A little over a year ago today, the Los Angeles Rams were at a crossroads. After making it to the Super Bowl and coming up just short in 2018, the Rams failed to make the playoffs altogether in 2019, followed up by getting knocked out in the Divisional Round by the Green Bay Packers in 2020.
The Rams could have thought to themselves, don’t worry, we’ll be back again, and this time, it will be different. Heck, they’d gone 43-21 since Sean McVay took over full-time in 2017, so they had reason to believe they could get back to that big stage again.
But instead of settling for close but no cigar, the Rams took a different approach. They went “all-in”.
Los Angeles dealt away signal-caller Jared Goff, the guy that had just got them to the Super Bowl two seasons prior, for veteran Matthew Stafford. Los Angeles also had to send two first-round and one third-round pick to Detroit in exchange for Stafford, potentially mortgaging their long-term future for present success.
The Rams could have changed quarterbacks and thought that was enough, but they didn’t stop there. Later in the off-season, the Rams brought back pass-rusher Leonard Floyd on a four-year deal. After a good offseason, Los Angeles started off 2021 red hot. The Rams sat at 7-1 after their first eight games, but GM Les Snead determined even that wasn’t good enough.
Los Angeles went out and acquired two star veterans, Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr, and well, we all now know how this story ends.
Stafford, Floyd, Miller, and Beckham all played integral roles in the Rams eventually getting back, and eventually winning the Super Bowl, and their “all-in” strategy paid off in the biggest way possible.
Coming into the season the Rams had already made the Super Bowl three times since 1999, winning it once, so it’s not like they were going through some 20-plus year Super Bowl drought that made them to push all their chips to the center of the table. I don’t know about you, but if I were a team that say, hadn’t even made the NFC Championship game in 25 years, it seems like it would be smart to follow the Rams’ blueprint of going all-in, right?
The Dallas Cowboys are one of only five teams in the NFL to not play in at least one conference title game since 2000. The same Cowboys that lost to a Jimmy Garoppolo-led 49ers team at home in the Wild Card Round of this year’s postseason.
You’d think after continuing to fail time and time again, eventually something would have to change. But the Cowboys once again have decided “ close enough” is good enough. They are basically running it back with the same coaching staff in 2022. They aren’t planning to spend big on adding outside talent in free agency, citing their quarterback’s large cap hit as a potential roadblock in adding new talent.
Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones talking about the salary cap on @SiriusXMNFL: pic.twitter.com/LIKKW4fDJl— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) February 4, 2022
Instead, as Stephen Jones made clear last week, Dallas will once again attempt to re-sign their own free agents, following the same blueprint that has not worked for the last 25 years.
“In general, from a money standpoint, if I’m looking into a crystal ball right now, I see most of our money that would go in free agency going toward our current players,” said Jones. “Doesn’t mean that won’t change. We might come across a value on a player that we say, ‘Hey, it’s just one we got to take.’ I don’t want to rule it out.
“But, in general, we go to our players and then we have to be efficient in the draft in terms of improving the team.”
Jones was even asked about the Rams’ “all-in” approach last week, but he shut down any notion of the Cowboys doing the same.
“You know, there’s a lot of different ways to do things,” Jones said. “Certainly hats off to them. They had a hell of a year and won the Super Bowl, and certainly they went about it in a way that’s pushing a lot of chips out there. So, you know, there’s some forms of all of this that we’ll probably decide where we want to be. I feel like we got a lot of good young players on this football team and you don’t want to just be starting over, if you will, if we did too much.
“You know, we could do some things that could allow us to keep most of our guys if we wanted to push it all out, but we’ll have a much bigger problem the next year and the year after that.”
The Cowboys should not continue to let good but not good enough be their standard, but this year might even be more ripe for a new strategy. For the first time since 2000, the GOAT, Tom Brady, is out of football. The Cowboys’ boogeyman, Aaron Rodgers, also may be out of the NFC.
You could make the argument that if they keep Amari Cooper, their receiving corps could be atop the NFC conference. If Arron Rodgers leaves the NFC, they would have one of the top quarterbacks in the conference. It might be a bit of a stretch, but if they retain some of their own free agents, you could make a pretty good case that Dallas even has a top three defense in their conference.
As things stand right now, this year is as wide open as the NFC has been in over a decade. Outside of the defending champion Rams, the Cowboys are as talented as any other team in the NFC. They are in a perfect spot to say the heck with the future, let’s get back to where we should be and bring a Super Bowl back to Dallas. Instead, they’ll opt to follow the same plan we’ve seen for years, making marginal additions in free agency and hoping if they just “run it back” things will be different.
They say history repeats itself. Apparently, the Dallas Cowboys haven’t gotten that memo. If they don’t get it soon, they're doomed to have history repeat itself once again in 2022 and for years to come.