Mediocrity is a scary word to be thrown around in the world of sports as it usually ends up with someone being fired. But on December 29th, 2013, after completing their third straight 8-8 campaign and missing out on the playoffs yet again, that’s exactly what the Dallas Cowboys proved to be, mediocre.
Then the unthinkable happened, Jerry Jones did what most fans have dreamed about since he ran Head Coach Jimmy Johnson out-of-town after winning back-to-back Super Bowls nearly two decades earlier; he took a step back from making personnel decisions.
After handing over the reigns to Head Coach Jason Garrett and GM Stephen Jones, Jerry assumed a role similar to the Queen of England; he’s become a glorified figurehead. This has become the most important factor to the resurgence of the Cowboys.
The first major change was the decision to be financially responsible for the first time in decades. The new regime decided to let All-Pro and future Hall of Famer DeMarcus Ware walk rather than overpay an aging star. For years, Jerry Jones was known for letting his emotions get the best of him and his checkbook. Performance based contracts are all the rage in Valley Ranch lately, which has been a brilliant move by the front office.
Players with a questionable history, like former top prospect Rolando McClain, are forced to play with a chip on their shoulder and earn their keep.
There has been a noticeable change in the way the team has drafted since the changing of the guard.
Gone are the days of the Cowboys reaching on prospects just to make a splash. This was never more evident than when the War Room decided to pass on Johnny Football in the 2014 draft and elected to bolster the offensive line instead. Zack Martin wasn’t a flashy pick, but he was the best option available and solidified what is considered by most to be the best offensive line in the league. As a former offensive lineman, I firmly believe that the game is won and lost in the trenches.
Flash forward to the 2015 off-season and it’s clear what the gameplan has been from day one: improve the defensive front.
They addressed this need in both the draft and free agency with the controversial signing of Greg Hardy. After taking CB/S Byron Jones in the first round, Garrett walked away with what may very well be the steal of the draft in Randy Gregory. Add in DeMarcus Lawrence from the previous draft, the brilliant signing of undrafted free agent La’el Collins, and it’s clear to see that the scouting philosophy has shifted. A philosophy that is geared towards building the infrastructure of the team. Who is the architect behind this new philosophy? That would be none other than Will McClay.
McClay’s importance to the Cowboys organization is evident with his three promotions in as many seasons. His new position is Senior Director of College and Pro Scouting after serving the 2014 season as the Assistant Director of Player Personnel. While the job titles have changed over the years, McClay’s task has remained constant: build the Cowboys into a perennial contender. Since being handed the keys to the War Room, McClay has done a phenomenal job at evaluating talent and building quality depth in the trenches.
While the second preseason game of the 2015 season left a lot to be desired overall, the young lineman that the Cowboys have acquired over the past few seasons flashes of brilliance.
It remains to be seen if the youngsters can play like that for an entire season, especially on the defensive side of the ball; but if the depth is half as good as it appears to be on paper then Cowboys fans are in for a hell of a season.
The final factor in the resurgence of America’s team is without question the new mentality that Jason Garrett has brought to the locker room. Since taking over for Wade Phillips, who makes Barry Switzer seem like General Patton, Garrett has brought a sense of accountability, discipline and aggressiveness that has been lacking within the organization since the aforementioned Jimmy Johnson era. One could argue that Bill Parcells brought that kind of demeanor to the sidelines but was fired before any major turnaround could take place.
Garrett and company have worked tirelessly to bring the right guys into the Cowboy's family over the past few seasons. Guy's that are prepared, in Garrett's own words, to "Finish The Fight."
One thing is for certain: the future is bright in Big D.
2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back
To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.
As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.
Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.
These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.
Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.
Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.
Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.
Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.
How The Tables Have Turned for 2019 Dallas Cowboys
The 2018 season was a two-part tale for the Dallas Cowboys. The first is the story of a mediocre 3-5 team that couldn't get it going offensively. The second part is about a football team that turned its season around, made the playoffs, got a win in the postseason and ultimately lost to the team that ended up representing the NFC in Super Bowl LIII, the Los Angeles Rams.
Surely, 2018 didn't go as planned. The storylines leading to last season are actually very different from the ones we're hearing today. Let's take a look at a few examples of how the tables have turned for the Dallas Cowboys.
The need for a true WR1
Last season, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys preached the philosophy of not needing a #1 wide receiver. While that could've sound encouraging at the time, once the season began the team was proven wrong. They did need a WR1. Fortunately, this season we won't have to worry about it. This year, Dez Bryant shouldn't be a discussion topic among Cowboys' fans.
Amari Cooper is in the house. And he's been pretty good since he started playing with a Star on his helmet. If we have conversations about the WR position, they will not be about who's the #1 guy. With Michael Gallup showing up late in the season, it probably won't be about who is #2 either.
