The Dallas Cowboys had what many people believe to be one of the better drafts in the NFL. Round after round, pick after pick, the Cowboys managed to achieve enormous value. They landed the best individual value in Daniel Jeremiah’s estimation when they selected Utah EDGE Bradlee Anae, there is no sexier word when it comes to the NFL Draft than that - value.
How did that happen, though? It’s not visionary to say that you want to draft the best possible players every time you’re on the clock, but still, somehow, this is often a difficult practice for NFL teams.
Will McClay and the scouting department deserve an enormous amount of credit, but they have been around the draft process for some time now. In looking at the differences between this draft and previous ones in recent memory, it is fair to at least note that there is a large difference within the team in that Mike McCarthy is now the team’s head coach as opposed to someone else.
Will McClay attributes “players over system” philosophy to Mike McCarthy
The Cowboys shocked many by drafting CeeDee Lamb. It sounds ridiculous to say that drafting Lamb was brave or terrifying given that he is a special football player, but while wide receiver was a need for the Cowboys entering the draft it was not their top one.
Still, though, Lamb was available. He was undeniably the best player on the Cowboys’ board after the draft’s first 16 selections. Many believe that in previous years the Cowboys would have passed in the name of landing a good player, but lesser overall, at an area of need (say LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson this year) but they forged on and took Lamb. What was different?
Cowboys VP of player personnel Will McClay said he and Mike McCarthy hit it off immediately when McCarthy said to him: "Players over system."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) April 28, 2020
McClay: "Well, that rung a bell with me right away. We have a great relationship. We talk all the time."
Will McClay is on with @1053thefan, doing his typical post-draft car wash.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) April 28, 2020
He just followed up on the "players over system" comment, saying that it made him jump up and down.
"That was a unique thing to hear a coach say, because most of it is system-based."
Will McClay spoke Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan
When you have a coach that comes in and says “hey let’s get us good football players and if we can’t find a place for good football players then there’s something wrong with our scheme” well he realizes that it’s not the Xs and the Os it’s the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s.
Will McClay met with the media on Tuesday to discuss the draft and may have given us the answer to this question. He noted that Mike McCarthy expressed a “players over system” disposition, one that McClay seemingly agrees with.
McClay said throughout the lead-up to the draft that it was their job to shop for the groceries that the coaching staff wanted to cook with and it seems like Mike McCarthy just wanted the best possible ingredients, regardless of what any sort of recipe called for. Again, it sounds so simple to say that teams should always draft the best players available, but the reality is that team need weighs in as a heavy factor. It appears that those days are somewhat gone in Dallas.
Nobody is trying to paint the previous Cowboys coaching staff in any sort of negative light here, obviously we all hope the best for them in their new endeavors; however, it’s hard not to assume that who is coaching the team now had a major influence in the team not reaching for need players. Selections like Taco Charlton, for example, were very specific and need-based, had the Cowboys trusted a true objective big board in 2017 then maybe things would have wound up differently there.
It is unfortunate that the Cowboys seemingly prioritized needs over general value for so long, but the important part is that they now seem to be done with that way of thinking. Perhaps the most important thing is that this overall disposition is stemming from Mike McCarthy... there are a lot of reasons to feel optimistic moving forward.