The Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys almost always seems to be on the hot seat. For Jason Garrett, that has been true nearly his entire tenure. There is a segment of the Dallas Cowboys media and fan base that has been so spoiled by the Super Bowl Championships of the 70s and 90s that anything less than that is a catastrophic season.
For those of us who are a bit younger and/or newer fans of the team, we've seen the flip side of the greatness that made the Dallas Cowboys America's Team.
For many of us, Jason Garrett's tenure has been the best run of success that any of us has known. I didn't become a fan until the Dave Campo era, and we all know what a disaster that was. Bill Parcells was good, but didn't deliver the high hopes for success that many in Cowboys Nation were hoping for.
We seemed to like Wade Phillips the person more than Wade Phillips the football coach, and it's clear that he's much more suited for his coordinator role than as the head coach.
That brings us to Jason Garrett, whose teams in the early going were very top-heavy with talent and had little depth.
Those first three years were quite frustrating. The Cowboys were on the brink of the playoffs for three straight years, only to lose in week 17 each time and head home early.
In 2014, Garrett and the Cowboys far exceeded expectations and looked primed to advance to the NFC Championship game (and perhaps the Super Bowl), and yet had to go home earlier than we expected.
2015 was a disaster of the highest order. The team was able to hang around until late in the season -- despite horrendous quarterback play -- because of the ineptitude of the NFC East.
2016 looked to be a disaster after what happened to Tony Romo in week three of the preseason when he injured his back, yet again, and the Cowboys turned to rookie Dak Prescott to lead the team. 2016 was a magical season up until the slow start by the team at home against Green Bay that they couldn't fully recover from.
That brings us to 2017.
The expectations for the Dallas Cowboys have reached some epic proportions. While many around the NFL have soured on the Cowboys and decided to follow the "sophomore slump" narrative, many -- including Vegas -- have the Cowboys as a serious Super Bowl contender.
Dallas has been as high as 7-1 to win the Super Bowl next February and now sit with the third best odds at 8-1.
While we all hope for a Super Bowl, the reality is that only one of the 32 teams in the NFL will get to raise the Lombardi Trophy. As we've seen in Dallas in two of the last three years, even when you're the favorite, things don't always go your way.
For me, I don't need a Super Bowl for Coach Garrett to keep his job. There are goals the team must accomplish to keep Garrett and the other coaches off the hot seat.
First, I think they need to have at least a ten win season and a playoff appearance.
With the apparent increase in difficulty in strength of schedule, the Cowboys may not win 13 games again this season. In fact, I'd bet against that. Not because they are a worse team or a bad team, but because they have a lot of good teams on the schedule in 2017.
Getting into the playoffs is the first goal, but once the Cowboys get there, they need to make some noise. Again, that might not mean a Super Bowl Championship, but it needs to mean a deep run to at least the NFC Championship game.
The "Jason Garrett can't win big games" narrative is already out there. In order to douse that fire, he needs to get his team deep and be competitive.
Secondly, I think we need to see some progression from Dak Prescott. There are ways for Dak to improve in 2017, and Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Wade Wilson need to make sure that occurs.
Their jobs depend on the development of Dak Prescott.
Third. The team's defense needs to show, at the very least, slight improvement.
The front office spent valuable draft capital to infuse the defense with some young talent. They need to take a step forward.
Rod Marinelli's tenure has been average at best, as evidenced by the average defense they've put on the field. Known for taking away the football, the Cowboys have struggled in that department.
With the additions in the secondary they've made, the Cowboys should be better at corralling interceptions this year.
With a ton of questions along the defensive line, Garrett will need Marinelli to find another diamond in the rough and for Taco Charlton to be a first round talent.
The Dallas Cowboys look stocked for a long tenure of competitive football with their franchise quarterback, elite running back, All-Pro offensive line, and hopefully an emerging defense.
This is the deepest team that the Dallas Cowboys have put together since the early 90s.
