The Dallas Cowboys decided on a bold strategy over the bye week. They could have done nothing like most years, or just made a few subtle tweaks here and there. Instead, they made two major moves. One, they traded a 2019 first-round pick to acquire wide receiver Amari Cooper. Second, they fired offensive line coach Paul Alexander after serving just seven games and elevated inexperienced Marc Colombo into the position. Additionally, they went out and hired Hudson Houck to be Colombo’s adviser/mentor.
This was a bold bet from the Cowboys front office, especially spending a first-round pick on Cooper. Jerry and Stephen Jones could have sat back, kept that first-round pick in their pocket and basically asked Jason Garrett to save himself. At 3-4 on the year and trailing Washington by two games in the division at the time, as well as being far down the pecking order for a wild card berth in the NFC, trying to salvage the 2018 season was a risky proposition. The product on the field offensively didn’t scream “we can do it” so it would have been excusable to think more about 2019 than 2018.
The Cowboys didn’t do that. They decided the NFC East was still winnable.
Then Sunday happened and they got a big break. When Washington was completely dominated at home by Atlanta, the Cowboys front office likely breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was the first step on the way to vindicating their decisions.
It got even worse for Washington on Monday. Not only did they lose on Sunday, but they lost two starting offensive linemen and a wide receiver for the year.
As feared, right guard Brandon Scherff tore his pectoral when he was hurt against Atlanta. Left guard Shawn Lauvao tore his ACL and wide receiver Paul Richardson is being shut down due to an AC joint injury in his shoulder.
Now, the Cowboys didn’t make their moves just for 2018. Amari Cooper will be on the roster in 2019 and the Cowboys could look to extend him beyond that. In fact, that is already on their mind.
“In general, we believe we’re going to sign Amari to an extension,” Jones said on the radio. “That goes without saying. We feel like he was worth the No. 1, and I think part of making it worth it is that we eventually sign him to an extension.”
There is also the idea that the wide receiver class for the 2019 draft is sub-par, so essentially the first-round pick traded for Cooper was the equivalent to drafting a wide receiver, a move looking forward for the franchise instead of 2018. This wasn’t a half-year rental like some other trades that were made.
Still, it’s pretty obvious the Cowboys made the trade and the change on their coaching staff in an effort to win this year. They looked at the NFC East landscape and rightly judged that no team was a runaway juggernaut. They looked at their own team and saw a defense that is playing among the elites. They know they have a powerful running game. They were not that far way from being a contending team if they could just solve their passing game woes.
Enter Amari Cooper, exit Paul Alexander. The Cowboys made targeted moves aimed squarely at solving their passing game issues, and by extension their offensive issues. It’s been argued that it’s a little too late. But the Washington loss shows that it’s still viable to win the NFC East. There is even hope at a wild card. The Cowboys can join three teams that are currently sitting with four wins in the NFC, just outside of the last playoff spot being held by the 5-3-1 Vikings.
The front office got the break they wanted on Sunday. Now the team has to take advantage on Monday Night Football and stay in contention.