As we move into the 2018 NFL offseason, members of the Cowboys’ front office are receiving calls and interview requests from other teams around the league. Specifically, Will McClay has reportedly been contacted by the Houston Texans to interview for their General Manager job.
Some of Cowboys Nation is obviously wondering why this would be a big deal, considering how disappointing the Cowboys have been two of the last three seasons. Yesterday, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com tweeted out a list of the top-10 most “homegrown teams,” with the Dallas Cowboys landing at number five.
For those interested in homegrown players on a team the top 10 teams were 1. Packers 1. Bengals 3. Ravens 4,. Texans 5. Cowboys 6. Raiders 7. Steelers 8. Chiefs 9. Broncos 10. Patriots
Homegrown means that the player was drafted — or signed as an undrafted free agent — by a particular team and they remain a member of that team today.
Basically this shows that the Cowboys have placed their focus on building through the NFL Draft, rather than paying for free agents or negotiating trades with other teams.
This seems good, right?
Well I think it is “good,” at least to a point.
It’s important to practice smart team building, and finding talented players throughout each round of the draft (whether it’s Zack Martin in the first or Xavier Woods in the sixth) is critical.
It is also important to not overpay during free agency, or give out contracts which will stop you from paying the good players you draft.
But at the same time, if you plan to sort of ignore free agency and only focus on the draft, you better hit on those picks. Particularly those picks in the first two rounds.
We all know how risky the Cowboys tend to be with those second round picks, and the selection of Taco Charlton in round one last year remains questionable.
An obvious issue with the Dallas Cowboys right now is their depth. They are a top-heavy roster with some of the best players in the league leading the way. However, as you get past the top 7-10 players, the roster does get a little shaky.
This isn’t terribly different from anyone else around the league, but it is worth noting the absence of one linebacker can shake this run defense to the point they can’t stop anyone. Or the absence of their left tackle, no matter how great he is, can render the entire offense ineffective for three straight weeks.
Of course, there will be a drop off from Tyron Smith and Sean Lee to their replacements, but the fact that the units fall apart without those players is troubling.
This all starts at the top.
In the front office, the Cowboys have avoided adding veteran depth to their roster. Sure, they signed guys like defensive tackle Cedric Thornton and cornerback Nolan Carroll, but neither of those guys were even on the roster for most of the 2017 season. And both were disappointing when they did get the chance to play.
Then there’s the coaching staff.
The Cowboys’ offense is clearly very personnel dependent. Their offense isn’t anything too hard to prepare for, as Broncos head coach Vance Joseph alluded to back before week two, but it is hard to stop.
Or, at least it was.
When the Cowboys are healthy and have their stars available, they don’t need to rely on strong schemes or “creative” play calling. They were simply better than most of the defenses they faced. They were able to line up and win. But when Tyron Smith is injured, Ezekiel Elliott is suspended, and Scott Linehan needs to prove himself further, the offense sputters.
So, while remaining homegrown and keeping continuity within your franchise sounds great, knowing when to look to the outside and make external moves is an important part of team building as well. Balancing these two effectively is hard to do, but is the mark of a great front office.