It was about this time two years ago when Lee and I created “A Cowboy Nation”. In the beginning Wow! The posts weren't so great, but over time we grew and they got better. Then last year I met Bryson at “Cowboys Nation” and together we created the site you see now.
I was born and raised in Arlington, Texas so being a fan of the Cowboys has been in my blood from the beginning, 36 years ago. A Cowboy Nation was started just to have an outlet for my joys and frustrations of being a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, nothing more and nothing less.
In December of 2004 my family and I moved to Houston, Texas to help take care of my wife’s mother after we lost my Father-In-Law to Cancer. Not being in the Dallas area around all my Cowboys friends is really what set these wheels in motion.
During my years of being a Cowboy fan there has been one person whom I have had a lot of admiration for, and just truly enjoyed when it comes to what is happening with the Cowboys. So a couple of months ago I reached out to him about the possibility of him participating in an interview with us.
I really never expected him to actually do the interview, after all he has nothing to gain by helping out a couple of guys he has never met, with a blog! But he gladly accepted the invitation, and now we are very proud to present to you our very first interview! With none other than long time Dallas Cowboy columnist Mickey Spagnola!
DCN (Inside the Star): As a professional sports writer, what is your process for reading the new outlets, such as blogs?
Depends on their credibility. If they are creditable, I’ll check in, otherwise I don’t even bother, especially when blogs come from bloggers who don’t cover the team on a daily basis. I don’t consider blogs news outlets unless they are from a professional news-gathering outlet.
DCN (Inside the Star): When you write an article or blog post, or even answer Mick's Mail - what qualities do you really try to convey and emphasize to the fans? For instance, do you aim to be more technical, or freely opinionated? Is there a difference in your goals for your blog vs your newspaper articles?
Tell the truth. Give people accurate information. No different. Blogs are just faster. More immediate, which you have to be careful of, because sometimes in the effort to be fast with information you do not take care to be as accurate as you should always be. Sometimes being first is not always best, which was one of the better qualities of newspapers in the days gone by because writers had more time to collect information than say the radio or TV.
DCN (Inside the Star): How is DeAngelo Smith developing so far? What do you think he needs to do to succeed at this level?
Just learn the game. Gain more experience. I really like how athletic he is and how competitive he is. He already seems to be a quick learner, and I’d imagine he’ll be a huge contributor immediately on special teams.
DCN (Inside the Star): Of all the rookies this year, which one for each defense and offense do you believe will make the biggest impact in 2009 and why?
I really don’t see a rookie making a huge impact on the offense this year, unless you want to count kicker David Buehler if he makes the team as a kick-off specialist. I mean if you don’t count Buehler, then only four of the 11 draft choices were offensive players, and one is competing to become the third quarterback and one is sort of a project offensive lineman. The other two, Jason Phillips and Manual Johnson, would seem headed toward the practice squad. On defense, well, that will depend on opportunity. None figure to be starters. Keep an eye on the outside linebackers, Victor Butler and Brandon Williams, if they have an opportunity to rush in passing situations and the DB’s on special teams.
DCN (Inside the Star): Coverage of the team seems to lead to the denigration of the chemistry of the team and that between Tony Romo and Roy Williams. From what you see, is the chemistry getting stronger for the team?
Chemistry always is strong when you win and before you play a game. I can say, though, the coaching staff has to be pleased with how hard these players have competed in the OTA and minicamp practices. When you compete hard, you tend to bond and when you bond chemistry improves and is strong enough for when things go bad, which they will at some point in a season for every team.
DCN (Inside the Star): What do you think would be the best possible rotation for our 3 headed beast of a running game?
So the running game which gained one yard or less last year on nearly 30 percent of the carries already is a beast is it? That has yet to be proven. You are only a beast running the ball when the other teams know you are going to run it and you do run it successfully. My guess is Marion Barber will open and close and be used in short-yardage and goal line situations. You will see Felix all over the formations and on third downs and Tashard Choice will get a series here and there in the middle quarters. But have seen no evidence to suggest I’m totally accurate.
DCN (Inside the Star): Based on the draft, the free agent acquisitions of Keith Brooking and Gerald Sensabaugh, and the resigning of Miles Austin; which do you believe will impact the organization the most?
