Dallas Cowboys’ General Manager Jerry Jones was up to his usual (bumping gums for all to hear) routine this week at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Unlike the typical Jerry Jones football-impaired remarks on the offensive line, these latest ones broke new ground.
I’d say I was baffled to the extent that I had to closely inspect what I just read to make certain my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. Once I confirmed the exact words were legit, it took a little more time to decipher that he wasn’t being sarcastic or funny.
Was Jerry sipping rum and Cokes while on vacation in his new, plush Cowboys party mobile? Maybe he felt a little tipsy as reporters filed in gawking at this lavish, fully-loaded travel bus.
Sporting that devious grin, Jerry whispers, “Watch Daddy work, Stevie. If I say some crazy comments to drive our fans nuts, tonight you gotta make big ole’ Broaddus chauffeur us down the Indy strip in our new, tricked-out, Jerry-Mobile…woo hoo!”
Kidding aside, his actual comments did jar me a bit. Jerry was either playing head games on the biggest national stage prior to the draft, or he just solidified as fact the current regime will not win an NFC East title or playoff game in Jerry’s remaining days as boss.
Let’s take a glance at some of Jerry Jones’ highlights during combine week and evaluate…
"If you’re going to have a guy (Tony Romo) that can handle a porous offensive line, it’s Tony. Tony has some of the best percentages operating behind pressure situations of anyone in the NFL. If there were a place theoretically that you had to have a weakness with Tony Romo at quarterback, that might be a place to have it. You just can’t have it all."
TRANSLATION: I admit that our current offensive line is porous, but Tony Romo is elusive enough to negate that. He was better than most NFL QB’s at succeeding under pressure.
Having Tony Romo, I’m not going to overly concern myself with offensive line. Other positions are more important. We can’t have ideal players everywhere, a sub-par OL is acceptable.
HEAD FAKE: Even though we don’t have a solid OL, he’s fine with it and still not going heavy on offensive line selections in the draft.
HEADCASE: If these statements are honest opinions, we officially have the worst GM of all time. The entire football coaching world knows OL is the first offensive area you want to fortify.
Regardless of your QB’s skills, solid protection will make him exponentially more effective. Ask Tony Romo what he thinks of those comments, I guarantee he will both laugh and cringe.
Furthermore, there is a very important element to offensive football, it’s called a running game. Is Tony Romo’s elusiveness helping DeMarco Murray run through non-existent rushing lanes?
There is a reason why the 2012 Dallas Cowboys rushed for a pathetic 79 yards per game and 8 total rushing TD’s. What happens if you have a solid OL and raise those numbers to 119 ypg and 17 rushing TD’s? You hoist a Super Bowl Trophy a la the Baltimore Ravens.
It’s no coincidence the other participant in the Super Bowl (San Francisco 49ers) rushed for 155 ypg and 17 TD’s. Both the running and passing games are greatly improved when the threat of successful rushing exists. Football 101.
"We do need to have improvement there, but I think we can get that offensive line with some of the stuff we’re going to do with our offense and coaching. I think we can get that offensive line with a better report card here this time next year."
TRANSLATION: We need improvement along the offensive line, yet we can achieve that by coaching our schemes to current players. The same guys will play much better next year.
HEAD FAKE: Jerry reaffirms we are in good shape with the guys we already have. Schemes and coaching will make these guys better in 2013, so we won’t be excessive with OL in draft.
HEADCASE: Apparently we did not watch the same Cowboys OL last year. Doug Free getting burnt around the corner had nothing to do with scheme and won’t next year.
The guards being blasted up the middle on solo blocks or protection had little to do with schemes or coaching.
The many deficiencies at center will never improve to a solid level with these same converted centers currently on the roster.
It was simply a case of inferior players often over-powered or a step-behind their opponent. Practice might be a potential solution if Bernadeau, Free, and Livings weren’t already 5+ year veterans.
Those 3 guys are at the veteran point where what you see is what you get when losing head-up battles. Experience together gives a decent bump in production, but this line has miles to go to even reach dependable.
Bottom line is Dallas is starting 4 less-than-average players on the OL. Ignoring improvement through player additions or substitutions to at least 3 spots is a decision a successful GM or head coach would scoff at.
"A player could get us in better shape than…what our offensive line is right here. But again, I agree with him (Bill Callahan) when he saw more positive and on the come as the year went on as he instituted his coaching. It did make a change and he did do it differently. There was an adjustment."
TRANSLATION: Sure, acquiring one player through free-agency or the draft would improve our OL. Yet Bill Callahan and I agree the group improved due to his coaching as the season progressed. He switched things up and it worked.
HEAD FAKE: What better way to mask your overwhelming desire to draft offensive linemen in this unusually deep draft than gushing praise for your current starters? Sure it sounds like a lame attempt at reverse psychology, but has some potential.
Let’s say the Cowboys go OL in Round 1. When Round 2 rolls around and Dallas’ pick is nearing selection, uncertainty could make an entrance.
Another GM may think we grabbed our one major OL upgrade we desired early, and combined with hearing Jerry’s OL praise…he may begin to doubt Jerry is making a play for another OL player that early.
