My telephone rang last week. A lovely ladies voice greeted me and asked me to hold for Mr. Jones. Being half asleep and groggy, it wasn’t computing which Mr. Jones was calling me. After a couple seconds of elevator music and much to my astonishment, Jerry Jones, owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys answered the phone.
We had a lovely chat for an hour about football, life and being a maverick, Mr. Jones told me he needed some new blood, some new thoughts on how to move forward. Things had grown stagnant and the Cowboys needed some new ideas. Then he did the unthinkable. He asked me to submit my plan on how to return the Dallas Cowboys to their former glory.
Fire Jason Garrett. Following him out the door will be Bill Callaghan, Wes Phillips and Wade Wilson. I will conduct two interviews; our new head coach Mike Zimmer and his new assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Norv Turner. I would then allow these two to seek out and fill their coaching vacancies. I would hope Zimmer would keep Marinelli, and get rid of Henderson, but that is his choice to make.
I would make it clear to Mike Zimmer that Club Cowboy is to end. Discipline and order need to be restored. Zimmer is known as a no nonsense fellow and I expect he will tighten things up around Valley Ranch. After the injuries to the Bengals defense this year, Zimmer proved again he is a top defensive mind and has had the benefit of working within many of the best defensive coaching trees in the NFL (Bill Parcells, Rob Ryan, Jimmy Johnson, etc). He has worked to meld these different ideas into his own system and with Marinelli as a hold over, it is one my system to add to the mix.
Norv Turner needs no introduction, but here goes, two names, Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. Imagine what Norv can do to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, after the seasons from Gordon and Cameron. The Browns offense had multiple Pro-Bowlers with far less talent than the Dallas Cowboys. Imagine what Norv can achieve with the weapons on the Dallas sideline. Norv has always been an awesome offensive coordinator, who blends running and passing, unlike Callaghan who is a pass heavy coordinator.
*** Note – Minnesota Vikings have added the above names and are now one of the NFL’s best coached teams.
When Jerry Jones took over the Cowboys, he was a gambler and ran the franchise his way. Firing Landry was an unpopular move, but bringing in Jimmy Johnson was widely considered, years later, to be a genius move. Al Davis, back in the day, was a maverick and a gambler too. The Cowboys have lost the aggression in the front office and have become stagnant, making the same mistakes of other less successful teams. The front office needs to become ruthless and stop rewarding past performance, much like the Patriots.
In this vein, release Demarcus Ware now and Miles Austin on June 1. This will free up significant cap room – Dware - $7,432,250 and Austin - $5,500,000. Both players are entering an injury prone stage of their careers and their production does not match their contracts. I would make an effort to trade DWare, but I do not think anyone would offer me anything, as they can sign him as a free agent.
On this note, I would love to have Hatcher back, but unfortunately, there will be a team that offers him big money and he has a family to feed. The Dallas Cowboys wish him all the best and would welcome him back at a club friendly contract.
Tony Romo counts for an outrageous $21,733,000 this year on the cap. Rework his deal down to a cap hit of $13,733,000 saving $8,000,000. At the same time, redo the contracts of Brandon Carr saving $4,500,000; Sean Lee saving $3,200,000 and Orlando Scandrick saving $2,400,000. These are players who should be in Dallas for a few more years, whether through talent or terrible contracts that are almost not able to be cut.
Note on two players
I would not redo Witten, as this will likely be his last year in Dallas, his cap hit is high and after drafting Escobar and Witten’s poor play this year, his time is coming. Kyle Orton would make sense to cut, as a second quarterback making over $4million, but unfortunately, if you cut him, your savings is merely around $900,000 and in this situation, you have to still find another back up and now only have $900,000 to do it. The same catch 22 exists with Bernadeau and Free, you can cut them, but with their dead money cap hits and the need to find a replacement, it makes little sense to dump them.
Chop, chop, chop – Parnell, Costa and Durant are goners. This saves $4.25 million and really doesn’t affect the on the field product, as really only Durant was a player this year and can be replaced by Wilber and Holloway.
