Dallas Cowboys: Window of opportunity has reopened

Sep 18, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman La'el Collins (71) and Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith (77) line up against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 18, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman La'el Collins (71) and Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith (77) line up against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys appeared to have an aging roster and their window for winning a title seemed to be closing. But a youth movement has changed that.

Back in 2010, which was the year that Jason Garrett was named interim head coach after Wade Phillips was fired following an embarrassing loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboys seemed to be on a downward spiral.

The Cowboys had the seventh oldest average age out of every roster in the NFL.

The offensive line was compiled with a lot of aging veterans that were preparing to retire and move on from football.

In fact, the Cowboys had the fifth oldest roster for offensive starters in 2010.

At that time, it seemed like a total rebuild was needing to take place.

That’s when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones decided to name Jason Garrett the full time head coach, and Garrett had a plan in place to get the Dallas Cowboys back to greatness.

Garrett clearly had a three year, five year, and ten year plan.

The three year plan was to simply get younger. In those three seasons, the Cowboys drafted decently enough to put together a young roster that competed in the regular season to the bitter end- falling just one win short of making the playoffs and finishing 8-8 in all three years.

He decided that protecting then starting quarterback Tony Romo was of extreme importance, remembering the era of Cowboys football that he was a part of as a player in the 1990’s when Dallas had a dominant offensive line and an established offensive identity.

Clearly he stuck to that plan by adding players such as Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin as first round selections- the only three offensive linemen that the Cowboys have drafted in the Jerry Jones era.

When Garrett went into his fourth full season as head coach, it seemed like that plan was beginning to pay off as Dallas was a dominant force in the regular season and went into the playoffs with a 12-4 record.

The Cowboys even won a playoff game against the Lions that year, and we all know how close they were to making a second trip to Seattle that season to face the Seahawks in the NFC championship game.

Unfortunately, part of the five year plan didn’t factor in quarterback Tony Romo having serious injuries pile up which completely destroyed the hopes of a successful 2015 campaign.

While I believe his five year plan involved having the roster completely overturned and filled with “the right kind of guys”, I also believe his five year plan involved making it to at least one Super Bowl in that time period.

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You don’t always reach your goals. That’s a part of life and that’s a part of sports.

Then 2016 came along. The Cowboys front office and scouting department had the magic touch when it came to player evaluation and executing a game plan to perfection.

Ezekiel Elliott, a redshirted Jaylon Smith, Maliek Collins, a redshirt Charles Tapper, Dak Prescott, and Anthony Brown all look like legitimate contributors at the very least for the next few seasons. All of the players, other than Jaylon and Tapper who were injured, actually excelled as rookies last year in their roles and really exceeded all expectations.

In 2010, the Cowboys had four starting offensive linemen that were 32 years old or older. In 2017, Dallas has five projected starting offensive linemen that are 26 years old or younger.

The Cowboys had eight players on the roster that were over the age of 30 in 2010. This year,Dallas has two players over the age of 30 and one is a long snapper. The other? Jason Witten.

Admit it. When Tony Romo went down in the preseason game last season, you believed not only was the season over but the window of opportunity for veterans such as Jason Witten, Sean Lee, and Orlando Scandrick to win a title in Dallas was closing abruptly.

Boy, what a difference a year can make.

Now all of a sudden, the Cowboys have a starting quarterback on a rookie salary that had arguably the greatest rookie season in NFL history, a second year running back that led the NFL in rushing last season, the most dominant offensive line in football, a group of receivers that are all under the age of 30, and a young and upcoming defense that has potential to be respectable this season and could really shock people with how good they are in years to come.

Next: Ten free agents who could replace Nolan Carroll in Dallas

The door for Romo’s Super Bowl hopes has closed. But in its place, a beautiful, shiny window has opened. Now it’s up to Jason Garrett and these young players to take advantage and seize the opportunities in front of them in these next few seasons.