Ok, so the 2011 season is in the books, and we were mediocre like many predicted. I thought we'd do a bit better, but the lockout hung a cloud of certainly over many predictions this year. We can bang our heads against the wall about what could have been (if Romo doesn't throw 2 pick sixes against Detroit in the second half, the debacle at Arizona), but we also escaped with some close wins, so the law of averages left us at 8-8. As someone who grades papers a lot, I have a propensity to assign letter grades as a way to classify what I see. I don't pretend to know more than the coaches, but as a fan who only sees what's on the TV, here is my analysis:
Jason Garrett: B+: There are minor issues with play calling but he did well in the limited offseason, cutting Roy Williams, Marion Barber, and Leonard Davis and got back to basics by drafting Tyron Smith. He needs a few years to get his team in place and seems to have the power to prevent Jerry from making boneheaded decisions. The team doesn’t give up on him like it did on Wade Phillips when it falls early. Garrett, much maligned this year, has only had one full year as a coach (without an offseason though) and has a lot to learn; yet, I’m of the belief that we need to find the next up and coming coach rather than a has-been. One thing he must do, as Jean-Jacques Taylor wrote today over at ESPN, is figure out what's behind these late season collapses.
Rob Ryan: C+: Rob’s bullies started out much better than expected and played well against teams not named the Giants and Eagles, but we’ll need more than that next year. An offseason to implement his schemes and have CBs not named Newman and Ball could make the defense adequate enough.
Joe DeCamillis D: His job might be in jeopardy. Punt formations were shady all year and the blocked punt in the Jets game cost the game in a season in which one more W would have made the difference. Joe De urged Garrett to call the timeout, which unintentionally "iced" Bailey. Return game less than average; coverage game average. He has built up capital which keeps him out of the failing category.
Trending up or down?: Up. An offseason should help the first two coaches and another set of eyes on the offense (hopefully Sparano) should clear up some of the time management and play calling issues.
Tony Romo A-: He was outstanding this year, mirroring his ’09 form with few interceptions and game-winning drives. The – in the A comes strictly from Detroit game, which falls on Romo.
Stephen McGee I: He gets an incomplete because we didn’t see enough. He looked alright in the Philly game, but only scored 7 points, yet he had no protection.
Jon Kitna: He dropped out. After showing up in the San Fran game, father time caught up to Kitna and he finished the year on IR. He will probably retire.
Trending? Down. Questions about Romo’s backup and Romo will be 32 next year.
DeMarco Murray A: He was the steal of the draft, bursting on the scene with a 254 yard game against the Rams. He has good vision, breaks tackles, and should be a valuable asset for years to come. Only concern would be his was hurt a lot this year.
Felix Jones B: He struggled to open the year but improved to end the year. He either learned from Murray while on the bench or felt the heat. Would have liked to see him hit those home runs on the screen play.
Phillip Tanner I: He was a fan favorite in preseason and did alright in the few snaps he had in the regular season before ending the year on IR. Could be the bruising third-down back we need.
Tony Fiammetta A: He was lights out at the start of the year and was the common denominator for Murray and Jones’ success. An illness, most likely an ear infection, hindered him for a month, but he’s young.
Jesse Holley B-: The B grade is strictly on the eye test. The coaches obviously didn’t see much in him in practice, especially with Robinson, Austin, and Bryant on the roster, but when called, he was there, especially in OT against SF.
Laurent Robinson A-: Was a pleasant surprise when Norv Turner tipped off Garrett about his potential. He always seemed to find the endzone and quickly gained Romo’s trust.
Dez Bryant B: More was expected out of Dez this year. Maybe the lack of an offseason hampered his development. He started out hot the first half against the Jets but then let us down in the second half; this story line would dominate the first half of the year. He did make crucial third down plays against the Redskins, twice.
Miles Austin: B: Injuries lingered with him for most of the season and drops plagued him but he stilled showed the flash we all remembered from 2009.
Kevin Ogletree D: Still hasn’t lived up to the promise he did in ’09. Had trouble getting on the field this year.
Trending? Even. We have an above-average receiver corps that is moderately young, but there is no reason to see it getting immensely better next year.
Jason Witten A-: Jason Witten is Jason Witten, so he gets an A. Wish he had pushed harder to get into the end zone against the Jets in the fourth quarter; instead Romo fumbled the rush into the end zone. One is tempted to see a slight decline.
Martellus Bennett (Marty B) C-: Had a great training camp as always but it didn’t carry over into the regular season. He was a fine blocker when he wasn’t tipping up passes to Asomugha.
John Phillips C-: Like many players, had flashes of brilliance in ’09 but is plagued by mediocre blocking.
Trending? Down. Witten will be 30 next year and there is no clear budding star.
