The front office held another conference call with season ticket holders today, and this time is was Stephen Jones' turn in the barrel. YES it is a long read!
As always Brad Sham opened the call with the niceties and the first question or two. I had to take this call in my car (don't worry Mom I used the bluetooth for handsfree operation and quickly pulled into a parking lot) and was unable to record but here is my best shot at transcribing the one hour give and take.
Any errors in the following are my own and not the fault of Messrs Jones and Sham. These are usually posted on the mothership within a day or two for the full experience.
Brad Sham: Start with the first question, do you see any problems or concerns with getting this years draft picks signed, or has all that gone away with the new CBA?
Stephen Jones: We have already begun negotiations with all the draft picks and with the new salary structure laid out this is easier than in years past.
Brad: With Johnny Manziel sitting there at 16 for you, did this feel like a lose/lose situation?
SJ: He is a fabulous talent there is no denying that. We asked ourselves would he and could we be patient in an Aaron Rogers type situation where he had to sit behind a starter for a few years? Jerry said he was like Elvis, in that he needed to walk out on the stage right away. Everyone has a bad game or couple of games and wherever Manziel goes the pressure the team will have will be strong. What to do if you are losing and everyone sees him sitting on the bench? How would he take that, and how would the team and fans perceive that? Also we know that like the Randy Moss draft, we would forever to be linked to him either way. 20 teams passed on Moss but in the collective memory it was just us. Greg Ellis had to hear about being compared to Moss his entire career, and Zach Martin is already being asked how he feels about being forever linked to Manziel.
Brad: Any draft day (movie) scenarios going on behind the scene for more picks?
SJ: (Dodged the question) Well we talked bout it and Jerry decided the best thing would be to put better pieces around Tony Romo. He is our starter and our star and we are better by building up the team around him. Zach Martin can play all 5 positions at a high level, Guard and Tackle certainly and he can snap the ball if we needed him to. He has the "Make Up", that's what we call it, to be on our team. On the list we have for players make up he rated all 1s and 2s. We did not want to reach for defense when Zach was the top rated guy on our board.
Caller question: How is Tony's back
SJ: He is throwing and will be ready for Training Camp. I think he is coming back at a high level, I think the last game of the season goes in a different direction if Tony plays.
Caller from Canada: Why did we keep so many Safeties on the active roster when we never saw them play?
SJ: Well let's start with JJ Wilcox, he is very good and we think he is only going to get better. Next Matt Johnson, we think his injuries are more unfortunate than chronic. Ahmad Dixon is almost a cinch to make this team. The run and hit factor he has, has Rich Bisaccia really excited. We are higher on our safeties than most people think we are.
Caller: What was your thought process in trading up in the 2nd?
SJ: Well if we were not going to be able to go get Demarcus Lawrence, Kony Ealy would have been our next pick. Jernigan and Nix were not on our board that high at all. We also wanted Trai Turner in the 3rd, yes we would have taken another Guard. So our decision was do we want Lawrence OR Ealy and Turner. Now Ealy is a left End and we wanted a right one, so we would have tried him out on the right side to see if that worked. the real benefit we talked about in that would be that with Martin and Turner in this draft our Offensive Line would have been set for 10 years.
Caller: Is your confidence in Brandon Weeden a factor in bypassing the top Quarterbacks in this draft? AND will he go head to head with Kyle Orton for the backup? SJ: We like Weeden a lot and we feel like he got put into the lineup too soon. Jason has a real good relationship with Norv Turner and they talked about Brandon before we signed him. Norv said good things and we have confidence in his ability going forward. Now the QB we picked up from West Texas is a lot like Weeden, he has a great arm and we are excited about developing him.
Brad: Is Kyle Orton coming back? SJ: Yes
Caller: How are we going to turn around our games in December?
SJ: We feel like a lot of our losses late in the year are due to veterans missing games due to injury, Tony missed the last game due to injury but that is unusual for him. We have a lot of different positions impacted due to older players being injured at the end of the year. We have gotten rid of a lot of older players and think that by getting younger we will get healthier particularly at the end of the year.
Caller: About Anthony Hitchens, why draft a back up for Sean Lee instead of looking for greater value?
SJ: All is in the eyes of the beholder. We equated him to the Frederick pick last year. Everyone said they did not like the pick at the time. We feel his floor is Sean Lee's back up after looking at tape and doing research on him. We had him rated higher than we had Devonte Holloman rated last year and you see he did good things for our club. Besides special teams he will compete for all 3 linebacker spots.
Caller: Of the Undrafted Free Agents who has the best chance to make the team this year?
