Can Cowboys Build On 2016 Draft Success?

Cowboys 2016 NFL Draft

Talent wins championships.

In 1961 The Dallas Cowboys had (arguably) the finest “first draft” of any team in NFL history. Reportedly HC Tom Landry had demanded a specific player as a condition of him taking the job and the Cowboys had received a wink-nod-bob’s-your-uncle deal where no other team would select DT Bob Lilly until the expansion Cowboys pick at 13.  The team snapped up the  Texas Christian product with their first-ever selection of the first round. Then in the 14th round the team added to it’s future Hall of Fame roster by selecting OG Billy Shaw. Name me a better first-ever draft.

That initial draft surrendered two Hall of Fame inductees, two pro-bowlers (2nd round center Houlb and 3rd round tackle Barber) and was followed up by three pro-bowlers in the next two drafts. Then in 1964 the team added Pro Bowl OG Kupp and future Hall of Fame inductees CB Mel Renfro (2nd round), WR Bob Hayes (7th round) and a QB from the Naval Academy by the name of Roger Staubach in the 10th round. The die was cast.

Sidebar: when you draft (late) and wait four years on a Hall of Fame QB you’ve just made the best value pick in the history of the NFL. Get over the Tom Brady pick. He was available in year one.

The Dallas Cowboys went on to draft Pro Bowl and/or Hall of Fame players for 15 straight years. Generally several each season. There is no doubt (in my mind) that Tom Landry was one of the greatest coaches and innovators in the history of the NFL. There is also no doubt (in my mind) that GM Tex Schramm was THE best GM in the history of the game. In a nod to historical accuracy I’m obligated to mention he was (by all accounts) a ruthless, lying SOB as well. Thank you Peter Gent.

Back in the day the Cowboys were light-years ahead of the league in scouting. They computerized their internal systems, invented an incredible collegiate scouting program and rode the talent infusion to a 20 year winning-season run that resulted in a winning record versus the entire league, two Lombardi trophies and historical recognition of their excellence and innovation.

The point here is one Rafael Vela and myself have made often. It takes consistent, quality drafting to create a NFL dynasty. Head Coach Jimmy Johnson got the ball rolling again by landing 13 elite players (Hall of Fame/Pro Bowlers) in 4 short seasons leading to a staggering 3.5 elite players a year average. The wheels fell off the talent drive shortly after Johnson left and the results, 20 years of .500 ball, were predictable.

“It takes consistent, quality drafting to create a NFL dynasty” – Van & Raf

With 2 Pro-Bowlers,  4 current and 8 probable starters from the 2016 draft on the team has the current club finally turned the “talent acquisition” corner? Perhaps. As exciting as the 2016 draft was, recent drafts, though an upgrade over recent efforts  have fallen far short of previous Cowboys dynastic efforts. Can Dallas replicate their incredible 2016 draft haul? To be frank, I am concerned the team had two big advantages in 2016 they won’t have this season. Due to their 2014 melt-down sans Tony Romo the staff both coached the Senior Bowl and was on the field working with the combine players in drills before the 2016 NFL Draft. They won’t have that hands-on advantage this time round.

Cowboys staff were in the bleachers with the rest of the play-off teams this senior bowl. Combine access will be similar. Pete Rozelle’s vision of parity begins with the draft. The more successful the team, the higher the next-season-mountain. This is the next challenge for the Cowboys front office. How to build on the knowledge from that seasons experience when they went against the pundits “grain” and took the “best available” player with their fist pick (RB Ezekiel Elliott) versus drafting for need (edge rusher).

“I am concerned the team had two huge advantages in 2016 they won’t have this season.” – Steven Van Over

In a modern NFL Catch-22 if the Cowboys draft for “need”this year they will fail as other teams get the cream of the crop and Dallas will be trying to get starter minutes from JAG’s (just another guy). However if the club doesn’t get the players they need they won’t succeed as other teams exploit their weaknesses. Former GM Tex Schramm would’ve figured it out. The Patriots, Steelers and Seahawks have it figured out. Do Will McClay, Stephen Jones & Jason Garrett have the answers for 2017?

I hope so. Rudy makes for a great movie. Talent wins championships.

What say you Sports Nation?

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

Shout out to Bridget – Thanks for the Chili