Sometimes you have a plan that you feel so confident in that you can't even fathom failing in your assessment of that plan. We've all been guilty of this and we'll all probably make the same mistake again at some point in our lives. This is precisely the predicament the Cowboys find themselves in after five games. They have lost their identity that led them to a 12-4 record last season and Jason Garrett's first postseason victory as a head coach. Now, they are on a mission to get that back in time to save their season.
To move forward always leaves the ability to look back and this exercise takes us back to the decisions made by this team in the offseason. I refuse to chastise this team for letting DeMarco Murray walk because it was a financial decision that substantial research suggested was the right idea. It's easy for most of the "talking-heads" to criticize this team for this decision but they don't necessarily get the macro-view. As former players, which most of these critics are, we shouldn't expect them to necessarily understand the full ramifications of that decision. They will always side with the player and that isn't a critique.
Dallas bet on themselves pretty heavily in the offseason and a lot of it has paid off. For instance, if Murray were still a Cowboy, they would most certainly be without Greg Hardy's abilities. They evaluated their team after that stinging loss in Green Bay and realized that their pass rush was their Achilles heel. In order to get significantly better on a unit that was 28th in the league is sacks, some tough decisions were made. It was never as if they didn't want Murray, they just got out-priced for his services. All water under the bridge at this point, ask him if he misses this team.
So the Cowboys decided that Joseph Randle had the vision and capability to be a solid runner in this system. They decided that this offensive line was the real reason for their success and that the right runner would be just fine. It helped that in many ways Randle offered some style choices that Murray didn't have. Randle was a one-cut runner similar to DeMarco but had the home-run ability that Murray lacked. That, plus his vision and ability to show these coaches he could make plays, put him in perfect position. His comments, though strong and confident, gave some pause to these coaches who have been down the silly road with Randle before. He was given every opportunity to win the job that was never a competition anyway. He has done some good things this season but it just hasn't been enough. Randle through five games has shown that he hasn't found patience as a runner and cannot seem to finish games. Part of that is surely the way the coaches have decided to dish out the carries, but also it has a lot to do with Randle's seemingly lack of maturity. Nothing is more definitive of this statement than the jumping over the goal line mess. His response of "we got six" or whatever just showed sometimes he can be un-coachable.
For better or worse, all of this plus the pretty much non-existent effort of those behind Randle such as Darren McFadden has put the Cowboys at a crossroads. If having a great running game was important with someone like Tony Romo, it may be even more imperative with a backup quarterback. While Romo is set to miss four more games, this team's best shot remains with getting this ground game going. So, they now turn to a back they traded for right before the season. Christine Michael does not come without a few caveats of his own. There was a lot of stuff that made Seattle willing to part with the young talent. Michael was his own headache for Pete Carroll and the Seahawks' coaching staff.
That being said, he was still a heavily-touted running back out of Texas A&M. Nobody would doubt his skill-set to become something special, he just has to get his mind right. Perhaps the best part of his game comes from the extreme lack in the Cowboys' rushing performance thus far; they don't have an opener or closer. Michael was drafted by Seattle for numerous reasons but his SPARQ score was off the charts. His athleticism is uncanny. Murray was as complete a back on the roster and perhaps in the league and that is severely missed on this current crop. That's where the hope is in Michael. His 5'10, 221 pound frame and bruising style fits the mold of what the Cowboys would like to accomplish on the ground. He's not going to be an easy takedown and he may just inflict more pain on the tackler than what he endures himself. This is the type of running that has been missing for a physical, run-first team like the Dallas Cowboys. He's not Murray and that's okay but can he get the tough yards? Can Michael turn all these third and nines into third and manageable? Can he find success even when the box is stacked against him? Can he ignite an offensive line to return to their juggernaut selves? These are all questions the Cowboys hope to get answers for and as soon as Sunday.
You see, this is a team that is desperate for a win but also a team that knows what they must do to achieve that. Sans their two biggest stars, they must get gritty to secure victories. They must be aggressive and powerful to stack a few wins. This is a team that has to finish what they started in hopes to have a chance in four weeks time. For that to happen, they must remain stubborn and they must give Christine Michael his shot. He may be the one player that can cure what ails them, then again he may not. Yet, you never know until you try and from the limited exposure he's had, he seems like a guy ready to pounce on an opportunity.