Is there really such a thing as a Monday morning quarterback for the season? That's about what I feel like for the last few weeks watching the (Va)Giants not only make their way into the playoffs but win out the hard way – one game at a time; no byes, no advantage, just good tough football.
I still firmly believe Eli Manning is a child and want Osi to slam him to the turf every time he sulks and pouts after a play gone awry, but he did his part. So congratulations go out to the Super Bowl Champs.
Now that I've vomited and rinsed, let's talk some Cowboys…
Jason Garrett had his blunders – and oh were they stupid and agonizing to watch – but overall I think he made a positive impact on this team. He's still too iffy about the running game but it doesn't appear his personal style as a quarterback has anything to do with it. When he had a capable back he used him and we were better off for it. Here's hope DeMarco Murray returns to health quickly and hasn't lost a step. Garrett can call the plays and do it well when he's got capable – not great – receivers, tailbacks, and quarterback on the field. The opposing defense is an after-thought, this team can make any play they want when they execute properly.
Houck – He's been a great coach for us in the past and that's probably the doom for us. He's been good and Garrett knows that as well Jerry Jones does and for his past contributions we would have never fired him, damning these ‘Boys to an archaic running game that doesn't work anymore. So my hat's off to him for retiring. What's coming next is a surprise for us as we get a change of pace, but with Murray we should be able to make it work. Fingers and Toes crossed!
When Dave Campo returned I thought it would be a good thing. At the time we still had Roy Williams I playing and he was in a slump, a slump that Campo couldn't bring back despite his success with Roy years earlier. And Maxie wasn't getting it done either. Both are solid changes and again I have to thank Maxie for making the change, considering the Cowboys offered him a new contract.
The offense for next year really boils down to three things – The line, the back, and the receivers.
The offensive line got a shade better this year with Tyron Smith coming into his own. He's an athletic giant on the line and though he had a few mistakes, the rookie proved himself. Now the question is will he make the switch to the left side and will he be able to perform at the same level on the left – I say yes. He's young and learning.
But Doug Free is a pussy cat who needs either a major attitude downgrade or a nice and cozy bench to keep warm. He's got all the make-up of a good lineman but he's just too tame – he needs a bigger bite to go with his bark. Phil Costa is simply bad. I know he's young and has a lot of learning to do but damn son, how do you forget the snap count more than once? I think he's scared and unfocused. He snaps when he should hold, and he snaps badly in anticipation of the defensive linemen coming.
DeMarco Murray has the ability to become a great running back in this league and he was well on his way when injury forced him to a stop. He's got speed, vision, quickness, and he's tough enough to withstand a few tackles (attempts). Add in Felix “Greatest running back in the NFL – NOT” Jones to give some relief and a change of pace at the line and we've got a duo that is easy to maintain, easy to game-plan for, and about as effective as any tandem in the league since Smith and Moose tore it up back in the day. High praise I know, but it's mostly for Murray. That kid has something special.
By the by – anyone else find it strange that two years in a row, in the first meeting of each year the Giants have broken one of our primary producers bones? First Romo's collarbone and now Murray's ankle… Just saying.
Dez is doing whatever the hell he's doing to undermine his potential, but we still have Austin (Fad) and Robinson (Hype). Miles Austin has flashed brilliance a few times but a number one receiver he is not.
His break out game against the Chiefs a couple of years ago was mainly due to the fact there was little to no game footage on him – he was an unknown for the Kansas defense. He had some good games after that but once an off-season came and went he lost his edge.
Bryant is our number one and Robinson our number two. Robinson isn't real flashy but he's consistent and can make the big plays when the ball is within his arm span. He's just one of those pieces of a puzzle that you can't make a full picture without. Then again, if Bryant doesn't step up and focus and execute then we're in trouble. During the final minutes of the Jets game it was all Bryant. People look back now and say it was Revis verses Bryant but it really wasn't. It was a short route and Bryant had position on Revis – just not the position Romo was throwing to. Bryant goofed on a fundamental aspect – run the route, catch the ball.
Meanwhile Romo had a great year, but ESPN pointed out the tell… Romo had a record passer rating and yet the ‘Boys were middle of the pack on scoring. Those are two things that shouldn't go together. I don't blame Romo – he did his job. He threw short, long, low, high, whatever was asked of him. He had his mistakes as any QB does but his team didn't help. His receivers need to focus and run their routes, they need to be mindful of where defenders are, and they need to catch and then run. And in Bryant's case he needs to run up the field a little more. That kid is like a hamster in a wheel – legs are churning but he's not going anywhere. As an added bonus, we see him take on three and four times the hits for it too.
