I'm an optimist. One may call me an eternal optimist.
Even as the game seemed to be getting out of hand with your local heroes getting down 21-3, I felt like I was one of only a few people who still had hope our Dallas Cowboys could turn things around.
More than 7 minutes to play in the half. Get a score. Get a stop. Get a score. Asking a lot I know, but I'm still a believer.
Remember when we gave up 21 in the first half to Detroit and then shut em out in the second half. I do. D has been great at adjustments.
Think about it. There was a ton of time left in the game after Green Bay scored its third touchdown, and some were already conceding.
I saw tweets that said "ballgame" and "It's over." But what had we seen from the Dallas Cowboys all season? They repeatedly showed an ability for Dak Prescott and the offense to respond and the ability for the defense to make adjustments.
Dallas was down 18 points, and then outscored the Green Bay Packers 25-7 to tie it at 28 before trading field goals. That led to one of the most heartbreaking finishes to a sports game that I have witnessed.
The only games that can compete with that heartbreak were:
- Dallas at Green Bay in 2014 (Dez Bryant caught it)
- 2011 Texas Rangers to clinch the World Series in Game Six (Nelson Cruz didn't catch it).
Dallas' comeback in the game on Sunday, though it ultimately wasn't enough, raised a lot of eyebrows in Cowboys Nation, mine included. The eternal optimist, while disappointed in the loss, can only see a great and mighty future coming for the Dallas Cowboys.
Much To Look Forward To The Future Has Arrived
So much has already been said about our rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott, but he passed another test in my eye.
What do you do when you're down by three scores?
Rally the troops. You make the plays that are available to make and get points where you can get points, while at the same time realizing you can't do it all yourself.
The quarterback of the next 10 to 15 years has arrived
We won't have to live through another batch of QBs like Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson, or Ryan Leaf for some time. We have the next Franchise quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. An esteemed list that includes; Roger Staubach, Don Meredith, Danny White, Troy Aikman, Tony Romo, and now Dak Prescott.
Prescott showed the ability to win games in the NFL when teams made him do it.
Defenses attempted to take Ezekiel Elliott away and make Dak Prescott beat them all season long. And on many occasions, including Sunday, he did just that; beat the defense in front of him.
We saw a quarterback who can not only make plays with his arms and his legs, but also win the mental side of the game. He made adjustments to what the defense was throwing at him. The biggest thing -- to me -- that showed a ton of maturity was "living to fight another day."
For Dak Prescott, punts aren't a bad thing.
Let's also give the coaching staff a ton of credit as well. When they got him on the field, they saw in him the reason to pass on Nick Foles and Josh McCown. They and the other quarterbacks on the roster got him prepared to play every week and he did that pretty much every week.
Only the New York Giants were able to "figure out" the offense. Every other NFL team left scratching their head about the way they played against the Dallas Cowboys offense.
No Longer an Identity Crisis
Over the last several years, the Dallas Cowboys have found an identity as a physical run-first football team.
They've committed serious resources to the offensive front and established the Dallas Cowboys as the premiere running team in the NFL. And everything that the Cowboys are about is built on the foundation of that offensive line.
The core of the offensive line is still very young in offensive line years. They'll be protecting Prescott and paving the way for Elliott for years to come. They will likely replace Ronald Leary with La'el Collins and have to find someone to replace Doug Free, but the core of the line, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin, will be here for a long time.
Solid Building Blocks
The defense, while showing flaws, has some really nice pieces to be excited about.
Anthony Brown has a chance to be a player on this team for years. Maliek Collins is looking like the three-technique the team's been looking for since the beginning of the Rod Marinelli era. Don't forget about Sean Lee and his first-team All-Pro performance.
Byron Jones, who admittedly played his worst game at the worst time, is still a heck of a player. J.J. Wilcox is likely going to return and showed marked improvement as the year went on; he may have a chance to unseat Barry Church at the strong safety position.
And guess what?
The defense will receive an injection of talent from a couple of 2016 draft picks. Projected middle linebacker Jaylon Smith and defensive end Charles Tapper (who I'm really looking forward to seeing) look like they will be ready to go at least by training camp.
Still Got Those X-Factors
While there's a good chance Terrance Williams and Brice Butler are with another team in 2017, the team will return its two leading receivers in Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley. Bryant has always been great, and he showed it again on Sunday with his best game of the season, and at the most important time.
Cole Beasley, who led the team in receiving in 2016, is now considered one of the best slot wide receivers in the NFL. I expect him to continue to get better. He is now the second receiving option for the Dallas Cowboys.
Continuity is Key
The coaching staff continues to get better, and with maintained continuity they will continue to grow in their communication, game planning, and execution. It doesn't seem like Marinelli or Scott Linehan are going anywhere and I think that's for the best. For Dak Prescott, having continuity in the coaching staff can be huge to his development.
After years of the front office bungling the draft and free agency, I now have high expectations and a high amount of confidence in the front office. Every offseason they're going to make the right moves and the right draft picks to make the team better.
