What a difference less than a week makes. Sunday night and Monday, fans of the Dallas Cowboys were mostly down, and some were experiencing outright disgust and rage over the Overturn. A pall of gloom was tempered only by the knowledge that the team had done far, far better in the 2014 season than anyone gave them a chance to do.
By Thursday, there was a sense of glowing optimism, almost triumph. And the oddest thing of all: It really makes sense.
The root of all that is the 13-5 total record, tangible proof that the franchise made significant progress. It returned to relevancy in the NFL. It was a team that, when it played its best, could take on any other team in the league. It had beaten the defending champion, put one of the most potent offenses in the league together, and gotten far more out of the defense than expected.
But when it all ended after a disappointing game where the Cowboys frankly did not play their best, there was huge worry. Most of the coaching staff' contracts had expired. The great fear was that Dallas would see most of the key coaches leave for greener pastures, and the painful process of reassembling a capable staff would begin again.
The media quite frankly played up the negative side to the hilt. I don't want to say that there was audible chortling about how foolish Jerry Jones was in setting things up so that the majority of coaching contracts expired in unison. Then again, I don't have to if you were reading the articles or following Twitter. It was everywhere.
It also totally ignored just how persuasive Jerry Jones can be, especially given the deep pockets he has no hesitation about digging into to get who he wants. There is no cap on coaches' salaries, and Jones absolutely delights in using the leverage that he has with the value of his Cowboys empire.
The dominoes fell quickly. Jason Garrett got paid. Although there were a few poorly informed writers who insisted on floating the idea of him being hired away, anyone who had paid the slightest bit of attention to what Jones had said for over a year prior knew this was not going to happen. The real question was going to be what would happen to the next level. The big three names were Rod Marinelli, Scott Linehan, and Bill Callahan.
Of the three, the one that was most worrisome was Marinelli. There was a pervasive and somewhat plausible theory that he would decamp from Dallas and go join his former boss Lovie Smith to try and right the foundering ship of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I must mention that the entire staff here at Blogging The Boys had looked at that theory, and we just were not seeing the dots connect. First, the whole idea presumed that Marinelli's loyalty was very narrow. It completely discounted any other feelings of loyalty to the organization that had embraced him so completely and taken care of his other good friend Monte Kiffin. It ignored the obvious rapport he had developed with his players. And it dismissed the element of him wanting to complete the job of rebuilding the Dallas defense he had started so well.
That theory blew up almost immediately after Garrett's deal was done. By Tuesday night the main question was what would happen on the offensive side of the house. Other teams had expressed interest in Linehan after the admirable job he did as play-caller. And on Wednesday, it was becoming clear he, too, would be staying.
Bill Callahan, meanwhile, was obviously going to be the odd man out. The awkward situation that had developed when Linehan was brought in to become the de facto offensive coordinator, no matter what the job titles were, had to be resolved. It was assumed that he was not happy about being forced to stay on to shepherd the offensive line with its three first-round picks. And on Thursday he quickly found another job with Washington. Going to the still hated division rival will leave many with a sense of resentment, but that should be tempered by two things. While in a very uncomfortable situation with the Cowboys, he did a very conscientious job and saw all three of those first-rounders selected to go to the Pro Bowl. And he's going to Washington to work for Dan Snyder, which is really punishment enough.
The Cowboys quickly gave Linehan the offensive coordinator title and designated Callahan's assistant Frank Pollack as the new line coach. With Rich Bisaccia one of the few assistants still under contract, the team now has the main pieces in place and according to Jones will be seeking to sign the remaining assistants to three-year deals, which several people on Twitter have observed as being about how long many expect quarterback Tony Romo to still be effective. One of the few remaining questions remaining is what will happen to Kiffin. The team is reported to be in negotiations with him, but he is really a man without a position now. It is uncertain if something will be worked out. That does not have any impact on Marinelli. And the Cowboys might find a way to keep Kiffin, who still has a very good defensive mind, in some capacity.
As has been said, the band is staying together, with the only significant loss being one both sides really felt was best for all concerned. No wonder the fans of the team are excited. The odds of the team coming back even stronger in 2015 have just gone up greatly. Add in the fact that Romo is not facing surgery this offseason and should be able to participate fully in all activities this year and the youth of the players the team has to work with, and the winning may well continue for the foreseeable future. Garrett has always preached that you should put what is past behind you and focus on the future. That is exactly what the team has done. And it is what the fans are wisely doing as well.
From gloom to great optimism in four days. It is easy to see why. It is no wonder, of course, when you are a fan of a team with the Executive of the Year in the front office. It's good to be a Cowboys fan.