After months of speculation about which Cowboys’ players would be cap casualties, we didn’t have to wait long after the lockout was lifted to get some answers. The carnage today at Valley Ranch was quick and merciless like the beheading of Ned Stark. Roy Williams, Leonard Davis, Kris Brown, and Marion Barber can now all call themselves former Cowboys. And, Marc Colombo could be soon to follow depending on what happens with Doug Free. Davis and Colombo might return to Dallas under new contracts, but there isn’t much chance of that happening with Williams and Barber.
While the move to release Williams should be celebrated, seeing Barber go is bittersweet. It needed to happen, but the man gave Cowboys’ fans quite a bit to cheer about for several years and his tenacious style will be missed.
When the Cowboys drafted Barber in the fourth round of the 2005 draft, very few expected the contribution that the tough runner made while in Dallas. He was an immediate bright spot on a disappointing 2005 squad that failed to make the playoffs. When he carried the rock he sought out contact and usually came out on the winning end. Teammates noticeably fed off his physical style, and, obviously, he quickly became a fan favorite.
2006 was probably the most underrated season of Barber’s years with the Cowboys. In just 135 carries, he amassed 654 yards and scored twelve rushing touchdowns. He bullied his way through defenses to the tune of 4.8 yards per carry. That season, Barber began to settle into the closer role. He was definitely their best running back, but it served the team’s purposes to let him wear out defenses in the second half.
The next year Barber was one of the top runners in the league, but he did it again as a second half back. Regardless, he was a key part of that thirteen win squad. He finished third in the NFL in yards per carry and third among non-kickers in points. He ran over and through pretty much everyone, but rarely did he try to go around. Perhaps that’s why 2007 was the peak of The Barbarian’s time with the Cowboys. He finished that season with an outstanding 27 carry 129 yard effort against the Giants in the playoffs and made his first Pro Bowl.
That’s where the Cowboys went wrong with Barber. After that fantastic season, they overvalued his worth. While he was a great player, he wasn’t someone they should’ve seen as a long term option. The shelf life for most running backs is somewhere around five to seven years. However, the shelf life for a running back with Barber’s style is usually about three years. That’s something they should’ve given more attention. But, the Cowboys ignored the obvious signs and gave Barber an extension that only an elite workhorse running back deserves. Then, to make matters worse, they made him a starter.
Predictably, Barber began to break down in 2008, and, despite a very respectable 2009, he’s now been labeled a disappointment. He wasn’t a disappointment during his time in Dallas. He was a victim of unreasonable expectations. Not to say the Cowboys should’ve known Barber was cresting in 2007, but they should’ve been wary enough not to give him that absurd contract.
Regardless of the contract and the decline in production, Barber deserves a little appreciation from this fan base. He served us well during his time with the ‘Boys.
I leave you with this: