When I look at the reasons why the Cowboys couldn’t quite make it over the hump for the third year in a row, I see things that I trace back to management and to a lesser degree Garrett. First and foremost we did not have the players we needed on the field. Ultimately this rests on Jerry Jones.
Big time players that played small
These players were paid well and did not show up for Dallas this year.
Demarcus Ware: It really pains me to put him on this list. At the beginning of the year, he looked rather good, but by the end of the season he looked like a vet minimum sort of dude. Maybe someone can manage his snaps carefully next year and get something good from him, but I wouldn’t want to bet on it.
Miles Austin: This guy was simply MIA. At least Ware had a few good games that you could point to.
Jay Ratliff: This is just bad. Really bad. No player has left a worse taste in my mouth in the history of the Cowboys. I put him on this list because when he returned he was playing for another team. He did not show up even though he got paid.
Brandon Carr: He was ok for stretches but came up short as the season when we needed him the most. Granted, I think the secondary was hung out to dry sometimes by a patchwork D-line, but this guy was paid well and he needs to step it up.
Morris Claiborne: The rookie wage scale saved us somewhat, and he was injured. But I just expect more from a top ten pick.
I don’t have a problem with the Ware and Carr contracts. I think they both made sense at the time. There is a certain amount of risk involved in NFL contracts and this sort of thing happens to the best of teams. Ratliff and Austin were different matters and I think Jerry’s judgement may have been a little clouded with those guys.
It is no coincidence that four of those names showed up on the defensive side of the ball. Even with the injuries, if they had played up to expectations, we could have had a solid playoff team.
The ridiculous year of injuries
Yes, all teams deal with injuries, but at no point during the year did I look at another team’s injury report and think that they were worse off than us in terms of sheer volume. When injuries are added up at the end of the year, I fully expect us to be #1 or #2 in terms of players playing injured or missing time.
I do think management can be blamed for some of this. Our defensive line got too old, we’ve drafted injured LB’s, and gave another contract to Miles Austin. There was also some really really bad luck, but some of this was self inflicted and management needs to keep this in mind going forward.
While I like the way that Lee’s contract was written, we still are in a position that we need to find more quality LB’s. On an individual level, he’s worth the roster spot, but we can’t make a team by re-signing players like this.
The great 2012 draft disappearing act
The returns on this draft have been dismal and injuries made it worse. This is a draft of role players and injured reserves. Time will tell, but it’s possible that it will stand up there with the 2009 class in infamy. If this had been a better draft, maybe this year would have looked completely different.
After Claiborne, I do not trust this team to trade up in the first round. Ever. I will be skeptical from here on out for any trade up of significant value. You want to switch 6th rounders to move up a couple spots in the 4th? Ok sure, but not much more than that.
A talented but mismanaged Offense
This Offense looked helpless for a good part of the year and they simply had too much talent to function like that.
Once they were able to rely on the running game, things picked up immensely. That’s the only thing that gives me pause about firing Callahan because we haven’t run the ball like that in years. I do think we should have had it figured out earlier though. The offensive line has been mostly intact and Murray only missed a couple games.
All of these things, except the offensive management, related directly to talent acquisition and retention. Our scouting staff and JJ can share in the blame in directly making those decisions. I’m looking at Garrett though for the offensive management. I think that he could have gotten someone better than Callahan and I’m pretty sure JJ would have bought in. I guess I’m lukewarm about keeping or firing Garrett. He hasn’t done enough to get fired or to justify a new contract.
There were also some things to like about this year’s team, I’m not completely negative about this season, but I think that subject deserves a full post on its own.