Sensabaugh since that position has the most room for improvement. Remember, Zach Thomas wasn’t a liability out there last year, so if Brooking is at least a push, then that’s good. As for Austin, he can be, but again, how many snaps will he earn and how much do you want to count on from a guy with 19 career catches? But Sensabaugh, with his coverage ability should be a huge improvement over Roy Williams, especially since it doesn’t seem he needs to be substituted for on the nickel defense.
DCN (Inside the Star): There is a perception that you tend to write more fluff when writing about controversial players and issues, what do you say to that?
Fluff is in the eye of the beholder I guess. My other guess is, if that’s accurate, just because I don’t take out a big hammer and bludgeon the subject away that could be the perception. But I do think I make my point in a more literary way. Plus, I’ve always valued being right more than being tough. Seems to me these days being tough but ultimately wrong is accepted more so than being fair and accurate.
DCN (Inside the Star): Is it difficult to manage calling things as you see them with regards to the coaching staff, players and decision making of the Cowboys, since you are employed by them?
Not as long as I’m right. Not as long as I have all the facts and don’t buy into perceptions. No one here has ever, ever told me to change a story or take something down, so in my mind there would be no need to feel that way. Sometimes when you are around things and really know what’s going on then calling things as you see them means you see them far differently than the people who don’t really know the truth. Sort of like those stories at the end of the season on why the Cowboys charter flights were routinely taking off late. I was on those charter flights, so I knew that wasn’t accurate and when they did leave late I knew why. Sometimes it’s more difficult when your opinion stands alone. It’s easy to follow the crowd.
DCN (Inside the Star): How did you manage to end up as the top guy for the Cowboys and what is your official title?
I was hired back when the Cowboys were trying to make their website something more than just a normal PR site as most professional team sites were back in 2000. And they decided they wanted opinions, meaning a columnist.
DCN (Inside the Star): Do you believe that the influx of youth is going to build a team that can contend for years to come? If not, what is necessary to solidify the future?
You can’t wait until you’ve grown old to get younger. Must be a constant process, and the Cowboys obviously have made a concerted effort this off-season to prevent growing old. The idea is to sustain goodness over a long period of time and avoid the inevitable down cycles that cripple franchises, as the Cowboys were in the late ‘80s and at the turn of the century.
DCN (Inside the Star): It appears as though the Cowboys are in the middle of making an organizational change in the way they look at players (looking more at their character issues). Do you feel that this is true? Or are they simply trying to relieve some of the scrutiny and will be back to collecting players that require team supplied body guards?
Chances are the days of running a rehabilitation locker room are over for now. If you build from within, especially continually bringing in good, young players, then you avoid getting into situations where you become so desperate for help you take chances on guys with questionable character. If you already are a successful team, with a strong locker room, then you are better equipped to take chances on guys like Pacman Jones. But a team still seeking success is far too fragile.
Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches
Lamentablemente, la temporada 2018 de los Dallas Cowboys ha llegado a su fin. Lo hizo cuando el equipo visitó Los Angeles para intentar sorprender a los Rams en su propio campo en la Ronda Divisional de los playoffs. Ni siquiera con una invasión exitosa de la afición de Dallas pudieron ganarse un pase al Campeonato de Conferencia. En vez de eso, los Cowboys estarán viendo desde casa y la afición estará preguntándose: ¿qué sigue para los Dallas Cowboys?
Parece ya una tradición anual que no podemos dejar pasar. Este momento en el que comenzamos a cuestionar, una vez más, que entrenador es digno de quedarse en la franquicia y cual debe irse. En esta edición de "Cowboys en Español," hablaremos específicamente de los tres principales coaches en el equipo.
Coordinador Defensivo Rod Marinelli
El futuro del coordinador defensivo de los Dallas Cowboys no se puede tratar sin mencionar a Kris Richard. Fue la defensiva la que llevó al equipo hasta la postemporada y fue la unidad que cargó al equipo en muchas de sus victorias. Incluso con la llegada de Amari Cooper a Dallas, la defensiva fue siempre el pilar de la franquicia esta temporada.
