I love conventional wisdom. Well, mostly what I really love is poking holes in it. Remember when almost everyone kept explaining why Kyle Orton was going to show up for camp and step right back into his backup quarterback role for the Dallas Cowboys? I am very proud of never wavering from my position, held pretty much from when the first rumors about him retiring surfaced, that the Neckbeard was toast.
There are some other similar bits of wisdom being tossed about that I tend to question. I, perhaps, do not feel quite as strongly about them as I did about Orton, but I think they need a little more examination.
Justin Durant has the inside track as the starting Mike linebacker. This one I almost can buy into, but I have to think that the team signed Rolando McClain specifically with the hopes that he could wrest the job from Durant. I believe that the thinking is that the team has to have someone a little more dynamic than Durant. He is solid but not necessarily that fast. I think the team is worried about another Keith Brooking situation and trying to avoid it.
Ronald Leary has the inside track to start at left guard. This one I feel a lot better about. I really think the team wants someone to step up and take the job. I discussed with BTB member DraftCowboys the PFF grades he used in his recent Fanpost on the battle at LG. While PFF grades are not the be all and end all of evaluating performance, they were pretty clear in showing that Leary is not as effective a player as either Mackenzy Bernadeau or Uche Nwaneri; he is a big liability in pass blocking, and I think that is important. He plays next to Travis Frederick, who is in need of improving his pass blocking as well. But Fredbeard is a pure monster at run blocking, so he is going to get the time to work on things. But meanwhile, the team wants to protect Tony Romo better, particularly from pressure up the middle. That is why I think they want one of the other candidates to emerge, and Nwaneri is the only one who was an asset in pass protection. If he is indeed healthy, he will get every opportunity to prove he needs to supplant Leary. Bernadeau has position flexibility and will certainly retain a roster spot. I would expect Leary to keep one as well, but remaining the starter is going to be more of an uphill battle for him than most realize.
The talent is worse on defense. This is one I have written extensively about, so I 'll try to keep it brief. Dallas, at the end of last season, was down to so many street free agents masquerading as defensive starters that the coaches needed a program to tell who was wearing what number. While the team has lost three very good players in DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, and Sean Lee, it has also replaced a whole bunch of rent-a-body players with some pretty good looking talent. I argue that the overall level of talent on the team is much better than it was at the end of the season, and because of the returning players who got injured before the regular season last year, I think it is better than it was to start the 2013 season. Now consider that players like Jeff Heath, Kyle Wilber, and J.J. Wilcox were thrown into starting roles and, in Wilber's case, a new position, but now they have had the whole offseason to learn what they are supposed to be doing. All the reports to date are that Bruce Carter, Morris Claiborne, and Brandon Carr are positioned to bounce back significantly from questionable performances in 2013. And Tyrone Crawford, Anthony Spencer, Ben Bass, and the Magic Unicorn himself, Matt Johnson, all have the opportunity to bounce back from injuries that wiped out their seasons.
We still have to get through camp, but right now, I have to feel this is a better, deeper group of defensive players than the Cowboys wound up with coming out of the last preseason. Remember, at this point last year, Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff were already fighting injury and whatever else was going on with Rat. The Cowboys may have lost Lee, but the rest of the team is in good shape. I just do not buy that this is a weaker, less talented group than the team had last year.
Jason Garrett is on the hot seat. I am not going to argue that this may be his last season as head coach. If the team has significant failure this year, it could be that way.
I just disagree with the fact that this is all cut and dried. The approach Jerry Jones has taken with Garrett has been a lot more nuanced than anyone gives Jerry credit for. There is unquestionably a belief in Garrett's philosophy that extends upwards as well as downwards. And the expectations for Dallas are really low this season. Most preseason "analysis" has the Cowboys down in the low twenties, or in the bottom quarter of the league. Given the potency of an offense that didn't have anything happen to make it weaker and the hope that Rod Marinelli can accomplish a noticeable improvement in the defense, the team has an excellent chance to exceed those expectations.
If Garrett does not see the team in the playoffs this year, it is not automatic he will be shown the door, especially if there is no evidence of the team giving up on him. Getting fired is certainly an option, but not the only one besides making the post-season. Simply put, Garrett's seat really isn't any hotter than most NFL head coaches, and less so than several others, I believe.
Those are four things I think have been overstated by the media about the Dallas Cowboys. It will be interesting to see how they play out. Some will be resolved in a few weeks, while others will take all season.
Do you have any things being said about the Cowboys that drive you crazy? Let us know in the comments.