There's no great mystery to this offense for 2012 – if healthy they do what they did mid-season with a solid mix of run and pass. It worked. Not because the other guys' defense was off but because it was a powerful combination that worked.
They say defense wins championships and while that's hardly accurate in the full spectrum of things, it's a damned fine place to start for these ‘Boys. The line played well for what they are – you don't get huge sack totals from the line in a 3-4. They're merely for blocking and redirection and they did both effectively.
The linebackers fell a little short though. I'm not saying the line shouldn't do more because they always should, but the obvious miscommunications and confusion behind them was a serious problem that can't be repeated without the same 8-8 result. Lee was a bright spot and from what I'm hearing he'll take over signal calling next year. He's young and that could creep up into an issue but for now he's our top defender hands down.
I love Ware, the guy gets it done, but in 2011 he was swimming upstream far too often. Spencer again lacked any demonstration that warranted his praise or pay. James and Brooking signed their names next to Missed Tackles most of the year and missed assignments the rest of it. A few rookies got some play and managed when more than managing was needed – not exactly their fault what the other linebackers and secondary do or don't do.
I'm one of these types that believes you can't cure an illness by fixing a symptom and 2011 seemed like a whole lot of symptoms were trying to be fixed with personnel. Look at ILB – Brooking and James, two very experienced and previously dominating forces rotating at the head spot, signal caller. Why on earth do you need that much experience to point out a run or pass? It comes down to the coach usually, the guy saying what's to be done when a certain condition is met. Maybe it was the lack of an off-season or maybe it was an overcomplicated scheme; either way, these Cowboys did not get it. Some plays worked great, others were just disastrous. But who says the coach is to blame for this teams defensive woes?
T-New is all over the place. From hurdled to beat, missed catches to penalties, he's simply not worth a rookie salary anymore. It was said during the year that the game plan was to play him off his receiver 10 yards, we universally balked at that and for good reason – why is a formerly great cover guy playing 10 yards off the ball? Because he lost a step, guts, and because all the corners were playing off! They simply did not have the confidence in the corners to play press or man coverage and get it done. 70 yard TD passes over their head will do that. But why is Ryan making a defense centered around making up for what his guys can't do? It makes no sense.
I see the ‘Boys drafting hard in the DB market this year to get some fresh and able blood at corner. Jenkins played with a ton of heart but he missed the mark as well – probably due to his constantly injured shoulder, probably. But Scandrick was horrible, as was Ball. Sensabaugh actually didn't do as bad as the others but he's still just an average safety. Of course when you have catastrophic failures in every other part of your coverage game, an average guy looks like a new contract.
Many think he should be dumped as well as Newman, Scandrick, and Ball but the basic truth is that they're going to have a hard enough time replacing the corners, never mind adding a safety into the mix. Elam isn't great but he's a good start. Essentially, the safety spots are both filled by average players who aren't glaring liabilities at present, so leave them and focus on the liabilities around them. Down the line, theoretically, you'd reach a point where those average safeties become the liability and that's when you deal with them.
Rookie kicker had a few tough games, but let's remember two of them were directly because of his own head coach. Garrett icing him certainly did the trick and literally cost us the game as he made the first kick, but it also paved the way for the second iced kick by showing how well it worked on our boy. Bailey is good though, and will get another season to show it.
McBriar says today that he feels the surgery to remove a cyst believed to be causing his nerve issues is all he needs to return to form, and a mere recovery is all he needs. He's a rock at punter and we need him back. He's also a free agent and will just be getting healthy again around the week free agency starts. I predict we'll resign him if he can pass the physical and kick the ball. His skill isn't a question, only his health.
The special teams units looked good all year – most of the year – had a few run backs gone too far late in the season but otherwise it was a solid unit for once. And luckily DeCamillis is here to stay for another year.
All-in-all this team needs a lot of work and much of it is now down to new players – through the draft, free agency, and our own talent pool (practice squad and backups). The offense needs health and the defense needs better players. It's at least an easy problem to figure out, even if the solution isn't quite so clear.