Despite the suffering I endured, I learned quite a bit about the little things in football. In a season where your expectations are marginal, you tend to not question all the bad things that can happen in a given season because you expected them. In 2007 my expectations were actually pretty low. Sure we were in the Play Offs the year prior, but we were all aware of our limitations at CB and so I felt are defense was going to get torched every week. My expectations came equipped with knowledge that this team was incomplete and could be exploited.
But in 2008, there wasn't a weakness to be found, for the exception of behind the QB and, hey, it's Romo, he doesn't get sacked. He's elusive. He's got a feel for the pocket. He knows how to avoid the defensive rush. Blah, blah, blah. CB was more than fortified with a healthy Newman and the additions of Pacman, Jenkins and Scandrick. Safety was manned by 2 Pro Bowlers. The LB's and DL had a decent rotation. It was going to be the return of the Dooms Day defense coupled with an offense that outscored every team in the league the year prior. My expectations, needless to say, left no room for any excuses for failure, for the exception of injury.
And then injuries happened, but still...I had questions. And a good many of those questions were answered by my incessant need to feed off all things Dallas Cowboy's football related in any sports site available. And believe me, despite all that I already knew about this game I love, I learned so much more than all my years combined in this season alone because of this failure to my expectations. What did I learn?
You can't buy a Super Bowl. My boyhood perception of how the Cowboy's played other teams was somewhat skewed. I felt, they didn't simply win. They man-handled their opponents. I'm not sure how I missed it, but in hindsight, those games were hard. Every one of them was a mountain for that team to climb. My memories of Emmitt Smith play out like a highlight reel. But not every run Smith made yielded yards. Not every game was won with Emmitt's feet. Irvin didn’t make the acrobatic catch to win every game. Aikman, in his time, wasn't considered a great quarterback with the likes of Dan Marino, Joe Montana, John Elway, Jim Kelly, Phil Simms, Randall Cunningham, Warren Moon and Boomer Esiason playing at that time. They were in fact fallible. And character, well, the undesirables were starters on that roster too. . But everyone played and played hard. They worked together. It wasn't exactly what you would call a great composition of talent, either. There were players playing above their station, as the Super Bowl MVP of 1995 might have indicated.
I learned about the power of belief. Belief is a strong word in the world of football. I watched the interview of Ray Lewis prior to the Baltimore game assured in my own belief that the Cowboy's would win having the stronger offense in a game that featured two very stout defenses. But after the interview, I had my doubts. Why? You could see that Ray Lewis believed. And since we all know that he is what makes that defense play beyond their individual reputations, I knew that entire defense believed too. And then, when I saw their offense play with that same sense of entitlement to the win in this game, absolute dread seeped in. And harder still about that game is the Cowboys repeatedly gave me hope in that fourth quarter, only to see those hopes crashed on a shore of missed tackles and missed opportunities.
It reminded of something I remember seeing throughout that successful 2007 season. Remember Romo’s smile? Sure I wrote several articles about the power of his smile and how the offense seemingly played better when he wore that on his face. But I never really delved in, I don’t think, into what that smile meant. But I think we all know that ultimately it meant he believed. He believed in the plays being called, the players that surrounded him, and his ability to do whatever he wanted with that ball without contention. A fumble here, an interception there, but the next time we saw him in the huddle, there was that infectious smile again saying something like “Hey, will get them this time.” And typically he was right. He generally always followed up a bone headed mistake with something to make you forget all about it.
Throughout the offseason following the draft and through the preseason I had a sliver of a doubt about rather or not this collective of talent could play as a team. But that doubt was constantly assuaged away with sports analyst abroad stating with utter confidence this Cowboys team was going to be a force to be reckoned with. Like no team I have heard about in the preseason in years prior, this Cowboys team was the talk of the town with their impressive role call at training camp. This highlighted by the Hard Knocks crews turned the Cowboys into the ultimate Hollywood team. And with that, I wondered what type of effect it would have on these Cowboys. But I wanted to believe what they sold us: That’s part of being a member of the Cowboys. You have to get used to that attention because the Cowboys are America’s team. I learned that no football team is bulletproof to distraction; no body is immune to acting different under the encouragement of the stage lights. These guys, million dollar contract or not, are just like any of us.
