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Memes, myths, and misinformation: Why so much said about the Cowboys during the draft was just wrong

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We are not talking fans, either. Reporting has been really bad.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys
We don’t get it either, coach.
Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

It does get frustrating. When you write almost exclusively about the Dallas Cowboys and put a lot of effort into trying to get all the facts right, you are absolutely flummoxed on a regular basis by some of the things that are reported. Even worse, these inaccurate reports often take on a life of their own. It is an ongoing struggle to try and get the truth out there - and it sometimes seemed doomed to failure.

With the release of Amazon’s All or Nothing about the Dallas Cowboys’ 2017 season, we are seeing one instance where a widely-held public perception is being blown up by the evidence. Jason Garrett, long derided as a dry, emotionless figurehead coach, is shown as a dynamic, respected leader who also has a vocabulary that can strip paint off the walls. It is good to see that happen. Unfortunately, while many will reassess the head coach, many are going to cling to their false opinions about his demeanor.

But as one meme gets severely challenged, others spring up to replace them. The most egregious example came on day 2 of the draft. It has been widely reported that the Philadelphia Eagles robbed the Cowboys of tight end Dallas Goedert by trading up to get pick 18. Here is one truly maddening take from writer Gary Gramling of Sports Illustrated’s MMQB.

As for (Jerry Jones’) team’s actual draft? Oh, that was a disaster.

The Cowboys might have invited some of this karma for stringing Dez Bryant along and letting him go after the other 31 teams were done spending. Jason Witten retired after Round 1 was done, so the Cowboys missed out on Hayden Hurst, the closest approximation to Witten available in this draft (though, really, that’s not a very close approximation at this point in time). Then they were surely set up to grab second-tier TE Dallas Goedert—he’s named after the city because his dad’s a Cowboys fan, a storybook ending to a very short storybook!—when the Eagles go with an outright troll, trade up to jump the Cowboys and scoop up Goedert one pick earlier (announced by David Akers, who rubbed it in by pointing out that none of the draftees had been born yet the last time the Cowboys won a Super Bowl … then setting the podium on fire so the Cowboys wouldn’t be able to announce their pick next, you should’ve seen it).

As you are probably aware, almost all other observers have an entirely different view of what the Cowboys did in the draft. But that part about those wily Eagles is particularly galling, because it was clearly not true - in the slightest.

Instead of watching the coverage of the draft on one of the networks, I, and many other fans, watched The Draft Show at DallasCowboys.com, which had live camera feeds from the war room during the picks (and other times when things were interesting). And before the Philadelphia trade was even known, it was clear that Dallas was going another direction. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander was in the middle of things, and if you have watched the action in the war room in the past, you know that they bring in key coaches to have a word with the draft picks during the team’s call to them. It was clear that the team was going for an offensive lineman in the second to address the biggest roster issue the team had last season, left guard. The Eagles, no matter what they and some sadly misinformed reporters think, didn’t do a thing to affect the Cowboys’ pick at 50. Jerry Jones confirmed all of this after the draft by stating the Cowboys were deciding between Connor Williams and a defensive player of equal grade. Dear SI writer Gary Gramling, Google is your friend.

The erroneous thinking does not end there. The grades of the Dallas draft vary widely, from those (like me) who thought it was excellent to others like Gramling who felt it failed. And most of those latter opinions point to two things: The failure to take a tight end higher than pick 137, when they took Dalton Schultz, and not taking a wide receiver with the 19th overall selection that they used on Leighton Vander Esch.

Although the surprise announcement that Jason Witten was probably going to retire to go to Monday Night Football as an analyst certainly caught them off guard, the team had far too many other, more serious, concerns to address. And they had spent months putting the plan together. It became clear over the three days of the draft that they were fully committed to that carefully crafted blueprint, and they did not alter it at all. It was striking how calm the draft room was throughout the process.

Further, the way the draft played out across the league bore out a conclusion that some came to before it ever began. This wide receiver group was a bit short in truly elite talent, and very deep in the middle rounds. Only two wide receivers, D.J. Moore and Calvin Ridley, were taken in the first round, and Moore was the first at pick 24 - five after the Cowboys’ pick. The fact that the Cowboys got Michael Gallup, widely seen as a second-round talent or perhaps even a fringe first-rounder, at pick 81, was just more evidence.

And it is clear that many of the credible reporters in the Dallas area have a very different view of things than many outside reporters and analysts.

There is also a good argument to be made that, with the trend in the NFL away from needing an elite WR1 to make the offense work, taking a WR in the first round is not a good return on your investment. It is more valuable to get a three down player on either side of the ball. That is just what the Cowboys got in LB Vander Esch and OL Connor Williams.

As for the tight end position, the staff did not allow itself to panic in the wake of Witten’s surprise announcement. They felt they were not as crippled by that as many outsiders believed, and scouting head Will McClay revealed one reason why in a post-draft interview.

In light of all this and the way the entire class came together for the Cowboys (including the day three trades that brought Tavon Austin and Jihad Ward to Dallas), it really appears that those who did not like their performance in the draft based those opinions on a lack of understanding about the Cowboys in particular and perhaps the draft in general. Around here, the view is that the team did an excellent job of balancing the obvious needs with the goal of getting the best talent available.

This is one more attempt to light a candle in the gloom of hot takes and shallow reporting that passes for coverage of the NFL in too many corners of the media. It probably won’t be much more successful than many in the past. Fortunately, there are a lot of good sites covering the Cowboys. We like to think we are one of them. Thanks for coming to us when you have so many other options.