Cowboys Offseason – The Process Needs Work

Jason Garrett Training Camp

The NFL offseason is all about preparing for the coming campaign. You pay attention to last season, but only to a degree. What happened in 2015 only matters if it helps you prepare for 2016.

No matter whom you inquire with at Valley Ranch as to precisely where Dallas is in regards to preparation for 2016 you will get variations on the standard Jason Garret mantra – “It’s A Process.” This may be frustrating, but it’s a factual response.

As a quick aside, it’s also a great sign that everyone at Valley Ranch is on board with “The Process.” Regardless of which scheme, method of attack or annual motto a team chooses to follow, it will always be more successful if everyone is dipping their oars into the water on the same drumbeat. This is the case with the Cowboys.

A man of great detail and painstaking preparation, Garrett doesn’t waste a minute once the final whistle blows. It’s no secret by now how Garrett drives the bus in the offseason. He has a multi-pronged approach.

  • Assess previous season’s team and performance
  • Assess league and next seasons opponents
  • Consider and implement changes to current Cowboys templates
  • Continue 24/7 365 talent assessment effort on all levels
  • Identify Dallas free agents worth second contracts
  • Identify and sign talented free agents with upside that haven’t reached potential
  • Sign players to fill out roster allowing draft to occur without regard to need as much as possible
  • Create board based on “Cowboy template BPA”
  • Draft
  • Integrate
  • Win
  • Repeat

All wonderfully revealing data. Injuries be damned, last year “The Process” came up short in several key areas. Perhaps even worse Dallas wasn’t surprised as they had talked about addressing these known issues all offseason.

Whereas the Cowboys personnel department has received deserved kudos over recent years for it’s ability to identify and sign talent, it’s not for every position. There is no doubt a great job was done in identifying offensive line talent in the draft and in procuring defensive linemen off the street that can compete in the NFL.

What about identifying and signing talent at other key positions?

The critical RB position wasn’t settled in any fashion until six games into the season. McFadden was an excellent signing. Relying (again) on a fragile Dunbar was a miss. Not getting a RB in the draft was a miss. Joseph Randle was a miss in every sense of the word. Ben Malena – Miss. Christine Michael – miss. Robert Turbin – Miss. Ryan Williams – Miss. Rod Smith – UNK. Those are the ones off the top of my head.

The scouting department and coaches all share the blame here. They should have identified McFadden much earlier as their best option. They should have procured better players. Supposedly it’s now “easy money” to get a RB in the draft or in free agency. Hmmmmmm.

The ability of the DL to create pressure without DeMarcus Ware via Kraken was a PR and production nightmare. Don’t even get me started on the interior run D and the 1-Tech position. I love the young talent on the line. DeMarcus Lawrence is exciting. David Irving was a total find. Tyrone Crawford should have a bounce back season. Randy Gregory is doing his part to legalize marijuana and …. and .. and … well there’s the rub. Four guys worth mentioning from 2015. Two of them are even starters. Contain your excitement.

It’s great to be able to get guys off the street that can play in the NFL. What the Cowboys need now however are guys who are elite. They are stocked with rotation guys.

I knew Brandon Weeden was not a solid option at QB. My wife’s hairdresser knew. They should have known as well. Pass after off target pass in camp once you got away from seven on air drills don’t lie. I mentioned it repeatedly in camp reports and podcast. Beautiful balls. Nice tight spirals. Overthrown. Too far outside. Too far inside. Swing and a miss to borrow Weeden’s former professions parlance.

Dallas has chosen not to develop QB’s or a QB department in the Tony Romo era. Jerry Jones has iterated more than once that having to give practice and preseason snaps to players who don’t make it as QB’s was a bad return on player time and therefore a bad investment. It was a mistake years ago. It’s a mistake now and yet another failed example of high finance rules applied as if it were actual football acumen. Will McClay’s influence can’t expand fast enough.

Linebacker play outside of Sean Lee was not good last year and of course, Lee was (again) unable to deliver 16 games. McClain was out of shape until late in the year after missing the first four games under suspension. Gachkar was too small to hold up in the middle. Hitchens is a 1/2 step slow to the outside. Damien Wilson and Mark Nzeocha had invisible jerseys on the entire year.  This patchwork unit needs some players that can excel and stay on the field. I get it the guys they have targeted have been snapped up right before they pick. Time to get the job done fellas.

Safety/Cornerback – Why not lump them together. Round the clock scouting, high draft choices, mid draft choices, low round choices, expensive free agent signings, UDFA’s and psychics have all been used to identify and acquire “talent” at the DB position for the Cowboys. Fail is the polite term. At least they finally moved on from the CB coach. The same one that excelled before he got to Dallas. Had to be his fault, right? #ComeOnMan

“The Process” correctly identified areas of concern last year. They were talked about. They were spot on. The consistent inability to identify and acquire (you need both) upgrades at the positions of need identified by your own process is the Dallas Cowboys 2015 season in a nutshell.

The Dallas Cowboys need to step it up in the strategy department. They seemingly know what to do and I am encouraged by some moves made this offseason, the recent upgrade at 1-Tech a prime example.

