I can remember hearing the news this past summer; the Dallas Cowboys have traded a 7th round pick for the rights to Rolando McClain. My initial thought was he's retired, how's that going to work? Well, come to find out. Jerry had already talked with McClain during the summer and with the connection between Jason Garrett and Nick Saban, it started to make sense how it how unfolded.
I remember the laughs and hearing, “Jerry, you're so stupid” and “the Dallas Cowboys are the dumbest team in the league”. I responded to someone on twitter who said that, in fact, and he told me that me and the Cowboys needed to do our homework and find out about McClain's history.
I laughed at that response because Jerry Jones gave up a 7th round pick, but if McClain gets the retirement bug again at some point, then the Ravens would get nothing. THERE IS NO RISK.
Needless to say, I heard nothing back from him…
I also remember hearing people say he wouldn't make it out of training camp, and when McClain would sit out a practice those same people were screaming “I told you so”.
However, training camp came and went, and McClain was still there. So on to the preseason games. Some people were saying he had lost his ability and he didn't look like he wanted to be there, while others were saying they didn't think he was that good to begin with.
But after each preseason game you started to see some change. You started to hear how he was progressing and was pushing for the starting job at middle linebacker; a job that was supposed to be locked up by Justin Durant.
Fast-forward to the week of the first game and word came out that the starting linebackers were going to be Bruce Carter, Justin Durant… and Rolando McClain.
Besides a handful of fans and the Cowboys organization, not too many people gave him much of a chance at all. He's proved those naysayers wrong just by winning a starting job. But that wasn't enough. The media would say the only reason he got the starting gig was because there was nobody else to compete with in this horrible defense.
Week 1: San Francisco 49ers
So the first game of the season rolls around and we finally get to see what McClain is capable of. Well, I don't have to tell you what he did, most of you know by now. But suffice it to say that he showed a lot of people there was something there in his game.
But for those that didn't know, here's a rundown of how he played.
He was quick to the ball, he was good at fighting off blocks, he was hustling his butt off, and he was laying some bone crushing hits. I literally thought he might have put his helmet through Colin Kaepernick's chest at one point. When I saw him wrapping people up for a tackle, he wasn't just taking them down, he was aggressively slamming them into the ground. Frank Gore was the recipient of a couple of those tackles.
The Cowboys lost that game because of turnovers by the offense. So McClain's effort was left in the shadows. The media still had them as the worst defense in the league despite only giving up 14 points and holding the Niners running game in check.
Week 2: Tennessee Titans
So, on to game two. The Titans had just defeated the Chiefs in Kansas City and nobody was giving the Cowboys a chance to win this game. All the fantasy gurus were saying start everyone from the Titans offense, that it was gonna be a slaughter.
Didn't work out that way though, did it?
Instead, the Cowboys were the ones wielding the sledgehammers. And the one guy who stood out the most from that defensive effort in Sunday's win over the Titans was Rolando McClain. He started to show why he was a top 10 pick in the first place.
McClain was a flat-out beast. DeMarco Murray was a beast on that day, too, but Rolando McClain was a nasty man-beast against the football Titans.
I literally thought he was going to kill people by the way he was slinging folks around like rag dolls. And it wasn't just one tackle… it happened on almost every tackle he made. And when he wasn't slinging running backs and wide receivers around, he was sacking Jake Locker and making one of the best interceptions I had ever seen.
Week 3 and beyond
This defense isn't the same defense we suffered last year and the media, for some reason, are just now catching on to that. Rolando McClain is a huge reason for that. He's brought instinct and a physicality and nastiness to this team that's been lacking for years and years. Word is out that he gets teammates pumped up to a level they've never been. Not too sure about this, but I think that sounds like a leader to me.
I knew the dog was always in him as a player, but I wasn't sure if he was where he truly needed – or wanted – to be in his life. After hearing McClain speak about playing football again, I don't have any more questions about him.
After the Titans game, McClain talked with reporters about this very subject:
“I didn't deserve to play football, so to say,” McClain said of retirement. “I wasn't all the way there in the game. So you ain't going to be the best if you ain't focused on the job, so I needed to take time to do what was important, get myself right, and I got that right and now I'm in a great organization, got some great teammates and just happy to play football again.”
McClain also said this about Jerry Jones calling him this past summer:
“I'm thrilled he did give me a call,” McClain said Sunday. “There weren't many teams that I would have left the couch for, and this is one of them, and I'm glad that he did.”
I think McClain can be better. He's only 25 years of age and finally has the desire to play; he has the right kind of attitude to help his team win.
I know it's still early in the season and anything can happen… but like McClain saying he was glad Jerry called him, I'm happy Jerry Jones called McClain as well, and when it's all said and done I think we will all be happy about Jerry calling Rolando McClain.