Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. For a while, we thought, as fans of the Dallas Cowboys, that we had it made at running back. We were calling that combination of backs the three-headed monster, and we were sure they were going to tear up the NFL. Going into 2011, most observers think there will be some changes made at the position. That process already started in 2010. Marion Barber was injured, gave way to Felix Jones as the starter, and Jones never relinquished the role back to Barber. The Barbarian famously challenged Jason Garrett's authority immediately after he became interim head coach, and basically remained in Garrett's doghouse for the rest of the season.
Barber's attitude isn't the real reason for a demotion, though. His play has dropped off from what it once was, he's no longer producing like he did. For a few years, Barber was the "it' player for many fans, his bruising style of running, his knockout-punch stiff arms, and his general enthusiasm for contact fired up the fans and his team. But like many NFL running backs that have gone before him, all of that rough-housing seems to have caught up with the guy. His play isn't as violent, his production isn't as great, and his value as an energy-spark has diminished.
So, does Marion Barber have a role in 2011 with the Dallas Cowboys?
The combination of Felix Jones and Tashard Choice is more than capable of providing what the Cowboys need in the running game. Yes, Dallas needs improvement in run-blocking along the line, and Felix Jones needs to return to form (adding weight was a bad idea) and avoid injury. Fans have long recognized the talents of Tashard Choice, and the call for him to get more playing time seemed to be heeded by Jason Garrett down the stretch in 2011.
"It's a non-stop saga, but you never know," Peete said. "I think it's always open for change. The ability of guys change. The instincts of guys change. So, I mean, it's always a work-in-progress, I think, at any position. ... Like I always explain to those guys, you never stay the same. You either get better, or you get worse."
Maybe I'm reading between the lines a little too much on that, but in some ways that sounds like a condemnation of Marion Barber. The ability of guys change? The instincts of guys change? You either get better or get worse? Sounds a lot like how we speak of the Barbarian today.
And what of Felix Jones?
"He finished the season starting the games, didn't he? I don't know," Peete said. "We'll see when he gets here."
So, is MB3 done in Dallas? Do the Cowboys just cut ties and go with Felix and Tashard? Skip Peete says it's always open for change, now we'll just see how much of a change they really make.