OK, so the observations might not be too casual nor the predictions all that bold, but I guarantee the nuggets to be 100% random.
Alright ramblers, let's get rambling...
From the "Oh wait...I see what you did there" department:
Not long ago, there were a long list of pundits who proclaimed Jerry Jones and Johnny Manziel a perfect match. Everyone from Spots Illustrated to USA Today projected Jerry to jump all over Johnny Football if he was still there at #16.
And it didn't happen.
So, when what everyone expected to happen didn't happen, the critics came out in droves. Articles were written, jokes were made, and aspersions were cast. Mike Mayock's head almost exploded on live TV, and even Forbes Magazine had to get in on the action. Jerry and the front office were accused of everything from shortsightedness to incompetence to downright apathy.
As has been pointed out in the comments section on BtB many times, just because someone says something very loudly, that does not make it anymore true.
I'm not trying to debate the merits of drafting or not drafting Johnny Football, just as I'm not trying to get into why he will or won't be a superstar in the NFL. What interests me is the team's perspective, and what their actions say about the direction the franchise wants to go.
Three things we know for sure:
- With the current salary cap situation, and Tony Romo's contribution to it, the Cowboys are essentially married to him for the next few seasons. Barring injury, Romo will be the QB in Dallas for the next 2 to 3 years minimum.
- Jason Garrett has made it perfectly clear how the team feels about developing QB's who aren't going to see the field immediately.
- The 'Boys have a 34 year old QB coming off his second back surgery, and instead of taking a shot with Johnny Manziel, they go with the "safe" pick in another first round offensive lineman in Zack Martin.
With that in mind, here is what really stands out to me:
While apparent that a major impetus was getting better and competing this year, I believe the selection of Zack Martin speaks as much to the future plans of this team as it does for this season alone.
Let's break out the crystal ball for a second and look ahead a few seasons.
Because of age, injury, or the 'Boys simply feeling they need to move on, the Romo era in Big D comes to an end. We would now have a new QB who is very likely a rookie, ripe with the youth and inexperience we would expect. We know we're not going to draft a QB to sit and watch, so the new guy will be learning on the fly, a baptism by fire if you will.
When that happens, and it will happen, that rookie QB will have the best opportunity to succeed that the Cowboys have to give. He will have (by then) a veteran offensive line to protect him and open up the (much mentioned but yet to appear consistently) running game. Tyron is already going to Pro Bowls, and based on what Fredbeard did in his rookie season, it's not a long shot that the latter soon joins the former. Now we add in Z-Mart, who has the ability to stay inside at Guard but could also slide out to Tackle, and who has serious Pro Bowl potential himself.
We know how important that extra half-second is to a QB like Romo, but how much more important is it going to be for a rookie QB?
Maybe we should ask David Carr his opinion on that one.
The moves we've seen so far suggest that they are assembling a team designed to mitigate, as much as possible, the difficulties inherent with transitioning the most important position on the field.
As much as this front office and coaching staff want to win with Romo, and I really believe they do, to me this team is being setup for the new guy as much as the current one.
From the "I'm not looking forward to hearing this all season long" department:
Jason Garrett on the hot seat. We've heard it mentioned a few times this off-season, but I fully expect this (non) story line to be in full effect as the season wears on.
Especially from the national media.
Especially if the Cowboys stumble in any way.
And I fully expect to roll my eyes and sigh every time I hear it.
I will say unequivocally, that the ONLY way that Jason Garrett in not the head coach next season is if the team goes all Wade Phillips on him and quits. Which will not happen. Say what you want about injuries, talent level, inconsistency, or whatever, the one thing you can be sure of about this squad is that they do not have one ounce of quit in them. I think that's a huge part of being a RKG. And Garrett has a team that's chock full of them.
If we happen to miss the playoffs by a single game again, Jason will be back. If the 'Boys go 8-8 next year, Jason will be back. Even if they go 7-9, mark my words, Jason will be back.
Let's not forget that in 2008 Jerry paid big money to Jason when he was OC to keep him in town. That's coming off a 2007 season where things were going pretty well. 13-3 under Wade, top 5 offense, top 15 defense, and Jerry still makes that move. Why? Because he knew he wanted JG as his head coach even then, and I don't think anything that has happened since has cast a shadow over that.
So, add in a sprinkling of Garrett being Jerry's chosen one, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if we hear of a contract extension before the season is over, regardless of record.