SJ: Davon Coleman is an under tackle who we thought was better than Will Sutton. J C Copeland is a big fullback who looks great in short yardage. The CB Dashaun Phillips is there. Dustin Vaughan the QB we had a 6th round grade on him. L'Damian Washington is a tall, fast receiver that can do things few others can. My sleeper pick is Chris Whaley the DT from Texas, we think he compares to Henry Melton. When he is not hurt we think he will surprise a lot of people.
Caller: Are there any ongoing discussions about reducing the number of Pre season games?
SJ: Yes we are very aware of how much season ticket holders do not like paying full price for pre season games and we are still talking about this. The owners are very much in favor of adding more regular season games in replacement of pre season. But a lot of people like seeing those guys fighting to make the team in those games. Flexible pricing may be coming in the near future, season ticket holders would not necessarily pay less for a season but games would be priced differently.
Caller: Will the NFL ever make teams have home games overseas?
SJ: So far there has been plenty of teams interested in playing overseas and volunteering to have a home game there. Now if it is a road game for you, like it is for us this year, then you have no choice. The Jaguars volunteered to have a home game in London and since we were playing them we are going. Now we are excited about the opportunity to play in London but we have much invested in our stadium and our fans so we will not be looking to have a home game overseas anytime soon. the possibility of a team making their home in a London or elsewhere overseas is very possible as well, we will just have to see how that looks before anything will be done.
Caller: What about the WR Devin Street?
SJ: We had him in the 3rd round, he is a great route runner and we feel he can play all 3 WR positions. He is good outside and can play the slot. If I had to compare, he is a tougher, bigger, and more talented Kevin Ogletree. If you remember that opening day game against the Giants, Ogletree really showed his worth. We want him to push Terrance Williams, we think the competition will be good for everybody.
Caller: How does our running game look under the new coordinator who likes to pass? SJ: Zach Martin will help us run better, we were running well at the end of last year and Demarco Murry wound up with a trip to Hawaii so we did pretty good.
Caller: This is a copycat league, will you play more draft picks like Seattle did last year? SJ: If you look around the league most injuries are to older players, it seems like it is just us because we feel it when our guys get hurt but it is all over the league. So we are looking to have a good mix of rookies sprinkled in with vets at key positions.
Caller: Do we have enough Defensive Linemen to rotate in games?
SJ: Looking at Seattle they have all their linemen rotating in and out each getting 25 - 30 snaps per game and we want that too. We lost that due to injuries last year and some guys had to step up. Hayden did a Yeoman's job for us and Selvie stepped in and could of had 20 sacks with a little more, he is very good. Our goal is to have 9 or 10 guys on the D line and rotate in and out like we did in the 90s.
Caller: What is your confidence in the team treatment and the strength and conditioning program?
SJ: We looked at our guys on this and we also looked outside the building. We feel the new rules, which are good for players relative to time away from the facility are hurting the players. We feel that it is hurting all 32 teams and that the players biggest investment in their career is their health. The owners are talking to the players union about revising training time rules for the players benefit. We are asking for players to be able to come into our facilities and work out with our trainers one month earlier like they used to.
Caller: considering the shift in philosophy regarding quarterbacks in college, do you feel teams still need the star QB to be effective?
SJ: Well Defense makes the difference in taking pressure off of the QB, certainly we would like to be able to do that like we did in the 90s. We were winning with a dominant defense. We are trying to address that now by rebuilding a dominate defense to take the pressure off of Tony ~~~ Stephen went on for a while about this but I got lost ~~~ Brad Sham made a remark about how we started with a QB question and it turned into a defense answer.
Caller: Our offense has become predictable in regards to when we run and pass, when we go play action it seems we get an extra second or 2 and that makes a big difference in success of the play. Are we going to get better?
SJ: Scott Linehan will help, Jason is good but after time has passed you are what you are and his play calling showed that. Scott has a lot of play action he likes and wants to run more to set that up. We know that time of possession not only helps a QB but it helps your defense as well.
Caller from San Antonio: when are the Cowboys coming back to SA for Training Camp? SJ: No specific time frame but we love San Antonio, we have a terrific fan base there and all of our coaches and players love the riverwalk. Again we have no specific time frame but I would expect sooner rather than later.
Caller from Vegas: 3 part question. When are we going to get unstuck from 8-8? How does our salary cap look going forward? How do you feel about betting on sports?
SJ: Well that is tough for me to answer because as a member of the sporting world we cannot place bets on sports, but if an adult wants to place a bet and act reasonably with it, it is legal. No one wants out of 8-8 more than us.
~~ By asking to many questions he lost any semblance of an answer on Salary Cap~~~
LAST Caller: What is a successful season for you?
SJ: Get into the playoffs and have some success. Our ultimate goal is wining championships but to get into the payoffs where anything can happen, and have some success there is what we think of first.