Dallas Cowboys: Why high paid star power doesn’t win Super Bowls
By Richard Ball
The Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s were loaded with stars winning three Super Bowls. That was before all their stars had big contracts and the salary cap.
2018 was a tale of two seasons for the Dallas Cowboys. There was the stink-fest before the trade for wide receiver Amari Cooper and the after-trade run to the playoffs.
There is no denying that the Dallas Cowboys were a better team with Amari Cooper on the roster. The offense’s troubles have been well documented in the first seven games without a bona fide number one wide receiver.
The Cowboys had a three win and four loss record without Cooper. After the trade, Dallas trampled their competition with seven wins and two losses to claim the NFC East division title.
Quarterback Dak Prescott struggled if we are being polite. His barely 200 yards passing per game would rank 35th and his completion percentage was only 62.1 percent before the trade.
After the trade, Prescott threw for nearly 275 yards per game which would rank 11th and had a completion percentage of 71.3 percent, which would have ranked third best.
Cooper’s arrival definitely sorted out the wide receiver pecking order. Before Amari, the Cowboys were rolling with six receivers practically shuffling three new receivers on each play.
With Cooper, a true number one receiver, on the team, rookie Michael Gallup slid into the number two spot and Cole Beasley filled the slot giving Prescott stability. Clearly the front office’s desire for a wide receiver by committee “Dak” friendly offense failed.
But when you look closer at a wide receiver by committee approach, you see that in the right circumstance it has a lot of merit. I reviewed the past eight Super Bowl winning teams to see if there were any patterns.
Three teams had wide receivers surpass 1,000 yards: Julian Edelman in 2016, Demaryius Thomas in 2015 and Victor Cruz in 2011. However, the average rank for regular season receiving yards for the eight leading receivers from the past eight Super Bowl winning teams was 21st.
Four teams had receivers finish in the top ten for receptions: Edelman in 2016, Thomas in 2015, Edelman in 2014 and Cruz in 2011. Yet, the average rank for the eight teams for catches is again 21.
- Anquan Boldin ranked 32nd in catches in 2012
- Golden Tate ranked 46th in 2013
- Nelson Agholar ranked 37th in 2017
- Julian Edelman ranked 27th in 2018
Those four Super Bowl winning teams proved that it is possible to win the most important game of the year with a wide receiver by committee approach. So why didn’t it work in Dallas?
My belief is that your quarterback must be accurate if you don’t have wide open receivers. Dak Prescott is many things but accurate with his throws he is not.
I like Dak Prescott as a leader and as a winner. His thirty-two regular season wins over the past three years is proof that you can have success with him.
However, unless Prescott dramatically improves his accuracy, building the Cowboys with soon to be highly paid stars will not be sustainable. Prescott needs Cooper who has now earned a big pay day this offseason or next. The same can be said for running back Ezekiel Elliott.
The Cowboys are already paying three of their starting five offensive linemen big money. Very soon, you can expect Dallas to lock up “War Daddy” defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence with a significant cap hit.
And this does not include Prescott who the Cowboys have stated has earned his next BIG contract. Maybe this is why 2019 is a Super Bowl or bust season.
To me, this feels like 1996 to 1999 all over again. Those Cowboys teams not only had stars but Hall of Famers – quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith, wide receiver Michael Irvin, offensive lineman Larry Allen, cornerback Deion Sanders.
I am not projecting the current Dallas players as Hall of Famers. I am merely hypothesizing that the results for the 2019 to 2022 Cowboys look to follow the late 90’s teams with a lot of individual sizzle and collective team fizzle.
If we believe the Dallas Cowboys’ front office and each star will get their fair market contract value, the bright future the ‘Boys have with their young core will be wasted. Only if these stars are leaders and realize that the path to the Super Bowl requires them to sacrifice – including money from their contracts – can Dallas hope to compete for a Super Bowl.