The Texans in years past with David Carr under center taught us about how important the Offensive Line is, regardless of the other talent present on the field. But once again I made the mistake of believing irresponsible sports analyst who stated that the Cowboys OL are only second to the Browns, in terms of strength. Then, as the season progressed, I learned how he came to that determination; not through observation, but pure stats and a popularity contest known as the Pro Bowl. How effective were the passing and running games in the year prior? How often did the QB get sacked? Of these players, who went to the Pro Bowl? The first two questions could be answered naming one player: Tony Romo. He made both Jason Garrett and the Offensive Line look great in 2007! I was there; I saw it.
The last question answered itself over time. The Pro Bowl, unfortunately, take’s 1/3 of fans votes. And let’s face it, how many fans vote for players outside of their team? A huge bias is in place in the voting, and well, it pretty much has rendered the game to serving as an ability for a ‘popular’ player to petition for more money on his contract. But because some sport’s analyst from a credible source said my OL was great and I wanted to believe it, my questions of this assessment initially didn’t go very far…not until their performance demanded I do so. And to be honest, I was disgusted. Because I watched these players in the offseason and I saw that they thought very highly of themselves for all the recognition getting poured on them when any Cowboy faithful who watched the 2007 season should know these accolades were completely undeserved.
And so it is in the game football. Fans and analyst alike are not impervious to misleading concepts. As a fan I don’t watch every game and can’t expect a sport analyst to watch every game of the previous season for every team he decides to write an opinion on. But the ultimate lesson here, regardless of whose formula it is that measures performance, they are all based on stats which doesn’t always tell the whole story.
This leads me to my next lesson learned. The media is a monster; the worse kind of monster. Remember Aliens with Sigourney Weaver? The media is that kind of monster. You see, their pretty dangerous in their own right, but then their articles act like those spider-looking creatures with tails (or tales if you prefer) that plant little eggs in you which hatch and create more monsters. See the parallel? Then we get all these disciples regurgitating what was said by a previous reporter with an anonymous source and the epidemic spreads.
Which brings me to the last lesson.
In the wanning moments of that dreadful season, everyone had an opinion of who should be fired, who should be released, and who should change as a player or coach. I've offered my opinion on these drastic changes a few times myself. Some have even suggested the Cowboys owner Jerry Jones should fire the Cowboys GM Jerry Jones and have started a fund raiser requesting donations of $5 or more to put said request on billboards throughout the city.
Word? You think that might work? Sorry, I sense an epic fail in the making. Maybe if it was just a strange coincidence that both these individuals had the same name, just maybe, that would work. But we are talking about a wealthy man who made his money in oil. I’m sure he saw plenty of billboards suggesting he fire himself to save the environment and we all see how well he took that suggestion. He bought a football team with his earnings. He didn’t spend it repairing the environment or donating it all to some note worthy cause, though I’m sure he’s made a few contributions here and there that is not a drop in the bucket to his accumulative wealth; he purchased a football franchise to live out the ultimate Fantasy Football League and has been doing so now for twenty years.
So, write your letters. Sing your songs. Make your jokes. But know your role. As a fan, you are static. Your opinion does not effect change even if you have a plane with a huge banner circle Jerry Jones mansion. I have said it before: That is the rub of being a fan of anything in general; you share in the success and failures of outcomes you have nothing to do with as a spectator. It is a frustrating existence when your team loses. But the human condition forces us to believe that we can control all things, which is why we argue, debate, fight, and go to war. This concept in life is bigger than just the game of football. It affects everyone and everything around us. And when you broaden your view to see the big picture and all that it encompasses, such as the war, the suffering that surrounds us, the news filled with inhumanity in a world dominated by humans (irony intended), things like a losing season of your favorite football team seems so small. And that is the biggest lesson of them all…
Zack Martin Got Paid, Is DeMarcus Lawrence Next?
