Yesterday, ESPN released the picks from their "experts" for the NFL's various annual awards. As you would expect, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott got plenty of love but there were also a few surprises. One of those has me especially peevish; Jason Garrett didn't get nearly enough respect in the Coach of the Year #Cowbpoll.
The only awards where no Cowboys were mentioned were Defensive Player of the Year and the Comeback Player of the Year. I was a bit surprised that Sean Lee didn't get a single vote for DPOY but it was a stacked group this year. Morris Claiborne might have qualified for the Comeback award if he hadn't been injured again, but no other Cowboys would've made sense.
Here are the categories where at least one Cowboy received a vote:
Offensive Player of the Year
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan received the logical first-place finish for this award, He was second to Drew Brees with 4,944 passing yards and second to Aaron Rodgers with 38 touchdowns. What really put Ryan over the top was his 117.1 passer rating, the fifth best in NFL history.
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott finished in second place. He received one first-place vote, five second-place, and one third-place from the 13 ESPN panelists. That means five of the voters didn't pick Elliott at all.
Ezekiel Elliott's rookie season was 178 yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's record for first-year running backs. This is especially impressive given that Elliott sat out the Cowboys' last game to rest for the playoffs. In spite of this, he still led the NFL in rushing by over 300 yards.
Unlike the quarterback-dominated MVP race, running backs tend to do well with the OPOY award. DeMarco Murray won it in 2014 after his monster season with the Cowboys. Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson have also won in recent years.
The OPOY Award tends to be more about statistical production than the MVP Award. That's why Ezekiel Elliott did so well and also why Dak Prescott didn't get a single vote. Dak was not in the Top 10 in yards or touchdowns this year.
Offensive Rookie of the Year
The young Cowboys dominated here, as you might have predicted. Ezekiel Elliott ate up 12 of the 13 possible first-place votes. The one he didn't get went to Dak Prescott. They also split all of the second-place votes; 12 going to Dak and one to Zeke.
The next-closest offensive rookie was Jack Conklin, a tackle from the Tennessee Titans. Saints WR Michael Thomas was close behind him. However, there really was no competition to the Dallas duo.
After starting the year well but falling off later, the Eagles' Carson Wentz received just a single third-place vote. You'll always have September, Philly fans.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Nobody was taking this one from the Charges' Joey Bosa, who had 10.5 sacks in just 12 games and won in a landslide. In second place was Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who many Cowboys fans wanted over Ezekiel Elliott during the NFL Draft.
I assume there was at least one Dallas-area writer on ESPN's panel, because Maliek Collins managed to get one third-place vote. You could argue that it should have been more.
Collins' five sacks this year was equal to star players like Ndamukong Suh and Timmy Jernigan. The most by a defensive tackle was nine sacks from Geno Atkins. Only a few other franchise tackles like Kawann Short and Aaron Donald had more sacks than Maliek.
Coach of the Year
Aye, here's the rub! Jason Garrett came in second place to Bill Belichick. Garrett received three first-place votes, five second-place, and two third-place votes. Belichick dominated with nine first-place votes.
A few things irk me here:
- Garrett received 10 total votes, meaning three panelists didn't vote for him at all. That's a slap in the face for the coach with the best record in the NFC, especially since he'd have likely tied Belichick's 14-2 record if he'd played starters in Week 17.
- Garrett's success came with a rookie quarterback. That's not impressive enough for you? How about a rookie QB who had no expectation of starting until the last week of the preseason? Still not enough? Really?
- Belichick is getting his ass kissed for going 3-1 without Tom Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo is a former second-round pick who's in his third year in the Patriots system. It would be embarrassing if they didn't win with him.
- That one September loss for New England was a 16-0 shutout at home to the Buffalo Bills, who went 7-9 this year. Every team can have a bad day, but that's a pretty glaring blemish for a guy with supposed genius. I don't care who the quarterback was.
- Have I mentioned that whole Tony Romo controversy that Jason Garrett had to deal with?
I'm sorry, but you can't tell me that Bill Belichick was more impressive this season. Garrett faced greater challenges and was equally successful. His team had more internal issues to confront and a far tougher division to get out of. Whatever criteria these panelists went by to pick Belichick, Garrett matched or bettered him in every way.
Thankfully, ESPN's occasional bozos don't decide the award. I hope the Associated Press will have more sense.
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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