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The Blame Game

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No season goes according to plan. We didn't plan on winning 13 games last year and we didn't plan on missing the playoffs in 2005. There are unforeseen obstacles that arise and the team that best deals with them usually prevails.

To his credit, Jerry Jones usually tries to create contingency plans. We've had problems in the secondary so he traded for Pacman and drafted Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. We were thin on the D and O-lines so he signed Tank Johnson, signed Leonard Davis and gave Jay Ratliff an extension. He even signed Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger in case the unthinkable happened and Tony Romo had to miss some games.

Well, the unthinkable happened and Jones' contingency planned failed. This is a more detailed look at that contingency plan and why it failed. This is not a post to bash Jerry. I think he's done an admirable job of trying to build this team for success. But the result of what this team looks like didn't happen overnight. This situation is the culmination of several decisions made during the offseason. Not only that, but BTB was sounding the alarms about this contingency plan all along. This blog saw the potential for problems. Why didn't Jerry? Todd Archer sums it up well.

This was the first year the Cowboys have needed their backup quarterback to play an extended amount of time because of injury since 2001. That length of time perhaps gave the Cowboys a false sense of security, so they chose to stand pat.

Their plan didn't work.

They discussed the possibility of trading with Tampa Bay for Chris Simms, but they never seriously got in on any Byron Leftwich or Daunte Culpepper talk. Or Joey Harrington or any of the other well-worn quarterbacks looking for work last off-season or during this season.

Was that a mistake? Certainly looks that way.

We had ample chances to go with another quarterback. Here's a shortlist of the QBs available in February. You see names like Rex Grossman, J.T. O'Sullivan and Billy Volek and there's no wonder we decided to stay with Brad Johnson. But there was definitely a feeling among Cowboy fans on BTB that Johnson might not be answer. Here's an almost prophetic quote by cmdenero in this post:

I wouldn't mind giving most of these guys a look. I get the feeling that if Romo went down, our offense would be anemic under Johnson -- no completions longer than 15 yards. I wouldn't mind giving Lemon, Volek, Gray or McCown a look as a backup. They all could hold down the fort and actually move the offense.

This feeling was not limited to fans. Even the media picked up on it. Even JJT said we should look around a bit and maybe take a look at Daunte Culpepper. But, to be fair, he also disses Byron Leftwich in that same article. Now, at the time, I probably would've pooh-poohed Culpepper too. But right about now, I'd take Culpepper in a heartbeat. And I sure would have taken him three weeks ago. 

To organization's credit, apparently we had our eye on a few quarterbacks in the draft. Todd Archer explains.

They contemplated taking a quarterback in last April's draft and came close to selecting Southern Cal's John David Booty before Minnesota scooped him up. They were also high on Colorado State's Caleb Hanie in the undrafted route, but he signed with Chicago and is the Bears' No. 3 quarterback.

Training Camp only heightened this fear. Grizz warned about our perilous situation at backup QB in the summer. In post after post, Grizz talked about how bad our backup QBs looked in training camp and then he said it again in the preseason. Jerry Jones wasn't conviced it was a problem though.

Brad Johnson was also pretty bad in the preseason, particularly against the Chargers where he posted a passer rating of 45.6. So bad in fact, Wade decided to give him more first team reps against Denver

This is where Brooks Bollinger comes into a play. Perhaps, due to how erratic Johnson looked, Jerry Jones sprung to action and signed Bollinger. This seemed to catch a lot of people off-guard. Why not just keep Richard Bartel? Brandon W dived into the topic here. Seemed like Bartel was making progress and would have been a lot more comfortable with our system than Brooks Bollinger.

The book was still out on Bartel actually, as some thought he had promise, while others didn't. Still he had more experience in our offense than Bollinger did. Still Jerry signed Bollinger instead of the list of other QBs available at the time. Here's a short list of those QBs:

Brock Berlin, Brooks Bollinger, Bruce Gradkowski, Quinn Gray, Joey Harrington, Chris Simms and the always available Daunte Culpepper.

Not much to work with there. Still as a Monday Morning Quarterback I can say that our dismissal of Chris Simms may have been premature. Apparently we mulled trading for him and Jerry discussed it here. I would take him over Brad or Brooks. Now. But then again, he's had his own problems.

Clarence Hill delves into the topic here.

There were concerns about Johnson throughout the off-season. And there were plenty of other options available. Former Texas quarterback Chris Simms was talked about, but the Cowboys never pulled the trigger on a deal to get him from Tampa Bay. There was talk about the price being too high. But seriously, if someone told Jerry Jones it was a must-have, he would have moved heaven and earth to get it done.

How much blame does Wade deserve? We saw glimpses of a possible backup quarterback problem and an undiscipled football team in August. Again, Brandon W was Johnny-on-the-spot and pointed it out in this post here. But the aw-shucks song-and-dance worked and worked well last season. Nobody was complaining when we were 3-0. Doesn't seem to be working now.

At the end of the season, if we have an 8-8 record and we're left out of the playoffs, there will be plenty of blame to go around. Jerry for his bumbling response to the backup quarterback situation and Wade for not being assertive enough in evaluating this situation. But here's the thing. The season's not over yet. So if we go on a run and make some noise in the playoffs, then these two guys should get an awful lot of credit.

Personally, I'd rather be passing out credit like candy than assigning blame. 

Shout out to raysheff and his fanpost here.