To say that the Dallas Cowboys have been on a rollercoaster over the last half-decade would be an understatement. It’s been years worth of pretty talented teams that haven’t consistently performed at the highest level when called upon, and it’s left Cowboys fans scratching their heads more often than not.
This up and down rodeo began in 2014. Retired quarterback Tony Romo had the best season of his career with 34 touchdowns to just nine interceptions while completing 69.9% of his passes. DeMarco Murray led the NFL with 1,845 rushing yards and Dez Bryant led the league with 16 touchdown receptions. They went 12-4 and won the NFL East for the first time since 2009.
In 2016, the Cowboys landed Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott in the NFL Draft and took the league by storm. Elliott led the league with 1,631 rushing yards and Prescott was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and the Cowboys finished with a 13-3 record and captured another NFC East crown.
In 2018, the Cowboys once again climbed their way back to NFC East superiority. Lead by a top-seven defense, acquiring Amari Cooper, and Elliott’s second rushing title in his first three years, the Cowboys went 10-6 and made the postseason again.
In between all of that success, unfortunately, has been a lot of disappointment. In 2015, injuries to Romo and Dez Bryant derailed the Cowboys 2-0 start and they never recovered and went 4-12. In 2017, Elliott served a six-game suspension for domestic violence allegations after playing in the team’s first eight games (Cowboys were 5-3). The Cowboys managed to win nine games but missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Last season, the frustration came back again as the Cowboys went 5-8 in their final 13 games after a 3-0 start and missed the playoffs.
So now, as unpleasant as it’s been, the Cowboys are hoping this trend continues in 2020 because it would mean another division title and a playoff berth, and the moves they’ve made this offseason give that a great chance of happening.
It all started with the hiring of former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who had been the mastermind of the Cowboys playoff failures in 2014 and 2016. He went right to work building his staff by bringing in Mike Nolan to be the new defensive coordinator and implement a hybrid scheme with multiple looks. John Fassel, who has a history of producing good special teams units, was hired to fix this area for the Cowboys which was one of the league’s worst in 2019. Joe Philbin, who was a McCarthy assistant in Green Bay, was brought on as an assistant head coach and offensive line coach. Two other former McCarthy assistants, Scott McCurley and Jeff Blasko, were also hired to the staff. The former will have a new role in coaching the linebackers and the latter will assistant the aforementioned Philbin with the offensive line.
Leon Lett has been an assistant defensive line coach for the Cowboys since 2011, will return for his 10th season. He will work alongside new Defensive Line Coach Jim Tomsula, who spent the previous three years as the defensive line coach for the Washington Redskins, after spending eight years in the same role with the San Francisco 49ers.
Skip Peete, who was the team’s running backs coach from 2007-2012, has been brought back in the same role. He’s worked with former Cowboys running backs Julius Jones, Tashard Choice, Felix Jones, Marian Barber, and DeMarco Murray. Also, long-time assistant George Edwards will be the team’s senior defensive assistant. He’s no stranger to the organization, having served as the linebackers coach from 1998-2001. In the last six years, he’s been the defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, who have routinely produced one of the league’s best defenses.
That’s a lot of firepower on the sidelines, but the Cowboys retooled the actual roster as well.
Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are three veterans that will provide the Cowboys with solid starters defensively in 2020. Former All-Pro Defensive End Aldon Smith, who hasn’t played since 2015, was recently granted a conditional reinstatement and will give the Cowboys another presence rushing the passer from the edge. Also, Defensive End Randy Gregory is awaiting reinstatement as well.
The NFL Draft is where the Cowboys really added pieces for the foreseeable future. Wide Receiver CeeDee Lamb and Cornerback Trevon Diggs were absolute steals in the first two rounds and will be instant starters this coming season. In the third round, they drafted Defensive Tackle Neville Gallimore who will be a big part of a rotation with McCoy and Poe on the interior considering he can play both the 1-tech and 3-tech. In the fourth round, Reggie Robinson was selected as another ball-hawking corner to help bolster the secondary. In the fifth round, the Cowboys got yet another steal when edge rusher Bradlee Anae, a two-time Pac-12 All-American was selected to further boost the Cowboys pass rush. Finally, Center Tyler Biadasz was taken in the seventh round as a potential replacement in the future for the recently retired Travis Frederick.
Everything is set up for the Cowboys to make it back to the playoffs in 2020, but that’s definitely not a guarantee. Having the talent on paper and actually producing on the field are two different things. Nonetheless, it’ll be interesting to see how or if all these additions will get the Cowboys back to the postseason.