Since my last post there has been quite a few discussions about Tony Romo, Jerry Jones, Andrew Luck, RG3 and the Dallas Cowboys. I'd like to take you back a few years and give you my perspective on this.
Like many Cowboy fans I grew up a long way from Dallas, I remember Super Bowl games, America's Team and the NFL. I'm post-AFL so I cannot say I understand the whole NFL-AFL battle for supremacy, but I do remember the Dallas Cowboys star and those battles with the Steelers in the 70's. It was really the 80's when I became a big fan though and I recall when Danny White, Randy White and Too Tall Jones came to town it was a huge event for that city. This team was the pride of the NFL, America and every game seemed like it was the only thing worth watching, highlight of every weekend.
Jason Garrett has brought that back, America's Team is once again the highlight of the weekend, the only problem is they are not consistently America's Team every week. Everyone has their own opinion of that but the reality is this is a pretty good team that just doesn't compare with any other championship teams of the past. Don't let the stats fool you.
What has changed since that 13-3 season in 2007?
Offense - Romo was healthy all season in 2007, Terrell Owens was in his prime and was a game changer, Marion Barber was in his prime and benefited from a solid OL. Today Romo has had some health problems but has actually gotten better and been able to emotionally manage the poor team performances. Owens has not been replaced by Austin but may be with Dez, or at least there is potential. The OL and running game is the biggest difference. 2012 will be different here but if you want to point a finger this is where the challenge has been for the offense. They can't protect Romo, don't dominate the line of scrimmage and are just beginning to show improvement with the run due to the emergence of Fiammetta and Demarco.
Defense - 11 starters - 5 were 1st round picks - 5th, 8th, 8th, 11th, 20th overall. When you've got players like that you should have good defense right? How about 26.5 sacks out of your OLB's? 2 starters were 7th round picks, how's that for recruitment? This D gave up more than 300 points but only gave up 20 points 9 times in 16 games. Sort of sounds like this year right? Roy Williams and Terrence Newman in the secondary, Greg Ellis and DeMarcus Ware bringing blitz pressure and solid in the middle with James, Spears, Ratliff and Canty. They only gave up 30+ points 2x and were 1-1 in those games, this year 4x, and we were 0-4 in those games. The difference was the offense not the defense. In 2007 Romo and the boys ran off 13 straight games scoring 20 points or more and 8 of those games were 30+. They were 12-1 in that stretch, the final 3 games were meaningless. In 2011 Romo and the boys scored 20+ 10 times and were 4-0 in one stretch in the middle of the season, scoring 20 points was a challenge. Points differential in 2007 was 130 points vs 22 points in 2011. How did I end up talking about offense?
I don't dare mention special teams... who was the last kick returner to get 1,000 yards for the Cowboys? Tyson Thompson. I hear he's still available...
Fear The Star
Not many fear the star these days... if your offense can't get 20 points a game consistently you're not going to win 10+ games per season, unless you have a top 5 defense. We don't.
This is still America's Team, we just don't win championships anymore, and we usually are not in the playoffs, so there's not much to cheer about in January.
This is no Doomsday Defense, but you could make the argument that it doesn't need to be. This defense ranked 16th in points and 14th in yards, compare that to 1980 when Tom Landry and Danny White took a team whose defense ranked 13th in points and 17th in yards allowed to a 12-4 record and the NFC Championship game. Jason Garrett and Tony Romo could have done the same thing, compare the OL of those teams and you'll understand why they didn't. None of those guys were selected higher than the 4th round.
I won't begin my rant here, I will spare you this time, instead I will back our current QB, which I have done before. Clearly Romo had the greatest year of his career, but still not as good as 2007. His 102 QB rating was incredible, yet this team could not score in the redzone again... that points to the OL and playcalling. If Danny White can throw 25 INTs in 16 games and win 12 of them (1980) we should be able to win more games when Romo goes 31-10, those are numbers of a 14-2 team's QB, not 8-8. So I'll agree with a lot of you, games are won in the trenches and guys like Kosier and Costa are getting beat in the redzone. Although we have an elite QB with above average receivers, TE's and RB's, our OL has to be better. It can be better and it all starts with coaching. Let's face it, Danny White is no Tony Romo, but still found a way to win 14 games in 1980. I'm not sure but 26 rushing TDs probably helped and Dorsett only had 1,100 yards that season, DeMarco Murray could do that with 1 hand tied behind his back. The success of this team is not linked to the play of its QB or its defense, its the OL and specifically the LG, C and RG, which gets me to my final point...
14th overall pick? Trade-up if you have to and get David DeCastro, whatever it takes, get an OL that can dominate the ground game, get us back to 2,500 yards and 20 TDs per season. Championships are won in the trenches.