WWAD? What Would Al Do? That must be Jerry Jones’ new mantra when it comes to “general managing” the Dallas Cowboys.
Who is Al? Well, none other than his hero, Al Davis, the outspoken and often controversial owner of the Oakland Raiders up until his death in October of 2011. Jerry Jones seems hell bent on following in Al’s footsteps and he’s taking the Dallas Cowboys with him.
There are plenty of examples, but one needs look no further than Jones’ comments this weekend to reporters at the NFL Combine concerning the Cowboys’ offensive line. As reported by Dan Graziano on ESPN.com among others, Jerral seems to think our offensive line is just fine. What? Come again? Anyone with even a limited understanding of ‘American football’ knows the Cowboys offensive line was awful in 2012. AWFUL! Our running game was almost non-existent - the team totaled 1,265 rushing yards ranking 31st out of 32 teams. That’s next to last in case you’re math challenged. And, that’s fewer rushing yards than 6 individual NFL running backs and only 2 yards more than Stevan Ridley of the intentionally pass-happy, Brady-led Patriots!
Sometimes a team has to fit its’ offense to their personnel, but it isn’t like the Cowboys had no one to run the ball. Most agree that when healthy DeMarco Murray is very talented. And, back up Felix Jones was once the starter. Still, the Cowboys only ran the ball on 34% of their plays and averaged an NFC East worst 3.6 yards per attempt. That’s because more often than not, they ran the ball on 1st down, gained next to nothing and faced a 2nd or 3rd and long on far too many offensive series. That’s the worst percentage in the NFC East with the Division Champion, Alfred Morris/RGIII-led Redskins running it a whopping 52% of the time (5.2 yard average), the Giants 42% (4.6 yard average), and the 4-12 Eagles 38% of the time (4.5 yard average). Looking at those numbers, it is hard to believe we actually finished 8-8!
When the offensive line wasn’t getting knocked backwards on a running play, they were busy missing blocks in the pass game and leaving Tony Romo running for his life. As it is the line yielded 36 sacks – in the middle of the pack for the league and not nearly as bad as the 48 sacks given up by the Eagles, but that number could have easily been 50+ if Romo wasn’t as nimble on his feet. He bailed the pathetic line play out on many, many occasions in 2012 as he has for most of his career. Compare that to the 20 sacks given up by the Giants last season. I’d actually pay to see how Eli would perform behind a line like Romo’s.
But, Jerry is just fine with that. By Jones’ logic, because “Romo is able to move around so well and make plays on the run, he doesn’t require a top-notch offensive line to be productive”. He actually said that. Okay, so you can put him out there behind a bunch of scrubs (excluding Tyron Smith, I guess) and let him run to glory? Doesn’t seem to be working Jerry. Wouldn’t that same talent be better served if he could have a reasonable expectation of protection on most plays? Wouldn’t it be better if he could concentrate on executing the play that was called and not wondering which side of the line was going to look like a jail break? Would Romo have developed “happy feet” in the pocket or be so quick to dump it off to his check down receiver if he wasn’t simply tired of getting hammered? Do broken ribs and a punctured lung ring a bell at all, Mr. Jones? But, hey what do I and most of the rest of the NFL know? The other 31 teams must snicker just a bit when they hear that from Jerry – like they did when Al Davis was drafting the fastest receivers over and over again that couldn’t catch or run a correct route. But, man they could run! Like a rock, Al ignored all the criticism while every other NFL GM loved Al Davis, the GM, because it made their jobs a little easier. Now, it is Jerry’s turn to help them out.
Instead of cutting Doug Free as most people expected Jerry and his brain trust to do, they are now talking about trying him at guard. This is the guy who last season didn’t even play at a decent college level until they started rotating him with Jermey Parnell at the end of the season. Jones was even thrilled with Free’s improvement. Why? You pay a guy like a starter, you shouldn’t be happy to get part-time productivity from him. The move to guard for Free is actually being talked about because Parnell has a realistic shot to win the starting job outright this preseason. Most teams would cut their losses, force Free to test the part-time player market or take a backup level deal, but Jerry just has such a hard time admitting a mistake. “I knew he would eventually wind up at guard and we need the depth anyway”, seems to be what flows out of Jerry’s brain. Is there really any difference between a guard, a tackle, and a center? Uh, yes, actually, there is Jerry.
The salary cap however is painting Jerry into some tight corners this season. He’s going to have to make some tough decisions – and odds are good that they will be the wrong ones when your first criteria is how big the press was on the original move. Will this make me look inept or can I spin it? He’ll keep Doug Free and try to make a guard out of him and instead cut another, potentially more promising player. Miles Austin is probably safe because Jerry was heavily involved in that big over payment. Besides, Garrett says he’s coming back and what Garrett says goes (as long as Jerry agrees). Romo is clearly safe and will get a big fat extension because no matter what that’s Jerry’s boy. Don’t be surprised if they re-sign Felix Jones after Felix finds out there isn’t much demand for him – that was Jerry’s draft pick remember.
WWAD – What Would Al Do? Understand that and that’s where you’ll find Jerry’s next big move. Go Cowboys!