Speaking strictly on a personal note, I really hope we see some sort of Tex Schramm/Tom Landy-esque deal go down. Maybe not the 10 year commitment that the Great Fedora received, but something substantial.
If for no other reason than this: The national media would just about lose they damn minds.
From the "Even a broken clock is right twice a day" department:
Suffice it to say that I don't have much to back any of this up besides a big mouth and gut instinct...and hopefully it's not just indigestion.
- I've said it before, but I really believe promoting Rod Marinelli to DC will be the catalyst for turning this defense around. I believe he gets the absolute most from his players, coaxing career years from guys you may not expect. Especially on the the D-Line (see Hatcher, Jason and Selvie, George). I also think a lot of our young, unproven guys will take a big step forward this season under his tutelage. It won't all be fixed in a single year, but the seismic shift from "utterly horrific" to "not that bad" starts this year.
- I think Mo Claiborne vastly improves his game. Partly because Coach Rod will play more to his strengths in running more man coverage, partly because he's really a talented player, but mostly because it looks like he'll be playing with a huge chip on his shoulder this season. I think it bodes well when players feel they have something to prove.
- I don't have the same optimistic outlook for Bruce Carter. And I really don't know why. I want to, I really do. Even though the reports out of OTA's have been positive, I still can't shake the feeling that he'll be lost in coverage and will struggle overall. Not enough to lose his job, but enough to matter.
- I know this may be considered heresy, but I don't think the loss of Hatcher and Ware are going to end up to be as big of an obstacle as people seem to think. Ware simply was not the same player last year. He very well might come back and have a big year for the Broncos, I think he certainly has the talent to do it, but at this stage of his career I'm not sure it is something you could bank on. I believe it was Bill Walsh who once said that it was better to release a player a year too early than a year too late. I think I would have to agree.
- Hatcher's production will be more difficult to replace, in that I'm not sure we have anyone on the line right now that is a double digit sack guy. Hatcher had a career year last year, and seemingly found his niche playing in this scheme. But as good as he was last season, I don't think he's irreplaceable. I look for several players to step up and account for the loss.
- On the other hand, losing Sean Lee so early is a huge kick, with a steel-toed boot, right in the family jewels. The only positive spin I can see is that the coaches have all of TC to get someone else ready. While I think that's a better situation than trying to replace him mid-season, it's still a lot like taking your sister to prom. Better than nothing, but everything else being equal, not that cool at all.
- Sticking with the LB's, I think Jason Durant starts the season at Mike, but by mid-season we see DeVonte Holloman take over. I just like the way this kid plays. Viciousphilpy wrote a really nice fanpost which he pointed out some issues Holloman had in the Eagles game to end last season, and he was right on point with that assessment. Holloman played overzealous, undisciplined, and out of position at times last season. A rookie player making rookie mistakes. But, I think he plays with more control and more discipline this year. He's one of the young guys I look for to take a big step forward this season.
- Tyrone Crawford is another guy I see taking a major step forward, and the main reason why Henry Melton will have to play his ass off in order for the 'Boys to pick up his option after the season.
- Kyle Wilbur has a solid season, and cements his hold on the Sam position. While I think the powers-that-be will be looking for a new Will in next year's draft, I think Wilburforce won't be a concern for them.
- D-Law starts the season slowly, gets hot, then tails off again. I'm going out on a limb and pencil him in for 7 sacks this season, showing flashes of brilliance but also lots of inconsistency. But by the end of next year, I think he turns out to be a guy offenses have to game-plan around.
- Circle his name in your programs right now faithful fans, Terrell McClain proves to be one of the most under-rated signings of the off-season, and a finalist for the "where the hell did this guy come from" award.
- I can't remember the last time I was genuinely excited about our 7th round draft picks. Hopeful, but not excited. It's different this year. I see Ben Gardner, Ken Bishop, and Terrance Mitchell all making solid contributions this year. I'm not saying any of them will turn out to be rookie of the year, but I do see them playing well enough that the perceived drop-off between starter and backup isn't quite as glaring as it has been in the past.
- I also think 7th rounder Will Smith, as well as UDFA's Tyler Patmon and Davon Coleman, really push the competition factor in TC. Although I don't think we really see them make an impact until next year.
From the "Don't let the screen door hit ya where the good lord split ya" department:
I'm sure at some point in the future I'll ramble incoherently about my self-induced delusions about our offensive potential, but for now I leave you with this:
"Failure is part of success, an integral part. Everybody gets knocked down. Knowing it will happen and what you must do when it does is the first step back." - Bill Walsh