Yesterday, The Cool One brought you a great piece as he provided some pragmatic reasons that Cowboys fans should be optimistic about the 2016 season. I am always running across fans that fall victim to the "recency bias" to where they are just too consumed with recent events when making their current assessment of the team. The love (or lack-there-of) for Jason Garrett is a good example. After three straight 8-8 seasons, many fans wanted him fired, then 2014 happen and the narrative changed to "well, maybe he’s on to something." Now, after last year’s poor record, he’s suspect again.
As much as recent events weigh on what people think about this team, many of us are real excited about the upcoming season. With the addition of Ezekiel Elliott, the return of fallen comrades Tony Romo & Dez Bryant – the offense is primed for an explosion of greatness. And while it will be fun witnessing Dan Bailey set a franchise record for PATs, it’s also going to be enjoyable watching the defense make plays as they are afforded new opportunities that weren’t available to them last season. It’s going to be awesome!
Okay, before I blow a gasket, I wanted to ease off the accelerator a bit because everything is not a pocket full of sunshine. There are some legitimate concerns. And what better way to slow my roll than to channel my inner-devil’s advocate, Phantom Menace, to provide his take on where the Cowboys sit going into the 2016 season.
Danny Phantom: The Cowboys were once again very frugal in free agency. Fans have settled in to believing this is the right way to go. After all, if you don’t spend too much, the chances of being burned are greatly reduced. How do you feel about the Cowboys approach to free agency this offseason?
Phantom Menace: That’s a great way to think of it you like tricking yourself into believing stuff that isn’t true. Another way to think of it is this – you get what you pay for. The Cowboys had a big need at defensive end and they had a golden opportunity to spice up their pass rush in free agency, but they botched it. Rushing the quarterback is a big deal in the NFL. If you can’t do that, you’re in trouble. Just imagine how excited fans would be right now if the Cowboys would have paid through the nose on a player like Vernon Oliver. Just like Bodhi said in Point Break, "if you want the ultimate, you got to be willing to pay the ultimate price."
Danny: Yeah, but the front office has made no secret about the fact that they are building this team through the draft. Free agency may not have wowed that many people, but are you at least excited about the Cowboys new rookies?
Menace: The Cowboys had a great chance to improve this defense with their first two picks, but completely whiffed. Regardless of how well Ezekiel Elliott plays, the only thing that will matter is how much better he is than what they already had. With two veteran running backs on the roster, the selection of Elliott made no sense. If you look at "value over replacement," how much did the Cowboys actually gain?
And the Cowboys are constantly putting on their fancy pants when they make their second-round selection. Rather than take a red-flag character player, they opted for someone who may never make it on the field. It’s just not a luxury this team has. If they can’t put quality pieces on the defensive side of the ball, it’s going to be the same old story for this Cowboys team.
Danny: Sure, the defense is still a work in progress, but this offense looks super scary. Don’t you think they’ll be able to carry the load similar to how they did in 2014?
Menace: As long as Romo can stay upright, they’ll have a chance. If he gets hurt again, they’re done. After getting their butts handed to them several times over from getting inept play from their backup quarterbacks, the front office did very little to address the problem. And when I say very little, I’m not just talking about hanging on to the 5’11" Kellen Moore. The coaches turned Moore loose late season because they had nothing to lose. Yeah, he made some good plays, but he also threw six picks in the process. For a guy who only started two games last season, that’s alarming.
But hey, if Moore doesn’t work out, they can always rely on a fourth-round rookie to lead the most important job on the team. Without even passing judgment on this kid, the only thing that boggles my mind is why the organization didn’t do more to secure better quality at the position. Last year, they played with fire and got burned. And now, they are wondering about with tiki torches again.
The Menace always brings out the dark clouds that loom over the team, but these concerns have been shared by many Cowboys fans. What are you most worried about?