FanPost

Has the Cowboys' fans thirst for success led to chasing mirages?

Mirage_medium

via caracaschronicles.files.wordpress.com

It has been a while.

Hello, my name is ScarletO, and I am a Cowboys-aholic.

I have followed this team as a child and include the Hail Mary as one of my earliest and fondest football memories. The NFC was on CBS, which was channel 7 in Dayton, Ohio.

Like many of you reading this today, I served as my father's remote control. When the channel needed changing, I would pop up from my comfortable bean bag and click to one of the other three local stations: PBS, ABC (Monday Night Football with Cossell- yeah!), or NBC. With an eye towards the future (sarcasm off), my father taught me how to adjust the rabbit ears on top of the television to optimize the reception.

Wish as I may, I cannot forget the agony of Dallas losing to Pittsburgh twice in Super Bowls. The majesty of Staubach to Pearson, or the excitement of Dorsett in the open field filled many a Sunday. The return to glory behind the dominating team of the nineties admittedly left me spoiled.

Accustomed to bathing in success, I am now cast out into the desert with nary a drop to quench my thirst. An occasional oasis of playoff glory could bathe the stench of countless failures from my football soul.

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via graphics8.nytimes.com

Losing the final game at Texas Stadium.

Losing the opener at Cowboys Stadium.

Losing to Detroit after taking a 24-point lead.

Losing the final games of 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013, eliminating the team from the playoffs.

Losing to the Houston Texans in their first game as a franchise.

The nineties rinsed away the bitterness left by Jackie Smith, "The Catch", and 1-15. After 5-11, 5-11, and 5-11, however, the good will of the nineties had evaporated. Perhaps the ocean of insults directed at Romo for untimely mistakes would be tempered with a glass full of playoff collateral.

So parched are Cowboys fans for the sweet taste of victory that many (myself included) may be drinking the sand. Ignorance is bliss, as the alternative includes facing ones worst football fears: never tasting Super Bowl glory...or being an Eagles fan, same thing, just underscore ignorance and misspell it.

Every Cowboys fan should be asking the same question:

"Am I being fooled by this latest mirage, or is this really Sean Combs?"

Following the 2012 NFL regular season, the Cowboys made a concerted effort to emphasize the health of the team. As reported on BloggingtheBoys:

"The entire draft class did not miss a single game due to injury, suspension or anything else in 2012. In contrast to previous drafts, where the Cowboys took calculated risks on injured players, this may be one of the healthiest draft classes in recent memory."

After an injury ravaged 2013 season, however, the Cowboys have signed Henry Melton and Anthony Spencer. Melton missed 13 games in 2013, and Spencer missed 15 games last year.

Does this mark a departure from the strategy employed in the 2013 NFL draft or is it merely an exception? While Melton will likely return close to form in 2014, Spencer's injury is deemed more severe and has ended many a NFL career.

Much has been made of the Jason Garrett process and his selection of players with leadership qualities. Jeremy Mincey, however, does not fit this profile. Mincey was released from the Jaguars during the 2013 NFL season after serving a two game suspension for a violation of team rules.

Is this departure from the recent template governing player acquisition a mistake, or has Dallas invested shrewdly in a player that contributed to a Super Bowl team last season? Since Garrett has assumed his position of head coach, it is difficult to find a player signed by the Cowboys during the off season that has had off field issues. Mincey's transgressions stand out significantly in that light and may signal a shift in the process of acquiring players, be it a shift in power or philosophy.

Many reports indicate that the Cowboys are drafting better and acquiring better talent since promoting Garrett to the position of head coach. Compared to the abysmal drafts under Wade Phillips and Dave Campo, the Cowboys have prospered.

When compared to the talent gathered during the Parcells era, however, the Cowboys appear to be mediocre. From 2003 through 2006 (Garrett is coming up on his fourth draft as head coach), the Cowboys added Romo, Austin, Witten, Ware, Ratliff, and Newman through the draft or as undrafted rookie free agents. That nucleus of Pro Bowlers led to one playoff win.

Comparatively, the Cowboys have added Smith, Murray, Claiborne, and Frederick through the drafts and rookie free agency conducted from 2011 through 2013. Frederick could develop into a Pro Bowler, while Claiborne was a high draft pick. Jason will have one more draft to match Parcells' four in Dallas, but from a talent acquisition standpoint, the Cowboys appear to be no better than what was seen under Bill.

Is pointing towards improved talent acquisition a function of the low standard established between 2007 and 2009, or has the front office rediscovered the magic that led to three Super Bowl victories in four years? It is interesting that nary an offensive lineman was found by Parcells which eventually led to the overhaul conducted in 2011. Correspondingly, the drafts conducted while Garrett has presided as head coach have yet to find a defensive lineman comparable to Hatcher, Ware, or Ratliff (although Bass and Crawford may develop into those types of players), thus necessitating a retooling of the defensive line this off season.

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via cdn.fansided.com

Releasing DeMarcus Ware and permitting Jason Hatcher to leave Dallas without offering the latter a contract has been lauded by many as an indication that the front office of the organization is now operating similarly to other successful franchises. Keeping, and by extension paying players that are past their prime is an unsustainable business model in the NFL that most teams outside of Washington DC have accepted.

But the Cowboys released a high profile player beyond his prime during the 2009 off season. While Dallas appeared to have a suitable replacement for "the player" in Roy Williams, it was Miles Austin that emerged as the top downfield target that season.

There appears to be a dearth of suitable replacements for DeMarcus Ware on the current Cowboys roster. Perhaps a talented defensive end will fall to Dallas in the upcoming 2014 NFL draft, but Tyrone Crawford, George Selvie, and the afore mentioned Mincey may be hard pressed to match the 17 sacks registered by the Dallas defensive ends in 2013; and that was during a down year in regards to sacks.

Regardless, this is not the first time the Cowboys have released a high profile player with an enormous cap charge. Why has it been hailed as a step in the right direction? While Dallas garnered its sole playoff victory since 1996 following the 2009 off season, the subsequent seasons led to an overall 30-34 record with no playoff appearances. It appears that the reported addition from subtraction in 2009 never resulted in long term gains. Releasing Ware is not necessarily indicative of future success.

Fans are praying that the organization has finally corrected its course. Any crumb of perceived progress is viewed as a potential basketful of wins. That leaves us as susceptible targets for prophets preaching what we wish to hear. Without confirmation that the true football messiah that is capable of delivering us from this cursed fan existence has arrived, we are left to hope.

Are our cups full of wine, or are we drinking sand?

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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