After writing my first article The Resurgence of America's Team, I started looking more into journeyman Will McClay's road to becoming the Senior Director of College and Pro Scouting.
Although born in Memphis, Tennessee, McClay would spend his adolescent years right outside of Houston, Texas. He would stay locally for college and start all 4 years (1985-1988) at defensive back for Rice University. After college ball, McClay was picked up by the Detroit Drive of the Arena Football League where he would help capture 3 Arena League Titles in 4 appearances.
After his playing days were over, the Drive kept him on as the secondary and special teams coach in 1993. Over the next few seasons McClay would bounce around as Defensive Coordinator for the Milwaukee Mustangs, Florida Bobcats and Anaheim Piranhas. While with Anaheim in 1997, he began to try his hand in the management side of football and became Director of Player Personnel. The following season McClay would join the Grand Rapid Rampage in the same capacity before being promoted a year later to Head Coach.
In 2001, McClay set his sights on the XFL as the Director of Player Personnel and Scout for the Orlando Rage. It is worth noting that while in Orlando, McClay assembled an 8-2 team that clinched the first seed in the playoffs only to fall in the first round.
After Vince McMahon's one-year wonder of a football league fell apart, McClay was able to make the jump to the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars as the Assistant Director of Pro Scouting. While in Jacksonville his main duty was to scout the teams not on the Jaguars schedule in an effort to expand scouting reports.
In 2002, McClay joined the Dallas Cowboys player personnel department as well as Defensive Coordinator for Jerry Jones' expansion AFL team, the Dallas Desperados. He maintained both jobs until 2004 when McClay was promoted to Head Coach. Over the next 5 years he produced 4 winning seasons and was named Coach of the Year in 2006.
After the league folded in 2009, Jerry Jones kept McClay on the Cowboys staff serving in various capacities reviewing tape and compiling extensive scouting reports. Highly regarded within the organization as a workaholic and having a keen eye for talent, the Cowboys essentially created a position for him when he was named Director of Football Research, a position which no longer exists.
From 2011-2013 McClay's main focus as Director of Football Research was to scout players on the other 31 NFL teams. It was through his efforts that the Cowboys have been able to find success with players like Ernie Sims, Laurent Robinson, Justin Durant, Nick Hayden, George Selvie, and Rolando McClain. Players who were seemingly plucked from the NFL's land of misfit toys. Players whose careers were in jeopardy but could fill a role on the Cowboys roster.
In 2014, after a Draft Day disagreement between the scouting department and coaching staff, McClay was promoted to Assistant Director of Player Personnel and given the keys to the War Room. As I alluded to in my first article, his presence on draft day has been surely felt. Former oil tycoon turned GM Jerry Jones is no longer trying to strike it rich with players from smaller schools or taking on big persona's like Johnny Manziel to increase sales.
When all 9 draft choices in 2014 came from big football programs, McClay had this to say about his picks, "I think it was important for us to say, if we’re trying to build this thing and get to a point where we can win now, who has been able to handle the pressure of a big time program? Who will most likely be able to come into a situation like the Dallas Cowboys and the microscope that we’re under with all the games we play on national TV, and not, pardon the expression, pee their pants? We want grown men that are able to handle the situation.”
We now live in an era where McClay and company will put in more than their due diligence to walk away with the best player available. After an abysmal defensive effort from the Cowboys in 2013, McClay elected to take OL Zack Martin stating, "You're never one player away, you always want to solidify your team, and we approached it (the draft) with that strategy."
Martin would later be named to the All-Pro team as a rookie.
In May 2015, McClay was promoted to his current position as Senior Director of College and Pro Scouting. Once again this offseason the front office took a financially responsible approach to assembling this season's team.
Their boldest move by far was their unwillingness to pay NFL leading rusher, Demarco Murray, any more than they thought he was worth. Murray would later sign with division rival Philadelphia for $40 (26 guaranteed) million over 5 years, while Dallas elected to keep trucking with our current stable of running backs along with Free Agent Darren McFadden who signed an incentive-laced 2-year/$3 million contract. The front office had the luxury of making this type of decision because of the tireless work McClay and company have done building one of the best offensive lines in the league.
While the coaching staff is getting the team ready for the regular season, and Jerry is smiling for the cameras, Will McClay will undoubtedly be in the film room, scouring the pro and college ranks for the next diamond in the rough. And that's the way he prefers it.
Dallas Cowboys: The Case For Regression In 2019
It's been a few years since things around the Dallas Cowboys felt this good prior to a season. Coming off a 10-6 year in which Dallas won both the NFC East and a home playoff game before losing a one possession road game to the future NFC champions, Cowboys Nation is expecting some big things in 2019.
After all, the Cowboys went out and improved their roster in multiple ways this offseason and brought in some new blood on their offensive coaching staff. Spirits are high among Cowboys Nation, and just about everyone is anticipating a two team race for the NFC East.
