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The Cowboys Running Back Situation: The Discussion Sounds Familiar

When you listen closely to the various critiques of how Dallas failed to draft a running back, it begins to sound similar to things we heard not long ago.

It's not just about the guy with the ball.
It's not just about the guy with the ball.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It seems clear that one of the biggest Dallas Cowboys stories, at least through the OTAs and training camp, is going to be what happens at running back. While the Greg Hardy suspension and appeal will also garner major headlines, that is more about legal maneuvering and the fight between the NFLPA and the league front office, particularly Roger Goodell. As far as just dealing with football issues, the perceived failure to address the loss of DeMarco Murray is generating the most heat. While the Dallas area media seems to be a bit less harsh in their condemnation of what the team did (and didn't) do, the national sports coverage is much more focused on the fact that Dallas did not draft a back, despite the perception that the 2015 class was fairly deep. This take is fairly typical, ranking this as the number one unaddressed need among all NFL teams.

We were begging for the Cowboys to select someone with major upside in the draft to fill their vacant tailback position, from a reach late in Round 1 to capitalizing on Boise State runner Jay Ajayi's fall to the fifth. The Cowboys had a great draft class, all in all, but this position was completely ignored. Owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett seem to believe that anyone with a pulse can put up 2,000 yards behind their (admittedly stacked) offensive line.

Dallas great Michael Irvin went even further in his analysis that the team has placed itself in an untenable situation.

"And if they [the Cowboys] had drafted a Melvin Gordon, or drafted a [Todd] Gurley, then, I'd go, ‘wait a minute, wait a minute, this might be something.' But with Darren McFadden, and he may have some great things going, but right now I would take Philly, and then Dallas in the NFC East."

We here have heard the arguments. You simply cannot let the rushing champion walk, no matter what the cost. McFadden is likely washed up, Joseph Randle and Ryan Williams are unproven, Lance Dunbar is just a change of pace back, and UDFA Synjyn Days is an extreme long-shot to help. Dallas had multiple chances to take a back, but always felt they had better options. The most criticized choice was when they took Chaz Green in the third round. His resume is shaky, but the team felt he was a better option to become the swing tackle than any of the remaining backs left on the board were to upgrade the running back position.

There is simply a lack of belief that the coaching staff is being realistic in thinking that they may be able to ride with one of the backs now on the roster. While there is near universal belief that the Cowboys have one of the premier offensive lines, many just cannot accept that the team can overcome the loss of Murray and his 1,845 rushing yards (not to mention 416 receiving). After all, what is the precedent?

Well, how about the near universal predictions of defensive ineptitude and overall mediocrity after the Cowboys lost DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher last season? All they had to replace them were Jeremy Mincey, who was seen as far less capable than Ware, Henry Melton, coming off injury, and rookie DeMarcus Lawrence, who would spend most of the season on IR. The predictions were almost all for a season ranging from another 8-8 struggle to a 3-13 collapse, to be quickly followed by the firing of Jason Garrett and a general housecleaning at Valley Ranch.

That didn't turn out quite the way everyone expected. Well, outside of the Cowboys, who seemed to take it a bit to heart. Perhaps Mincey said it best.

"The fire was lit," Mincey says. "I heard people say, 'They're gonna be 3-13.' I took it personal."

Over the course of the season, that became something of the character of the Cowboys. They knew that most didn't believe they would do very much, and it seemed to motivate them. There are times when it is good to know that people doubt you when you believe you are better than they think. On the football field, having a chip on your shoulder can be a good thing. And while there are a lot of new faces on the Cowboys, there are certainly enough who took great pride in showing the rest of the league that the 'boys were indeed back to keep that attitude and anger alive.

A large part of what Jason Garrett has done in his tenure as head coach is to change the culture, looking for players who are hungry, and who will put in whatever work it takes to achieve their goals. There are times you almost have to think he sees the things being said, and smiles to himself. It is something that will drive the team, particularly the backs and that offensive line, to go out and put some hurt on people.

We still have to see how it all plays out, but based on last season, I, for one, will put my money on Garrett, his staff, and the men who wear the Star.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB

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