It is almost draft time, which means that it is time for an annual Dallas Cowboys tradition. The top management, in particular Stephen Jones, is telling us how great a job they have done and why we should all be getting hyped about the prospects for the team this year. Many of us have looked behind the curtain, however. Others will still buy what they are selling. But when you examine things closely, you realize just how much smoke and mirror action is involved.
The clearest example was the easily dispelled claim by Jones that Dorance Armstrong gives the team a nearly equivalent level of production as Randy Gregory. Some of the immediate reaction was appropriately harsh.
Imagine saying this incredibly dumb thing out loud for everyone to hear https://t.co/YWJfqhCjsL— John Owning (@JohnOwning) April 19, 2022
That was indeed critical, but very on point. But there were also many reactions that seemed to buy what Jones was selling. It is right in line with the “we like our guys” stance that has been peddled for some time as one of the excuses to eschew free agency as a significant roster-building tool.
It also flies in the face of the deal Jones tried and failed to get done to keep Gregory in the fold. It raises the question of just how much he believes what he is saying.
Oh i get being upset by what he said, but I also dont think he believes what he said.— Killin' Moore (@McCoolBCB) April 19, 2022
Shattered trust is a way to describe the way many now view the communication from the brain-trust of the team. Both Stephen and his father Jerry Jones spend an inordinate amount of time talking to the media when compared to the way the leadership of most franchises do. The problem is that they are seen as obfuscating so much of the time. In other cases, Stephen just keeps doubling down on his highly questionable obsession with salary cap space.
That also includes a rather smug assertion about how well he is doing with roster management. It contradicts his own admission that the team has continued to come up short year after year. He also claims the team is still poised to do something meaningful in free agency, but history makes a strong case that is just more empty talk.
This is all a kind of propaganda. Every year the Cowboys get people to buy in and feel the hype about the team’s prospects. But the number who don’t get sucked in is growing. The belief usually gets a boost after the draft, due in part to a legitimate argument about how well Will McClay manages that. It will likely peak sometime just prior to the beginning of the regular season.
The contention here is that we need to tap the brakes. Maybe we should really stomp on them. We need to wait and see how things go on the field when the games start to count this fall. Even then, we should keep in mind that the schedule looks at this point to not be that intimidating. The NFC East opponents all have some noticeable flaws, and the non-divisional slate includes some clearly struggling franchises like the Chicago Bears, the Detroit Lions, the Houston Texans, and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Getting to double-digit wins, perhaps even matching the 12-5 record from last season, and winning the division seem very doable, even with a roster that is not as strong as that of 2021 at this time. There are certainly other teams like the Los Angeles Rams, the Green Bay Packers, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming up that will give us a much better gauge of how good Dallas truly is. But once again the postseason will be the real measure.
That is not to say that all is lost, by any means. The team still has a solid core of talent to work with. Micah Parsons was a revelation last year and should only be better after playing through a hyper-extended knee in his incredible rookie campaign. Even more importantly, Dak Prescott is no longer rehabbing his ankle injury and hopefully will be a full-go throughout the OTAs and training camp. So there is a real possibility that overall this edition of the Cowboys will perform more effectively than it did down the disappointing stretch last year.
Those are things that the team should be selling, not spurious claims of replacing the production of one of the more impactful defenders or rigid restrictions imposed by the salary cap. That is not the course they have chosen. Color me pessimistic, or maybe call it staying rational and judging performance rather than letting a false enthusiasm take hold.