When you look at the Dallas Cowboys, there are many more positives about the team this season than negatives. The only two things that loom as possible problems are replacing DeMarco Murray and getting Dez Bryant back on the field. Outside of that, there are a lot of things that have the arrow pointing upwards (and some even argue that Murray can be replaced with the options at hand, but we'll leave that argument for elsewhere). One area that should be a positive that we've touched on briefly her is continuity. This includes the coaching staff, which also means that the scheme is included, and the players. OCC touched on the statistical numbers involving the players, but let's dive deeper why this could be so important.
I used the term "force multiplier" in the headline. It is a reversion to my earlier days of posting when I frequently lapsed into military analogies. Although I usually shy away from those now, it is the best and easiest way to explain what I am getting at. A force multiplier is something that makes the rest of the operation or unit work better. A simple one to illustrate is having sufficient vehicles to move your force around when the other side doesn't. Having those vehicles does not make the people you have any better at what they do, but it does enable them to get to where they are needed faster than the opponent, and also allows them to not be worn out from having to move on foot. Trucks and other vehicles are not weapons in and of themselves, but they make the weapons and those who use them much more effective.
That is why I think continuity is a special category of how the Cowboys will improve this season. And it is working at all levels.
It all starts with Jason Garrett, for whom it is a core value. He has always provided one level of continuity, which in many ways is just another way to define his now well-known process. The message from him has not changed since he became the head coach. Work hard, put the team first, don't worry about the things you cannot affect or control. Most importantly, he did not take the approach of "do it my way because I am the head coach and will boot you if you don't". He works relentlessly to sell his ideas to the team, and in his tenure, he may have proven to be an even better salesman than his owner. Almost every interview with a player or assistant coach sees a Garrettism dropped. It isn't just lip service, either. The entire organization shows every indication that they have taken the philosophy to heart. Now that the team has achieved some success, look for it to be even more internalized by all.
This year will mark the first time that there is not some change in either the offensive and/or defensive coordinator or some internal debate over the exact role of those involved. It took until 2014 to get a working arrangement in the offensive game that seems to have everyone happy.Scott Linehan proved he could get very high production from the tools at his disposal and will be expected to continue in the same vein. Garrett is showing every indication that he is more than pleased with the way the offense is run as well. And Rod Marinelli brings stability on defense that was always lacking in Garrett's previous years. Even though Rob Ryan had two years in the coordinator job, he seemed to be the embodiment of turmoil. Now both Linehan and Marinelli don't have to focus on installing changes to things. Their focus is on teaching and development, which should pay dividends. And except for Bill Callahan, all the key assistants were also retained, so the continuity extends throughout the coaching staff.
Returning veterans benefit. They already know the schemes, and there is an emphasis on simplicity and execution on both sides of the ball rather than fancy plays and exotic alignments. Both the running game and the pass rush depend on lining up and imposing your will on the opponent rather than trying to deceive and outwit them. And the passing game is also more about beating them with skill and precision. For those veterans, there is little new to absorb, allowing them to work more on improving technique and teamwork. This should also accelerate the incorporation of the new players, but as far as the starters go, that may be a non-factor. SBN's Adam Stites did a projection of how many rookies would likely be starting for all 32 NFL teams, and the Cowboys were one of the teams that he believes will have no first-year players in starting roles. This may be a bit deceiving for the Cowboys since both Byron Jones and Randy Gregory are expected to contribute from day one in important rotational assignments, but it still bodes well that the traditional 22 starting jobs will probably be filled by players who already have at least one year in the system. Greg Hardy is something of an exception, but he comes from a very similar system and will have to serve out his suspension first, however long that eventually turns out to be.
The Cowboys are at a place where they have to move from building a winner to maintaining it. The multiple levels of continuity (which of course also include Jerry Jones and his top staff) make that task far easier. Had Dallas faced major changes in even one of these areas, it would have been a possible source for some regression. That is not a concern for the Cowboys. It is perhaps the most important factor in putting the team in a position to improve. Given where they are starting from this season, that is news that should make all fans of the team happy.