That figure could approach around 30 million if we trim some contracts. It doesn't mean we can go crazy and spend big money all over the place. But it does mean we can go out and sign one marquee free agent or a few quality players.

Signing a big time offensive guard, cornerback, or pass rusher would be a bit time win for the Cowboys. If we get one huge signing at either of those positions, it raises the talent level and fills a hole instantly. That also allows you to save a pick in the draft for another position.

If we have a good free agency and a home run draft, we should compete at a high level in 2012. Not all is lost, trust me when I say that. If I believed this team was done, I would come out and say it. I believe in our head coach and we have talent at key positions. We have holes, but these holes can be fixed this off season.

It sucks to sit here and write about the future, it feels like this happens at the end of every Cowboys season. But unlike the other years, I believe in our direction. Give Rob Ryan talent. Give Jason Garrett more time. Trim the fat off the roster and restock it with one marquee free agent and young talent. DeMarco Murray is on schedule with his rehab. With the 14th pick and 20 million in cap space, things look bright sitting on my side of the table.

It won't be easy, but this can be done folks.

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