Jerry Jones, Will McClay, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett have figured out how to balance the scouting reports with the coaching desires. And they're just getting started if 2016 is any indication of what's to come.
A Bright Future
The organization as a whole is getting better and that is translating to success on the field.
Be disappointed in the outcome of the game. Be disappointed that a team who looked ready for a deep run got beat by a future hall of Famer who played his tail off. Losses happen, but the winners learn and grow from their setbacks.
With Dak, Dez, the OL, Elliott, and the coaching staff, I have a ton of belief that by this time next year the Dallas Cowboys will be poised for yet another deep playoff run.
Only this time with a much different result.
What is your dream scenario for the 2017 offseason to help the Dallas Cowboys contend again next season?
Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?
Since becoming the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Rod Marinelli hasn't had too many of his former players follow him to Dallas. In fact, I can only think of one… Henry Melton, and we all know how that turned out.
I don't know about you, but I found that a little strange. It's pretty common for coaches to try to bring some of their players with them when they accept a new job. Familiarity goes a long way in the NFL and former players can also help make the transition easier for everyone.
Strangely enough, Rod Marinelli hasn't really been afforded that luxury, whether it was his doing or not. But, there is a free agent who played under Marinelli's tutelage in Chicago who might make sense for the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Shea McClellin.
Rod Marinelli was the defensive coordinator in Chicago when the Bears decided to draft Shea McClellin 19th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Marinelli likely had a big say in that decision, and if he still feels the same, a reunion could be in order.
Shea McClellin started his career in the NFL as a 4-3 left side defensive end playing opposite Julius Peppers, but was also viewed as a potential Brian Urlacher replacement. He showed flashes of becoming a solid defensive end his first few years in the league, but was eventually moved to linebacker, where he seemed to find a home for himself.
After his contract expired with the Bears, the New England Patriots decided to bring him aboard to help with their linebacker depth. He only ended up starting four games for them in 2016, but made some memorable plays to help the Patriots become the Super Bowl champions.
Unfortunately, the 2017 season wasn't very kind to him. His entire year was wiped out due to a concussion, which probably had a lot to do with why they recently released him.
This of course could be good news for the Dallas Cowboys. They currently need some depth at the linebacker position and Shea McClellin could provide that, if he's healthy. The healthy bit here is key, because he has had problems with concussions in the past.
If McClellin is indeed healthy, he could bring a versatile skill set to the Cowboys defense. His best spot is probably at strong side LB (SAM), but I think he could play middle linebacker (MIKE) as well. He also could provide depth at defensive end, the position he played to start his NFL career.
With the LB depth a concern, Shea McClellin makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, his past history with concussions is a red flag, but it also drives down his asking price. I think he would definitely fall into that "bargain shopping" mentality the Cowboys have been using these last few offseasons.
He probably wouldn't be viewed as a very important signing, but you still need these types of players on your team in order to succeed in the NFL. Let's see if the Dallas Cowboys agree.
Do you think a Rod Marinelli and Shea McClellin reunion is in order?
Redskins Have Not Had Success With Former Cowboys
Now that he's signed with the Washington Redskins, cornerback Orlando Scandrick joins a lackluster list of former Cowboys players and coaches who have gone from Dallas to its historic rival. The history of these moves is ugly for Washington, going back over 40 years, and can't have their fans too excited anytime they sign an ex-Cowboy.
The most recent example was just last year with defensive tackle Terrell McClain. After a strong season as a 15-game starter in Dallas, McClain got a four-year, $21 million deal to join the Redskins. He missed four games with injuries and was only credited with two starts; hardly what the team wanted given the money they paid.
Before him it was Jason Hatcher, whose 11-sack season for the Cowboys in 2013 got him a four-year, $27.5 million deal from Washington. Hatcher would battle knee injuries for two season, getting only 7.5 sacks from 2014-2015. His early retirement in 2016 brought an abrupt end to a disappointing tenure.
Continuing the legacy of defensive linemen was Stephen Bowen, who Washington paid a shocking amount of money ($27.5 million over five years) to in 2011 to pick up in free agency. Bowen had a great first year for the Redskins with six sacks and 16 starts, but injuries would soon cost him 14 games from 2013-2014. He was eventually released after only one standout season in four with the team.
Going back even further, DT Brandon Noble joined Washington in 2003 after being a full-time starter for Dallas for over two seasons. He would miss all of 2003 with a knee injury, have an unimpressive year in 2004, and then missed all of 2005 with more health issues. He retired after being released by the Redskins in 2006.
Orlando Scandrick won't be the first cornerback to go from Dallas to Washington, or the best. At age 32, Deion Sanders was released in 2000 by the Cowboys and then got a huge seven-year, $56 million deal from the Redskins. This came less than a year after Daniel Snyder bought the franchise and was desperate to get them relevant again.
The Sanders move backfired horribly. Even after a solid season by his lofty standards, Primetime was disgruntled with both the coaching staff and his increasing struggles as an aging player. He suddenly retired after just one season of the seven-year contract.
