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Cowboys News And Notes: 2016 Offseason Showdown: "Risk" Vs. "Process"

All the news that's fit to link, and it ain't much, let me tell you. Today's top storylines: 2015 was a freakin' disaster; looking forward to free agency; offseason priorities; draft forecasting; risk vs. process; the Johnny Highball to Dallas rumors shift into gear.

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The first sloooow Tuesday newsday of 2016. There will be others.

Decoding Linehan: Cowboys offense brutally bad or passably mediocre? - Bob Sturm, DMN

The Sturminator's final "Decoding Linehan" of the 2015 season (sniff, sniff...). His thesis is that we can't find a coherent narrative that runs through the season, but, rather, 4-6 mini-narratives - all of which make the 2015 campaign hard to assess. He is pretty clear, however, on what Number Nine means to this organization:

This team, on the other hand, did look helpless in games without Tony Romo. The final tally is pretty airtight. In games started by Tony Romo, the team went 3-1. In games not started by Romo, the team went 1-11. By that measure, with a $150 million salary cap, you can see that his 2016 cap hit of almost $21 million may leave him horribly underpaid. It is tough to envision many teams going from 79% win percentage with Romo (since start of 2014, Romo's regular season record in starts is 15-4), and a 8% win percentage without him (1-12 since start of 2014).

Perhaps he should be paid $100 million a season if he is that valuable. I challenge anyone to find anything close to that split in NFL history. I am sure it exists, but nothing comes quickly to mind to demonstrate how dearly a franchise depends on this one human.

2015 not worst Cowboys season I've experienced; beware yellow Gatorade - Kristi Scales, DMN

Kristi Scales, the sideline reporter for the Cowboys radio broadcasts, with a Q&A. Here, she is asked whether this is the worst Cowboys season she's ever witnessed:

...from a week-to-week standpoint, and from my perspective watching games on the sideline, this was not the worst season. The offense was really hard to watch the last two months because they came up with creative ways to NOT score touchdowns, but the games were super-close and competitive. The defense played hard, even though they gave up way too many crucial scoring drives in the 4th quarter. Believe me, if you had to witness those three consecutive 5-11 seasons with teams that didn't have much talent, you would know what it's like to see some bad football from guys who weren't good enough to make other NFL rosters.

Cowboys and Ravens among biggest power rankings drops in 2015 - Marty Callinan, ESPN Stats & Info

The Cowboys were the 2015 season's farthest free-faller in terms of the weekly ESPN Power Panel's ratings. Dallas entered Week 1 sixth in the NFL but fell an NFL-high 24 spots over the course of the season to wind up No. 30 heading into the postseason. And it might be as simple as who was under center:

Romo’s Total QBR of 78 since the start of 2014 is the highest in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks. All other Cowboys quarterbacks have combined for a QBR of 31. That is five points lower than the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have the lowest QBR in the NFL over the last two seasons.


Here in Cowboys Nation, the offseason is already in full swing. Lets begin where the offseason does: with free agency...

A Look At The Full List Of Dallas Cowboys Free Agents For 2016 - The Mothership Staff
Here it is. Who do you want to re-sign?

FA list

Defensive Free Agents Hope to Return; But Likely to Test Market Come March - Nick Eatman, The Mothership

Here's the straight dope from Big Nick:

The Cowboys have 20 free agents this offseason, including 18 unrestricted. Of those 18, at least five are considered starters – all on defense – with a few more key role players also with an expiring contract. All unrestricted free agents can re-sign with their teams before the NFL’s new league year begins March 12.

The Cowboys have lost a lot of defensive guys who made contributions in 2014. Are they merely spinning their wheels as a result?


Dave Campo: What Cowboys first two priorities should be in offseason - DMN Staff

The Cowboys former head coach is asked about offseason priorities, and names two:

I look at the football team, there's really two areas that I think they need to shore up. One is, they're gonna need corners. Carr is getting up there in age and No. 24 (Morris Claiborne) might not be there. Orlando Scandrick, you don't know how he's gonna come off the injury. The other position they really have to look at is ... are they gonna go with just one running back? Or are we gonna try to get another quality running back.

Shocking that the former DB coach would list corner. Shocking!

The Dallas Cowboys Will Have Money to Spend in 2016 - Reid Hanson, Sports DFW

Hanson with a short piece on the Cowboys' financial situation. He makes a very necessary point re: dead money:

One very notable element of the Dallas Cowboys cap situation is the lack of dead money that so often torments this frivolously spending franchise. No longer buying everything on credit, the Dallas Cowboys are now finally seeing the benefits of their fiscal responsibility.

Heading into the 2016 season, the Cowboys will only have $901,076 haunting them in dead money. Consider that one player, Jasper Brinkley, counts for 2/3rds of that, and you have a pretty ideal financial situation.

This is something the Cowboys have methodically orchestrated. The lack of dead money on the cap and the extra compensatory draft picks they are expected to be awarded are positive signs of organizational health.


And, now, on to the draft!

Cowboys Staff Likely to Coach Senior Bowl - One.Cool.Customer, BTB

The Cool One with good news, and why:

The Cowboys management, coaching staff and scouts make the make the trip to the Senior Bowl every year as part of their pre-draft player evaluation process. But this time they wouldn't just be observers, they'll be on the field and in meetings with draft prospects the entire Senior Bowl week, which could give the Cowboys' coaches and scouts a much better take on an important part of the 2016 draft class.

