It’s Déjà vu all over again.
The Dallas Cowboys are 8-8 for the second year in a row. Two years in a row they’ve had an opportunity to walk out of their Week 17 division matchup with the NFC East crown and a golden ticket into the NFL playoffs. Two years in a row they’ve boarded the plane home at the end of the season as neither winners nor losers in the regular season.
The parallels were so clear and symmetrical, that it would have taken a fool to buy into any solution other than the one that inevitably came to pass. I am a fool – no question about it.
A few weeks ago I wrote about what I called the Equilibrium of Mediocrity, which the numbers bore out at the time, and of course now the plain truth of it is obvious to even a casual onlooker. I had it right and then I got tricked. I’m not saying it was a hard sell – heck I wanted to believe as much as anyone. I started to ignore the numbers and I started to believe the Cowboys could pick up a win and subsequently enter the tournament with some momentum. So much for that.
But here we are again, Cowboys fans, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Owner/GM Jerry Jones seemed sincerely frustrated and promised change, but I don’t think we’re going to see the sort of wholesale change that many Cowboys fans want.
Here is what we know:
- Jason Garrett will be the Head Coach of the Cowboys next season. Had the Cowboys lost to the Bengals and Steelers and ended the season on a 4 game losing streak, this might be a different story. Over the past few weeks Jerry has been very vocal about his approval for how Coach Garrett handled the team in the wake of the Jerry Brown/Josh Brent incident and it seems likely that a loss in Week 17 has done anything to drastically change his position on Garrett now.
- Tony Romo will be the Quarterback of the Cowboys next season. This seems to be a particularly sore point for a lot of Cowboys fans. My counter is two-fold: a) you’re not playing for anything important in Week 17 anyway if Romo wasn’t the quarterback and b) there’s not going to be anyone sitting around in Free Agency better than him. Did he have a huge hand in helping them lose against the Redskins? Absolutely, but this team won 8 games this season because of him, not despite him.
- Jerry Jones will continue to be the General Manager. We should just stop bringing it up, because it’s never going to change.
Generally, when an NFL team talks about big changes, as Jerry Jones’ diatribe seemed to indicate was imminent, those three areas are where one starts, but we know that three pivotal figure heads of this organization aren’t going anywhere. We have a whole (dreadfully long) offseason to explore the particulars, but here are some obvious questions that stick out to me.
- Can the Cowboys affect enough change in the trenches (Offensive and Defensive Line) within the frameworks of the cap system to improve this team dramatically? All personnel decisions should stem from this question.
- To that end, is Jay Ratliff going to be retained? His blowout with Jerry Jones in the locker room certainly makes this more interesting.
- Can they afford to keep Anthony Spencer and upgrade other positions of need?
- Can the Cowboys effectively identify and draft offensive line talent? They can’t continue to afford to pay free agent linemen, particularly when they don’t improve the unit.
- Will Jerry Jones bring in an Offensive Coordinator to take over play calling duties for Jason Garrett?
- Is Jerry going to replace Rob Ryan or give him a pass for keeping this defense together with baling wire and chewing gum?
- Should the Cowboys make big changes this offseason or look to make targeted improvements (offensive and defensive line) to push this team forward?
Let me know what you guys think, because honestly I have more questions than answers at this point.