The Cowboys have been naughty this year. They lost to the Rams. Their pass protection broke down too many times. They have made too many mental errors. They have missed too many tackles. They failed too many assignments. Their kick coverage groups broke down too often.
The Cowboys are getting a lump of coal this year. The only gifts they get this Holiday season are those they might buy themselves in Philadelphia.
Here are some gifts Santa Jerry can buy his team -- and us -- next year. People may have their own agendas, but I'm shaving with Occam's razor. I'm going on the assumption that the least radical surgery is necessary on this talented, but petulant patient. You may disagree with me in the threads.
Dear Santa Jerry. We have been very good fans. Next year, can you please bring us:
1. A new special teams coach. Do I really need to go into detail here?
2. A shiny new strong safety. Because Dallas has an expensive one who can't cover, who's sitting in the shop, and a budget model that can't cover either and who misses tackles at the most unfortunate moments. And I'm not greedy, Santa. I don't need a Troy Polamalu. But just think how much better this defense would be if Chris Horton, a 7th-round Redskins pick, played for Dallas? Just find a guy like him.
3. A surprise OT or OG, to crack the starting lineup: The OTs have talent and grit. They're also penalty machines. The RG can move any d-lineman in the game, but can have performances like Saturdays where he can't find blitzers. The C is Pro Bowl class and yet blows snap counts.
When they work in harmony, they can be brutal on a defense. But when you have four guys with efficiency issues, that's simply too many mistakes to carry. If you want to cut down on errors, you need to start swapping them out, one by one.
I was told back in May that o-line was going to be priority one and two for the Cowboys in Draft '09. If Tom Ciskowski and his guys are half as good this coming April as they were at selecting RBs and CBs in this past draft, one potential OL starter should emerge. Plug him in -- immediately. And if you can find two, all the better. Remember, Larry Allen was a 2nd rounder. Mark Stepnoski and Erik Williams were 3rd rounders. Kevin Gogan was an 8th rounder. Nate Newton and Mark Tuinei were not drafted. You can do this.
4. A better medical staff. The team has had crippling bad luck after suffering almost no injuries in '06 and '07. The karma boomeranged on them. But take a look at this list of players who suffered double and triple injuries and tell me if something looks fishy:
- Terence Newman suffers a "significant" groin tear in camp, then has that amended to a less severe tear that will bring him back in game two, then plays three games hurt, then is listed as having a dubious "groin irritation" then finally has surgery for a hernia. He's not healthy until game 11, and admits then he wishes he had undergone the hernia surgery much earlier.
- Kyle Kosier injures his foot in the Rams pre-season game, and reports claim he'll miss four to six weeks. He comes back one week early, then re-injures the same foot three quarters into the Packers game and goes back on the shelf for seven weeks; he returns in the Redskins game and goes down in the fourth quarter with the same foot injury, this time for good. Dallas gets six total quarters of play from a guy who was supposed to miss three games.
- Roy Williams breaks a forearm in the Eagles game. He's back in the lineup to face the Rams five weeks later and looks timid. He won't attack blockers and can't make tackles. He breaks the same bone in the game but the team statement claims "it's a break in a different place and had nothing to do with the initial injury."
- Pat Watkins is diagnosed with a bulging disc in his neck mid-season. He's rested and then plays in the Washington and San Francisco games. He looks like a paper mache player. He has no power or drive. He can wrap up, but can't take players to the ground. Jason Campbell treats him as a speed bump in the Redskins game. He's eventually put on I.R.
- Marion Barber dislocates a toe in the Seattle game. He sits for one game, in Pittsburgh, endures abuse in the press from his owner and then plays in the subsequent games against New York and Baltimore. He's a shell of himself, with no explosion. He's also undoing any healing which may have occurred over the Thanksgiving break. He gains only a handful of yards for his trouble. On Tuesday, Wade Phillips wonders out loud if the team would have been better off shutting him down three games and letting his toe heal. He does not appear any closer to being healthy. We're not likely to see the real Marion Barber again until 2009.
There is bad luck. Felix Jones severely injuring a toe while rehabbing a hamstring injury has to be placed in the bizarro file. But these other injuries have me scratching my head. Players want to play regardless of the consequences, but when you have four key players rushing back into the lineup and re-injuring the same joint, bone or ligament, you're way beyond coincidence and into pattern territory, in my opinion.
And it's not like Dallas doesn't miss these guys.
I'm being a short as I can with this list, Santa I would love a new nose tackle and an inside linebacker and a backup QB too. If I was really spoiled, I would ask for a new o-line coach too. But this is it.
We're counting on you, Santa. Your team may have been bad, but we've been very, very good. Those season tickets at your new stadium are almost sold out.