Zack Martin's new contract became official last week as the four-time All-Pro received the long-term deal he's been looking for. Per Todd Archer, his rookie fifth year option now turns into a seven-year deal for $93.41-million dollars with $40-million guaranteed (42.8%), including a $20-million dollar signing bonus.
The total deal for All-Pro right guard Zack Martin is seven years for $93.41 million and includes a $20 million signing bonus, according to a source. As Adam Schefter reported, the guaranteed money is $40 million. The Cowboys created around $3 million... https://t.co/q8ovYSiQRg
The Dallas Cowboys and Martin's representatives worked all off-season to come up with a deal that would make Zack the highest paid guard in the NFL going into his fifth season. And as much as anyone on the team, he deserves it.
He's started every game in his four-year career. He's 28 years old and this contract locks him up through his prime.
With Martin's deal done, the Dallas Cowboys front office can now turn its attention to the next wave of players that will be ready for big-time contracts.
Let's look at who that is and what they could demand.
KD Drummond from the Cowboys Wire on USA Today had a great piece outlining what this deal means for the 2018 and 2019 salary caps moving forward. Per his math, for 2018, this deal gives the Dallas Cowboys an extra $3 million this year, leaving their cap space at a little more than $14 million.
For 2019, the Dallas Cowboys will have a projected $50-million dollars in cap space. Cap Projections courtesy of OverTheCap.com. $50 million in 2019 is far from the cap hell that everyone wants to tell you about.
DeMarcus Lawrence, Defensive End
Let's start this discussion by saying that the Dallas Cowboys don't have to do a single thing with DeMarcus Lawrence's contract to help them on the salary cap. His cap figure is locked in at $17 million for 2018 and as noted above, the Cowboys have a little more than $14 million in space.
Zack Martin was arguably the biggest offseason priority in 2018. The other player who could make that argument was Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence, who the team placed their franchise tag on this off-season.
With the franchise tag in place, Lawrence wasn't allowed to hit free agency, which would have definitely led to a bidding war for the All-Pro pass rusher's services.
The deadline to convert the franchise tag to a long-term deal is about a month away, which gives the Dallas Cowboys front office plenty of time to get a deal done with Lawrence.
If the Dallas Cowboys were to get an extension done, with some creative structuring of the contract they could cut his salary cap figure. If the Cowboys placed the franchise tag on him again during the 2019 offseason, which is a real possibility, his guaranteed contract would be $20.4 million.
Let's look at Olivier Vernon's deal as a template for what DeMarcus Lawrence could get through a contract extension:
- In 2016, Vernon signed with the New York Giants in free agency a five-year, $85-million contract with $40-million guaranteed (47.1%) and a $20-million signing bonus.
- His year one cap figure was $13 million. A $1.75-million base salary, $7 million as a roster bonus, and $4 million as part of his prorated signing bonus that was spread out over the life of the contract.
Vernon had only one season with more than 10 sacks when he had 11.5 in his second year as a pro, but was consistently healthy. DeMarcus Lawrence had an elite season in 2017, but has had injury struggles throughout his career. 2017 was the first time he'd started all 16 games.
If you go to OverTheCap.com and look at the guaranteed portions of contracts for the top earning 4-3 defensive ends, you'll see that Jacksonville Jaguars DE Calais Campbell and the Cleveland Browns' Myles Garrett are the only players that come close. Their guaranteed money is at or just over $30-million dollars.
Vernon's deal was an above market value contract at the time, but could be the range that Lawrence and his representatives are looking at to get Tank paid.
Through the franchise tag alone, we're talking about a minimum of $37.4-million guaranteed that could go to Lawrence over the next two years. That would be just under Vernon's guaranteed numbers, and though Vernon's contract was above market value, that is probably where Lawrence's deal will have to start.
You can thank the New York Giants for paying Vernon above market value, which is probably leading to some of the contract negotiation difficulties between the Dallas Cowboys and Lawrence's representatives.
With all of that said, here's what I'd estimate Lawrence's deal to look like if it were to get signed before July 16th, when franchise tags become official for the 2018 season.
