was 2006. Bill Parcells had near total control over free agency and full sway over the draft. In the interest of beating up on one of my favorite canards, I offer a look at what a "real football guy" did for Dallas in his last go round:
Let’s revisit that‘06 off-season, shall we? All of it, NFL free agents, draft picks and undrafted free agents. Let’s see if Jerry 2.0 really looks that bad by comparison.
Let’s recall that the ‘06 Cowboys entered the offseason frustrated. They had been big free agent spenders in ‘05 adding Anthony Henry, Jason Ferguson and Marco Rivera for tens of millions in signing bonuses. They had a great draft, headed by Demarcus Ware, Chris Canty, Marion Barber and Jay Ratliff. They also made a significant futures pickup in RT Marc Colombo.
But Dallas entered the year short at right tackle and at safety. When Flozell Adams injured a knee and Rivera injured his back the offensive line collapsed. Dallas’ lack of a free safety saw it up big pass plays by the handful.
In ‘06, Dallas went smaller, for the most part. Instead of big deals, it handed out a lot of medium sized ones — with one exception: a malcontent from Philadelphia named Terrell Owens. That one was put on Jerry Jones’ head. Here was the player he forced on Parcells. The guy who would destroy the locker room.
You know, the guy who kept that off-season from being a complete failure.
Look at the remaining free agent deals:
- Kyle Kosier, LG, Detroit;
- Akin Ayodele, LB, Jacksonville;
- Jason Fabini, RT, Jets;
- Mike Vanderjagt, K, Indianapolis;
- Rocky Boiman, LB, Tennessee;
- Ryan Hannam, TE, Seattle;
- Marcus Coleman, S, Houston
A lot of bucks, spread out over seven contracts, but very little bang. Kosier has been a steady Eddie at left guard. Fabini could not beat out Colombo. Hannam languished on the bench before tearing a knee ligament and landing on I.R. Boiman suffered a gruesome finger injury, was cut, and eventually wound up on the champion Colts. Coleman was charged with DUI and was released in December.
The most frustrating signee was Vanderjagt. The socially-challenged kicker spent a lonely camp shanking kicks and blaming a dead leg. He then went through an erratic half season before he was canned.
Ayodele looked like the defensive version of Kosier, a solid if unspectacular player who filled a need. He regressed badly in ‘07, logging only 57 tackles in a scheme that funnels traffic towards the inside backers and strong safety. His trade means that Dallas has only two starters to show from an eight-deep free agent spree.
That offseason looks worse when you add the draft to it. Eight players and no starters, though 3rd rounder Jason Hatcher may eventually get his shot. With Anthony Fasano’s trade, only Hatcher, Bobby Carpenter, Pat Watkins and Pat McQuistan remain. Carpenter and McQuistan are down to their last shots, and neither looks like he will ever start. Watkins is a lost cause. Skyler Green, Montavious Stanley and E.J. Whitley were early dropouts.
The most productive rookies besides Hatcher were undrafted free agents Sam Hurd, Miles Austin and Oliver Hoyte. Hoyte was the only rookie to start in ‘06 and only after Fasano failed his first audition as the U-back. Hoyte was converted from inside backer to fullback and took Fasano’s spot.
Hurd is rehabbing an injured ankle that put him on IR at mid-season. Austin, the UFA from Monmouth, may be the only quality player from an absolute loser of a draft class.
When you sift through this dross, it is not hard to see why the ‘06 Cowboys flailed to another 9-7 record. Aside from Jerry’s Kid Terrell and Kosier, the team got no significant help from the other 14 free agents and draftees.
Compare that to Jerry 2.0’s first offseason, when he scored with Leonard Davis and Ken Hamlin and was able to retain every rookie from the first non-Tuna draft. His '08 draft was even better, adding RBs Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, and CBs Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick, along with the enigmatic Martellus Bennett.
Can you blame Jerry for trading Ayodele and Fasano last April and trying to get as far away from that '06 offseason class as possible? To paraphrase Roy Clark and the late Buck Owens, if it weren’t for T.O. the Cowboys would have had no offseason luck at all that year. Gloom, despair and agony indeed.