The countdown to kickoff is now in full swing, as we stand a mere 3 days ahead of the 2013 Dallas Cowboys’ regular season opener. Following the conclusion of the 2012 season, Owner/GM Jerry Jones certainly didn’t keep his foot away from his mouth.
If he ever were to accomplish that amazing feat, fans may wonder when they are waking up from REM sleep. Naturally, there have been the occasional oddball claims from the brash, outspoken boss.
There were certainly a few absurd comments early in the off-season. Specifically the one where he deemed QB Tony Romo so elusive that he doesn’t need any better than an average offensive line to flourish behind.
Of course there was a week ago when he made an obscure claim a doctor told him the MRI scan of his brain looked like he has the brain of a 40 year old. Maybe that 40 year old brain should share less odd personal information with the media.
But today I’m not here to grill Jerry Jones, instead I’m proud to praise the (finally) effective General Manager for keeping the ultimate and most doubted promise of the off-season.
Jerry Jones angrily took to the airwaves just weeks after his team lost to the Washington Redskins, finished the season 8-8, and blew another chance at the NFC East crown. The lead Cowboy burst out publicly fuming and made Dallas fans a monumental promise things will get “very uncomfortable” within the organization.
In essence he was saying that both coaches and players were no longer safe from replacement or dismissal. I’m here to tell you the man fulfilled that promise with flying colors and in very effective fashion.
Jones started at the very top of this heap. He rightly slid the play-caller duties out from under Head Coach Jason Garrett and turned it over to Offensive Coordinator Bill Callahan. Although Jerry let the saga drag out for months to save face for Garrett, ultimately he executed the switch.
Moving down a notch, the GM abruptly fired Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan. The controversial move terminated the 3-4 defense, which the team had played as its base defensive set for several years.
The transformation completed in the form of NFL legend Monte Kiffin and his trademark (Tampa 2) 4-3 Defense.
Shockwaves continued to ripple through the assistant coaching ranks in droves. Even Jason Garrett’s brother John Garrett was sliced by the knife of change.
There are 10 new assistant coaches for 2013 (newly hired or switched position group), with the replaced 2012 coaches in parentheses:
Play-Caller – Bill Callahan (Jason Garrett)
Running Backs – Gary Brown (Skip Peete)
Wide Receivers – Derek Dooley (Jimmy Robinson)
Tight Ends – Wes Phillips (John Garrett)
Assistant OL – Frank Pollack (Wes Phillips)
Def Coordinator – Monte Kiffin (Rob Ryan)
Defensive Line – Rod Marinelli (Brian Baker)
Special Teams Coordinator – Rich Bisaccia (Joe DeCamillis)
Asst. Strength & Conditioning – Kendall Smith (Walt Williams)
Offensive Assistant – Dave Borgonzi (None)
This is the area that most shocked me as Jerry Jones has a long history of hanging in way too long with inferior players he heavily threw his public support behind.
Not only did Jerry Jones toss aside some of his most recent pet projects and signings, he replaced them with superior players.
Listed below are the 8 new 2013 starters and their 2012 predecessors:
Fullback /H-Back – James Hanna / Gavin Escobar (Lawrence Vickers)
Left Guard – Ronald Leary (Nate Livings)
Center – Travis Frederick (Phil Costa)
Right Guard – Brian Waters (Mackenzy Bernadeau)
Right Tackle – Doug Free w/ large pay Cut (Doug Free w/ fat contract)
Defensive Tackle – Nick Hayden (injured Jay Ratliff)
Outside Linebacker – Justin Durant (4-3 new position)
Strong Safety – Will Allen (Gerald Sensabaugh)
The most startling of all had to be Jerry’s willingness to demote his prize 2012 free agent signings of guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau. While acquiring this pair, Jones fell just short of annointing these guys OL saviors. A year later, he’s made no bones about replacing the pair with Ronald Leary (2012 practice squad rookie) and new free agent addition Brian Waters.
In addition, the energetic Jones also gave starting RT Doug Free the option of playing under a highly reduced salary, or hit the unemployment line.
Since accepting his offer, Doug Free has looked like a new man returning to productive form and possibly being the biggest surprise of training camp.
Jones also has a lengthy history of strong support for his recent draft selections. At present time, 4 of the 7 draft picks from 2012 are no longer a key factor on the depth chart. Either the player is demoted beyond 2nd string (Kyle Wilber, Matt Johnson), relegated to the practice squad (Danny Coale), or cut from the team (Caleb McSurdy).
I’m not sure who possessed the body of often maligned Owner/GM Jerry Jones, but whoever it is has now given the 2013 Dallas Cowboys a very solid basis to win the NFC East title and escape the 8-8 prison the Cowboys have been rotting away in.
The many bold actions taken by this cut-throat version of the GM have signaled one thing loud and clear…no more excuses. Back in January, Mr. Jones firmly swore to Cowboys’ fans things would get “very uncomfortable” within the team. I’m proud to say that was one crucial promise the boss fulfilled and then some.
There is real cause for excitement and even realistic expectations of substantial success with this greatly revamped coaching staff and roster. The vast coaching and player upgrades stretch all across the board.
Cowboys’ fans have one man to thank for finally providing a legitimate opportunity for a return to playoff glory…the new and improved man of his word, Owner/GM Jerry Jones. To our good fortune, it seems a 40 year old brain inside a 70 year old body is still able to learn new tricks.
Injuries will again damage the increased potential of this team, especially along the front lines. Guards Ronald Leary and Mackenzy Bernadeau have both shown a propensity for re-injury, and missed much practice team with knee concerns. Brian Waters is 36 and returning from an 18 month layoff.
Along the defensive line, Anthony Spencer is entering the season very uncertain and undoubtedly less than 100%. His chance for re-injury remains high. Jay Ratliff is a true wildcard and there is something very unusual that’s being kept from the public about his situation. I have a strange feeling we won’t see Jay return until around the 10th week, maybe not at all.
Regardless of these injury concerns, I do think Dallas prepared well enough in the supporting cast to tread water if some of these guys miss time. At full tilt I could easily see a revamped o-line (and running game), along with a 4-3 defense better suited to our personnel resulting in 11 or even 12 wins.
However, since I do believe Dallas will experience a decent dose of bad luck on the injury front, I expect the improved results to be less dramatic in the final standings.
Ultimately the significant step up, no matter how slight it may be in the win column, will be enough to move the Cowboys over the NFC East hump.
10-6, NFC East Champions (#4 Seed in Playoffs)
NFC Playoff Teams:
Divisional Champions: 1) Seattle Seahawks, 2) Atlanta Falcons, 3) Green Bay Packers, 4) Dallas Cowboys
Wild Card Teams: 5) San Francisco 49ers, 6) New York Giants
NFC Playoff Results:
Cowboys fall in opening round to 49ers
Packers best Giants in wild card round
Seahawks deny 49ers in divisional round
Packers eliminate Falcons in divisional round
Seahawks defeat Packers for the NFC Crown
Seahawks beat Denver, win Super Bowl Championship