The Dallas Cowboys’ front office, particularly owner & general manager Jerry Jones, takes a lot of criticism. While far from perfect, these executives have had plenty of hits along the way. Several of them were on display last Sunday in Dallas’ 43-20 rout of the Los Angeles Rams.
We could talk all day about notorious blunders like the trades for receivers Joey Galloway and Roy Williams, trading up for CB Morris Claiborne, other busts like LB Bobby Carpenter and DE Taco Charlton, or the horrific era of quarterback decisions that started after Troy Aikman and was mercifully ended by Tony Romo. And while many love to harp on these topics, you have to be balanced and recognize the times that this front office also gets it right.
For example, how about CB DaRon Bland? There he was on Sunday snagging his fourth interception of 2023 and, amazingly, his third pick-six of the season. Bland leads all NFL players in interceptions since being just a fifth-round draft pick last year. On a defense that already has an annual candidate for Defensive Player of the Year in LB Micah Parsons, Bland is arguably not far behind him.
On the other side of the ball there’s TE Jake Ferguson, another Day 3 draft pick from 2022 who’s impressed since his arrival. While productivity so far this season isn’t what we expected, that seems more due to offensive scheme changes than anything Ferguson isn’t doing. He’s proven to be a highly efficient target and his touchdown catch last Sunday was stunning. He’s already making us forget the last fourth-round pick who started at tight end, Dalton Schultz, and another value find for the Cowboys.
Speaking of value, it’s been good to see Brandin Cooks finally emerging as the number-two receiver. Dallas gave up minimal draft capital, a fifth- and a sixth-round pick, for the consistently productive veteran. His transition into the Cowboys offense has been hampered by injury but, in the last two games, we’re seeing Cooks’ potential. The touchdown throw to him on Sunday was a sign that trust and chemistry are building between him and Dak Prescott at the right time.
How about Dallas’ other big veteran pickup this year, CB Stephon Gilmore? Some weeks he shows his playmaking, already having two interceptions in 2023, but others he just locks down his side of the field. You didn’t see Gilmore on the wrong end of any plays this past Sunday and that is part of why Rams QB Matthew Stafford stayed consistently befuddled. The Cowboys added Gilmore for just a late fifth-round pick and he’s not only provided an instant upgrade as CB2 but has proven crucial after Trevon Diggs’ injury.
Elsewhere on defense, safety-turned-linebacker Markquese Bell has been a revelation in his unexpected role. He’s made up for the loss of rookie DeMarvion Overshown and further illustrated how good this team is at finding talent among the undrafted and other discards.
We can’t forget about special teams. Kicker Brandon Aubrey is one field goal away from breaking the all-time record for perfection to start an NFL career. He drilled a 58-yarder on Sunday to show off the big leg that comes with his stunning consistency. And in the return game, KaVontae Turpin also reminded us why the Cowboys were shrewd to give the 26-year-old USFL player a shot in 2022.
Let’s go back to Stafford for a minute. While he’s 35 now, the former first-overall pick in 2009 couldn’t hold a candle to Prescott on Sunday. And despite their very different entries into the NFL, Prescott has outperformed Stafford in many statistical categories in their careers.
- Prescott (per game) - 256 yds, 1.7 TDs, 0.67 INTs
- Stafford (per game) - 272 yds, 1.7 TDs, 0.88 INTs
Prescott has a career completion percentage of 66.8 to just 63.1 for Stafford. His career passer rating of 97.8 is significantly higher than Stafford’s 90.6. You throw in Prescott’s highly superior rushing stats and there’s little denying who’s been the more productive in their careers.
Again, this is a fourth-round pick outshining one of the projected elite quarterbacks. Prescott long ago left Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, and all the rest from 2016 in his dust. Now we see him out-dueling Justin Herbert and Stafford in consecutive weeks; further proof that he’s one of the better passers in the league.
You can argue that a guy like Stafford could’ve been more if he hadn’t been stuck with the Detroit Lions for so many years, and that’s valid. But doesn’t that make the point about how the Cowboys’ front office isn’t as bad as they are made out to be? This isn’t some chronically losing franchise.
The frustration with Dallas’ general manager and his advisors comes from the expectations set from 1992-1995, the unfortunate divorce with Jimmy Johnson, and years of being unable to get back to that level. But as opposed to some organizations who seem to barely know how to fry an egg, the Cowboys have done a lot of good work in the kitchen but just seem to always be short some key ingredient.
There’s plenty of valid criticism to heap on Dallas’ front office. Even this year, they ignore a glaring issue with OT Tyron Smith’s unreliability and have been hurt by it. Linebacker depth was a concern going into the season and has been tested severely. And though it’s still early, the draft selections of DT Mazi Smith and TE Luke Schoonmaker have yet to make a meaningful contribution.
The point here is that you can’t unfairly harp on the bad without acknowledging the good. This Cowboys front office does get it right plenty of times, and this past Sunday gave us plenty of reminders of how and when.