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The Dallas Cowboys Can’t Keep Living in the Past

It’s hard to believe that in the year 2020 we’re still talking about Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Sean Lee but that’s the current reality for the Dallas Cowboys. As offseason chatter surrounds these three veterans, I can’t help but think that Dallas needs to do a clean sweep and stop clinging to past stars.

The biggest story of this offseason is the contract of Dak Prescott, and rightfully so. He is the present and future of the organization, as were Ezekiel Elliott and DeMarcus Lawrence last year. Along with Dak this year are the contracts for Amari Cooper and Byron Jones, both key pieces for the team’s long-term success.

Beyond the players, a massive change in the coaching staff has dominated the news cycle. Jason Garrett is gone after over a decade with the team, and not to mention almost every assistant coach that was under him in 2019. It’s now Mike McCarthy’s show.

2020 marks the chance for a true new era of Dallas Cowboys football. 2016 felt like the start of one, going from Tony Romo to Prescott and Zeke. But the constant feature of Garrett as head coach brought with it some consistent disappointments.

With this fresh start before us, does it make since to keep hanging on to past stars with waning effectiveness?

Dez Bryant hasn’t been with the Cowboys since 2017, let alone played a snap of real football, but talk of a return to Dallas is one of the hottest current topics of our offseason. And, as the comments from this recent article show, Cowboys fans are very split on the issue.

Jason Witten and Sean Lee are both free agents in 2020 and fans seem split on wanting them back. The arguments abound about how much they should be paid and big the roles they would have should be, if they should return at all.

But I’m not looking to get into the individual merits of Dez, Witten, or Sean today. This is more about a larger question; why are some of us still clinging so hard to these yesteryear stars? What have they done for us lately?

Or, frankly, what have they ever done for us?

Jason Witten
Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten

I’m going to zero in on Witten for a minute because he’s the biggest name of the bunch. Not only is Jason the best to ever play tight end for the Cowboys but he’s one of the best in NFL history. He is the only one of these three players who should have no problem making the Hall of Fame.

Jason Witten is the modern “Mr. Cowboy,” the guy whose leadership and example the cornerstone of the organization for almost two decades. None of his contemporaries, even Tony Romo or DeMarcus Ware, can challenge his spot in franchise history.

But like Romo, Ware, Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, Dexter Coakley, Jay Ratliff, Miles Austin, Roy Williams (the safety, of course), Flozell Adams, and plenty of other notable players we’ve had during this era, Witten is as guilty as any of them for the same lack of results.

The Dallas Cowboys have spent about 25 years trying to get back to Super Bowl glory and haven’t even been to a NFC Championship game. For all the individual greatness that some have brought to the table, it’s been over two decades of general disappointment for the organization.

I’m not saying Witten didn’t do his part, same with Bryant, Lee, and others I mentioned. All were championship-worthy players at times.

But this is about the franchise. This is about sending a message that the Dallas Cowboys are done with mediocrity.

At this point in their careers, sadly, neither Dez, Jason, or Sean can provide much more than average performance. They might flash their talent on the occasional play, but we have to look at this from the “Moneyball” perspective. What are they going to bring every game and ever down?

Rest assured, none of Bryant’s past touchdowns, Witten’s vast collection of catches, or Lee’s interception highlights are going to help us in 2020.

Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy Impressed with Quarterback Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy and QB Dak Prescott

Now I’m not saying that Dez couldn’t help as a fourth WR, or that Witten or Lee couldn’t be useful backups. But analysis of their potential in those roles should be based solely on what they can do now, not muddied by any nostalgia or difficulty letting go.

Even if their on-field roles on the team are reduced, these are all players whose presences and voices in the locker room would be larger than those roles generally deserve. And with a new generation of Cowboys players needing to take on leadership roles, that could create some confusion.

This is especially true now with McCarthy as head coach. Just as he’s made a point to purge almost all of Jason Garrett’s former assistants from the staff, there’s logic behind moving the past leaders and stars from the roster.

The new era can’t be stymied or sabotaged by relics from the last one.

Could keeping Witten or Lee, or reuniting with Bryant, turn out to be a good move? Sure, it’s possible. But it will have nothing to do with their past legacies as Cowboys players.

The danger for us in our evaluation, and even the Cowboys front office, is allowing feelings to get in the way of objective analysis. We all have to look at these guys as if they’d never played a down in Dallas; comparing them to other available talent based solely on 2020 potential.