But some numbers indicate we should be thinking "not so fast."
The details of the 2018 season are not as pretty as the total picture. Rarely are they ever, of course, but these particular details point towards possible regression for the Cowboys in 2019.
Basically, their point differential a year ago spells out impending doom. (That was dramatic, but let's discuss).
The Cowboys were +15 in 2018, and by pythagorean wins expectation, they were about as strong as an 8-8 team (8.53 wins to be exact). This means they won nearly 2 more games (1.47) than would be expected, fourth most in the entire NFL.
This point is furthered when looking at their record in one possession games. Dallas went 8-2 when the game was decided by 7 points or less, winning close games at a rate that is simply not sustainable year to year.
These numbers make the Cowboys a prime candidate for regression in 2019, as they were in 2017.
Back in 2016, the Cowboys outperformed their pythagorean expectation by a whole 2 wins. The following season? Dallas finished the year 9-7. The model also indicated that the 7-9 Eagles performed 2 wins under expectations in 2016, meaning they would get back on track in 2017. As we know, they ended up winning 13 games and the Super Bowl the following season.
Of course, this isn't set-in-stone, and the Cowboys very well could outperform these expectations and avoid regression. This would mainly hinge on their coaching staff and quarterback performing at an elite level, carrying them through close games and winning more games by greater than one possession.
Newly Acquired DE Robert Quinn Brings High Expectations
Winning games in the NFL typically comes down to accomplishing two goals. One, being successful when passing on offense. And, two, stopping the opposing team's passing game.
The Cowboys set out to accomplish that second goal this offseason, re-signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, and trading for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins, is one of the leagues more feared rushers when at his best. The former All Pro has multiple 10+ sack seasons under his belt, including a whopping 19 in 2013.
And, as expected, the Cowboys coaching staff is ecstatic to have such a respected pass rushing specialist on their roster.
“He’s got that first step. He’s an established pass rusher in this league, so he’s going to bring some good stuff for us.” - Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The Cowboys acquired Robert Quinn for a 2020 6th round pick, which could end up being the steal of the offseason. Quinn has played with some top-notch pass rushers in the past, and each time they have brought out the best in his own game.
Back with the Rams in 2017, when Aaron Donald was on the same defensive line, Quinn got to the quarterback 8.5 times. And, last season, he remained consistent in his sack totals playing alongside Cameron Wake. Now he joins a DeMarcus Lawrence who has 25 sacks over the last 2 seasons.
"I think it was kind of one of those where I get to have fun, pin my ears back and just disrupt the backfield, which is what they want us to do." - Robert Quinn told NFL.com.
Quinn and the always dominant Lawrence will form an impressive defensive end duo on passing downs, with the potential to be one of the best in all of football. Dallas is also hoping to add Randy Gregory into this mix, a piece which could prove vital late in football games if he is able to return from his current indefinite suspension.
Whether or not Gregory finds his way back onto the field, though, this defensive front will be in good hands. The edge combo of Quinn and Lawrence, combined with a plethora of skilled interior rushers such as Maliek Collins, gives the Cowboys a fearsome defensive line which should keep quarterbacks uncomfortable every Sunday.
Can Rookie OL Connor McGovern Compete For A Starting Spot?
Raising eyebrows in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cowboys added Penn State offensive lineman Connor McGovern to their already deep OL depth chart.
McGovern, who played guard for the Nittany Lions, was reportedly by-far the best player remaining on the Cowboys draft board when they came on the clock in round three. Still, with seemingly more pressing needs yet to be addressed, Dallas' selection of McGovern was certainly a surprise.
When you watch the tape, though, you immediately see what the Cowboys loved about Connor McGovern.
A "plug-and-play" type guard, Connor McGovern is the type of rookie you'd expect to contribute in year one. On many teams he may be a candidate to start at guard or center from the beginning of his rookie season, but here in Dallas, his role for the 2019 season is somewhat in question.
Clearly, being a day two pick, there's no doubt that McGovern will make the Cowboys roster. But can he compete for a starting job?
During OTA's McGovern took reps at both guard and center, pointing towards the possibility of him being the first interior offensive lineman off the bench if one of the starters were to go down with an injury. Fellow interior linemen Joe Looney and Xavier Su'a-Filo each contributed in big ways during the 2018 season, however, and will be tough to beat out during camp.
While possible, I would still say it's unlikely. The Cowboys selection of McGovern seems to be more about 2020 and beyond than it is about the 2019 season. With right tackle La'el Collins coming up on a contract year, Dallas might elect to let him walk in free agency, move Williams back to his college position of tackle, and slide McGovern into the left guard slot.
This seems fool-proof in theory, but this many moving parts across the offensive line could spell trouble early on in 2020. Regardless, Connor McGovern's arrival gives Dallas the flexibility to consider all options on their offensive line.
In reality, McGovern strengthened a strength for Dallas, and may be needed to prove himself as early as this Fall if injury issues arise.
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