I love the direction in which Garrett has led the Dallas Cowboys and I think he will be the coach to lead them to their sixth Super Bowl win. While I think he keeps his job if they come up short in the playoffs again, the time to make that return to Championship glory is now.
As the saying goes, "there's no time like the present."
Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract
DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.
According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.
DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million
This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.
Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.
This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.
Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.
There is risk on both sides, of course.
Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.
Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.
Cowboys DE Randy Gregory Reinstatement Decision Due Soon
The Dallas Cowboys should know by the end of this week if Defensive End Randy Gregory will be reinstated by the NFL from his indefinite suspension.
Gregory, who has missed nearly two seasons with drug-related bans, requested in May for Roger Goodell to allow him to return to football. The exact date of the request isn't known, but multiple sources put it somewhere around May 18-20.
According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL has 60 days to rule on a reinstatement request. That would put the approximate deadline no later than this Friday, July 20th.
Gregory was a second-round pick for Dallas in 2015. He was considered to have potentially elite pass-rushing skills but red flags about behavior and drug use hurt his draft stock.
Obviously those warning signs were warranted. Over three seasons, Randy has missed 30 out of 48 games due to suspension.
But reports from around the Cowboys organization and others who've dealt with Gregory rehabilitation efforts are positive. His appeal request appears strong, backed up by several testimonials that he's turned his life around.
Will Roger Goodell agree? Will Randy Gregory return to the Cowboys 2018?
We should know the answer soon.
Dak Prescott Ranked as Third Least Consistent QB in NFL
Last season could've gone a lot better for Dak Prescott. After a remarkable rookie season, he wasn't able to meet the very high expectations put on him after leading the Dallas Cowboys to the #1 seed in the NFC in 2016.
Inevitably, the "sophomore slump" managed to get to Dak, even though the numbers make it seem worse than it really was. From his 13 interceptions in 2017, not even half can be completely blamed on him. However, even though he made improvements in his game, it's fair to admit that there was indeed, a slump in his second year in the NFL.
Earlier this week, NFL.com published an article listing the most and the least consistent quarterbacks in the league last season. The way the list works is measuring "their average 2017 swing in week-to-week passer rating." In the list, Dak Prescott is listed as the third least consistent QB in the league, with only Cam Newton and Derek Carr behind him.
Just like the Dallas Cowboys' had a roller coaster for a season, constantly shifting between winning and losing, Dak Prescott also struggled at remaining consistent. It makes a ton of sense, of course, for the Cowboys' 9-7 season had a lot of swings throughout the year.
At times, the team was missing its most important defender in Sean Lee. At others, Tyron Smith and/or Ezekiel Elliott weren't on the field either. This is not an attempt to excuse Dak, for he is partly at fault here, as is the entire team.
From week 10 to 12, Dak failed to throw for a touchdown but ended up throwing five interceptions. Later in the season, failing once again to get a TD pass in two straight weeks, he threw for two interceptions at Oakland then another two when hosting the Seahawks in Dallas.
In a season that will likely determine his future with the Dallas Cowboys, Dak needs to find a way to be more consistent week after week regardless of circumstance. Hopefully, with an improved offensive line and with Ezekiel Elliott leaving every suspension drama behind him, his offense will put him in position to have his best year yet.
In 2016 and in 2017, his Total Quarterback Rating has been in the top 4 among all quarterbacks, per ESPN. Now, this is not a stat that tells the whole story, but it does give you an idea of each quarterback's play. In a run-first offense and with a safe passer like Dak, I'm sure consistency will not be hard to deal with for the young QB next season.
As long as he takes advantage of the new set of targets he'll have at his disposal and his offense's powerful running back with recently-signed draftee Connor Williams, this offense will look a lot more like the one we saw in 2016.
We know Dak Prescott has a lot to prove. He has to make longer throws, throw more aggressively to get his receivers open, and more. But consistency is just as important. In order to be continuously successful and to be a contender year after year, you need that in your signal-caller. Even if key players on the team are down, he needs to be able to shine. It's a sixteen-game season, after all.
It's time for Dak to prove he can handle that.
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