5 years for $90 million, $18 million per year, with $44-million guaranteed, and a $24-million signing bonus.
That would make him the highest paid 4-3 defensive end in NFL history, and if 2017 is any sign of future production, he's well worth it.
That may seem like a rich contract, but considering that Zack Martin just got $40-million guaranteed to play a position that is not nearly as valued as EDGE, it makes sense that Lawrence would get more.
The Dallas Cowboys may let him play this season on the franchise tag, but that would mean they will probably have to use it again next year to try to get a long-term deal negotiated with him in the 2019 off-season.
The sooner they get a deal done with Tank, the better as his play will only drive his contract up.
Dak Prescott, Quarterback
Dak Prescott is headed for a big payday. Remember, before the final eight games of the 2017 season, Prescott had led the Cowboys to an 18-6 record over his first 24 games. His 22-10 record, which includes the offense's late season meltdown, is still pretty impressive during a quarterback's first two years in the NFL.
Only one quarterback since the 1970 AFL-NFL Merger had more wins in their first two seasons than Dak Prescott's 22: Russell Wilson. And we know the kind of defense the Seattle Seahawks were working with at the time.
Dak Prescott had a terrible second half of 2017, as did the rest of the offense, but don't let that cloud your judgment of what kind of player he is. Remember, in his rookie season he had the third highest passer rating behind Tom Brady and Matt Ryan at 104.9.
Over the first eight games of 2017, his passer rating was 97.9 and he had a 16:4 touchdown to interception ratio. That includes the 68.8 passer rating in Denver when the entire team fell flat in the week two destruction at the hands of the Broncos.
He's a good quarterback and in 2018 he'll assuage all your concerns. Here's what I had to say about Dak Prescott's 2018 season.
Looking to the 2019 season, the time when 2016 rookies can begin negotiating contract extensions, it's likely Dak Prescott will get some big money to make him the Cowboys quarterback for the next 10 years.
There's no telling how rich the deal will be at this point, but we can guess that it will be somewhere between Derek Carr's $125 million (32% guaranteed) and Matt Ryan's $150 million total value (63% guaranteed).
Year three for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys will be huge to determine just where that contract should fit. Best case scenario for the Cowboys is that Prescott plays lights out en route to a deep playoff run and they reward him with a very rich contract.
If 2018 creates more questions, then a 2020 franchise tag could be in Prescott's future.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
With approximately $14 million in space this year and $50 million available to them in the 2019 salary cap, the Dallas Cowboys have the financial flexibility to hand out some long-term deals to some of their homegrown players.
As we know, this is the Dallas Cowboys' standard operating procedure: Draft well and then pay those draftees who earn a second contract. DeMarcus Lawrence and Dak Prescott have earned that second contract. The only question is, when will they get signed?
Dak Prescott’s Next Contract Looms Over Cowboys’ Financial Future
Even though his rookie contract goes through 2019, Quarterback Dak Prescott's next deal is already one of the key issues facing the Dallas Cowboys. Preparing for that second contract, which could highly expensive, is critical as the team deals with the rest of the roster and prepares for the future.
As a fourth-round pick Prescott's rookie deal is delightfully cheap. He counts just $726k and $816k against the salary cap over the next two seasons. You could hardly ask for better from a guy whose already been to a Pro Bowl.
But this financial grace period has a rapidly approaching end date. Dallas will soon have to pay Dak the standard for NFL quarterbacks, and the difference is staggering.
Consider what Jimmy Garoppolo just got from the 49ers; $137.5 million over five years. That's an average of $27.5 million per season.
And think about this; while Garoppolo may look like the second coming right now, he still hasn't accomplished what Dak Prescott already has.
Prescott has taken his team to the playoffs. He's gone to the Pro Bowl. His career passer rating puts him in the Top 10, between Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, on the NFL's all-time list.
Yes, last year was a step backward. But if Dak gets back to rookie form, and there's plenty of reason to think he will, then he will be able to use Garoppolo's deal as the floor in negotiations.
The scary reality here is that the Cowboys will no sooner get out from under Tony Romo's big contract then they probably have to get into a new one with Prescott. The last Romo's dead money, $8.9 million, finally drops off after 2018.