Dallas Cowboys' 2016 Total Draft Haul, Including Overall Pick Slots For Compensatory Picks - KD Drummond, Cowboys HQ

The Noble Drummond outlines the process for compensatory picks and then, after considering what comp picks other teams will receive, speculates about all of the Cowboys selections in the upcoming draft. I'd suggest keeping this handy to compare it to the actual picks when they come out after the owner's meeting in late March - 'cause I'd bet ol' KD is gonna be on the money:

...all in all, Dallas has 9 picks in the upcoming draft yet have more information than this to go off of. Without bringing into play postseason awards and playing time, the APY salaries also rank  the compensatory picks within the rounds. This means we not only know which rounds Dallas gets comp picks for, but with some certainty we know which exact picks Dallas will have.

We'll use OTC's chart of all team's comp picks for this exercise.

Cowboys draft picks


Cowboys Not Averse To Taking Some Risks During Offseason, Free Agency - David Helman, The Mothership

Frankly, this is the worst possible news for Cowboys fans. When Jerry goes into "risk positive" mode, he makes stupid choices. We might as well listen to him bloviate about risk-reward:

"What would enhance me taking risk is a bigger upside. And if that upside is there -- that whole risk-reward situation -- then, yeah," he said. "This is as far as we're going to go here now with this because I don't want to get involved with a type of tampering situation. We can take some risks."

This strategy has worked twice: with Herschel Walker and Charles Haley - but that was enough for Jerry to develop "risk" as a viable corporate strategy. Since then? It has failed every time. Every.Single.Time.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett: 'We didn't do a good enough job' - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

In the midst of discussing all that went awry in 2015, the Cowboys head coach offers an alternative to "risk" as an organizational mission statement:

"Ultimately it’s a bottom-line business, and we all recognize that, but I would argue to you that doing things the right way, establishing the right culture, going through the process the right way, ultimately gives you the best chance to win in the long run," Garrett said.

And orchestrating the process is none other than one Mr. Will McClay...

Jason Garrett happy with Dallas Cowboys scouting director Will McClay - ESPN Dallas

Well, yeah. Anybody who's been paying attention likes the job that McClay and his guys have done. Here's Garrett on Big Mac:

"Personnel is a very collaborative effort -- ownership, coaches, personnel guys -- and you have a lot of conversations about every guy you’re thinking about bringing in here," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "Whether it’s a guy we’re drafting, trading for or signing off the street. And Will does a really good job facilitating all of that communication and making sure we’re all on the same page as far as how we see the player and what his role will be, and that’s invaluable."

Jerry Jones: Cowboys need something like drafting Troy Aikman 'to happen again' - Jon Machota, DMN

In the midst of a typically garbled interview on the Cowboys and draft position, Jerry offered this gem:

"Fourth pick in the draft, we've earned it, which is terrible," the Cowboys owner and general manager said.

If you let the smart guys do the draft work, you won't have to return to this godforsaken draft position in your lifetime, Jerruh.


The Biggest Draft Need At No. 4? Jones: "We’ve Got To Get The Best Player" - Rob Phillips, The Mothership

Jerry Jones offers a bit of clarity about the question of whether he's more likely to seek a future QB at the top of the draft or stay in "win now" mode:

"I'd say that our backup quarterback situation – which I don't in any way want to rule out (Kellen) Moore – our backup quarterback situation is the best ‘now’ move we could make."

Oh no, I have a bad feeling about what's coming next...

Party time: Jerry opens the door for Johnny Natural Disaster - Mac Engel, Star-Telegram

Engel goes on an appropriately vitriolic rant about Johnny Highball (credit to the great Raf Vela for the nickname):

The football observer in me says to avoid Johnny. Johnny’s behaviors over the past month suggest he doesn’t get it, and that he has not bottomed out. Until he bottoms out, which would mean no NFL, no fame and less money, he won’t change.

But fully prepare for the Browns to cut him, and then the Cowboys to bring him in for an interview where he will say he has matured, and that he is a changed man. After that, it will be 24/7 Beer-Thirty.

It’s going to be so awesome when Johnny Manziel goes to the Cowboys - Chris Chase, For The Win

Chase with a painful (because probably accurate) piece about the Jonses behind closed doors re: Manziel. I'll let him paint the scene:

It was good advice from Stephen Jones, up until it wasn’t. Because now Jerry has the ultimate comeback. When he talks about a backup, the younger Jones can’t say the Cowboys have one (or two or three) because they tried that this year and it turned into a 4-12 record, the team’s worst since Jones and Jimmy Johnson rolled into town in 1989. After a year of letting others sway his decision making, Jerry Jones is going to seize this opportunity to do what he wants. (I imagine the phrase "you did it your way, no we’re doing it my way" will be uttered dozens of time this offseason.) Jerry has the mandate. And that means Johnny Football in Big D. It will be glorious.

Why Johnny Manziel doesn't make sense for Cowboys - David Moore, DMN

Moore hits upon the real roadblock Manziel presents, one that everyone seems to be ignoring at present:

a backup quarterback, by definition, must be reliable, disciplined and maximize his time in practice with the very few snaps he receives. Does Manziel fall into that category?

Jason Garrett wants players that bust their tails from Tuesday to Saturday. That's why Greg Hardy was in Dallas this year: the dude takes every rep like his life depends on it. And that's why, strangely, Hardy is an RKG and Manziel isn't.

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