After another disappointing, frustrating season for the Dallas Cowboys and their fans, it’s time to reflect on the team. As a huge fan who has stuck by this team since I became a fan in the early 80’s, there is some serious moves that need to take place to change the culture. Here are the ten things that need to occur to ensure that we do not have another 8-8 (or worse) season and can move towards being a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
1. Hire an Offensive Coordinator
Ever since Bill Parcells left the building, we have tried to have our head coach also be a head coordinator. It makes no sense. Look at the best teams over the last ten years. Aside from Bill Belichick in New England, the best teams (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Green Bay, N.Y. Giants, Indianapolis, New Orleans, San Diego) all have both an offensive and defensive coordinator. We’re not trendsetting here. We’re failing. I don’t think Jason Garrett is a bad head coach. I don’t think he’s a horrible offensive coordinator. I think it’s unfair to ask him to do both jobs at the level we need. I’m sure you can argue that Sean Payton or Mike McCarthy might call the plays but there is still a coordinator there. Ironically, Norv Turner is very likely to be available and is best suited for an offensive coordinator position, plus he has history with this team and Jerry Jones. Not exactly rocket science.
2. Release Terence Newman
This isn’t just about last night or all of 2011. This is about the overall body of work. He’ll be 33 next year and had his worst year in 2011. Newman was the second highest paid cornerback in 2011, except nothing he does matches that distinction. Injuries to his foot and groin have robbed him of his top-end speed. He doesn’t make big plays, nor does he makes plays in general as evident by his career interception total being 32 (or just over 3 per year) and only taking three of those thirty-two to the house. His tackling has become Deion-esque and while it is unfair to label him as injury-prone, in the last four years, he has missed ten games. Even if it is done to shake up things, it is time. The salary cap ramifications will never be more friendly and three more years of him on this team will be too much of an albatross to overcome.
3. Switch Tyron Smith to LT and move Doug Free back to RT
Guess who has been the most penalized Cowboy for two straight years? That’s right. Doug Free. The two weakest offensive linemen by any measurable means were Free and G Kyle Kosier. We’ll discuss Kosier later but this spot is about Free. It may not be the best way to measure but almost all great left tackles are drafted early in the first round. Free was drafted in the fourth round. Plain and simple, he’s not just athletic enough to play the left tackle side. He did have a good year at right tackle however and the most athletic and talented option is on the roster in Tyron Smith. This will accomplish the task of keeping the youth movement progressing properly, providing our franchise quarterback more time to work and solidifying two of the five spots on the line.
4. Make a run at Matt Forte
Speaking of the offensive line, even with all of our struggles, at worst ours is on par with the Chicago Bears. Mr. Forte, in only four years averages 100 yards per game in combined rushing and receiving yards. He also scores every other game and that is all after being held hostage by a suspect Bears line. Throw in the fact he never got the contract extension he deserved and now may come a bit cheaper as he will coming off an injury and you have a recipe for domination. This is no knock on DeMarco Murray. I love him and I think he could be great. Could be. We cannot keep hoping for could be, besides having Murray as a backup wouldn’t be the worst thing. This would also allow us to create some interesting packages with Felix Jones as a slot receiver with Forte in the backfield. Matt Forte is easily a top five running back. He’s young. He is proven and productive. He’s essentially Murray and Felix Jones in one body, plus it severely weakens a conference foe.
5. Address obvious needs in the draft
Clearly, this team has a few positions that need help. The entire defense as well as offensive line all need help. My suggestion is to address the linebacking corps (since we play a 3-4 and only have two better than average linebackers) with the 14th pick in the draft. The target? Arizona State’s Vontaze Burfect. He has both size (6’3″ 250) and speed to be exactly what Dallas needs next to Sean Lee on the inside. This would allow for the Cowboys to look at Stanford OLB Chase Thomas in the second round, adding two young studs, necessary if you are going to play a 3-4 defense. Safety has also been a position of need since Darren Woodson left. Two good options should be available in round three between Wisconsin senior Aaron Henry or Oklahoma State senior Markelle Martin. Quality depth for the offensive line at guard and center can be found in later rounds.
6. Fire Dave Campo
Seriously. Enough is enough. Aside from his days on the staff with Jimmy Johnson, he’s been a complete failure. His head coaching days were abysmal at best. His time as a defensive coordinator in Cleveland saw the Browns finish 12th and 24th in team defense. He then went on to coach Jacksonville’s secondary which saw them going from a top ten passing defense to middle of the pack. He gets rewarded by being allowed to come back (once Parcells left) and as you all know, the Cowboys have had some horrible defenses of late. Cut the ties for good. Raheem Morris was just fired but was once considered a young prodigy. With the debacle Tampa Bay had, he should definitely be willing to go back to position coach and eventually maybe defensive coordinator if Rob Ryan gets a head coaching job or fails again next year and gets fired.
7. Get Ware some help
We already touched upon this in position five. We have possibly the best pass rushing linebacker since Lawrence Taylor but he constantly has to work against double and triple teams because no one else brings any heat. Since the arrival of Anthony Spencer in 2007, he’s amassed 21 sacks or about four per year. Since Greg Ellis left after the 2008 season, we haven’t had another player besides Ware top six sacks in a year. We have tried different coordinators, different schemes, but not different personnel. Given that Spencer is an unrestricted free agent and has been fairly underwhelming, instead of re-signing him, let him leave and replace him with the two guys I suggested above. This would also allow for more playing time for Victor Butler which would provide us an opportunity to see what he can do as he will be an unrestricted free agent the year after.
8. Make a splash
The Cowboys have not tried to get involved in the free agent game in recent years, instead opting to re-sign our own free agents. This could very possibly be the problem as one of the things this team needs the most is new blood. We discussed Matt Forte already but some other players that would be major upgrades and will be available include CB’s Cortland Finnegan (28), Brent Grimes (29), Brandon Carr (26) and Lardarius Webb (26), defensive end Cliff Avril (26) and center Nick Hardwick (30). Signing at least three of these players, including Forte would not only improve the talent at Valley Ranch, it would remove the stale air that has been in the building.
9. Clean some house
This goes hand in hand with numbers five and eight. The Cowboys have twenty players who are free agents, either restricted or not. Of those players, few need to be invited back. Here is a list of who will be available:
Alan Ball, Mike Balogun, Martellus Bennett, Keith Brooking, Kenwin Cummings, Derrick Dockery, Abram Elam, Tony Fiametta, Clifton Geathers, Isaiah Greenhouse, Montrae Holland, Jesse Holley, Bradie James, Mat McBriar, Lonyae Miller, Kevin Ogletree, Laurent Robinson, Anthony Spencer, Frank Walker
Of those players, only Fiametta, Holland and Robinson are truly vital to the success of this team. You could agrue for Elam and Geathers as well as possibly for McBriar but none of the rest should be on the 2012 roster.
10. Flip the roster
For those that are still on the roster for 2012, we need to go back to how things were under Jimmy Johnson and to a lesser extent, Bill Parcells, which just so happened to be the only two successful coaches we have had since Tom Landry. One of the things they both incorporated was churning the bottom of the roster. Anyone that is either massively underperforming or is not part of the game day roster each week should be worried about his position. To some extent, fear is a good motivator. I feel like Jason Garrett has done a good job of bringing accountability back to the team and this is merely the next step.
Players that are not free agents but that need to be seriously considered for release include Terence Newman, Kyle Kosier, Jon Kitna and David Buehler.
I can only hope that my efforts get noticed. Even if we do not make all ten necessary adjustments, half of them would go a long way in improving. The talent is there but each year that passes by without a title or even a decent playoff run hurts more than the previous year.