We know how Romo's cap hits, both while still playing and even after his release, have limited the Cowboys in free agency. That is an unnerving prospect for the future once Dak Prescott gets his next deal.
That's why you see the Cowboys eating all of Dez Bryant's dead money now. That's why they're potentially relying on so many recent draft picks like Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Connor Williams and Michael Gallup to take on big roles for the next 3-4 years at their inexpensive rookie salaries.
That's why Cole Beasley (2019 free agent) probably won't be back next season, or why Sean Lee ($7 million cap relief) could easily be a cap casualty next year.
Clearly, Prescott's next contract hangs over everything.
Of course, nothing is certain. Prescott's sophomore slump may devolve into something more, and the conversation could quickly change.
But Dak doesn't have to be better than ever to earn the big money. He only has to get back to his rookie form; just do what he's already done.
With the offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott hopefully back to their 2016 form and availability, Prescott should have the cushion to be the kind of QB that he was in that 13-3 season. And if he can get the Cowboys one step closer in the playoffs, such as an NFC Championship Game appearance, then Dallas will have no choice but to commit long-term.
While what the Niners gave Jimmy Garoppolo could be considered asinine for the lack of actual accomplishment so far, that doesn't matter in terms of market value. The bar has been raised, and Dak won't have to do much to clear it.
You know that Jerry and Stephen Jones see this as well as anybody, and every move the Cowboys make now is done with Dak's future deal in mind. That's the reality for any NFL team; dealing with the imbalance in QB compensation compared to the rest of the league.
Even if it's still two years away, they have to prepare for it as if it's guaranteed. Given what other QBs like Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins, and Matt Stafford are making right now, Dak doesn't have to accomplish much more to make it happen.
Jimmy Johnson Could Be Next Cowboys Ring of Honor Inductee
According to reports, former Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jimmy Johnson may finally be joining the team's Ring of Honor.
Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram reported this morning, per a source, that Johnson could be among the next group of inductees to the franchise's version of the Hall of Fame.
The other potential candidates mentioned were former scouting guru Gil Brandt from the Tom Landry era and Tight End Jay Novacek, who won three Super Bowls in Dallas in the 1990s.
Novacek would join Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Charles Haley, and Darren Woodson as Ring of Honor members acquired during Jimmy Johnson's brief but historic run as Cowboys coach.
It is that heavy presence of Johnson's players in the Ring, not to mention the three championships that crew won from 1992-1995, that has long merited Jimmy's inclusion in the Cowboys' most exclusive club.
Jimmy was only personally on had for two of three titles, but even that ties him with Tom Landry for Super Bowl wins in Cowboys history. And as many would argue, that 1995 championship team was still running on what Johnson put together.
Jimmy's place among the Cowboys' greatest contributors is irrefutable. But whether he'd ever get into the Ring of Honor has always been questioned due to his contentious breakup with team Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones.
Johnson left the Cowboys after the 1993 championship season as he and Jones could no longer have a working relationship. Jerry's bitterness over the credit that Jimmy got for building the 90s dynasty, and Jimmy's refusal to pass any of that along to his Jones, led to Johnson's resignation as egos drove a wedge between friends.
Time appears to have healed the wounds, for the most part. As pictured above, Jimmy was in attendance for Jerry's 2017 Hall of Fame induction and public comments between them have become far more cordial in recent years.
At ages 75 and 74, respectively, Jerry and Jimmy should close this book while they still can. There is no better way to do than by Johnson taking his rightful place in the Ring of Honor.
Not only will that move bring a resolution to their story, but it will also help Jimmy in his pursuit of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to be recognized on the team level.
Jimmy Johnson belongs with Troy, Emmitt, Playmaker, and the rest who he brought together. He was responsible for the most successful era of Dallas Cowboys football in the team's history. He also provided the catchphrase that has endured for almost 30 years now, "how 'bout 'dem Cowboys?"
You can't tell the story of the Dallas Cowboys without Jimmy Johnson. It's time to give his chapter a happy ending.
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