Dallas Cowboys: It’s time to have faith in the front office
The Dallas Cowboys front office is one of the best in the league. From the draft to a vision for the team, Stephen Jones and company are building a winner.
Growing up a passionate football fan in Arlington, Texas, the Dallas Cowboys were an integral part of my childhood. But my high hopes and nostalgic Sundays were not matched with wins. In fact, the Cowboys have been mediocre at best for the majority of those Sundays.
Years of quarterbacks like Chad Hutchinson, Drew Henson, Vinny Testaverde, Drew Bledsoe and worse. Years with no identity or foundation. Years of front office ineptitude and fan mistrust. Emotional decision-making, questionable judgment, and big contracts for average performers.
But in 2011, all that changed.
The vilified owner and general manager Jerry Jones stepped aside and allowed his significantly more pragmatic son, team vice president Stephen Jones and ace in the hole Will McClay, the Cowboys vice president of pro personnel, to have a lot more control over the roster and the image of the franchise going forward.
Since then, the front office has performed wildly better than it ever has in my lifetime. And I know Cowboy fans have been mistreated, and have rightfully been in a state of paranoia regarding the front office for years. But it’s time to trust again.
Let’s go back and touch on 2011 for a second in order to illustrate the pattern of top-flight front office work since. In that year’s draft, Dallas used a premium top-10 selection on USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith with the 9th overall pick. This was the beginning of the foundation for a new era of Cowboy football.
In 2013, the Cowboys drafted center Travis Frederick. The following year Dallas had the most revealing draft of all. Jerry Jones was talked out of the splash pick he always loved, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Drafting Notre Dame offensive guard Zack Martin was a checkpoint that screamed, “We are for real now!”.
The Cowboys front office began to construct a team with a vision and purpose. By drafting (and hitting on) three offensive linemen in four years, it showed that a real foundational approach to fortifying the trenches was being taken. A football team was being built the way it should be, from the inside out.
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The new Cowboys front office has also managed to do something the previous decision-maker(s) couldn’t, and that’s draft well. Since fully adjusting to their roles Stephen Jones, McClay and company have drafted Tyron Smith, Frederick and Martin as well as running back DeMarco Murray, defensive end Tyrone Crawford, pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, linebacker Anthony Hitchens, cornerback Byron Jones and many more contributors that are too many to list.
In total, that’s six All-Pros and seven Pro Bowlers with the potential for a whole lot more. Th Cowboys have become one of the best drafting clubs in the league; allowing them to take a Patriot-esque strategy of signing players to team-friendly deals and replacing those who demand more than their play suggests.
There is no better example than last offseason.
The front office was crucified by fans for letting go of what seemed like the entire secondary. They were blasted for leaning on their draft acumen and trusting their vision. And even though there were some literal bumps and bruises on the road to the completion of the plan, we can all stand here today and see that the secondary is younger and more talented than it has been in a long time.
But they aren’t perfect right?
No, no-one is. So let’s quickly recap the biggest mistakes so far in this regime. As a front office since 2011, the three biggest mistakes were the trade up for LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, free agent defensive back Brandon Carr’s massive contract, and the drafting of pass rusher Randy Gregory.
And in life, you win some and lose some. But if my biggest losses are trading up for a guy who was labeled a ‘can’t-miss’ prospect and showed flashes of Pro Bowl play but was oft-injured, a guy who was paid a little much but at worse was an average and durable player, and a guy with freakish talent and character concerns who still may be able to contribute; then I’ll take it.
Since 2014, the Cowboys have won 71% of their games played with a healthy quarterback, (games without Tony Romo or Dak Prescott excluded). That is second in the league behind the New England Patroits and a spot ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bottom line, the front office is finally making smart and calculated decisions and it is showing on the field.
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Do we remember when one of the biggest challenges facing America’s Team was Jerry Jones omnipresent grip over personnel and overall decision making? Well, those days are gone. So are all the bad contracts, wasted drafts, and antics. Welcome to a new day in Dallas Cowboys football.