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Cowboys at the Crossroads

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Many of the Cowboys’ offseason maneuvers were made in order to allow the players and coaches to breathe a little easier. Tony Romo and Jason Garrett are supposed to be able to operate more freely now that Terrell Owens and his sometimes overbearing personality have left town. The Cowboys will no longer have to answer questions about Pacman Jones. As fans, we want to think that since the distractions are gone the Cowboys will play relaxed football and cruise right along. But, when you really take a step back and look at things, the pressure may not be so evident but the stakes are as high as they have ever been.

Let’s say the plan works. A more harmonious locker room and a cast of young, hungry players lead this team to some relative success; let’s say one playoff victory. All is well in Dallas. Wade Phillips is probably no longer on the hot seat. Questions about Jason Garrett, Tony Romo, and Roy Williams will likely evaporate. Jerry Jones will feel that his locker room cleansing efforts are paying off, and the team will continue to move in that direction. With a playoff win in their pockets, the team will return loose, yet hungry for bigger successes in 2010.

What if this doesn’t work? If the Cowboys are unable to finally nail down a postseason victory, we are probably looking at a team in transition. There will more than likely be a coaching change which is always a challenge. Some would be quick to say that a coaching change in Dallas would be a smoother transition since Jason Garrett is next in line. But what if Garrett’s offense struggles again? Do you think Jerry Jones will feel comfortable handing the keys over to Garrett is he does not first prove himself as a top-notch coordinator? If Jerry does give Garrett the job, would the players really be on board after watching him struggle two years in a row?

If the Cowboys stumble again, and the quarterback has anything to do with it, the Tony Romo lynch mob will grow larger and louder than ever. If Romo falls apart down the stretch, the fans will be calling for Stephen McGee whether he is ready or not. With Romo staring down the barrel of age 30, you have to wonder if at that point the club will be in doubt as to whether or not he is the future.

What if Roy Williams underperforms or gets hurt? What if Miles Austin doesn’t pan out? What if the depth along the offensive and defensive lines is exposed? What if the young corners don’t take a step forward as we all expect them to?

If things go bad, how will the boss react? Jerry Jones does not sit on his hands. If this team fails after Jerry uncharacteristically chose chemistry over pure talent, he might just napalm that whole blueprint. Jerry Jones is not known for his patience, and may be inclined to start trying to buy success, especially with the prospect of an uncapped year on the horizon.

Think about last season's failure and the changes it brought about. Some were long overdue, but do you think we would have seen the total makeover we saw had the Cowboys enjoyed some playoff success. Do you think T.O. would have been shown the door? I'm not saying that the Cowboys have made any bad moves this offseason, but I just don't think that a lot of them would have been made had the team been successful.

A successful 2009 season, and the Dallas Cowboys are a young team heading in the right direction, with things looking up for 2010. Another disappointing season and the Cowboys are a team with a ton of questions, a quarterback with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and more than likely a new coach heading into the 2010 season.

While the Super Bowl expectations are less this season, the pressure is very much alive in Big D. What transpires this season (postseason in particular) will impact the Cowboys future in a major way.