2013 for the Dallas Cowboys will be a forgettable one overall, sadly. With major changes made to the Defense, new play calling for the offense and a slew of new players, the Cowboys still ended the season with a loud ocho y ocho thud. Some players and coaches did step up that contributed to putting the team in playoff contention however, some didn't and are raising major concerns for the next season. I'll start with my incompletes and end with the positives.
5. Mo Claiborne
Is Mo a Bust? The jury has yet to rule on our 2012 #6 pick but when that question is being asked, the arrow is clearly pointing down. Mo had an injury plagued season and was not a major contributor when healthy. For such a high pick, you want more value out of a guy. Its frustrating to watch #2 and #3 WRs nearly run circles around a guy you thought would solve secondary problems. The reason I give Mo an incomplete is a combination of injury, youth and scheme. Kiffin's ancient Tampa 2 scheme didn't work for any of the DB's as it was clear as day they were all better at Man-to-Man than Zone. I'm willing to grant Mo a mulligan as it was his 2nd year. Several players tend to sophomore slump so we'll give him the 3 year Eval when that bridge comes but Mo has serious issues to resolve.
4. Bruce Carter
What a bummer Bruce was this year. After Lee went down last season, Carter stepped up and looked magnificent. This year? I feel like I could argue that Holloman looks far more promising. This is his third year in the league which is usually telling of what kind of player you are. But all us hardcore BTBer's know he didn't play much his rookie year. So, to sum up, Bruce gets the Incomplete for the same reasons that Mo does. It was really his 2nd full season and the scheme could be blamed. I'm still hopeful about Bruce simply because his skill sets are so glorious. Though, he needs to step up big time or I don't see #54 starting in 2015.
3. Sean Lee
Oh, Sean Lee. I love him just as much as you all and his incomplete is given due to literally not completing the season. We're all beating our heads against the wall every time we hear he's hurt again bringing back memories of Dat Nguyen. When Sean's not on the field, its clear the defense is not the same. Lee is a leader and a need for the team to succeed but top flight Linebackers need to be durable. I'm not certain if Lee qualifies as that. If we're counting on him to fill that gap every game, it will make you seriously wonder if he's worth all that dough. Do I want Lee on my team next year? You betcha. Can he be counted on to lead us to Super Bowl Glory, I just don't know. Incomplete due to high injury/salary risk, high reward factor.
2. Tony Romo
The season essentially ended when Romo felt that 'tweak' in his back against the SuckSkins. As much as I was relieved to know that it won't be pinned on Romo if we lose against the Eagles, I was devastated to learn our starting QB would not get another chance to prove the haters wrong. Tony had a great season throwing only 10 interceptions compared to 19 last year. Some of those could be blamed on poor route running and lack of fight MILES AUSTIN. What really stinks is not knowing how Romo will recover from his injury. He's still our best chance in my opinion but a shame he couldn't play in that last game. His incomplete to due to that and the fact that if he had played against the iggles and the Cowboys did win, we'd all be singing a different tune.
1. Jason Garrett
I'm sure most of you are firm about your opinion on the Rooster and chances are it ain't good. Compared to Camp Cup Cake Wilson, Jason is still preferable in my mind but three 8-8 years isn't helping anyone. What Jason has done is bring in a better team mentality and better drafts. That's something every franchise in the NFL wants and continuity will hopefully bare fruit in due time. He'll be here next year and we'll know then whether the Jason Garrett era is forgettable or not. Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy with the guy and maybe its because I have fond memories of him when he filled in for us in the playoffs back in the day that he lands here. Garrett gets the incomplete only because injuries have ravaged this team. But anything below 9-7 next year and its cannery row for him.
5. Demarcus Ware and Miles Austin
Man, when I saw Ware snatch that ball out of the air on the first play of the season, I was absolutely ecstatic. Every play since then? Totally bummed. Let's get real, Ware is old and getting older for his position. He's not going to get better. His production has hit a low point with only 6 sacks. Some of which came in garbage time. His whole situation sucks with the money he's owed, the plays we know that won't come and the fact that he's been such a stalwart on this defense makes it hard to put him as a 2013 Loser. Facts are facts, though.
Austin just isn't worth the money anymore. He doesn't look the same. His stats do the talking. Look up how much he's getting paid and how much he contributed this year. Oh wait, you already did. I don't have to beat this dead horse, its practically decomposed by now.
4. Bill Callahan
If Bill ran the ball more, he might've been a winner here. In the much ballyhooed decision to change play calling duties, Callahan seemingly did more of the same that Garrett did. Throwing the ball when we should run. 4 yard plays when we needed 6 (TE outs). Simply, just lacking creative flair over all. Did we run one trick play? Parcells would at least bust out the flea-flicker time to time and he was considered Mr. Conservative. We have a really good offense and it didn't come through when we needed it. He's likely gone for '14 so I'm not the only one on this.