Phil Costa D: Clear downgrade from Andre Gurode. Maybe an offseason with Mike Woicek will help this young player but man, this guy was abused all year and had similar problems as Gurode with snapping the ball whenever he wanted. I know we don’t see what the coaches see, but many fans are wondering why Kevin Kowalski didn’t start.
Doug Free D-: Rarely does one see such a drop off in performance. We all thought Jerry got a good deal paying 8 mil/year for Free after a great ’09 and ’10. Yes, players perform better in contract years, but it’s hard to think he would deteriorate so much without there being some undisclosed injury. He’ll be moved to RT, but that’s a lot to pay for a RT.
Tyron Smith A: This pick demonstrated the change of philosophy under Garrett. Smith performed quite well all year and just turned 21. Was abused by Jason Babin, but Tron is only a rookie.
Montrae Holland B: Affectionately called "Lumpy" by fans. Was cut by Garrett as he wasn’t RKG and came to camp out of shape. He quickly became RKG, losing weight and going to an offensive line camp. He made the team and performed well enough, though nothing about which to write home.
Kyle Kosier B+: He has battled injuries all year (and for several years) as he has aged. Yet his value to the team cannot be understated. He helps out as signal caller on the line and one can’t help wonder if he is the common denominator to Free (last year) and Tron’s solid performance.
Trending? The optimist in me says up. This has been the most discussed group on the offense. The biggest worry is Kosier aging, but the line got drastically younger this year and let’s hope some of the draft picks this year, such as Nagy and Arkin, can make contributions next year. We have some options here on the interior part of the line. Much of the line’s future success hinges on whether Free’s performance this year was an anomaly or not.
Jay Ratliff B+: He had more tackles for losses than last year and had a respectable season.
Kenyon Coleman B-: Decent against the rush.
Jason Hatcher B: showed ability to get to the QB at times.
Josh Brent B: his stats aren’t impressive but teams ran the ball better against the Cowboys with him out.
Marcus Spears B-: Drop off in production. Still hasn’t lived up to his draft pick.
Sean Lissemore B: I think most fans would say they like what they saw from him.
Trending? Down. Hard to say and many on BTB on more knowledgeable than I am on the defensive line. Ratliff will be 31 this year, Spears has been be slightly above average. This is an average unit with occasional streaks of brilliance. No one is so bad though that an obvious hole can be fixed, which brings us to the LBs and Secondary…..
DeMarcus Ware A: He’s DeMarcus Ware, enough said. He had a few neutral zone infractions and offsides penalties, but he’s still a beast. Best player on defense.
Bradie James D: He’s definitely lost a step. He falls back on runs, is exposed in coverage. He’s RKG and no one doubts his effort and leadership, but he’s a liability and will be 31 in a few weeks.
Keith Brooking (no s) D: Read above for Bradie James except that Brooking is 36.
Bruce Carter I: we all hope he was the steal that Sean Lee was in the second round due to injury. His most notable play was the blocked punt against Philly. He missed the first few games, debuting against Philly in October. Still saw limited playing time, surprising many because how much worse could he have been than Brooking or James?
Sean Lee A: Was outstanding until hurting his arm in the Philly game. Still solid after that though. He was only in his second year.
Anthony Spencer B-: Almost Anthony has never lived up to his billing as a first round pick except in the last few weeks of the ’09 season. Still solid contributor, especially against the run, but can’t seem to bring down QBs, which he needs to do as OLB in the 3-4.
Trending? Up, only because the obvious weak links will probably be gone next year and Bruce Carter will hopefully find the field. The big question is what to do with Spencer who was in a contract year.
Mike Jenkins B: Did well in coverage and returned, partially, to his ’09 form. Was banged up a bit though, but was, by far, the best CB.
Terence Newman F: This was a tough grade to give because TNew had a few alright games in the middle of the season, but he was borderline and did not show improvement. In fact, he showed clear regression to the point that QBs abused him and picked on him at will by the end of the year. He was a worthy 1st round pick and did well for awhile, but he is done.
Alan Ball F: Many, including myself, thought he would be better at CB because he was out of place as a safety in ’10. This prediction was wrong and Ball was picked on and abused all year.
Orlando Scandrick C+: He is a fine 3rd corner, though the stats say otherwise.
Gerald Sensabaugh C+: Hard to believe he grades out as like the fifth best safety. He was alright at times, out of place a lot.
Abram Elam C: started out well and seemed to plug the hole at safety we’ve had since Ken Hamlin left. As the season progressed, Elam regressed and the last memory we have of him is whiffing on Bradshaw.
Trending? Up (wait for it....). I can’t conceive of Newman or Ball coming back and one can hope that their replacements are upgrades. Getting this unit just to adequate would be a big accomplishment next year.
GM F: This guy paid Newman 8 million this year and contributed to the lack of talent with the Roy Williams trade. He has good scouts though and his admiration for Garrett should give one hope, for now, that there will be no boneheaded trades in the near future.