Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said it bluntly earlier this week while at the NFL Owners’ Meeting in Orlando:
“You’re always trying to build your team for now and for going forward. You don’t want to build your team based on what they’ve done in the past. It’s based on what they can do now for your team and what they can do going forward for your team…We try to get younger and try to continue to build our football team with different kinds of players –- younger players.”
Sounds like a rebuilding mindset to me. But is it realistic to think you can consistently win relying so heavily on these young, inexperienced players while in the midst of rebuilding?
If the Cowboys were truly rebuilding, they’d trade away their aging stars and start from scratch. They’d draft a young quarterback and ride out a rough season or two like the Seattle Seahawks did. Hawks head coach Pete Carroll took over a 5-11 Seattle team in 2010. It took him four years and two back-to-back 7-9 seasons to build the Seahawks into Super Bowl champions. Quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten, quarterback Kyle Orton, tackle Doug Free and others would all be shipped out of Dallas and replaced by draft picks or one-year tenders.
If the Cowboys are trying to win now, they would be more aggressive and willing to gamble their future for a ring this season. They would have signed free agent defensive end Jared Allen and overpaid him. They’d trade up in the upcoming draft to get the top-rated defensive end in Jadaveon Clowney. They’d make a trade for a veteran who will be a possible free agent in 2015 like Detroit’s defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The front office would simply be more pro-active. They’d pay the bigger price later to go for the Lombardi Trophy right now. And they’d take advantage of the limited window Romo and Witten both have left in their careers. It might not be the smartest play, but at least you are all-in.
Instead, the Cowboys are doing neither. They are willing to let free agency simply float by, using the salary cap as an excuse not to get creative. They are unwilling to do any player trades as they have been burned in the past. And they are more than happy to sit on their hands and play the 8-8 cards they’ve been dealt.
At this point, there really isn’t anyone available in free agency who is going to even get close to what Ware was to this defense anyway. I’m sure the plan is to replace his production with numerous individuals trying to kick-start their careers again…or for the first time. But right now, the Cowboys front office is looking toward the upcoming NFL Draft to change this defense’s fortunes. And once again, they’ll be forced to ask some fresh-faced newcomers to save our season from the 8-8 Groundhog Day Movie we seem to be stuck in.
The Cowboys claim they only need to rebuild half a house. Their offense is solid. It’s their defense that failed them last season. But to anyone who watched any of the Cowboys games last season, they know the offense had their hiccups as well. Although they may be trending upwards, so are the ages of their two biggest offensive stars in Romo and Witten.
It a vicious cycle. When you refuse to either clean house and simply rebuild or aggressively try to win right now, this is what happens. This in-between malaise. The grey area where we all want to see Cowboy greats like Ware and Romo hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in the air for America’s Team. But bloated salaries, gaudy extensions, misplaced loyalty and bad business decisions will probably not allow that to ever happen. They simply don’t know how.
The Dallas Cowboys want it all. They want to win championships while simultaneously rebuilding their roster for the future. But is that mission impossible? So far, three straight 8-8 seasons say what they are doing is a recipe for mediocrity.