If you followed my Countdown To Kickoff series during the offseason then you were exposed to the Greatest Dallas Cowboys To Wear Each Jersey Number. If you started off at the beginning then there's a good chance you gave #95 a read. It belongs to one of the more memorable Dallas Cowboys of All-Time... Chad Hennings.
Chad is still up to great things in his life past the NFL. As an alumni of the United States Air Force who served for four years defending this great nation, Chad has a work ethic unknown to you and I. He's put that to great use as he's shared his life with the world through his three books:
- It Takes Commitment
- Rules of Engagement: Finding Faith and Purpose in a Disconnected World
- Forces of Character: Conversations About Building A Life Of Impact
Most recently Chad Hennings has partnered up with Crown Royal's Your Hero's Name Here program.
Your Hero's Name Here is a great chance to honor the heroes in your life. Soldiers, firefighters, and community leaders are all heroes to us. The project, and Crown Royal, give one winner a trip to the Brickyard 400 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July. Jeff Kyle was the winner in 2015 thanks to a nomination by his loved ones. Nominations? Tell me more!
It's simple. If you have a hero in your life that you want to honor, and we all do, go to the Crown Royal Website and nominate your hero. You can also visit Crown Royal on Facebook for more information. After all nominations are sent in five finalists will be chosen. The winner out of those finalists will receive naming rights to the Brickyard 400, just like Jeff Kyle who you can see, and a VIP experience at the race. Keep in mind that the other four finalists will also attend the race.
Chad was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to sit down and chat with me about all of the great work Your Hero's Name Here is doing. He also gave some really great insight to the state of the current Cowboys and talked about his days strapping on the cleats as well as serving in the military.
Here's my conversation with Chad...
RJ: So Chad, tell me all about Your Hero's Name Here! What is it and what can Cowboys Nation do to help?
Chad Hennings: Your Hero's Name Here is such a great way to honor heroes in someone's life. There are firefighters, police officers, military members both active and retired that people have the opportunity to honor. All people have to do is go to the site (crownroyalheroes.com), nominate their hero, and that person is eligible to win a trip to the NASCAR Brickyard 400 race in late July.
It's a great opportunity to highlight those individuals that you deem to be a hero.
RJ: What interactions have you had with Your Hero's Name Here so far? What drew you into it in the first place?
It was really great to get an opportunity to do that. A lot of people rarely get to do that and it'll be impossible to do it in the future when the Cowboys move to their facility. Any time that we can hold up, embrace, and honor the individuals that serve I believe that we need to do it. In our current culture many responders have been seen in a poor light.
It's time to honor those heroes.
RJ: The NFL seems to be on board with honoring heroes as well. This Sunday is the official "Salute To Service" game across the league. What do you think about that, and what do you think it would have been like to have a game like that when you were playing?
Chad Hennings: The Salute To Service game would have been great for me! Back when I was in the NFL I was one of the only guys who had actually served and played. It's special for us as a country to acknowledge our military members and honor them for what they do on a day to day basis.
I've been there and I know what it's like to be in a foreign country and flying into combat. It's a lot of sacrifice and it can be very emotional and taxing. Military members have done that many, many times so to honor them is great.
RJ: You've been in the Air Force, had tours in foreign countries, and played in the NFL. What similarities would you say there are to being in the military and playing football?
There is a lot of preparation in the military. You're analyzing things like bomb film and what the enemy had that could hurt you. You have to put together a gameplan wherever you're going. Life happens in the battle area in the fog and friction of war, and you have to change your tactics. When you accomplish your mission you have to debrief.
All of those lessons translated extremely well to playing for the Cowboys. You have to evaluate your own practice film and figure out what you can do to improve your game on any given Sunday. Even things like adjusting your tactics at halftime... you have to constantly be adjusting in the military.
The camaraderie among teammates is similar, too. Obviously the biggest difference is that in the military you're putting yourself in harms way to a point where you're willing to give your life.
At this point it really hit me that I was talking to Chad Hennings. This is a man who is a part of the football team that I love, yes, but he is literally an American Hero. I got a bit nervous and fumbled on the next play.
RJ: Chad, being drafted in 1988... what was it like to play for the 1989 Cowboys and experience going 1-15?
I just about exploded in embarrassment. You're welcome, Cowboys Nation. Always here to entertain. Chad was extremely gracious about it and laughed it off. He's everything that you'd want him to be, guys. I picked myself up and continued!
RJ: Apologies! Well, surely you experienced some level of adversity. What's that like and how is a team like the current Cowboys handling it? What's going on in the locker room and how do you lead a locker room like that?
Chad Hennings: It's all a process - a belief in yourself. You have to rely on the hard work you put in during practice and in the weight room. You practice week in and week out. The older guys who have been there and tasted that success are relaying it to the younger guys. "Hang in there. Don't give up."
You have to continue to do what it takes to win games and ultimately that hard work will pay off. We faced some adversity in 1993 when we started off 0-2 after winning the Super Bowl the year before. People thought that the wheels had fallen off of the bus. You have to have a 'Don't Panic' mentality. Believe in one another. The veteran players are setting the example for the younger guys.
RJ: What's the mentality of an American Hero turned NFL player? Do you think you had an advantage in terms of mental discipline thanks to your military experience?
Chad Hennings: Well I had flown 45 missions before coming to the Cowboys. You have to be able to fail and take the opportunity to learn from some of the best guys, and you have to put that all together.
Flying in a combat zone and putting those lessons in on the practice field... there was so much carry over. You have to keep the main thing the main thing. You can't focus on the what-ifs like, 'What happens if you get shot down?'. If you focus on those things you'd never be able to accomplish your mission.
Do your job to the utmost ability that you can and trust one another.
RJ: How do you think the current Cowboys can put it together this season and on Sunday Night against Philadelphia?
Establishing the run game will open up Dez Bryant. It's not rocket science it's just doing the Xs and Os of going out and executing your gameplan. We have the talent - even without Tony Romo right now. We have the talent in guys like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten that can win.
RJ: With Darren Woodson going in the Ring of Honor last week, what's that like for you? Is it surreal to see names like his hanging up there and reflecting back on all of those incredible things that you guys accomplished together?
Chad Hennings: It's definitely surreal to see guys in the Ring of Honor. When you're in the heat of the battle you don't think of those things. I look back on those teams... and we were teams that just dominated on both sides of the ball. To look back on it now, it's special.
To point at the Ring of Honor and Hall of Fame names... it's something that I'm going to tell my kids, and their kids, and my nieces and nephews. I was fortunate enough to play with some of the best. Darren Woodson is one of the best, he's totally deserving of the Ring of Honor and I think he'll be the next guy for the Cowboys in the Hall of Fame.
RJ: Which current Cowboy reminds you most of yourself?
Chad Hennings is a hero himself. He's served our great country in combat and played professionally in its greatest game. He's someone who we all look up to for many different reasons.
We here at Inside The Star are very grateful to Chad for the time that he gave us. We're extremely proud of all of his great work that he's done in his after-football life. He is one of the finest men to have ever worn the Star.
If you have a hero in your life that you want to nominate then remember that you can Right Here. Make sure that you're following Chad Hennings on Twitter to stay in the loop with all of the great things that he continues to do to serve.
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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