After watching the Dallas Cowboys win another close game, as a true fan I usually have a conversation with myself. Considering that I am the ultimate pessimist, I know that I have the ability to make a sunny day seem like a crappy one (yes I used crappy). Don’t worry, I’ll log in some time with my psychiatrist, aka “The Editor”. I digress, so back to the story, the conversation usually goes like this:
“Self” Yes Roger
“Me:” How long will this defensive luck last…
“Self:” This season, take it game by game….
Let me state for the record that I am enjoying the success the team has had while winning ten in a row. The Cowboys have shown more heart and determination in these first eleven games of the season than they’ve shown in Garrett’s entire time as head coach. Garrett has taken control of this roster and earned the players respect. More importantly, he has earned Jerry & Stephen Jones trust. I’m not sure that the “Jason Garrett is nothing more than Jerry’s Puppet” conversation has any merit anymore. I’ll bet you a “Fat Tuesday’s 100 yd Daiquiri” that Rolando Mcclain will not see any part of the 53-man roster this year,and I’d be surprised if he ever returns. I’m sure that Randy Gregory has to be tip-toeing the hallways of “The Star”. Garrett has created a locker room culture that will not tolerate distractions, and that’s why you see Dez Bryant walk back his comments from Sunday. Even the big kahuna Tony Romo had a press conference to quell any whispers of rebellion. Albert Breer via TheMMQB.com reported that Romo went to team officals asking for the opportunity to compete with Dak Prescott in practice. That makes me question: if that meeting was private, why would the team let that get out, it doesn’t help the situation. One thing for sure, Jerry will be Jerry: there is nothing he loves more than running his mouth to promote conversations about his beloved team, and that is one thing that Garrett cannot stop or control.
Back to the pessimistic part of this article and why I am having a hard time believing that this defense will allow a Super Bowl run. Before we get started, let’s define the term “belief”. If you believe in Webster Dictionary, it defines “belief” as an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.Just by definition alone, it would be hard for my pessimistic mind to believe that this defense is going to get better. Besides the teams’ offensive-line, I would be surprised if any other unit outworks this defensive-line. You can not question their will to be great, but the pass rush is anemic. The reality is that through eleven games, the defense is ranked twenty-second in the league, giving up 362 total yards a game. The team ranks third in rushing yards allowed (surrendering 81 yards a game) and thirtieth in passing yards allowed (280 yards a game). I know what you are saying! What’s the end result? I get that the team is still walking away with victories but the real question should be is this sustainable or a recipe for long-term success. If you take a look at the running backs that the Cowboys defense has faced in the first eleven games, the only one that is a consistent all-pro is Le’Veon Bell and you could argue that he was just getting in the groove of the season after his suspension. The Cowboys front seven has been solid, but not spectacular. Although Sean Lee is playing lights-out, he’s the only one that you can count on from the linebackers group to make a splash play in the passing game and those have been missing from his game. Would you say that his move from MLB to WLB has been a success? In the terms of health you would have to give it a B+ but you miss his effectiveness in zone play and his ability to jump routes in the middle of the field. Anthony Hitchens and Justin Durant have just been guys and that’s not good enough in this defensive scheme.
When talking to Cowboys fans about the team’s defensive performance over the season, the first thing said is that Dallas hasn’t invested in a quality player, but that is not entirely true. The team has drafted quality players the last two to three years, but they have missed badly due to the organization’s BELIEF in taking risks with their second round picks. Randy Gregory and Jaylon Smith were both reaches, but in different ways. Gregory had off-the-field problems and Smith was injured. It’s easy to play the “what if?” game with both players, but as crazy as it sounds, I was more comfortable with picking Gregory more than I was Smith due to the nature of his injury. Gregory reminded me of a young Charles Haley with the potential to provide a solid pass rush for years to come, but his personal demons could jeopardize his career. When Charles Haley has given up on you, that says a lot. The organization will need to change its drafting philosophy when it comes to weighing potential vs. risk. To use basketball terms, it’s ok to go for the easy layup on the fast break rather than going for the three (that’s for you Golden St. Warrior fans).
I will go on the record as saying that I think that the new age NFL game may have passed our beloved Coach Marinelli by. Orlando Scandrick was quoted yesterday saying that it’s never been mentioned in a meeting that the defense is a “bend but don’t break” system and that they strive to be dominant. I’m sure that is true, but philosophies are what defensive coordinators live by. Marinelli would rather make an offense drive eighty yards to score than give up one big play. If you watched Thursday’s game, someone forgot to give Anthony Brown the memo. I can live with the rookie mistakes he makes because of his aggressiveness and solid tackling skills. Plus, he’s not the only one struggling in coverage. Marinelli hasn’t helped the secondary out by sending more than one blitzer. When he does blitz, it’s usually either Sean Lee or Orlando Scandrick off of the corner, so I’m sure that opposing coordinators know how the Cowboys like to blitz. I’m not asking for a complex system like Rob Ryan’s, but a little imagination could go a long way in helping with the defensive-line’s inability to create pressure with four rushers.
Is it the system or the players? With Matt Eberflus taking on a larger role on the defensive side, could we see a transition in the off-season? With the Cowboys being a middle of the road defense, the likelihood that Eberflus will get the opportunity to lead another defense is slim, but the fact that he has the experience of coaching in both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense could bode well for him. Marinelli signed a three year contract in 2015 and I would be surprised if the team pulled the trigger to replace him due to the lack of any big name coordinators being available. But if Rex Ryan is fired in Buffalo, would the Cowboys look his way? I doubt it, and it’s not because he’s an exclusive 3-4 coach. Jason Garrett doesn’t have room for coaches with big personalities. No one has a bigger one than Rex. I would have pulled the trigger when Jim Schwartz was available, but Garrett seems to be loyal.
That’s why Rich Bisaccia still has a job, and that may not be a good thing.
So Mote It Be!