To be clear, I was fully on board when Dallas didn’t break the bank to sign Murray. I understand the need to let Ware walk under the fiscal situation they found themselves in (who got them so tight against the cap again?). The new fiscal restraint policies follow historically successful teams trends. I also acknowledge the consistent failure of successfully addressing critical personnel needs.

I see moves in the right direction. Great. I have seen such direction each offseason. Now enough with the baby steps. Time for leaps and bounds. Time to tweak “The Process” and get the job done.

What say you Sports Nation?

Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over

Go Out On Your Shield

Jason Garrett

Go out on your shield!

The Dallas Cowboys played their 14th game on Saturday. Everyone knows the record but just in case you forgot. Your Cowboys had a slight mathematical chance to make the playoffs. This season has been a disaster on both sides of the ball and once again everyone in the media is looking for Jerry to implode and fire everyone. In one of my earlier articles I discussed the possibility of the Cowboys making small changes with their coaching staff after the season is over. One thing is for sure, the top three coaches (Garrett, Linehan and Marinelli) are not going anywhere. If you are upset with that slap yourself now. Besides the fact that Garrett just signed a fat extension after taking the team to their first playoff game since I had hair, the only thing that Jerry hates more than losing games is losing money. I am not sure if coaches salaries are guaranteed, but ol’ Red Ball has nothing to worry about. The offense has sputtered without Romo and it made Linehan more predictable. As this season ends, fans should ask a couple of questions about the philosophy of this team going forward. Was it the injuries that ruined this season or is the ghost of Al Davis still roaming the hall ways of Valley Ranch.

  1. You had Brandon Weeden in your system for two years, trusted him enough to take a roster spot, but didn’t trust him enough to run the system. If you’ve watched enough football, you would know that they marched the former first round pick out with let’s just say “An abbreviated game plan” which stymied the offenses production.

2. Don’t get me started on Cassel. He’s played like a rookie not an eleven year veteran. There was a point in the season that I trusted him to throw the long ball better than the short one, and that’s not saying much. I had mixed emotions when they signed him from Buffalo and they proved to be right. If he couldn’t beat out E.J. Manuel in Buffalo was he the right choice in Dallas?

3. Earlier I said that the top three are safe, but if i’m Jerry Jones do I wonder if the game has started to pass Marinelli by. I love everything about the coach, but do not like the results. I don’t see this happening but I would love to see them kick the tires on Jim Schwartz. For some reason he isn’t working in the NFL after having the number two defense in Buffalo last year. Both coordinators run the 4-3 scheme so it wouldn’t be a big change. Would there be a way to get him on the staff? I bet Jerry could.

4. Will we see a remodeled secondary in 2016?? I’m hoping so. I’ve never been shy to admit that I am not a true X&O guy (unless its alcohol) but it’s getting old watching Brandon Carr and Mo Claiborne chasing plays. Claiborne uses his hands so much, he could work for TSA. I used to think that it was a lack of talent that didn’t allow the secondary to thrive, but i’m starting to think it is a combination of coaching and players. No one besides Byron Jones looks comfortable and he’s a rookie. I think it’s time to blow it up and start over. Keep Jones, Scandrick, Church and Wilcox and maybe Claiborne if the price is right. You never know Philly might swoop in and give him 50 million. (I Kid, I Kid)

Ed Note: $40 million, max 🙂

5. What do you do with Jason Witten? I know that I might have to watch my back from the Cowboys faithful but hear me out. Mr. Cowboy is playing with a base salary of 6.5 million in 2016. Damn the production, there are only two tight-ends that I would consider having his potential (Gronkowski & Graham) and I wouldn’t take Graham over Witten. With his production dwindling and the legs starting to slow down, can you see Jerry Jones sending him to a Super Bowl contender and getting a 3rd or 4th round pick in return? I know it’s not going to happen but sooner or later all good teams who manage their cap effectively have to look at money/age vs. production. It’s not like he wouldn’t get in the Ring of Honor.

6. The front office should get a failing grade for this season. I was a part of the bandwagon after the draft saying that this might be the deepest Cowboys team we’ve seen in a while. McClay & Company did some good things, but they definitely missed the mark early in the season with keeping Ron Leary. I would like to know if he wasn’t fully healthy, in the doghouse or was it time to see what Collins could offer. In my mind, it would have been easier to keep Leary in and look at Collins at RT and if you decide to pull the trigger and start getting Collins playing time at guard, why not trade Leary to a team that’s in need of a solid run blocking guard and get a draft pick. He’s a restricted free agent and I am sure the Cowboys will consider matching any offer that he gets.

7.The running game has been above average. All of the McFadden haters can crawl into a hole now. If everything goes well, he will have played 16 games. Although he’s been beaten up a little he will get 1,000 yards and probably would have more if they would have started him in the beginning of the season. The O-Line has been inconsistent at times and i am wondering if Pollack will be shown the door or given another year to see what he can do.

This article is written with a heavy heart due to the death last night of a member of my masonic family. Like my best-friend said a “Masonic Father” to a lot of the brothers in our jurisdiction.

R.I.P. Past Master Henry L. Clay Jack Haywood Lodge #6 – MWPHGL of Nevada

So Mote It Be!