Answering this week's GMC Playbook question for the Dallas Cowboys is a piece of cake.
Here’s my final #GMCPlaybook question for @SBNation this year: Did your team have a #ProfessionalGrade season? http://t.co/iQ1hxcHGwA— Marshall Faulk (@marshallfaulk) December 24, 2014
Here is the transcript for those who may not want to listen to Faulk (who did pick the Indianapolis Colts to win last Sunday): "This is it: it's been quite a season here on GMC Playbook. Thanks for being creative and engaging with my questions. We've been talking all year about what it means to be GMC Professional Grade. Here's my last question for you: Did your team have a Professional Grade season? If not, what will it take to get there next year?"
The answer, for this season, is a most emphatic YES!
After the five year drought, the Cowboys have made it back to the playoffs as the winner of the NFC East crown. Along the way, they have racked up an impressive number of accomplishments.
- First and foremost is how much they exceeded almost every expectation for the team. We all know how negative the perception was of what this team would do. After an 0-4 preseason and a very ugly opening game loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the team got on track and became an express train barreling for the postseason. Clearly proving how meaningless preseason records are, the team put together a six game winning streak, and only once lost back to back games. They have demolished the old meme about not winning in December. And they had the most enjoyable, in a schadenfreude sense, experience of watching the arch-rival Philadelphia Eagles and Chip Kelly have their own end of season meltdown, clearing the way to the division title and 11 wins - so far.
- Tony Romo told people before the season we would see the best version of him ever. The laughter that caused in so many places has completely died away as he has given us just that while garnering a Pro Bowl nod and eclipsing Troy Aikman's career passing yards total. Consider this little list of accomplishments that should make him a legitimate MVP candidate.
- The Cowboys boast another legitimate MVP candidate in DeMarco Murray, also a Pro Bowl selection. He has led the NFL in rushing for almost the entire season, going into the final week with 1,745 yards, a staggering 404 yards more than second place Le'Veon Bell. He only needs 29 yards in the season ending game against Washington to have the Cowboys single season rushing record.
- Dez Bryant is the third Pro Bowler for the team, and leads the league in touchdown receptions. He is tied for second in touchdowns by any means behind Marshawn Lynch.
- The literal foundation of the offense is the stellar line, which boasts three Pro Bowl selections in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and super rookie Zack Martin. With Ronald Leary, Doug Free, and Jermey Parnell (who has filled in for an injured Free in four games), the line is staking a claim as a second Great Wall of Dallas. Whether opening lanes for Murray and the other running backs or giving Romo a football eternity to find a receiver, they are a very strong and very young unit that should bring success to the Cowboys for years to come.
- The defense was supposed to be a laughingstock of the league, but they are getting the last laugh. Not the most talented group in the NFL, they may well be the hardest playing bunch. Only the Seattle Seahawks hit the opponent harder or more frequently - and Dallas did come out on top when the 'Boys and the 'Hawks played earlier in the year. Aided a great deal by the ball control approach the team has developed this season, they have gotten the stops Dallas needs more often than not. They are tied for fifth in the league in total takeaways, and have staked the team to a +3 margin for the season. Best news is that the Cowboys have been giving the ball away fewer and fewer times as the season progresses. They have only lost two turnovers in the current three game winning streak, which bodes well for the postseason.
- The front office has had a very good year. The management of the salary cap, including the then-controversial decisions to release DeMarcus Ware and not try to outbid Washington for Jason Hatcher, went very well. The draft brought two clear winners in Martin and fourth round pick Anthony Hitchens, who is getting better each week and who has shown an ability to play all three linebacking positions. Free agency also worked out nicely, with affordable signings of Jeremy Mincey, Henry Melton, and Anthony Spencer all paying dividends. In retrospect, the best move was the trade to get the rights to Rolando McClain, who has become a true force at middle linebacker, and who now will probably turn out to be absolutely free as far as the swap of draft picks which will likely be nullified under the terms of the trade. And we should not overlook the promotion of Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator and the hiring of Scott Linehan to call the offensive plays, who have both been little short of brilliant. Jerry Jones is another person who was often ridiculed, but the voluble and colorful owner and GM is looking awfully good at his job right about now, thanks to the staff he has assembled and that he now trusts.
.@dallascowboys fans enjoying #Romo4MVP study at http://t.co/40UW95cpHc pic.twitter.com/0Yaqpp903L— mike fisher (@fishsports) December 23, 2014
In just about all aspects of the game, Dallas has excelled. They are the most surprising team in the league, without a doubt. The only people who don't seem surprised about where they are is themselves, which is a testament to head coach Jason Garrett. He has preached to a team that now is a roster of true believers.
If you want Professional Grade in the NFL, look at the Dallas Cowboys. They are the very definition.
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