Jaylon Smith y Leighton Vander Esch sorprendentemente se perfilaron como uno de los mejores duos de linebackers en toda la liga, la línea defensiva fue muy exitosa con Randy Gregory y DeMarcus Lawrence en los extremos y con la grata sorpresa que fue Antwaun Woods en el centro. La secundaria vio la mejor temporada en la controversial carrera de Byron Jones e hizo un excelente trabajo con un talento decente, pero no genial.
Todo esto, y el haber terminado como la sexta mejor defensiva en puntos permitidos (20.2) y la quinta mejor contra la corrida (94.6), hace a Rod Marinelli merecedor de una ronda de aplausos. Sin embargo, Richard probablemente merezca más aplausos.
Fue Richard quien revolucionó la defensiva de los Cowboys y la convirtió en un grupo mucho más agresivo. Fue él quien implementó jugadas de "blitz" en el equipo (algo no común con Marinelli) y quien en un punto de la temporada, comenzó a seleccionar las jugadas desde la banda.
En esta posición, me parece que los Dallas Cowboys tienen que enfrentar la dura decisión de decirle a Marinelli que es tiempo de dejarle el puesto a Kris Richard. Si bien no se llevó un trabajo de head coach, es muy probable que le llovieran ofertas a Richard si no se hace con el título de coordinador defensivo en Dallas.
Coordinador Ofensivo Scott Linehan
Con un equipo tan polémico como este, la afición de Dallas no concuerda en muchas cosas. Sin embargo, lo hacen al hablar del pésimo trabajo que Scott Linehan ha realizado mandando las jugadas en ofensiva. Realmente ha sido doloroso de ver y es en mi opinión, el mayor problema que tiene el equipo actualmente.
Semana tras semana, fuimos testigos de pésimas decisiones en la ofensiva de los Cowboys. Vimos como el equipo se aferraba a llenar la caja de defensivos antes de correr el balón con Ezekiel Elliott. Vimos incontables pases pantalla en tercera oportunidad y largo. Pero no solo es lo que vimos, sino lo que no vimos.
A pesar de la innegable habilidad para correr el balón de Dak Prescott, Linehan se rehusó a explotar esta versatilidad de su QB. Vimos pocos "QB sneaks," jugada donde el mariscal toma el balón bajo centro y consigue poco yardage detrás del empuje de su línea ofensiva.
Siendo honestos, los Cowboys llevan dos años sufriendo por este coordinador. Dejarlo volver en el 2019 sería una decisión ridícula. Los comentarios en la radio de Jason Garrett no lucen prometedores, pero realmente sería una sorpresa que fueran ciertos. Linehan no debe volver... punto.
Head Coach Jason Garrett
El futuro en esta posición será muy debatido durante los próximos meses, pero de los tres que hemos mencionado es sin lugar a dudas el más seguro de todos. Nos guste o no, Jason Garrett estará al frente del equipo la próxima temporada.
Garrett está lejos de ser un gran coach y aún le hace falta demostrar que puede cumplir las aspiraciones de los Cowboys de traer un sexto Trofeo Lombardi a casa. Pero siendo honesto, este equipo debería tener suficiente con Garrett y un par de buenos coordinadores. ¿El problema? No hay un par de buenos coordinadores en el equipo.
Sin embargo, Garrett ha demostrado que cuenta con el amor y apoyo de sus jugadores. Ha demostrado que efectivamente, puede ganar la división (lo ha hecho en tres de los últimos cinco años). Este año el equipo le dio la vuelta a la temporada después de comenzar 3-5.
Lo más preocupante en mi opinión, es la falta de urgencia para despedir a Linehan, por ejemplo. Quizá a puerta cerrada Garrett quiere un cambio en su staff, pero nunca lo sabremos.
Jason Garrett no es un coach excelente, pero podría ser suficiente para llevar a los Cowboys a un Super Bowl si tiene un equipo adecuado. Todo parece indicar que su trabajo está seguro (incluso más de lo que pensamos) así que es tiempo de esperar que se arreglen sus coordinadores.
2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch
As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.
It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.
Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.
No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.
This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.
There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.
Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.
Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.
What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?
Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.
Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.
They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?
Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.
Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.
Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.
Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.
Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.
This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.
The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.
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