Happy New Year, Cowboys fans!
While 2015 hasn't been anything to shake a stick, it doesn't mean that the new year won't bring us things to celebrate. Usually a season that follows a four-win season is one that will bring with it a lot of changes, a lot of doubt, and usually some more losing. This will not be the case in 2016. The Cowboys will be winners again. Here are my New Year's resolutions for the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.
Good health for Tony
A lot of fans were very unsatisfied win the Cowboys three straight 8-8 seasons. One of the things that made it tolerable for some was all the remodeling happening behind the scenes. With cap issues and aging players, the Cowboys have completely redecorated this roster. Normally, such an event comes with a huge price - losing. The Cowboys managed to stay in the race despite rebuilding the team and the biggest reason they've been able to do that is the playmaking ability of Tony Romo.
Say what you want about him, but the guy makes plays. Watching Romo play in 2014 with some pieces around him shows you just how good he makes the team. And watching the team play in 2015 without him even further validates his value.
But people are worried because they view him as fragile because he's went down in three straight seasons. And at the age of 35, he's no spring chicken. Sure, that's one way to see it, but here's another way - Romo broke his clavicle in 2010 and 2015, missing significant time during those seasons. If you look at the four years in between, he's started 62 of the 64 regular season games. Breaking your clavicle is rather fluky. While the thought of not having Tony around is scary because of the ineptness of his replacements, the idea that he's an injury waiting to happen doesn't resonate with me. Based on his track record, the odds of having a healthy Romo in 2016 are pretty good.
But a healthy Romo is no guarantee, so that brings me to...
If it's broke, fix it
I want you to close your eyes for moment. Wait, don't do that because then you won't be able to read this next part. Instead, just squint a little and think back to the last few offseasons and try to recall the most pressing areas of concern for this team. I remember a few years ago when the offensive line was atrocious. Then, it was the defensive line. Both those areas required bringing in young players in lieu of just rolling with overpriced, aging players. And last year, the Cowboys desperately needed to find themselves a good cornerback.
So how'd they do? Do you think this offensive line is legit? How's DeMarcus Lawrence faring lately? Does Byron Jones show you anything that you could get excited about?
The Cowboys front office doesn't do everything right, but they sure do a lot of things right. After last season ended, Stephen Jones was blunt when saying that the lack of a pass rush may have cost the Cowboys a shot at the title. And he wasn't just blowing smoke when he said they were going to be diligent in fixing it. The improvements this team has made on defense is remarkable, especially when it comes to pass defense. They went from a red carpet defense where everyone walked all over them to top five in pass defense.
The Cowboys have demonstrated that they are capable of making great strides in their biggest areas of deficiencies. If there is one thing I'd bank on for 2016, it would be that the team gets themselves a good backup quarterback. How they go about it is still a mystery, but with the team sitting with a top eight pick in the draft, they could pull the trigger and take one of the elite college quarterbacks.
You can make a shopping list of things that need to get better, but the damage done at the quarterback position is so significant that you can't overstate it enough. For example, The Cool One has illustrated many times how the quarterback passer differential correlates so well to a team's ability to win games. Looking at how the Cowboys rate in this category, they are 28th in the league with a -16.31 differential. That puts them as the fifth worst team in the league, which is pretty darn close to where their record puts them for the season. For arguments sake, let's just substitute the Cowboys 2014 offensive passer rating. What happens? The Cowboys immediately propel themselves into the top five.
Now, you can't just go plug in all the great things about one season and put them into another, but let me ask you this. If Tony and Dez are healthy next year, is there any reason to believe that the Cowboys offense wouldn't be somewhat comparable to what they did in 2014? With Dallas being a top five scoring team in both 2013 and 2014, it's not too hard for me to think they won't resemble something a little more potent than what this season brought. I'm not suggesting that experts put Dallas atop the power ratings for 2016, but I do feel that a reloaded Cowboys team is going to be something to be reckoned with next season.
Get behind Jason Garrett
Face it, he's the head coach. He's the guy that is going to have the most influence over what happens to this team in the immediate future. Some people still cling to the idea that he's just a puppet, but the Garrett culture is very evident in big D. And Jerry Jones knows it. When would you have ever see Jerry not even considering firing a coach after coming off a four-win season? Garrett either has dirt on Jerry or there is actually someone meaningful about keeping the coach around. I'm going with the latter. Let him finish what he started.
If he was fired tomorrow there would be so much fallout from transitioning to a new coach that it would set this team back a few years. So, if you are pulling for this team to be successful, then get behind this coach. That way when he's finally hoisting the Lombardi trophy, you don't have to come crawling out from the woodwork and act like you've been behind him the whole time.