On Thursday afternoon I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a portion of the afternoon (along with Mr. Ryle) interacting with the community via Twitter. At one point I was asked an interesting question, one on the minds of Dallas Cowboys fans everywhere.
@BTB_Macelli Which RB gets the most yards? I go with 34 but the bandwagon has some issues.— B-Schlerf (@YumaCactus) June 25, 2015
At that time I gave my personal preference of Joseph Randle, but also expressed that I would be pleased with anyone who stepped up and assumed bell cow duties as long as they were successful. After some further reflection and with a couple sips of 1800 I want to expand on my comments.
Running backs in this era are a dime a dozen. A solid performer can be found in the third round and replaced as his rookie deal is expiring There is no need to invest a large chunk of change in the position, especially when you also have a large group of talented athletes who also need to get paid. It may sound cold-hearted but while the NFL is a game it is also a business. Guys who can tote the rock, with a few exceptions, are expendable. DeMarco Murray, with his injury history, is not one of those exceptions.
The truth is that the Cowboys do not need a bell cow. At times this season Randle, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar, and perhaps Ryan Williams will all have the opportunity to contribute. It does not matter who the 'king of the mountain' is because the workload will be shared unless someone does emerge as the next Murray. There will be plenty of touches to go around. Dallas will have the flexibility to run competent backs out on the field in situations matching each player's skill set. Think of it as 'horses for courses'.
For comparison look how pitching has evolved in baseball. Sports has become an area with a high degree of specialization. You have starters, long relief, middle relief, set up men, and closers. A complete rotation and bull pen gives a manager options. A stable of running backs will do the same for Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan. Need someone to pound the rock; put him in the game. Time for an open field runner who can make guys miss; he's on the sidelines. Fresh legs; not a problem.
While many are worried about not having a bell cow, the same bell cow, week after week, the Cowboys have put themselves in a position to be flexible and responsive to the situation. You are going to carry three or four running backs anyhow, so why limit them to special teams duty and spot relief. Get those men on the field and let them earn their money. Mix things up and give the defense more things to respond to.
The days of an Emmitt Smith or a Tony Dorsett being the heart and soul of an offense are gone. There are still some places where guys like Adrian Peterson are franchise players, but those places are limited. In all honesty I have to ask how much success has Peterson brought to his franchise? Is keeping him around, at what he costs the franchise, worth the investment? Running back is not the priority it once was in the pass happy world of professional football.
The time has come for top organizations to adapt to the game as it is played today. The Dallas Cowboys are one of the squads doing just that. Far from being in running back purgatory, that Boys have options. Let that offensive line pave the way for a stable of horses and ride which ever one is hot all the way to the top. The front office has chosen wisely to invest resources elsewhere. They have been on a roll as of late. Let's put a little faith behind them.