3. Monte Kiffin
The Tampa 2 Monte had 14 years ago was a thing of beauty with Hall of Famer's all over the field. Not surprisingly, lots of teams learned the scheme and how to beat it. Surprisingly, we hired this guy with the same 14 year old scheme and expected it to work. Well, it didn't. Injuries crushed this defense but same thing happened last year and it wasn't a 'historically bad' defense. The entire squad was a liability which included some really good players. But when Barry Church is making 100+ tackles playing 10 yards off the line, something ain't right. Heck, even his son fired him. 'Nuff said, this dude is done.
2. Jim Maurer, Britt Brown and Mike Woicik
Who the Texas are these guys? Well, they're our Head Athletic Trainer, the Assoc. Athletic Trainer and the Strength and Conditioning Coach respectively. Annnnnd you know where I'm going with this one. Injuries. Namely freaking hamstrings. Past two seasons have been travesties in this regard. The D-Line was decimated, skill players were hamstrung and games were not finished. You know whats really maddening? These guys are some of the best at what they do. Look up some of their accolades and you'll scratch your head till your brain bleeds. They've won awards and Super Bowls. Maurer's been here for 24 years! You can't hate that resume but you can hate the recent results. Every team has this issue but the entire league could not fathom 19 different Defensive Linemen in one season. I don't know enough on this particular subject to say 'FIRE SALE, BOYS!!' but I don't know how anyone can keep these guys if the same injuries stay.
1. Jerry Jones
Shocker! I'm with everyone when it comes to the word frustration coupled with the man named Jerry Jones. A book could be written on Jerry but let's keep it to this season for today. Why I put Jerry as number one is the hiring and firing of coordinators in 2013 and Salary Cap stuff. Jerry obviously did some good things and made good hires (Marinelli) but the staff is about to go through another napalm blast and Garrett arguably could've been fired. The drama surrounding the play-calling duties and its own lack of success was a giant waste of time and energy. His philosophy for fixing the '12 Cowboys was a better O-Line and Turnovers. Those goals were achieved and it still didn't work.
What really gets Jerry this spot is the Salary Cap situation. I'm not going to break down the specifics but it looks bleak and we alllllllllll know it. Demarcus Ware, Brandon Carr and Miles Austin are prime examples of big money going to ho-hum results. We can't look to free agency to save us next year meaning most of these dudes will be back. 8-8 years are as much Jerry's fault as it is anybody's but his lack of forward thinking in his hiring and payroll really sets the team back for many years to come.
Honorable Mention: Dan Bailey - We're lucky to feel so certain about our kicking.
5. The O-Line
Doug Free? Ron Leary? Even Mac? What? The running game was better. Romo had more time. Interceptions went down. These guys did their jobs. Even with Brian Waters missing most of the season, I rarely complained about their performance. Tyron Smith is a keystone for this team now. He'll be here for a long time and will see several more Pro Bowl invites. This is the best case squad going forward for the Dallas Cowboys. Football is won in trenches and our Offensive side is a strength in that. I feel proud about Doug Free for his bounce back and how he showed what kind of man he is in taking a pay-cut. Hats off to the O-Line this year.
I love Hatch. He'd be higher on this list if it were not for his indifference about the team. Don't get me wrong he deserves the money coming to him and its *cough cough Jerry* the organization's fault for not getting more from him in prime years and having money available to resign. I just feel deflated that a guy I like so much from a small school had one foot out the door before the game against Philly ended. Yet, 11 sacks from a DT is outstanding. He was a hero on an otherwise depleted D-Line. Bon Voyage, Hatch.
How do I put both these guys in one sentence? Easy, they complement each other so well. One is a monster and the other is the Little Engine that Could and both had a great season. Dez has the stats and stature to prove it but how clutch was Beas on 3rd downs? Both had drops and incomplete routs that drove me nuts but I remember a lot more WOO-HOO'S! than OH NOES! when it came to these guys. Beasley is taking advantage of the time given to him and Dez is living up to the hype. Winners.
2. 2013 Draft Class
I know you're probably not high on BW Webb or even Escobar but if you can pick a 100% successful draft, then do I have a job for you. Damn nearly top to bottom this was a solid draft. Fredbeard, Terrance Williams and Devonte Holloman (7th round?) are likely to be core players for the future. Randle, Escobar and Wilcox have promise. Initially, I was low on this draft but boy was I wrong. Fredrick is only going to get better and will go to Hawaii in years to come and that's the definition of a solid 1st round pick. There's so much to like about this class which gives me hope for drafts and playing seasons to come. Needs to be said: Great job Jerry and Jason.
1. Demarco Murray
I remember a time as a Cowboys fan where 1,000 rushing was the bar. You all know by now the last time it happened was with Julius Jones. Its a passing league now and we're a passing team but having a 1k yard rushing who was woefully under utilized is impressive. I have the same complaints about Murray as you do when it comes to finishing plays but that play he made at the end of the Washington game solidified this spot to me. He blocks well, catches the ball and has noticeably better vision. If Lance Dunbar comes back and has games like he did on Thanksgiving, it'll only make Murray better and the Dallas Cowboys better. Murray isn't a problem or question mark, he's a solution. He can take the flack off Romo and set up the pass. He did it all practically as a feature back and was out for two games. RB is not a need for next year. We're lucky to have him in the back field.