Midway through the 2012 season it has become quite clear things are not working. The Cowboys stand in third place in the NFC East and twelfth place (out of 16) in the NFC. They aren’t mathematically eliminated but it’s clear the odds are greatly stacked against them. If we are all being honest, they no longer have a very realistic shot and need to start talking about change. That doesn’t mean they should give up this year, it just means they need to change their goals and expectations with an eye to the future.
The clear goal of the second half must place a premium on “getting better” rather than “just win”. Yes, they should always play to win the game (channeling Herm Edwards…), but they need to give more thought to long term success and less to immediate success. Here are some changes the Dallas Cowboys need to make in order to build a better team built for the future.
No. It will not help to fire Jason Garrett. Jerry Jones won’t even consider it anyway so it’s pointless to discuss a midseason change. After the season? Possibly, but still not very likely. We can discuss the Future of Garrett at a later date, but at this point, we need to discuss a different kind of coaching change – A coaching change of responsibility. Garrett was hired for his offensive prowess and creativity. For that reason, Jerry is still asking him to be the in-game offensive play caller in addition to the normal Head Coach responsibilities of managing the game. Doing both the past two seasons have not produced good results in either area. Garrett should still be expected to create plays and customize the weekly offensive strategy but needs to trust Bill Callahan to call the actual plays during the game. If they planned and communicated together during the week Callahan will be on the same page as Garrett during the game. This will allow Garrett to focus on total game management and hopefully improve in late game situations. If he still doesn’t improve then we know he needs to go. The idea is simple business problems solving:
1. Identify what is keeping the employee from succeeding.
2. Remove the barrier.
3. If the worker still doesn’t succeed then you can be sure they are not the right person for the job.
It’s time to find out if Garrett can do this job or if the Cowboys are wasting their time.
The idea isn’t to play young players just because they are young. It’s really to identify who can be a contributor and who cannot be a contributor one or two years from now. Is Marcus Spears realistically in the plans for 2013 and 2014? What about Kenyon Coleman? Rookie Tyrone Crawford is waiting behind them on the depth chart. He could be getting more practice reps and game time.
Do they really want to continue to ride the Kevin Ogletree rollercoaster? We saw Cole Beasley get some action on Sunday and what happened? Tony Romo looked his direction immediately. They seem to have chemistry, how about we see if it’s for real or not.
Are the Cowboys realistically considering resigning Anthony Spencer? Word on the street is they have no intention of paying the money he’s demanding. Shouldn’t they give extra playing time to Victor Butler and Alex Albright. No, neither of them is as good as Spencer right now but we need to see if they can one day get there.
These are great opportunities to look behind the veterans on the depth chart and see what might be there waiting. If the Cowboys start this youth movement they will have a head start on development and player assessment in 2013, giving them an advantage in the upcoming free agency and draft. The more questions they answer in 2012 the better they can achieve their goals in 2013.
Jason Garrett loves to preach accountability but hasn’t really held anyone accountable. The penalties need to stop. If someone commits a preventable penalty they need to lose some playing time. They need to be embarrassed. If a player doesnt know his assignment he needs to be removed from the game. In a losing season, games become less and less important to established veterans but more and more important to fringe and role players.If Dez or Austin drops a ball, pull them from the game for a few plays. If one of them runs the wrong route, let them ride the bench for a series or two. It will hold them accountable for their lack of focus and poor preparation and at the same time reward the players behind them for their hard work and dedication in practice. This kind of accountability will deliver more energy and focus from both the youth and vets alike. Everyone will have something to lose and to gain. The change will be felt in film sessions, practice, and the games as a result. Who knows, they may end up discovering a diamond in the rough along the way.
This is about building for the future by analyzing specific player and coach performance and abilities. First, the team needs to hit the books and play smart. If a player proves he lacks the ability to succeed that’s a product of poor scouting. The player should be cut and the scout should be assessed. If a player lacks the knowledge to do the right thing it’s a matter of poor coaching. If a player or coach is found unable to achieve their responsibilities they should be cut immediately. No more accepting mediocrity.
Someone needs to be made an example of and be cut from the team. Jimmy Johnson famously did it to Curvin Richards years ago. It sent a clear message to the team that everyone needed to be prepared and focused. Jason Garrett needs to do the same. Obviously some players shouldn’t be cut because they are part of the future, but the other 50% of this team should be considered expendable. This is a shallow and purely theatrical move but it’s ridiculously effective and should be done sooner rather than later.
With a focus on improving, all of these changes can take place and build a better team for 2013. The point is to not waste 2012 just because postseason hopes have slipped away. Use the remainder of the season to get tough and get better. Use 2012 to evaluate. Use 2012 to build a model for success. Jason Garrett needs to do it and Jerry Jones needs to support it. They can’t afford to waste 2012.