What could Blake Jarwin have done this year without Witten eating up his targets? What might a Cedrick Wilson turn into if he doesn’t have Dez crowding him out next season?

If we keep hanging on to these old guys then we’ll never know. And in the process, the Cowboys may keep themselves stuck in the same middling place they’ve been in since 1995.

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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  1. I don’t know what your problem is with the Cowboys giving Dez a chance if he works out then he could help your team if he does not then you move on that easy.

    What happens when you bring in some other boat anchor that can’t play you let them go and move on it’s that easy so I really don’t see your problem with the Cowboys giving Dez a shot ?

  2. I personally don’t think that Dez should have ever released. There wasn’t anything wrong with his talent, there was a chemistry issue between he and Dak. He is just as good as anything that we currently have.

  3. Dak is not the answer. I bet he has a huge regression under McCarthy and it will result in another rebuild season for us. Dez deserves another shot too!

  4. Kess,
    I noticed you conveniently “forgot’ to provide any depth to your assertion about Lee. True, he was a back up, BUT thank goodness he was! Who would have done as good of a job as he did, were he not here? That’s okay, I can wait for you to dig up something, anything? Are you of the opinion that LVE will be “fixed” back to what he was before the injury? You do know that his career could be short lived, right? Witten was serviceable at best, so I do agree with you on that and if Dez were of ANY good to another team he wouldnt be out of football 3 plus years. You never provided any good sound reasoning not to have Lee back. I wouldn’t pay him a ton. Maybe the problem is solved before its a problem.if a different team does offer him more money.
    Just wished you would have provided more than a passing glance at Lee and Dez.
    I know you need clicks, as all online writers do. It is just annoying for a reader to see the headline, than have no substance or at least not much substance.

  5. Based on how he finished the season, coupled with the fact we are thin at LB, Lee deserves to be back. If you can get him real cheap Dez might be able to pump some energy into the receivers. Would rather have him than Tavon (oh I’m hurt this week) Austin. And as much as I respect and admire Witten, unless he agrees to be a VERY PART TIMER) let him go to NY. We need what Jarwin and Schultz can bring. Unless he wants to coach.

  6. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH LEE OR WITTEN THEY BOTH TOOK PAY CUTS AND PREFORMED AS THEY ALWAYS HAVE. I DON’T KNOW THAT I CAN LISTEN TO THE CRAP A COWBOYS FAN IN 92 LOL. LEE LAST YEAR ONE OF HIS BETTER YEARS. WITTEN YOU NEED 10 YARDS THROW IT TO HIM AND BLOCKS GREAT LIKE NORMAL. BRYANT. IS ANOTHER STORY. I’VE BEEN A COWBOYS FAN SINCE 1964 AND IT KILLS ME WHAT PEOPLE WILL DO TO GET SOMETHING POSTED AND THERE COMMENTS. THE YEAR IS STARTED BUT THEY ARE A LONG WAYS BEFORE THEY START MAKING CUTS. AND FOR THE ONES THAT WILL TAKE AN OFFER FROM ANOTHER TEAM. SUPER BOWL IS A WEEK AND 3 DAYS OLD COME ON.

  7. You no what to do get the x man back or I be there to help the cowboys out and iam dam good going on 62 yr old peace call me if you need help 267 254 5231

  8. I think Dallas should move on because mentally there present take affect on the new guys that’s trying to reach there potential being a formal player makes the new guys think they don’t have a chance to make the team or be a back up they both should try out for broadcast or a coaching job somewhere else.

  9. 1) No more Jeff Heath. Zero Interceptions last season.
    2) No more Jason Witten. 86th in yards per catch among all tight ends in the NFL.
    3) Let the market decide the worth of Sean Lee and then make your decision.
    4) Bring Dez back as a hybrid Tight End, not a WR. I think he could excell in that role.

    • All hells, Dez as WR. I like that idea. Actually it would be awesome. As opposed to Chuck above, I’m 56. I’ve been a Cowboy fan since 1973. Yeah, even during the dark times. I NEVER refer to the Cowboys as, “We”, because I don’t play. Army stuff, yeah, “we” because Desert Storm I played the game with 1AD. In other leagues news, I’m glad the Legends Football League is evolving into the Extreme Football League (X League) but hate that the Los Angeles Temptation (Ogom Chijindu was the best!) will now be the Los Angeles Black Storm. Hopefully they will keep the black and silver! We should think of supporting the XFL Dallas Renegades. I think Jerry Jones did Romo wrong.

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