One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just didn't recur. Can you guess which one is not like the others and I'll tell you why we're all mad?
I've mused that the players have mired this team in that good-but-so-what purgatory. Here's some evidence. I'm going to begin a series of autopsies on team units, looking for the causes of death. Some places seem obivous, but even there, you find causes and villains you didn't expect.
Tomorrow, we'll start with the most obvious malady on the '08 Cowboys -- special teams. Friday, I'll take a long, long look at the offensive line and suggest that an upgrade is the fastest way out of the malaise.
Fans are citing a Cris Mortensen interview from today where he claims "Jerry might be interested" in pursuing Mike Shanahan. I don't consider it likely, but what they hey, speculation is what blogs are for. Some points for and against a move:
A. These guys know each other. The Cowboys and Broncos have trained together the last few years and are familiar with each other's personnel.
B. Shanahan's system might be the cure for some young OL flailing in the current system. Doug Free was a highly touted OT prospect in '07. The kid has the smoothest feet of any tackle on the roster. When I saw him in San Antonio I thought one full season with Joe Juraszek and he could maybe push for a starting spot in '08.
Free looked confused in '08. He was beaten regularly at Oxnard, by the Demarcus Wares and by the Erik Waldens alike. He was inactive for Dallas' first 13 games and did not play a down in the three where he suited up. In the current regime, he may be a lost cause. He, and Montrae Holland -- if he gets his weight under control, and that's a big if (pun intended) -- are suddenly more valuable in Shanahan's system.
C. Shanahan and Jerry might actually be a very good fit, personnel wise. Shanahan has been mediocrity defined the last four years. A .500 overall record in that span and no playoff appearances the last three years.
What was his problem? The guy in Denver's GM chair. The guy named Mike Shanahan.
Let's look at the Broncos drafts this decade. Notice the extreme splits:
- Ben Hamilton
- Mike Anderson
- Cooper Carlisle
- Clinton Porits
- Ashley Lelie
- Kevin Kasper
- Tatum Bell
- Jay Cutler,
- Tony Schefler
- Brandon Marshall
- Domenik Hixon
- Chris Kuper
- Ryan Clady
- Eddie Royal
- Peyton Hillis
There's some real talent there. Now, look at the quality defensive starters Shanahan drafted in that span. It's a much shorter list:
- Delpha O'Neal
- Ian Gold
- D.J. Williams
- Darrent Williams
- Alvin McKinley
- Elvis Dumervill
Only three defensive draftees started for the Broncos this year. Shanahan has an eye for offense. He can always find offensive linemen to make his system work. Dallas, on the other hand, has had success drafting defense this decade. It's biggest weakness is finding offensive linemen, a subject I'll treat in detail on Friday.
Put Jerry and Mike together and you might have those two great football tastes that taste great together, to quote the long-departed Reece's ads.
On the other hand:
A. Who runs his defense? Even when Shanahan was winning Super Bowls, his defensive coordinator, Greg Robinson, took heavy abuse from Broncos fans, who felt his unit couldn't hang with the offense. There's more than a little bit of Don Coryell in Shanahan. Are you absolutely sure he can find a coordinator who can keep the pressure coming? The Broncos have been the worst pass rushing team in football the past few years.
B. Dallas would have competition. The Jets are rumored to have Shanahan on their short list. He would prefer Dallas, given they have a younger, better QB, but the Jets would certainly offer him more control than Dallas would.
He would be a shiny new toy, and he would bring great publicity but I'm not sure he solves all this team's ills. He was far from flawless and Dallas might be swapping Wade's problems for Mike's.
And remember, the players, those chronic 9-7 guys, are still in place.