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Do The Dallas Cowboys Have The Right Ingredients To Return To Their Winning Ways?

The last time the Cowboys went to the Super Bowl they had a great recipe. They had the "triplets", a great offensive line, and a deep rotating defensive line to name just a few of those ingredients. Are they getting closer to recreating that recipe?

Best offensive line
Best offensive line
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys went to three Super Bowls in four years by having a great recipe for success. They had a running back who could run the ball 30 times a game if needed. He could get 100 yard games and gained over 4.5 yards per carry. They had a dominating offensive line that could open up the red sea. They had defensive lines that were not only deep with eight guys that could rotate effectively so they were fresh in the fourth quarter, but they also had the right kind of guys that loved to play football.

The Cowboys also had a guy that wore # 88 who was an elite wide receiver, and a quarterback who was able to throw efficiently for 300 yards or more when needed, but seldom needed to because he had the running back that could carry the team, and did carry the team often.

They had a head coach who knew how to find the right offensive coordinator, the right defensive coordinator, and the right special teams coordinator. That head coach would often talk about how there were three phases of the game, offense, defense, and special teams, and all they had to do was win two of the three.

But they also knew that in order to be able to successfully compete with the very best, they needed an elite defensive end. And so they traded for Charles Haley and boom, they finally hit on the perfect recipe.

Are the 2014 Cowboys getting close to recreating that recipe?


So, to recap, let's look at what appear to be the correct ingredients for the recipe:

  1. A great offensive line
  2. Deep rotating defensive line that stays fresh in the fourth quarter.
  3. Triplets (Great quarterback, running back, and "X" receiver)
  4. Elite defensive end that can get after the quarterback.
  5. The right head coach who hires the right OC, DC, and special teams coach.
  6. The right general manager who can get all of those coaches, scouts, and other front office personnel on the same page.

But did the Triplets-era Cowboys really have that general manager who could get everyone on the same page? That is, did they have the right cook all along for the long haul?

Jerry Jones' approach is to manage by consensus, and not be a dictator. He did not need someone to manage consensus, as he could do that himself. He had done it in his business dealings and found success there. Jones felt he didn't need to have that one "football" guy that would make all the big decisions by himself, instead preferring a "many heads are better than one" style of management (cooking).

Jones would shop for the main groceries, that being the coaches, scouts, and the rest of the front office staff, mix them in with the other ingredients until the cake came out perfect. Initially, the Cowboys had all of the right ingredients, but after the initial success of three Super Bowls in four years, at least one of the main ingredients always seemd to be missing for the next 20 years. Perhaps the salary cap made it harder than ever to put together a team that could sustain greatness over the long haul, as the 49ers also found out the hard way, with down years for a long time.



Even before the season started, some observers were saying that the "Cowboys have built league's best O-line," a thought that has been gaining steam now that the season is under way:

"Prior to Sunday’s roller-coaster 34-31 victory over the St. Louis Rams, I would have never wondered whether or not the Dallas Cowboys have the best offensive lines in the NFL. There wasn't enough evidence yet to ask such a bold question.

Then came Week Three of the 2014 regular season, the first true fork in the road for any and all teams coming in with a record of 1-1. Either way, a team in this group will be heading towards the end of the first quarter with an uneven record be it positive or negative.

...The whole thing was possible because the Dallas offensive line may very well be the best unit in the NFL. This, of course, could change at any moment and for a variety of reasons, but for right now it’s starting to look like this group is beginning to click."

There were more of those opinions after the big win in the fourth game of the season against the New Orleans Saints.


The Cowboys have a decent set of defensive linemen starting with Henry Melton, Nick Hayden, George Selvie, Jeremy Mincey, Tyrone Crawford, Terrell McClain, Davon Coleman and Ken Bishop. These guys do an adequate job of rotating in and staying fresh. The linebacking corps has been able to make plays due to the front four keeping the offensive linemen off of them.


Of the triplets, we need to begin with DeMarco Murray. Murray has rushed for more than five yards per carry every year he has been in the league except one, and that was the season with the lowest rushing yards and lowest number of games played, yet he still averaged over four yards per carry that year.

After 4 games:

  • Murray leads the league in rushing yards with 534, with the second place running back at 378.
  • He is second in the NFL in yards per carry with 5.4 yards per carry (with minimum of 50 carries).
  • He leads the NFL with five TDs for the year.
  • He leads the NFL in number of 20+ runs from scrimmage with 5.
  • He is leads the NFL in first downs with 30.



Rather than looking at the current stats for the remaining of the ingredients, I will just briefly mention that they are all playing at a high level.


Next is Dez Bryant, the new number 88. He is widely recognized as not only an elite player, but a special player that can dominate by winning the jump balls and making the difficult and even circus catches if necessary. He is usually ranked in the top five in the NFL on all the opinion lists and last year he was tied for third for the most important stat which is touchdowns, with 13.


Tony Romo has always been a really good quarterback, but without the playoff success that would have validated him as a great quarterback.

More often than not, Romo's struggles were the result of trying to make up for deficiencies in other parts of the team. A defense that could not hold fourth quarter leads, an offensive line that could not sustain a run game; just two reasons why Romo had to try to "make something happen" instead.

But now with that offensive line in place, we will see just how good Romo can be since he will now be able to hand the ball off at the end of the game and run the clock out.


With the return of Anthony Spencer, the Cowboys are getting closer to having an impact defensive end. But until DeMarcus Lawrence returns this will be the weak link in the ingredients list for a great team. And even with his return, this remains the biggest question mark.


I am a big believer in the management style that uses consensus to make the important decisions. Many heads are almost always smarter than one. Bill Belichick's historic success in New England notwithstanding, 2014 has been an example of the dangers of having just one person make all the decisions.

For years, the Patriots model was built on the premise that your offensive system, defensive system and coaching abilities will allow you to keep the payroll down, plug in any offensive and defensive coordinator, and just "coach up" the available players. But 2014 shows that even that model can run into difficulties: Releasing Logan Mankins without an adequate backup plan has resulted in the Patriots showing up in a lot of bottom five stats this year. Tom Brady is running for his life behind a horrible offensive line. Sound familiar? A great quarterback who has to run for his life will not be able to take his team to the playoffs. But give a really good quarterback a great running game and time to stand in the pocket and go through his progressions and the sky is the limit.


Jason Garrett's "process" and the consensus management style, where all of the front office members are allowed to make the sales pitch to get consensus, may yet show the kind of results we all want.

And it starts with the shared understanding that the offensive line is where you start when you want to put together an elite team that can win games in the fourth quarter. In my list of ingredients above, I have listed the O-line as the number one ingredient. Good things start happening in football when you are successful in the trenches.

The Cowboys don't yet have all the ingredients in place, and not all the ingredients that they do have are of the same quality, but I think we are starting to see the cake taking shape.

What do you think, are the Cowboys getting close to the recreating the recipe for success?

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