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Four thoughts on the Cowboys offseason and how the new coaching staff plays into it

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With a new coaching staff and some big decisions in free agency and the draft coming, there is a lot to keep us interested through the offseason.

Los Angeles Rams v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

It’s a bit of a slow time for the Dallas Cowboys as the coaching hires all seem to have been completed and both free agency and the draft are still a ways off. It gives us time to think about what may be developing with the team. Time for some random thoughts.

A staff built with a clear design

The new coaching staff for the Cowboys is being viewed favorably by most. Of course there are naysayers, but there is a general consensus that this is a very strong group under Mike McCarthy. We have no idea if things will work out at all well, but for now, we have optimism.

One reason optimism may be justified is that this certainly looks to be a coherently assembled group. Although there is a bit of a leavening of inexperienced names, at least at the NFL level, most of the new coordinators and assistants have a lot of experience. Many have ties to McCarthy. Between the resumes and his first-hand knowledge, it is reasonable to believe he has put together a solid staff.

It is a bit of a change to see how this was done. In the past, the Dallas staff had a bit of a pastiche look to it. Some assistants were selected more by the front office. Not since at least Bill Parcells have the decisions been so evidently left in the hands of the head coach. Jason Garrett played a role in the former way of doing things in more ways than one. He was hired as the offensive coordinator before Wade Phillips got the head coaching gig, and then when he replaced Phillips, Jerry Jones was very involved in building his staff. That is a bit understandable since Garrett was learning the new responsibilities on the fly. Still, it meant that he was more having to fit together the pieces he was given rather than doing the primary selection.

It is also quite possible that Jones let his well-known affection for former players affect how many of them had jobs on the coaching staff last year. Garrett, Kellen Moore, Jon Kitna, Marc Colombo, Leon Lett, and Andre Gurode all spent time wearing the Dallas uniform. This is not to argue that they were bad hires. Moore and Lett both were deemed worth retaining, and Colombo in particular earned his job after stepping in to replace Paul Alexander. Still, this new group seems more diverse even considering the multiple links to McCarthy. There is a general desire to see some new thinking, and this bunch seems well equipped to bring that to the table. At the same time, they also will hopefully work together better than last year, when reports were circulating about disconnects between different members of the staff. That is kinda important.

Speaking of diversity

Since the mothership has finally deigned to put the new staff on their site, it is interesting to look at the faces. While the team is probably guilty of paying a bit of lip service to the Rooney Rule in hiring McCarthy, he has since made the staff much more diverse. Of the 20 coaches the Cowboys have, half are African Americans. That includes assistant head coach Rob Davis.

The interpretation (that I tend toward) could be that McCarthy is being open-minded in seeking out talent for his staff. There is a bit of a balance in his approach between the “old-boy” network that is so prevalent in the league and opening doors for new faces.

Re-signing their own

The Cowboys have a lot of holes to fill. According to Over the Cap, they currently have only 49 players under contract, and that includes a lot of players who are at best a long shot to make the roster coming out of camp. Some may not even make it to camp as churn is a way of life in the NFL. The first order of business is to sign some of their own free agents.

The priority list is of course a subject of much discussion. There are basically two tiers for that.

  1. Dak Prescott
  2. Everybody else

Yes, Amari Cooper and Byron Jones are big decisions, and Jerry Jones has intimated that Robert Quinn is definitely in play, something Quinn seems to like. But Prescott is the only deal that the team absolutely, positively needs to get done.

The quarterback is the fulcrum of an NFL team. You either have a legitimate franchise quarterback, or you are trying to work around the lack of one while you figure out how to get one. No matter how good any other player is, there are ways to replace them, at least without crippling the team. Lose Prescott, and this team is in a world of hurt. He is very good. By keeping Moore and moving Doug Nussmeier to quarterbacks coach, the team is investing heavily in him.

He may not be the first deal done in the coming weeks and months, but his is the one that has to be figured out. The team needs him involved from the start with the new staff and tweaks to the scheme. Everything else can be dealt with as need be to balance roster building and cap restraints.

The fun is back for the draft

Finally, it is nice to have a first-round pick to work with. This is in no way a complaint about spending last year’s first-rounder on Cooper. He was worth it, and despite my last point, he should be brought back. But it really took some of the shine off the draft, and the rather desultory results from last year just made it worse.

Now the Cowboys have some decent capital to invest. The only thing that would make it better would be some more picks, and this might be time for Trader Jerry to get back in the game. Swapping a pick or two to gain additional selections would certainly add some excitement to things, although hopefully they would do so wisely and not move out of the first round in doing so.

Still, it should keep our interest throughout the draft this year. The team has plenty of needs to address pending free agency, where they have long been reluctant to be too free-spending.

It’s a long time until the games come back, but we have a lot to watch in the meantime.