Former Dallas Cowboys great Darren Woodson, the all-time leading tackler in franchise history, was nice enough to squeeze in a quick conversation with me in between his scheduled ESPN duties on Thursday. Other than a few minor edits (that didn’t change the context of any answer), the entire conversation is presented verbatim, below.
Dan Krupinsky: A lot of people would probably say, and rightfully so, that the safety position has been a revolving door since you left. Why has it been such a problem for the Cowboys to find a replacement? There’s the obvious answer that “they haven’t found the right guy,” but why is that? Have they undervalued the position, not put enough emphasis on it, or is it really just bad luck and they haven’t been able to find the right guy or guys?
Darren Woodson: It’s really two things. One is, they haven’t gone high enough in the draft to find a guy. They had [Eric] Reid last year, coming out of LSU, who San Francisco ended up picking up. The Cowboys had a chance, but they didn’t have the emphasis on the position. It wasn’t their primary emphasis. And then two, when you need to fill a position, until you absolutely focus on that position and that need, then you’re not going to do it.
Last year, you also had [Kenny] Vaccaro [from Texas] sitting there. He’s another guy, and New Orleans looked at him and said “Hey, we need a safety that’s a versatile player, that can not only play the safety position, but can play the slot guy.” That’s what I did. Vaccaro plays basically the same position that I did when I played. But that was their major emphasis. That wasn’t the Cowboys major emphasis. So, until they get in that mindset that “We need to go get a safety” and isolate two or three guys in the first round, they’re just not going to find that guy that they want.
But you know, JJ Wilcox is a young player that they’re really high on. He had a great camp last year, and I saw a couple of practices and I thought he had a very good camp. Then his mom passes away and things went south for him, not only mentally, but physically, as far as staying in shape. And you know, that’s a tough deal for him. But I think right now he and Barry Church are young players who are still coming into their own. I’d like to see Barry take full control of that secondary and be the leader, instead of Brandon Carr. But at the same time, I think they’re young guys who have some room for growth. But you’re right, they just haven’t focused on the position.