Back on top of the NFC East
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys were not really the favorites to win the NFC East. The Philadelphia Eagles had just made history by winning their first Super Bowl ever and it seemed like the Cowboys would have to get a wildcard spot to play in January. Now it's the Cowboys back on top after sweeping the Eagles and turning their once 3-5 season around.
That of course, means a tougher schedule next season. However, it's nice to be back on top of the division. These two teams will surely have an intense race for the division title next season. Maybe we even see them both in the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Sean Lee's uncertain future
I'm pretty sure no one expected Sean Lee to be considered a potential cap casualty for the 2019 season. Even if he was, it would've probably been anticipating an injury or something like that. No one would've imagined that Leighton Vander Esch would be so good to take Sean Lee's job.
The Cowboys' first round rookie truly earned the starting role as the defense's weak linebacker and he should keep it. With Sean Lee set to return to the field, I'm sure we didn't expect him to be a backup by now. We'll have to wait and see if the Cowboys decide to part ways with him. As a fan, it would certainly be painful. But we can't deny it would be a move that makes sense.
It's a crazy franchise on a crazy league. Who knows how things will go from now on, but the Dallas Cowboys certainly look like a promising team heading into the 2019 offseason. Here at Inside The Star, we'll continue to update you with the latest on your favorite NFL team.
Cowboys en Español: Volviendo a la Idea de Earl Thomas
El año pasado, Earl Thomas fue uno de los temas de conversación más frecuentes para los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys. Después de que los Seattle Seahawks no le dieran su deseada extensión de contrato, Thomas se convirtió en un candidato a ser intercambiado de su equipo. Entre los favoritos estaban los Cowboys, quienes tenían una necesidad en su defensiva secundaria. Ahora que la temporada 2018 llegó a su fin, la misma necesidad por un safety de calidad está presente en Dallas.
Sólo que en esta ocasión, Earl Thomas no está bajo contrato con ningún equipo. Su último momento con el uniforme de los Seahawks fue en un carro de lesiones, donde salía lesionado en dirección a su vestidor. Esto mientras se despedía de su equipo con el dedo de en medio extendido hacia sus entrenadores y compañeros. Así concluyó su temporada y su carrera en Seattle.
Ahora, listo para cumplir los 30 años en mayo, Earl Thomas probará la agencia libre cuando comience en marzo. Y sin lugar a dudas, uno de los equipos candidatos a firmarlo serán los Dallas Cowboys. Es un equipo que a pesar de tener una de las mejores defensivas la temporada pasada, se vería muy beneficiada con la llegada de un profundo del calibre de Thomas.
A pesar de su edad y las lesiones, Thomas continúa siendo uno de los mejores en la liga. Su talento es innegable y tendrá toda la disposición de demostrar lo que vale cuando tome el campo la próxima temporada. Cuando llegue el momento, podríamos ver una guerra de ofertas entre varios equipos de la NFL para llevarse al veterano a sus respectivas ciudades.
La pregunta es: ¿estarán los Dallas Cowboys en esa guerra de ofertas?
Los Cowboys tienen espacio en el tope salarial. Sin embargo, este no durará mucho considerando que DeMarcus Lawrence está esperando su merecida y cara extensión después de jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia en 2018. Además, jugadores que aún están bajo contrato también estarán buscando ofertas este offseason.
Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, y Byron Jones están en la lista de quehaceres de la administración. Eso sin mencionar a Cole Beasley, cuyo contrato ya expiró y podría llegar a la agencia libre en marzo.
A pesar de esta complicada situación, los Dallas Cowboys deberían buscar conseguir a Thomas. Siendo sinceros, la defensiva tiene mucho talento y podría mantener su nivel en 2019. Pero hace falta un jugador en la posición de safety para llevar a esta unidad a otro nivel. Un nivel realmente capaz de ganar en postemporada enfrentándose a cualquier tipo de ofensiva. Sin importar que tan explosiva sea. Y además de esto, un jugador que sea capaz de robar el balón y hacer jugadas de impacto constantemente.
Cuando los Cowboys se enfrentaron a Seahawks en temporada regular, Thomas dio un buen ejemplo de esto interceptando en dos ocasiones a la ofensiva de Dak Prescott.
A pasos de un equipo de campeonato, un movimiento agresivo para obtener a Earl Thomas sería algo genial para Dallas. Vimos como los Rams de Los Angeles fueron agresivos al construir su equipo y llegaron hasta el Super Bowl este febrero. Quizá es tiempo de que Jerry Jones y compañía sean igual de agresivos y vayan por ese safety elite que la afición lleva pidiendo desde el offseason del año pasado.
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