The Dallas Cowboys constellation shines brightly, yet the victories give not the warmth to which we’re accustomed. Though the jejune and cretinous are quick to blame superstars like Tony Romo or DeMarcus Ware for poor illumination, I contend our problems are with the main sequence stars, the players for whom the national headlines make no mention.
Oliver Goldsmith was an eighteenth century Irish writer. In 1760’s Ireland, rich men were turning farmland into lavish yards and gardens. Goldsmith penned his fears of these unintended consequences in a poem entitled “The Deserted Village.” Here’s some verses he wrote that I find poignant in relation to our Cowboys:
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay;
Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade;
A breath can make them, as a breath has made;
But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride,
When once destroyed, can never be supplied.
I would argue our stars, or skill positions if you will, are as good as they were in the ’90s. We’ve seen Romo break franchise records. We’ve seen Demarco Murray rush at rates reminiscent of Emmitt. You can snicker or kvetch if you want, but Felix Jones has set franchise records on his own too. Witten is a far better target than Novacek, and our receiving corps is as talented collectively as the trio of Irvin, Williams, and Cory Fleming. DeMarcus Ware has played at a higher level than Charles Haley. Why can’t we seem to win?
It’s the peasantry, the role players.
That’s the problem I see with these Dallas Cowboys. We have no role players. We do not have a core. Where’s our Bill Bates, Kenny Gant, Brock Marion, Jimmie Jones, Tony Casillas, Derrick Kennard, etc.? Those are the guys who were a vital part of our success in the 1990’s.
Who on this team do you think could land a big free agent contract somewhere else? We had guys like that amongst our peasantry in the ’90s. In fact, neither the team that signed those players away nor the Cowboys benefited from those contracts. Larry Brown and Alvin Harper are notable examples.
The guy that plays opposite of Ware should be snookering a team for a big contract. That’s a huge position where we’ve not had a bold peasantry. Instead of taking advantage of a team in free agency the way he should have taken advantage of Ware’s double and triple teams, Anthony Spencer has had to settle for a franchise tag. And then, he acts like your bum brother-in-law when you loan him $100 check: he acts like he doesn’t really want it, but he’s quick to cash it.
I thought we had this problem fixed when Jerry fired Wade. You know, because then we saw Jason Garrett take a bunch of nerds who had gone 1-7 and then finish the season 6-10. We thought if we got a decent defensive coordinator and a real disciplined locker room, we would finally have the team that could compete anywhere, anytime. We saw a glimpse of that in New York on Opening Night when we played patsy to the Jets. And we waited the rest of the season to see it again.
Our superstars did well in 2011. The role players were the ones that just didn’t show up, and they haven’t been going back to 1996. For that, you can blame Jerry Jones, and I don’t really want to go down that road because it’s almost as conspiratorial as the moon landings, violent as a mob buying a pair of Jordans, and boring as watching glue lose its mucilage. But are we not getting the right scouts? Are we not getting the right position coaches? How do you instill a culture that turns your role players into a bold peasantry and not a bunch of bums sitting on a stoop in the middle of a Sunday afternoon?
How do we replenish this array of role players? Do we get better position coaches? Do we have a good free agency, or do we have better drafts? There are so many needs, so many questions, and only a Hobson’s choice in each category.
For the Dallas Cowboys to compete for conference titles, methinks we need not more star players. Rather, we need a bold peasantry.