I lean optimistic. In fact I've predicted the Boys to win the Super Bowl the last three years or so. This year however I'm a bit worried. There is much that needs to be done. Allow me to rehash our main complaints.
1. Retaining Bill Callahan: I cant see this working out in any shape or form. A coaching staff needs to have a synergy, a comfort level with each other that Jason Garrett ( thanks Jerry) has never had.
2. Romo's back: We go nowhere without Tony. We're a 4-12 team without him. He single-handedly beat Minnesota and Washington and almost single-handedly beat Denver while suffering from a bad back for most of the year.
3. No pass rush: More than anything, a pass rush makes a defense. Most of us agree that games are won in the trenches. You can scheme around a poor O-line like SD did against us this year but there is nothing more damaging to a game-plan than a comfortable opposing QB.
4. Free safety: While waiting for Matt 'Godot' Johnson, I noticed an inordinate number of jump balls thrown by opposing QB's that were caught. I've been a fan since 1982 and have never seen this. Philly's Golden Boy QB (Eli without the interceptions), threw up some ducks against us that would've been intercepted by a competent FS. Yes Jeff Heath you were in the right place at the right time most of the time but what did you do?
5. Lack of Creativity: We are in a division with DC's like Jim Haslett who blitz us mercilessly and we still don't make them pay. Jim Johnson (RIP) used to give our offenses fits for the most part. In these cases Dez is single-covered and apart from the 4th down conversion against Philly have we taken advantage of it? When was the last time we out-schemed and beat a superior opponent?
6. Mis-use of Talent: I believe that Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne & Gavin Escobar are extremely talented players who would be Pro-Bowlers if the played for Bellichick. Escobar is a matchup nightmare that was rarely used. That's inexcusable.
Now I know that most teams have 99 problems but ours, apart from the whole GM thing, can be rectified fairly expeditiously. This is what I would do.
1. Fire Bill Callahan: or let him leave. The man is un-creative and un-reactive. Its as if opposing defenses know what the game-plan is. Ridiculous right Tim Brown?
2. Draft a QB: Tony's a tough SOB. If anyone can play through it he can, but he's not 27 anymore. I believe we should draft a QB as high as value allows. An elite one starts to slip down the draft? Trade up a bit and snag him. A Garappolo still available when we pick in the 2nd? Take him! I want Tony to win so bad it hurts but Orton needs to go and there's nothing more depressing than an empty QB cupboard if your Star goes down.
3. Draft a Big Guy for the DL: Most QB's would rather a root canal without anaesthesia than consistent pressure in the middle. I'm no draftnik but I would choose guys in 1st, 2nd or 3rd round who are described mostly with the adjective, DISRUPTIVE.
4. Get Pryor: Most of the value at D-line is found in the 2nd to 4th rounds. If an elite QB can't be had, take the best FS in the class. We do well when we get the best player at a position of need.
5. Linehan: You know what I'm most excited about with regards to this hiring? The SCREEN game!!! I predict now that by any empirical measure, we are going to be much improved against the blitz. I've seen all the talk about Linehan's neglect of the run game but a screen really is an aspect of the running game that gives defenses fits. Picture Tyron bearing down on a cowering safety with Dunbar behind him ready for launch.
6. Marinelli & Linehan: We all know what Rod did in Chicago. His CB's and LB's were stars there. Another year, and some health, will do wonders for Carr & Claiborne. Linehan had lots of success out of the 2 TE formation and I think that Escobar has a breakout year.
Our schedule seems brutal this year, but I think this team has a real chance to make some noise. If these issues are addressed and Tony can stay healthy, I can see us make a run similar to New Orleans a few years back.