Bright? Sad? Intriguing? The real answer, of course, is that no one knows. Some people like to think they do though, namely the “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” also known as ESPN. This past week, they did a story that featured their annual future power rankings. They based their rankings on five categories. 32.5% of the points were based on the quality of the current roster except the quarterback, with emphasis towards younger players and devaluation of players who will be over 30 in 2015. 17.5% was weighted towards each team’s quarterback situation. 15% of the points were based on each team’s draft class, reputation in the draft and number of picks coming up in the next three years as well as the front office’s ability to manage the roster via free agency, trades and their market to attract free agents. Lastly 20% was weight towards the coaching staff’s capability and stability.
The Dallas Cowboys future… according to ESPN… is crap. Dallas finished 24th, only ahead of San Diego, Arizona, Cleveland, Tennessee, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Oakland and the New York Jets.
Before we go any further, I feel it is fair we have a little bit of what I like to call full disclosure. I am a lifelong Cowboys fan. Partially because my brother was but mostly because my last name is the emblem on the helmet and in the middle of the field. I feel that there are three different types of Cowboys fans predominately. You have the casual football fan who says they like Dallas only because we are one of the most popular franchises in all of sports. You have what I like to call “the homer” who has no objectivity at all and thinks that every draft pick was money and every player is better than they are. Actually, that could be Jerry Jones. Lastly, you have the people who grew up or lived a large portion of their life in Texas so the Cowboys are more a way of life for them.
I am none of those. I love the game of football as much or more than any other thing in life. I am knowledgeable about what makes a great franchise and how to construct a good team. I also am very realistic and honest, especially when it comes to football. I do not make excuses for the Cowboys. Check my articles and you will find fair criticisms when they are necessary and factual, not emotional opinions regarding this team. I do not act as if we have not been the model of mediocrity for almost 15 years because we have. I also know why this is so. It is two men and no, their names are not Tony Romo or Jason Garrett. It is Jerry and Stephen Jones.
All that being said, there is NO WAY ON EARTH that Dallas will be in the bottom third of this league three from years from now. Let’s look at ESPN’s scoring system and see what they had to say about each category.
THE ROSTER (Avg Score: 5.8 x 32.5% = 18.9 pts)
The Cowboys scored highest in this category, largely because it is weighted so heavily. ESPN says that players like Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff will be gone in 2015 and that Anthony Spencer, Jason Hatcher and Miles Austin either will be as well or could be less effective. First of all, why would Jason Witten be gone? He will be 33 in 2015. The only two players to ever play his position that would be considered better than him played well beyond that age. Shannon Sharpe retired after age 35 and Tony Gonzalez will be playing this year at age 37. Witten will be here in 2015. It is likely that the rest will be gone, except maybe Ware who could stay on as third down sack specialist. However when you look at this roster, there are many stars or stars in the making who are currently under the age of 25. Dez Bryant, Morris Claiborne, Bruce Carter, DeMarco Murray, Tyron Smith, and Dan Bailey all fit that description. You also have Sean Lee at 26 and Brandon Carr at 27. If Travis Frederick works out like we hope, Dallas will have two starting offensive lineman who will be 25 in 2015 with he and Smith. Overall, the roster is in better shape than what it is being given credit for.
THE QUARTERBACK (Avg Score: 6.3 x 17.5% = 11.4 pts)
Here is where the Cowboys were given the best average score, registering a 6.5 out of 10. As I see it right now, there are only possibly seven other quarterbacks I would rather have in 2015 than Tony Romo. Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees for sure. Colin Kaepernick, Joe Flacco and Robert Griffin,III debatably. That alone shows Dallas is set to be in the top third of the league at the most important position on the field. While so many negative things are always brought up regarding Romo, the guy puts up big numbers, has largely been injury free and is a young 32 years old given that he did not play his first two and a half years in the league.
THE DRAFT (Avg Score: 4.5 x 15% = 6.8 pts)
This area tied for the lowest score along with coaching. We’ve talked about the 2012 already (http://thelandryhat.com/2013/05/03/how-to-fairly-analyze-the-dallas-cowboys-draft/). Here is an excerpt of what was said about us in this category: “Dallas is another team that hasn’t been terrible, but simply doesn’t find diamonds in the rough.” The reputation Dallas has in the draft is one of reaches and misses, however that is largely overblown. All of the names listed above in the roster breakdown were drafted in the last three years. Other players such as Dwayne Harris and James Hanna (round 6) and Sean Lissemore (round 7) were late draft picks that provide solid depth. If Matt Johnson turns out to be the player the Cowboys think he could be, his 4th round draft status looks a lot more attractive as well.
THE FRONT OFFICE (Avg Score: 4.7 x 15% = 7.1 pts)
As expected Dallas scored relatively low in this area. There really isn’t much to say about this given that Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones have hurt this team by over-valuing players and putting the Cowboys in tough predicaments when it comes to the salary cap. Make no mistake though, landing Brandon Carr in free agency was a nice move. Dallas may not be the attractive destination it once was but the chance to play for a high-profile franchise in a state with no income tax still has more pull than a lot of other destinations around the league.
THE COACHING STAFF (Avg Score: 4.5 x 20% = 9.0 pts)
This category tied the draft for the lowest score given to the Cowboys. Much has been said about Jason Garrett and I will be the first to say he has underwhelmed up to this point. He is however, one of the youngest head coaches in the league and has been saddled with the task of offensive coordinator along with head coach which honestly has been too much. I think Garrett is a good head coach and will be able to show that more now that he is not responsible for both jobs. My biggest gripe about the score Dallas received was that Jacksonville, Cleveland and Philadelphia were all given higher scores and all three spots have new coaches. So much for stability.
Ultimately, the only category that Dallas may deserve the low score they received is that of the front office. Otherwise, each other category should be, in some cases much higher. This appears to be a quite biased write-up, given the fact that the Patriots finished 5th, TWENTY-THREE points higher than the Cowboys. This is ridiculous at best. If you take into account that we are supposed to be talking about the future, it’s easy to see how dumb this disparity truly is.
First of all, New England was given a roster score almost five full points more than Dallas. Look at their roster. They have fewer players at or under the age of 25 than Dallas that would be considered impact players. One of them just had his FIFTH SURGERY OF THE YEAR and another may be going to jail for a fairly long time. That doesn’t exactly bode well for your future. Next, Tom Brady was given over two points more than Tony Romo which would be fine… if this was 2007 but again, this is supposed to be about the future. Brady will be 39 when the 2015 season starts. Will he even be in the league? That’s a legitimate question given that no current roster has a QB that age.
The next category, the draft, shows New England with an advantage of almost four points over Dallas. This is laughable. Look at the Patriots last four drafts and you will see they have produced six starters for the 2013 season. The Cowboys last four drafts have produced seven. It’s not just sheer numbers either. Dallas’ picks matchup at least as well, if not better; Dez Bryant or Rob Gronkowski? Sean Lee and Bruce Carter or Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower? DeMarco Murray or Stevan Ridley? Tyron Smith or Nate Solder? Morris Claiborne or Alfonzo Dennard?
The other two categories, Dallas cannot compete. The New England front office and coaching staff is one to be admired and looked up to but I think it is clear that ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut bias for their “home town” team is evident. As for the Cowboys future, until we know more I think it’s fair to say that it should be no worse than it’s past has been, mediocre. A ranking somewhere in the 14-18 range would be an appropriate and fair.