The problem with Dallas is that they've simply failed to excel in the areas they've invested their resources.
The problems now and of the past go far beyond Garrett. The disaster today on the Oline wasn't made in 2012 or even 2011. It was made in a decade (and more) of incompetence in talent acquisition.
The incompetence in talent acquisition was not just a problem on the Oline. Though it is true that they've probably been at their worst assessing Olinemen (a look through Dallas Oline picks from 1995 onward should make you shudder). The real failure in Dallas over the last decade has been the inability to build a dominant defense.
Why is that a bigger failure than the offense and the Oline? Because the resource allocation has flowed heavily towards the defensive side of the ball for a long time.
Over the last 15 years and 15 drafts (since 1998) Dallas has selected Defensive Players in the First Round 10 times. In that same period Dallas has selected Offensive Players in the First Round 3 times.
In the 10 years of drafts from 1998 to 2007 Dallas did not select a single First Round Offensive Player. Not one. In that same period they took Defensive Players in the First Round 8 times. The caveat is of course that Dallas traded 2 First Round Picks for WR Joey Galloway. Still, in that 10 year period Dallas allocated its primary marquee talent acquisition mechanism very heavily to the Defense.
Let’s shorten the time frame and make things more recent. The last 10 drafts, from 2003 to 2012, should be still dominating this roster. Dallas has used 7 First Round Picks on the Defense and 3 First Round Picks on the Offense. Again a caveat, Dallas also used a First Round pick in a WR trade (Roy Williams). Again though we see the balance of resources is clearly going towards the defensive side of the ball.
In the 5 drafts from 2003 to 2007 Dallas took 5 First Round Defensive Players and Zero First Round Offensive Players.
Dallas’ 2 previous Head Coaches were also Defensive Coaches (Parcells and Philips). After that resource allocation Dallas’ defense over the years has been inconsistent and outright terrible at times and is still today in a state where it’s in desperate need of a major talent influx (Safeties and Dline). This is the biggest failure of the GM, scouts and previous HC’s over the last decade. No matter how much marquee resources they pumped into it we never ever got the results on D and it still hurts this team right now.
The neglected offense on the other hand is driven by a bunch of projects come good at key positions.
An undrafted Qb who became a quality play-making Qb.
An undrafted WR who became a quality play-making WR (though injury prone).
Even our HOF TE was only a third round pick.
Look at Dallas’ Draft’s from 1988 to 1991:
1988 1st Round – WR Michael Irvin
1989 1st Round – QB Troy Aikman
1990 1st Round – RB Emmitt Smith
1991 1st Round – WR Alvin Harper
Result: The 3 key players of the 90’s dynasty plus an important role player. You need to invest in an area to have a chance at success. And you need your investment to come through to achieve success.
After 1991, the next offensive player taken in the first round was TE David LeFleur in 1997.
After LeFleur in 97 Dallas did not take another offensive player in the first round until Felix Jones in 2008.
For over a decade Dallas over-invested in Defense, under-invested in Offense and have had inconsistent results in both. For the amount Dallas invested in the Defense they have not received the appropriate success from that unit.
In the last 5 years (2008 onward) Dallas has been much more even-to-offensive in its approach with 3 Offensive players drafted in the first round and 2 defensive players drafted in the first round (actually 4 to 2 if you add the Roy Williams trade). The Roy Williams disaster screams GM Jerry and hopefully after two spectacular failures (Galloway) we’ll never see him try anything like it again. The 3 drafted offensive players in that period are: Felix Jones, Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith. Injuries have kept Jones from living up to his potential. Bryant was a boom or bust project that is slowly but surely working his way towards the boom. He’s been inconsistent, good and is improving. Currently at age 24, he looks on pace for big things in 2013-14+. Smith, Garrett’s first pick as HC and first Olineman drafted in the first round in the entire Jerry Jones GM era, has also been solid and improving. His transition to LT came with some struggles but at only 21 years of age he seems well on his way to being a fine LT. That’ll be the first quality Olineman drafted by this team in quite some time. The Offensive players Bryant and Smith should be cornerstones as they gain experience.
The biggest thing wrong with this team over the last decade and even right now is that after more than a decade worth a heavy resource allocation the defense is still not very good and still has no depth. See NYHorn’s excellent article for a further breakdown of the defense. The heavy allocation towards the defense and the 15 year record of poor personnel acquisition on the Oline has also left the offense under-talented with wafer thin depth.
Dallas’ current problems were a decade in the making. And problems in talent acquisition stretch back further still. Issues that run this deep are rarely fixed quickly. Garrett is not the cause of these problems but his methods and approach give much hope that he understands some of these problems and can turn this colossal and flailing ship "Jerry Jones Dallas Cowboys" around.