The Cowboys enter the offseason at 9-7. Not awful, but hardly great.
In cold, hard terms they're three games better than '04. They've got a lot of work to do, but not as much as last year. The team now has a secondary. It has a defensive line with depth. The Cowboys found a sound quarterback at a reasonable price. The backfield now has three talented, young backs, if Tyson Thompson can ever learn to protect the football. That's the good news.
On the other hand, the offensive line lies in rubble. The Cowboys need more talent at linebacker. Changes may be made in the coaching staff, though I would be surprised to see any earth-shaking moves, like a Parcells retirement. (And did everyone notice how ESPN spread the Parcells love on thick last night, in case he actually does leave?)
The offseason will proceed in three steps. First, the coaching carousel will begin spinning. In fact, it began while the games were still in progress, as Dick Vermeil announced his umpteenth retirement and Minnesota gave Mike Tice approximately an hour to savor his win over the Bears before pink-slipping him. Dom Capers will likely join this group tomorrow, if wire reports are to be believed. Mike Sherman, Dick Jauron, Jim Haslett, Joe Vitt and Norv Turner may also get the axe. It would also not surprise if Herman Edwards and Dennis Green did not return for 2006.
Dallas, being out of the playoffs, does not have to wait to interview any head or assistant coaches who shake free this coming week.
Free agency will begin in March. Radio commentator Babe Laufenberg opined tonight that Dallas will chase Terrell Owens. I think Dallas will actively pursue players with mid and lower-level sticker prices, at postions like inside linebacker (where the draft class looks thin) and fullback. If the Cowboys do spend big money, I think it will be for a new right tackle. I've become less and less bullish on Rob Petitti as the season has progressed. Watching him flail against Leonard Little last night, after getting buried by Michael Strahan, Jared Allen, Renaldo Wynn and Julius Peppers over the past month, I've concluded that he lacks the footspeed to ever be a quality NFL tackle.
And lets not forget the need for a consistent kicker.
Finally, the holes not filled there will be addressed in the draft. Dallas holds the 18th pick. It will be the end of February before draft charts congeal, but I can't wait that long. I anticipate Dallas will look for a safety, outside linebacker and either a guard or center with its first day picks.
The NFL doesn't stop, so we at the Cowboys Blog won't either. You may feel a need to take a football sabbatical, but football withdrawls will hit you sooner rather than later. You're hard- core, so you'll be back.
We'll be here.