Every summer I embark upon some kind of major cleaning/ repair project. Last year, it was an overhaul of the basement; this year, its ridding our home of any and all concrete media objects. Although we live more or less digitally, we still had a lot of old CDs and VHS tapes (the most important of which were old Cowboys games!) tucked or packed away. To lighten our proverbial load, I have spent parts of the last few weeks digitizing analog materials and carefully organizing a new external hard drive, managing my iTunes libraries, etc.
One of the byproducts of digitizing and organizing old VHS tapes is that one tends to get sidetracked a bit by watching them; this is nowhere truer than when it comes to old Cowboys games. I recently took a few minutes out of my day to view the first half of the Cowboys' 2009 Wild Card playoff victory over the hated Eagles - replete with a 27-point second quarter scoring explosion. As the game commenced, and the starting lineups were announced, I was stunned by how few of the players on that team are still in Dallas. Indeed, only three starters on each side of the ball, and ten players total, remain - and one of those is long snapper L.P Ladouceur.
Since that game, a mere three years removed, there has been substantial turnover. This issue is ably addressed in this week's top FanPost, authored by one of our most consistent and knowledgeable contributors, Kegbearer (go here to review his superb contributions to the various comments sections). Keg focuses on two positions, offensive line and safety, where recent Cowboys iterations have struggled, leading the Dallas media and casual fans to proclaim them "still the same old weaknesses of the Cowboys," leading to the knee-jerk conclusion that "perhaps nothing has really changed."
The purpose of Keg's post is to interrogate this tired narrative by showing not only how much personnel turnover there has been at these positions, but also to highlight the fact that the team has replaced older, declining players with younger men whose collective arrow is pointing up. I'll share Keg's conclusion:
...Jason Garrett has systematically improved the depth chart in its entirety, but especially, specifically the two greatest weaknesses that have plagued the team since before he took over. And those same old questions now have new and far more exciting possibilities as answers.
Because the team's core of superstars - Romo, Witten, Ratliff and Ware (all players brought on between 2003-'05) - are still with the team, we tend to think there hasn't been a lot of turnover in Dallas. But there has been. And, with such turnover as the rule, NFL teams can get depleted quickly. Indeed, 2009 was the last hurrah for a declining team that, under Wade Phillips, had failed to restock and rejuvenate the roster.
On the other hand, rapid turnover means that smart, patient teams can restock their rosters fairly quickly - with, say, three consecutive good drafts. To Keg's point: after hitting on good players from 2010-13, this team is getting to be well-stocked. As a result, this is a different team. And that's Keg's main point: These are NOT the same old Cowboys; rather, they are a new set of Cowboys, so we cannot map the problems that plagued the team in 2010 onto a completely different group pf players.
This notion is addressed in another strong FanPost, by the The Real Dirk Gently, our resident Holistic Detective (look it up). Mr. Gently similarly seeks to dispel a tired meme by taking on the pundits who lambast Jerry Jones for driving the Cowboys' wagon into salary cap hell. Gently happily bursts this bubble, demonstrating that, with a few choice cuts and by restructuring Romo and Ware's contracts next offseason (both deals are built for this eventuality, he notes), the team will be able to achieve what Dirk calls "Freedom 2014" with relative ease. That's what happens when you draft well: you get young, ascending (and comparatively much cheaper) players on the roster.
Switching gears, another "must read" from the FanPost archives is a terrific effort, posted yesterday, by relative newcomer Texas510, on the read option as a possibility for an offense like Dallas', with a passing quarterback. Therein, 510 shows an "Xs and Os" acumen rivaling that of BTB's best coaching minds. He offers two examples, the first a pass-run option and the second a dual-run option. 510 breaks down both plays, pausing at each stage (pre-snap, defensive response, post-snap) to elucidate key points. Hey, that's just darned good coaching!
Although he joined us in January, 510 has been quietly laying in wait, offering the occasional smart FP. In the past fortnight, however, he has been del fuego, twice penning impressive contributions. Judging from these, I for one would certainly like to see more from him...
...and from all of you! So, take a moment to congratulate Keg and all of this week's honorees and then get out and crank out a FanPost or two. You'll be glad you did.