The Dallas Cowboys now face an interesting decision on how to close out their season. Technically they aren't mathematically eliminated from the postseason, but unless the Cowboys suddenly start playing outstanding football then playing in the playoffs is not very likely.
Of course you don't want the franchise to call it quits. We all want to see the Cowboys stay competitive and at least put in the effort to make a potential playoff run. But are you willing to sacrifice a high draft pick for another 8-8, 7-9 or 6-10 season? But knowing the type of man Jerry Jones is, I doubt he would ever throw in the towel like the Washington Redskins seemingly have. Can anyone blame him for going full speed ahead and not settling for a good draft pick?
Regardless of the situation the Cowboys are in, it's time to start thinking about the future. In my opinion, the best course of action is to compete but still evaluate what you have on the current roster. It's time to start evaluating who has a future with the Dallas Cowboys.
The Clock Is Beginning To Tick On Tony Romo
Tony Romo is 32 years old and hasn't been himself this season. Now it's not entirely his fault, but Romo is clearly starting to regress. It was bound to happen because Romo isn't getting any younger. Jason Witten is 30 years old and an argument can be made that he is beginning to lose some of his overall skill. Obviously Witten is still a great player, but his time as a elite tight end cannot carry on for too much longer.
This team needs to roll with Romo at quarterback because he gives them the best chance of competing for a championship. Jerry Jones has done a poor job of building the team around him. The offensive line continues to improve, but there are still pieces missing. Improving the offensive line and adding more weapons on offense for Romo to utilize will enhance his abilities and could make him a very dangerous quarterback again.
Besides, the Cowboys don't have a young quarterback to play and evaluate right now. I believe that Romo is still a very good quarterback who can carry this team, but his time is running out. Romo has a couple of years left before he really starts to lose the athletic ability that makes him a good quarterback. The Cowboys need to draft a talented quarterback next year, that time has come.
Before we completely run Romo out of town, I beg Jerry Jones to give him the offensive line and weapons he deserves. We should definitely draft his replacement for the future, but let's try maximizing the offense before we close the book on Tony Romo in Dallas.
It's time for Jason Garrett to show some improvement as a head coach. If he isn't willing to make some necessary changes to his offense, then maybe Jerry should consider replacing him in the offseason. Garrett took this job knowing that a lot of work had to be done in order to change this franchise. In all fairness, Garrett should probably be given more of an opportunity to build his type of football team, but he may not get another year unless he starts to show some positive results.
He needs to let Romo loose. We all saw how potent this offense was against the Falcons in a no-huddle offense. Garrett needs to give Romo that latitude because the offense has played their best at a faster pace.
If Garrett is the offensive mind that I think he can be, then he needs to get Cole Beasley more involved in the offense. I understand that Miles Austin is the best slot receiver on this team, but Kevin Ogletree and his inconsistencies continue to haunt this team.
Good coaches learn from their mistakes, but the great ones adjust and make the necessary changes in order to win. This is the time for Garrett to go with what works. Clearly the running game is a waste of time without DeMarco Murray. Even with the superstar potential that Murray brings, the offensive line just isn't very good at consistently driving the defensive line backwards.
If we really want to start evaluating talent for the future, then give Lance Dunbar more opportunities to make plays. Dunbar has an amazing burst that can change games if he gets into the open field. Garrett must adjust to the personnel on the roster that has the talent to win games, and that may start with swapping Dunbar in for Felix Jones.
It's not going to be an easy task for Jason Garrett. He has the intelligence and understanding of the passing attack to be a good offensive coordinator, but does he have what it takes to be a head coach in the NFL? Changes have to made in order for Garrett's offense to take flight once again, and I think Garrett can adjust and show some positive strides the rest of the season.
The Future Of The Defense
Sticking to the defensive side of things, maybe a shift back to the 4-3 needs to be evaluated. I know we have debated this to death on BTB, but look at the big picture. DeMarcus Ware is the only pass rusher this team has on a consistent basis. Ware is 30 years old and while he is still one of the best pass rushers in the game, he needs help.
Anthony Spencer is great against the run and has an important role on the defense. But is he worth the long-term investment and large contract? If the Cowboys do decide to keep Spencer, then couldn't he potentially be even more productive as a 4-3 defensive end?
The lack of pass rush hurts this team and their ability to create interceptions and turnovers. Now a move back to the 4-3 doesn't guarantee a better pass rush or more turnovers, but I do believe it will enhance the talent we already have. In the NFL you need to maximize the talent you have on your roster and the talent that can be added through the draft.
Take a glance at our linebacker situation. Sean Lee is a complete stud, but so is the emerging Bruce Carter. If Dallas adds one more linebacker with athleticism, they will be set at three starting positions on their defense for a very long time. Considering that the secondary only lacks a safety that can make plays, that would be nearly half of the defense set for a very long time.
Clearly the defense has outperformed the offense in 2012. Rob Ryan is doing his job and fielding a defense that can win. Ryan probably deserves to be the defensive coordinator in 2013, but he may receive a promotion as a head coach for another NFL team.
Maybe Ryan should be given a strong consideration to coach this team. When this season ends, the front office needs to sit down and really give that some thought if they believe that Garrett isn't the answer. If Ryan does leave, that would leave a job opening at defensive coordinator.
As for in-house candidates, Matt Eberflus has become Ryan's understudy and would be a hot name to take on the role of defensive coordinator. Jerome Henderson is also another up-and-coming coach who could make the transition to defensive coordinator.
The 2012 season has left a lot to be desired, but it has also opened up my mind to the possibilities for the future of the Dallas Cowboys. I really hope this team gets back on the right track this season, but the future doesn't look that grim. I still believe this team isn't that far away from competing for a championship. The Cowboys have competed and nearly beaten some of the best teams in the NFL this season. This can be cleaned up, but it needs to start happening sooner rather than later.