Big changes are due for the defensive secondary of the Dallas Cowboys. That was never more obvious than the embarrassing outing in the season finale against the Giants. I half expected at one point in the game that Terence Newman would be rushed to the hospital with 3rd degree burns. He was awful but he was just the most glaring victim of a unit that was pretty poor all season long.
The changes started this week with the announcement that Dave Campo, the secondary coach would not be invited back. That is a move that was way overdue in my opinion. Campo as any Cowboy fan of decent tenure will recall was once the head coach of America’s Team leading them to three straight 5-11 seasons (2000-2002) before getting the axe and returning as the secondary coach in 2008 . He and his teams were a bit of an embarrassment as anyone who saw the HBO Hard Knocks episodes with Campo as the coach will attest. He was always described as a “player’s coach” which translated means players loved to play for him because he wanted to be loved more than respected. He appeared to constantly be making excuses for his players instead of demanding better. The impact of that showed on the field week after week.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Jerome Henderson had been hired to replace Campo and that Brett Maxie would return as an assistant. Henderson held the same position with the Browns and coached under Rob Ryan. That alone would likely mean an improvement – he at least understands Ryan’s system and will hopefully eliminate some of the obvious confusion on the field.
The next step is, of course, personnel. Terence Newman has likely played his last game as a Cowboy. I appreciate what T-New has given the Cowboys since being drafted with the first pick in the 2003 draft. When he wasn’t injured – which was far too often – he gave us some good play out of the corner position. But, old man time appears to not only have caught up with him but has literally moved in and is sleeping on his couch! His skills have deteriorated to the point where he is a very expensive liability – with 3 years remaining on his contract, he is due a $6,000,000 base salary next season (even more in the 5th and 6th years). The Cowboys would take a $6MM cap hit by cutting him now, but I don’t see any way around it if we want to improve our secondary.
That will leave two cornerbacks on the active roster that have seen any significant playing time: Mike Jenkins, easily our best cornerback now but fragile and underwent shoulder surgery in the off season; and Orlando Scandrick, (newly signed 5-year deal) still unproven as an every-week starter. Alan Ball and journeyman Frank Walker are free agents and Mario Butler and CJ Wilson haven’t made it off the practice squad yet.
The most obvious path forward without knowing for sure what free agents will be looking for new teams or at what price is through the draft. Most people agree that the 2011 draft was solid – the first with Garrett at the helm. Let’s hope that is an indicator of future drafts because the Cowboy’s history at this position is not great. On the next page, I’ll review the last 10 drafts for the defensive secondary: