As a media site covering the Dallas Cowboys, we do our best to be as objective and factual as possible. Still, occasionally we can let some of our allegiance to the Star creep into things. There can be a nearly unavoidable tendency to try to see the best in the team. That includes players, coaches, and even Jerry Jones himself. When things go south for the Cowboys, as they seem to do every other year or so, explanations of what went wrong while trying to delineate the issues can end up sounding like excuses.
Examining the many positives in what certainly looks to be a dynamite offseason in Dallas, it almost appears that the team was listening to the fans, and this site’s, biggest
excuses complaints about the team and sought answers. If that’s the case, there are no more excuses to be made, here or anywhere.
Let’s go over some of the more obvious.
It will be hard to point a finger at the coaching
For some time, a great deal of the blame for the failures on the field have been laid at the feet of the coaching staff. Scott Linehan was a popular villain before he left. Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard were also targets. And the conservative nature of Jason Garrett and the way his message seemed to have become stale and ineffectual eroded the last bit of support for him.
Enter Mike McCarthy, viewed by some as the best of the five new coaching hires this year. It is worth noting that two of the others were by division rivals Washington and the New York Giants. Based on the body of work while McCarthy was with the Green Bay Packers, it is hard to argue against the conclusion that Jerry Jones made a great hire. McCarthy went on to assemble an impressive set of assistants, at least on paper. Mike Nolan, Jim Tomsula, and John Fassel all have good or even great reputations. McCarthy even kept the one fan darling of the old staff, Kellen Moore.
Optimistically speaking, there are certainly reasons to hope that issues such as too much conservatism on offense, and the lack of takeaways by the defense, are being addressed. If things don’t work out, then we have to accept that maybe we didn’t properly identify the problems.
Turning it up a notch in free agency
Stephen Jones still did not spend big dollars in free agency, but the cost-effective signings this year just look different than recent efforts. And a lot better.
The big three are, of course, Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. That is not to disrespect other signings like Maurice Canady, but that trio represents bigger names with more accomplished careers than we have seen in a long time. Further, the team made a clear pivot on the positions it addressed. Free agency is supposed to be where you address holes so that you don’t have to resort to need too much during the draft. This year, the Cowboys finally went out and got some players at some positions they have tended to neglect. A very productive 3-tech DT, a big, space-eating nose tackle with some respectable ability to penetrate in pass defense, and a true ball-hawking safety are just not things we are used to getting individually, much less as a group, in the space of a few days.
Best players available
There has been so much already written and discussed in the media about the remarkable draft haul Dallas had. Logically, it came about because of the new directions McCarthy and his staff wanted, along with letting Will McClay and his scouts have a lot of control over things during the unique circumstances caused by the pandemic response. For whatever reason, there was tremendous value in the first six picks. CeeDee Lamb may well have been the best wide receiver in a very strong class, and yet two others went off the board before the Cowboys saw him land in their lap. Trevon Diggs was a borderline first-round talent, Neville Gallimore was generally seen as a high-to-mid second-round prospect, and Reggie Robinson II was reportedly moving up on a lot of boards before the draft. Tyler Biadasz may well turn into a true steal after being injured in his last college season and well worth trading a future pick to move up and grab him, and many were simply amazed Bradlee Anae was there at the tail end of the fifth round. It was an incredible display of trusting the board and letting the draft come to them, aided by some interesting decisions by the other 31 teams. Even the apparent flyer taken on Ben DiNucci in the seventh makes sense in light of reports that multiple teams were willing to bid on him as a priority UDFA.
All that is based on what the team has revealed about its own draft board. Franchises obviously differ there, but the broad spectrum of well-regarded outside draft boards largely agreed with the team’s evaluations. That is highly encouraging. If this class pans out, it could lead to a very bright future for the Cowboys.
Another change in philosophy
After the draft, it didn’t take long for Dallas to make another big move, signing veteran quarterback Andy Dalton after he was shunted aside by the Cincinnati Bengals to make room for Joe Burrow. Despite the social media ravings about him being some kind of competition for the starting job, in truth he is a high-quality backup for Dak Prescott.
That serves to really hammer home just how much the philosophy of the team has changed. For years, the team was content to roll into the season with backup QBs that had basically no on-field experience. Before that, they would, out of necessity, sign veterans that had checkered careers, at best. While Dalton certainly had some issues in Cincinnati, that seems more due to the situation with coaching and the roster around him than his own ability. He may not have been one of the better starters during most of his tenure with the Bengals, but he is also demonstrably better than quite a few current projected starters in the league. That is a pretty good thing to have in your QB2.
Dalton also forced a quarterback off his new team’s roster, in this case Cooper Rush. You may make your own judgment about Rush being immediately claimed off waivers by the New York Garretts.
Not everything the Cowboys have done this offseason has met with approval. Prescott is still mired in negotiations over his new contract, and has not signed his franchise tag. Deciding to not try and re-sign Bryon Jones will be debated for some time. But the good of this offseason far outweighs the bad. We can’t even resort to the old meme of Jerry Jones as a poor GM, because he has made no egregious missteps this time.
If the Cowboys fall short, none of the old excuses will hold much water. Even having a mostly new coaching staff cannot be called on. This one has too much experience and past success for that to fly.
Count me as one who doesn’t think we will need to make any excuses this year.