The Dallas Cowboys are hoping a coaching change will help them take the next step towards making a run at their sixth Lombardi trophy. The Jason Garrett tenure has provided some good moments, but his teams were never able to get past the divisional round of the playoffs. Now, they will be lead by Mike McCarthy, who has advanced to the NFC Championship round four different times with the Green Bay Packers, with one Super Bowl win. The only question is - can he bring that level of success to Dallas?
There are good reasons to believe that he can, and probably the biggest element comes from the willingness to take more chances. Garrett was often criticized for his conservative nature, and its this style that has kept the team in a grind, allowing too many opportunities for opponents to sneak in and steal a victory. Don’t get me wrong, he did a great job in helping build a fantastic roster, especially considering the financial handicap the team had during his early years. Not a lot of coaches would have been able to field a competitive team with such a disadvantage. But when he had a talented roster, why did the team continue to spin it’s wheels?
Part of that is Garrett having too much belief in his players and his coaching staff. He thinks they will win just because his guys are better players, while not really embracing innovative scheming and analytics. That’s fine when it worked, and we’re not discounting the fact that the Cowboys have been winning plenty of football games over the last several years, but that approach is too simplistic. And this leaves the Cowboys vulnerable when a weakness is exposed and their opponents pound away at it. This is why Adrian Clayborn had six sacks in one game against them, and this is why both Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson had over 100 yards rushing against them in the 2018 Divisional Round of the playoffs.
That approach had gone stale, and we are now entering a new era that we hope is filled with greater possibilities. McCarthy inherits a team that compares to his Green Bay Packers team that won a Super Bowl in 2010. But to have success, he’s going to need the Cowboys to take on some of that gamble that helped the Packers along the way.
For example, did you know that his 2011 reigning Super Bowl champs went 15-1 with a defense that allowed the most yards in the NFL? How is that even possible? Well, the answer was simple - opportunities.
The Packers had the no. 1 scoring offense in the NFL that season. Aaron Rodgers threw for 4,643 yards and 45 touchdowns en route to his first-ever MVP season. He had a remarkable receiving corps that featured Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, and then rookie Randall Cobb. All of those receivers have been Pro Bowlers at some point in their careers.
The high octane offense also led to a defense that took advantage of opposing offenses who were forced to keep up. Despite giving up the most yards in the league, Green Bay’s defense created 38 turnovers, the most in the NFL that season. Over the past five seasons, the Cowboys defense hasn’t eclipsed 21 takeaways. They were even dead last with just 11 in 2015, which just so happened to coincide with an offense that was second to last in scoring that year.
The Cowboys need to be the aggressor on offense. No more of this patient, grind it out football philosophy that shortens the game. Instead, they need to score, score again, and keep scoring. Putting up 35 points a game is a tall task, but this unit has the firepower to do it. The recent addition of CeeDee Lamb gives Dak Prescott one of the best receiving groups in the NFL. Amari Cooper thinks he, Michael Gallup, and Lamb can all have 1,000-yard seasons.
Without Lamb, the Cowboys offense gained the most yards in the league last season, but unfortunately fell just outside the top five in points scored. They could move the ball, but just couldn’t finish the deal. This team will need to be better in this area if they’re expected to be the real deal.
It’s not just the offense that needs to take more chances. With a new defensive coordinator, look for the team to blitz more. Last season, the Cowboys were 26th in the league in blitz percentage as they only brought additional rushers 23.2% of the time. More pressure and better tackling (seventh most missed tackles last year), are things we expect the team to show an improvement on. If opposing teams are forced to keep up, this should also lead to more sacks and more takeaways as well.
McCarthy has the tools he needs to build a championship team. It’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together and get them playing at a high level. The best defense is a great offense, and the Cowboys are expected to be explosive this year. If things start to really click for Dak and company, everything may fall in place for a championship season.