Washington also tried to tap into the Cowboys' glory days when they signed receiver Alvin Harper in 1997. Harper had left Dallas in 1995 and spent two years with Tampa Bay, but had not carried over the same success he enjoyed playing in the Dallas offense.
The Redskins hoped that reuniting him with Norv Turner, who had been Harper's offensive coordinator and was now their head coach, would help Alvin get back to form. But between ongoing injuries and the absence of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith as teammates, Alvin Harper was never the same guy as when he won two Super Bowls in Dallas.
The failed poaching attempts go back many more decades, another one being running back Calvin Hill. The fourth-leading rusher in Cowboys history and a four-time Pro Bowler while in Dallas, Hill joined Washington in 1976. He served as a backup only, averaging only 3.8 yards-per-carry as he played behind the likes of Mike Thomas and John Riggins.
The bad history doesn't stop with players. The aforementioned Norv Turner, who was one of the hottest assistant coaches in history after the Cowboys first two Super Bowl wins in the 90s, was hired as the Redskins' head coach in 1994.
Turner's run started with a whimper, drafting quarterback Heath Shuler third overall in that first year. Shuler would go down as one of the biggest QB busts in NFL history
Norv's Redskins never seemed to recover from that blunder. He only had two winning seasons and one playoff appearance from 1994-1999, and was fired midway through the 2000 season.
Far more recently, Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan left the team in 2015 and took the same job in Washington. He didn't get to bring the offensive line or DeMarco Murray with him, though. As such, the Redskins have remained one of the league's worst rushing teams for the last three seasons. They fell to a new low of 28th in the NFL in 2017.
~ ~ ~
Of course, none of this means that Orlando Scandrick won't have success in Washington. But with the Redskins generally the most mismanaged team in the NFC East, all of the Dallas players and coaches who've gone there have not walked into good situations. For all that Cowboys fans love to complain about Jerry Jones, he handles the owner and GM roles better than any pair Washington's had in almost 30 years.
Given the nature of the rivalries, we naturally can't wish success for Scandrick or anyone else who leaves Dallas for a division opponent. With the track record we just discussed for Washington, it's not something I'll be losing any sleep over.
Xavier Woods, the Real Reason Cowboys Didn’t Pursue Tyrann Mathieu?
It's not uncommon for Dallas Cowboys fans to zero in on certain free agents in hopes that they will bring their talents to America's Team. In fact, just about any "big name" player to hit the open market is often linked to the Cowboys in some way or another. That was the case when the Arizona Cardinals decided to move on from Tyrann Mathieu.
Once Tyrann Mathieu became available, Cowboys fans immediately wanted to see him with a star on his helmet. But, despite the fans petitioning, the Cowboys brass seemed to show almost zero interest in the former Cardinal.
The decision to not pursue Tyrann Mathieu certainly didn't sit well with a lot of Cowboys Nation, but I think it was the right decision.
Despite Mathieu's perceived talents and youth (he's just 25), the Cowboys weren't interested in paying the price to bring him to Dallas, especially since they already have a similar player on their roster.
It may sound crazy, but I think the real reason the Dallas Cowboys didn't show much interest in Tyrann Mathieu is because of Xavier Woods.
I honestly believe Xavier Woods and Tyrann Mathieu have a similar skill set. Both players are little undersized to be a full-time safety in the NFL, but each of them have the versatility to play several different roles in the secondary.
Mathieu may have been listed as a safety on the Arizona Cardinals roster, and now the Houston Texans, but the truth is he played mostly out of the nickel/slot in his professional and collegiate career. That is where he is at his best, and the same can be said about Xavier Woods.
As a rookie, Xavier Woods showed his versatility with the Dallas Cowboys by playing a variety of different roles in the secondary. His versatility was one of the reasons the Cowboys decided to trade up in last year's draft to acquire his services.
His name might not carry the same kind of weight as Tyrann Mathieu right now around the league or amongst NFL fans, but I don't think Xavier Woods is that much of a drop off talent wise.
Personally, I believe Mathieu is starting to decline a little as a player. I think injuries are starting to take a toll on his play, although it may be minimal. I actually prefer Xavier Woods' upside, especially when you take into account the difference in salaries between the two.
Surprisingly enough, Xavier Woods might just have been more productive in 2017 then Mathieu. Woods started just four games and finished the season with 42 tackles, three passes defensed, and one interception. Mathieu on the other hand started all 16 games and accumulated 78 tackles, one quarterback sack, one forced fumble, and two interceptions.
As you can see, Xavier Woods was almost just as productive as Mathieu in nearly a third of the playing time. What's even more impressive about this is that Woods accomplish this as a rookie.
Of course, all of this is speculation, but I for one am not all that upset the Dallas Cowboys missed out on Tyrann Mathieu. I'm willing to bet on Xavier Woods being able to do everything Mathieu can and at a fraction of the cost.
Were the Cowboys right not to pursue Tyrann Mathieu?
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