The 2015 season was one long disappointment for the Dallas Cowboys, but a few former members of the team and its staff got to revel in the glory as members of the champion Denver Broncos. While we all wish things had gone better for the Star, at least some deserving people now are looking forward to their new bling.
DeMarcus Ware was a true standout in his time in Dallas, and many of us were saddened when financial considerations, along with some injury concerns, led to the end of his time with the Cowboys. Now, he has reached the top, and although the MVP trophy went to a teammate, he was still a big part of things for the Broncos.
"If I could cut this award, I would give it to DeMarcus and (Derek) Wolfe and all the other guys,'' linebacker Von Miller said after being named the game's Most Valuable Player. "That's what I would do.
"We've got a long list of guys that have been deserving. DeMarcus Ware has been through just about everything you can imagine and still was the same: high character, great idol every single day.''
He came a long way from humble beginnings, but one thing was a constant for him: Hard work.
"I wouldn't say there's a sense of relief," Ware told reporters after the game. "I would say that there's a sense of 'I have arrived,' just being a champion. It was a hard-fought battle for so many years for me. It just feels great to (relish) this moment right now."
There is already a hope among the fanbase that Ware may return to Dallas to finish his career and give the Cowboys' pass rush a boost. This will just fan those flames.
"I got a lot of gas in the tank," he replied. "Von was the one that added the gas to the fire for me, so that's why I'm playing the way I'm playing right now. I don't think about retiring. God still wants me to play, that's why I'm still doing what I'm doing."
The other former Cowboy getting a lot of well-deserved attention is Wade Phillips. He was not the best head coach, but he is king of the defensive coordinators now. Of course, it didn't hurt that he had a fearsome and very talented roster to work with.
All that talent Phillips had was turned loose, with his pretty basic philosophy buoying each and every one of them -- put your best players in position to play fast and physical by resisting the urge to overcomplicate things.
The players certainly believe he earned their praise.
Linebacker Von Miller, the MVP of the Super Bowl, credits Phillips with the call that resulted in his second strip fumble to ice the game.
"Coach Phillips did an amazing job,'' Miller said. "He always likes to say that mistakes are on him, but the Super Bowl is on him, too.
"I really appreciate everything he's done for the whole team, not just the defense.''
There is one other former Dallas coach on the Denver staff, special teams coach Joe DeCamillis. While he has not gotten a lost of press, he deserves a shout-out. And his ring will be just as shiny as everyone else's.
But enough about the Broncos. Let's turn to the Cowboys, starting with some things they may be able to learn from the game.
It is not much of a surprise, but Rob Phillips sees the main thing that the Cowboys should improve is something we all bemoaned all season.
My biggest takeaway is, well, takeaways.
The best case study isn't the champion Broncos. It's the runner-up Panthers, undoubtedly disappointed in Sunday's outcome but clearly the biggest roadblock for Dallas and the rest of the NFC entering next season.
Statistics can be twisted and bent to fit agendas, but turnover differential is the purest factor in wins and losses. And for 18 games (17 of them wins) no team was better than Carolina in this area.
The Panthers lost that battle against Denver, and it cost them
Jon Machota also ranks defensive improvement as his number one priority, but his second is also pretty on point.
2.) Win the off-season. To acquire the upgrades needed on defense, the Cowboys must maximize the draft and free agency. Dallas is not your typical 4-12 team. They have enough talent on the roster to be a playoff contender. But the Cowboys' disastrous 2015 season will give them the fourth overall pick in April. Picking early in each round is great if the correct decisions are made. The Cowboys have to take advantage.
It's the same deal in free agency. The Cowboys are in much better salary cap shape than they've been in previous years. The top franchises don't break the bank in free agency, but they make smart decisions. Denver would not have reached the Super Bowl without key free agency additions like DeMarcus Ware, Emmanuel Sanders, T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib.
Todd Archer observes that the plan is not the problem. It's finding the right players to carry it out.
The silliness of the blueprint talk is that every team looks for the same thing, especially defensively. You need to affect the quarterback, stop the run and take the ball away.
Bob Sturm takes a somewhat harsher look at what the Cowboys might need to learn from the Broncos. He thinks it may come down to being a little less accepting of things.
If you want to imitate the Denver Broncos, might I suggest that you look a bit closer at the idea they had a coach they thought was pretty good and then decided that he wasn't the guy to get them to the highest level so 12 months ago, they took John Fox to the curb to try someone else. Heck, this is the same team that back in 2011 went to the playoffs with a QB (that they spent a 1st rounder on) and then took that QB to the curb in pursuit of another one. You want to imitate Denver? There you go.
The ruthless idea that good enough isn't good enough is a fine place to start where John Fox and Tim Tebow might still be in power if the Broncos had the loving, familial biosphere that the current Cowboys seem to operate under. Heck, they even "benched" Peyton Manning this season - and replaced him with the guy they drafted to ultimately succeed him when he could no longer get it done! Take those three moves made by John Elway (which, I am not endorsing because they all seemed a bit knee-jerk to me (save for Manning over Tebow)) and since they worked perhaps the hot-blooded approach is worth considering rather than the annual excuse making that we certainly have come to expect of this generation of coddling our Cowboys coaches/QBs/icons.
Nobody gets comfortable in Denver and somehow, under that authority, they have gone to 2 Super Bowls in 3 seasons (each time defeating New England on the way) and went all in to win a championship - which they did last night.
Finally, a couple of tweet gifs for your entertainment. First, one to turn that D-Ware desire another notch higher.
Ware sliding Oher across the floor like the couch pic.twitter.com/Xh9TFkdqRY— Trill Withers (@TylerIAm) February 8, 2016
And finally, a little tribute to brotherly love and sharing in the joy of your sibling's accomplishments. Because, Eli.