Dallas Cowboys: Organization as strong as it’s ever been


“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, for injuries and turnovers can overtake all men.”
– Ecclesiastes 9:11

I’m paraphrasing, of course, but Old Testament wisdom teaches us that in any given season there are at least a half dozen teams good enough to win the Super Bowl. The Dallas Cowboys were one of those teams last year. Swift enough and strong enough, just a little short on the time and chance. Another team good enough to win the Super Bowl caught a few breaks against them, so the Cowboys went home.

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But that’s OK, because the Cowboys are building the kind of culture, identity and roster that can put them in position to go the distance every year. Observers who judge an organization’s growth solely by the win-loss column were shocked by last season’s success, but over the previous three seasons the Cowboys were slowly, grindingly, inexorably building something special.

All that work was designed to culminate not in a one-shot, Hail Mary, win-now season, but in a perennial contender. In an online chat on Friday, I asked Dallas Morning News writer Bob Sturm whether the Cowboys are building a culture, identity, and roster that can be competitive even after quarterback Tony Romo retires:

"“Two years ago I would have laughed at that question. Now, it seems reasonable to ask. The Cowboys do a lot of things right it seems these days and should be complimented on how much they have resembled the best organizations in the league. I still would say that we should slow down because everything in this league remains tied to QB1, but I see where you are headed.“We used to say when Romo leaves, the franchise will bottom out and 1-15 might be a reality again. Now, you wonder if they aren’t setting the table for the next guy to have success without it all being on his shoulders. We shall see. But, they really look like a strong organization, not a circus with a few good players like we felt five years ago.”"

Whether or not they win any Super Bowls is anyone’s guess. Time and chance, injuries and turnovers, etc… Every Super Bowl winner has the swiftness and strength to execute when it counts, but they also get a few breaks. Every year there are a few teams with the requisite tangibles who are on the wrong end of those breaks.

The Cowboys are building to be one of those teams that, if things break right, can go the distance every year. You can thank head coach Jason Garrett for the turnaround.

Garrett doesn’t literally do everything from choosing the players to coaching the schemes to building the game plans to executing on the field. Instead he established the right culture and expectations, hired the kind of people who would thrive in a high-energy, high-stakes, high-achievement environment, then demanded they show up to work every day and be great.

That goes from the organization’s rookie linebacker drafted to be a core special teamer, all the way up to the mercilessly lampooned septuagenarian owner and general manager.

Anthony Hitchens wasn’t taken out of Iowa in the fourth round of the 2014 draft with the expectation that he would play over 600 snaps and start 11 games as a rookie. Jerry Jones wasn’t expected to win the NFL’s Executive of the Year award. Neither of them would have realized that kind of success without Redball’s organizational direction and leadership.

Everyone cautions against reading too much into 2014’s success. Let’s not get too excited, they say. It was just one season, they say. They Cowboys haven’t won anything yet, they say.

They’re right, of course. To say the Cowboys are going to win the Super Bowl this year is crazy. It assumes time and chance, injuries and turnovers will fall their way. But you can’t ignore the top-to-bottom competence with which this organization is operating.

This organization’s strengths are leadership and direction. The Cowboys didn’t get lucky in building this roster. They have become terrific at identifying, accumulating and developing talent. They have firmly rooted a culture in which that talent can achieve its highest expression.

When that’s what you’re good at, every year could be your year. Time and chance, injuries and turnovers. What more can you ask for in a hyper-competitive league where so little separates the top six or eight teams?

Next: Did the Cowboys just land the all-time steal of the draft?