If you plan to make an early run on starter-quality offensive linemen, it may prove a somewhat effective diversion strategy to keep the market as favorable as possible.
HEADCASE: Is it just me or didn’t Doug Free force Callahan to bench him and alternate with Jeremy Parnell towards the end of the season? How is this late-season progress from your starting LT, when he played inferior enough to bench?
In the last 4 games of the season the Cowboys rushed for 69 yards per contest. They scored a total of 2 rushing TD’s. And while not awful, they surrendered 8 total sacks.
This is the last quarter of the schedule, undoubtedly the time of OL progression Jones and Callahan eluded to. These stats are directly linked to OL play, and this is real progress?
Are these guys really okay with our highly inferior level of OL play and poor results from them? Now it’s perfectly clear why Dallas can’t get over the hump and make the playoffs.
Mediocre line play is acceptable to the men in charge. And what does mediocre line play get you in the NFL? A mediocre record. It’s no coincidence Dallas finished with a pedestrian 8-8 record, and watched the playoffs from their comfortable couches two seasons in a row.
"You’ve got to weigh what Costa is as opposed to what he isn’t. He doesn’t have the arm length. What he is, is as smart as anyone playing in the NFL. What he is, is tenacious.At that position, you can’t do it with two other Costas on either side of him. But if you’ve got a top player on one side and a half-ass player on the other, than Costa can be a good player for you.I can see going with Costa at center for several years."
TRANSLATION: Costa is not an ideal center physically and has limitations, including his short arms. But he’s very smart and tenacious. In order for him to be very good we only need one stud guard on one side and another average guy on the other.
When I acquire that stud guard we are set, as I already signed average guards last year. Then Costa will likely be the starting center of the Dallas Cowboys for years. We don’t need a center in the draft.
HEAD FAKE: If Jerry plans on making a play for the versatile lineman and experienced center in Alabama’s Barrett Jones in the first 2 rounds, these comments could be heavy window dressing to divert attention from that desire.
HEAD-CASE: Jones loves Phil Costa at center. It’s his baby project. In a bold move, Jerry booted veteran center Andre Gurode in 2011, claiming Costa was just as good and cheaper.
That move didn’t work out so well as Costa played far below average and nowhere near Gurode’s level. That didn’t deter Jones one bit, Costa was his decision.
Jerry prayed and prayed, and waited and waited for Costa to shake the back injury and start the 2012 season. He returned in time to face the Giants on opening night, and 3 plays later was back on the injured shelf for 4 games.
What was the result of Jones’ stubbornness? Dallas was left with no answer on the roster for even a decent starting center. Luckily the player personnel department does their job well.
Trading with Miami for center Ryan Clark was a good move as it at least stopped the bleeding and gave Dallas a chance. But let’s not forget what Cook cost the team, a 7th round draft pick this year.
So Costa returned in Week 6 and played a strong game against Baltimore. The Cowboys rushed for 227 yards. Keep in mind that just a week prior, the miserable 2-14 Chiefs ran for 214 yards against that same Ravens defense.
And a week after the Cowboys match-up, the Texans hung 181 rushing yards on that Baltimore defense. Costa’s solid game is not quite as eye-opening when you take into account the Baltimore defensive line was hot butter at that point in the year.
The very next week Costa re-injured his back and went on IR for the year. So this is your starting center for years??? A player who was over-matched and abused his first season as the starting center.
The following year he injured his back 3 times. Costa missed training camp, the first 4 games, and another 10.5 games to finish the season. The 1 full game he played all season, he had a great game against a struggling defensive line.
The same group that was dominated by the Chiefs the week before, and Texans the following week. For the record, both the center of the Chiefs and Texans graded out at least 2.4 points in the green against Baltimore.
So we are still going all-in on a center with one awful year under his belt, plus one solid game against a struggling d-line, and also has a highly unreliable back that could reasonably eliminate him at any time? Way to GM a team, Jerry.
Hopefully Jerry Jones is making a lame attempt at reverse psychology and diversion before the draft with these outlandish OL comments. Either that or the man has no business even building a roster on Madden, much less America’s Team.
Every GM and head coach worth a dollar of his paycheck will tell you a team will not win in the playoffs without a solid offensive line. Jerry’s comments about desiring credit for an imaginary Super Bowl title he hasn’t won is blasphemy, considering this ignorant o-line strategy.
I hate to break the awful news, but according to Jerry’s foolish statements the 2013 Dallas Cowboys’ starting o-line will be the following…
LT – Tyron Smith
LG – Draft Pick or Nate Livings
C – Phil Costa
RG – Draft Pick (same draft pick as above) or Mackenzy Bernadeau
RT – Doug Free or Jeremy Parnell
Yep, your eyes are correct. There is one new starter that isn’t currently on our roster. Free and Parnell will be a toss-up if Free stays, which I think he will. I have no doubt Free will have to lose the job in-season again for Parnell to take over.
So that’s your same inferior 2012 offensive line + one new capable face. Now we have Smith and a good rookie. 2 out of 5 ain’t bad, right J.J.? Heaven help us, our GM certainly has no idea how to and it’s getting worse.