Get on the phones to other teams about trading our first rounder for either multiple picks this year or a pick this year and next year’s first. Our pick is worth 1000 points, but with franchises like the Dolphins, Browns and Jets where it is playoffs of bust, they will be willing to make a move. I would like to add another second and third, much like the San Francisco trade this year.
That would mean 4 picks in the second and third rounds and with these, would add three bodies to the front four and an offensive lineman. Great teams build from the lines out. I would like to add two defensive tackles and one defensive end. With Ware gone, we have Crawford, Wynn, Selvie, Brown, Rayford, Wilson and Bass, one addition like Trent Murphy or Kony Ealy would complete this group. I like Murphy due to his physical nature and non-stop motor.
Defensive tackle is a bit more of a dog’s breakfast with Hayden, Wynn, Crawford, Irvin and Kearse. Hardly a household name in the bunch. The preferred two tackles would come from Nix, Sutton, Tuitt Jernigan and Donald. Based upon simulated drafts at Drafttek, these are all players who should fall in the second and third rounds. I really like Sutton, as a fast twitch, 3 technique necessary to attack the quarterback and drive the defense. Of course, I would have to listen to my scouts and connections in the college game for our best options, but these are my favorites as of now.
While on the phones, it would be time to contact agents and put out feelers to injured players that might sign club friendly one year contracts. There are three names to keep a close eye on with ties to the team – Anthony Spencer, Henry Melton and Geno Atkins (assuming Zimmer is head coach and he keeps Marinelli). With limited cap space, it will be necessary to add players with warts to club friendly contracts and get the maximum mileage from them. These would be one year deals with incentives for performance and roster bonuses. Veteran players with a little bit left in the tank, can be the most significant additions to clubs, think over the years with the Patriots – Seau, Harrison, Moss, Winters, etc. With an emphasis on younger players, developed through smart drafting and strength and conditioning programs, it will be essential to identify veterans with something left in the tank who can add a bit of moxie and awareness.
This draft it is essential to add a third quarterback. Orton will be gone likely next year, when his contract is less unfriendly for release. With Romo’s contact, he better plan to start in Dallas for another 4 or 5 years, so this new quarterback would project as a future #2.
Assuming Orton is release before next season, the new third quarterback would have a year to learn the system and get up to speed. I like Aaron Murray from Georgia. Great career numbers in a tough conference and a ton of experience in a good conference and big games. Murray looks like he can "drive the bus" for a game or two if necessary, he likely isn’t a franchise quarterback though. Murray is projected as a 5th round pick. I wouldn’t want to spend a pick higher than a 4th on this quarterback, there are more pressing current needs.
Fire the strength and conditioning department. To many injuries over the past few years have caused ongoing issues with wins and losses. Maybe with changes in the offseason work-out rules, the Cowboys have not kept up with the new reality.
I’d offer the job to Shannon Turley from Stanford. He seems to have unique training methods to help limit injuries and increase sport specific training. Sometimes change is needed, not some much due to problems with the existing coaches, but a different voice and methodology changes the results. Remember, the definition of insanity is "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Some guy named Einstein said that. He was pretty smart, not sure if he was much of a football guy though.
On this vein, one more issue I would have checked is the turf at AT&T Stadium. Maybe hamstrings can be correlated to the practice or game facilities. Maybe the carpet needs to be replaced with a new product.
Moving forward, I would hire a special research department, of non-football people to analyze the game, specifically over the past few years since the rule changes favoring the offense came into effect. I would find a few statistics majors who want an interesting project. It is important to remember humans are predictable, although the pattern is not always noticeable. There is always a tendency, it is necessary to find those tendencies. Getting an advantage due to advanced statistical analysis could be the difference between a win and loss. It seems other sports have moved ahead of football in sports statistical analysis.
After reviewing my plan, Mr. Jones slid a package of papers across the table. It was a contract offer, to become the next general manager of the Dallas Cowboys. I looked down the page and saw the word "compensation".
Smack! Seconds before seeing the full offer, a wayward train car from my sons Christmas train set hits my shoulder. Some sort of screaming starts. "Daddy, she threw my train set." From my dream job to another day in paradise at home with my wife and kids, maybe sometimes a dream is just that!