During his weekly radio show, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones assured fans that there will be major “changes” coming next season. Dallas lost and missed out on the playoffs in the final week of the season for the second straight time.
Media and the fans have spread much of the blame onto Jones, head coach Jason Garrett, and veteran quarterback Tony Romo. Fans especially seem to blame Romo after his disastrous late interception against the Washington Redskins has been played on a loop on every major sports network.
Yes, Romo had serious troubles this season, but the Cowboys have numerous issues to fix other than who is under center.
Below are four changes and moves Dallas can make before opening kick-off in 2013.
Hire A General Manager
This is probably the least likely change to happen, but it’s one Cowboy critics have long pleaded for. Jones has been calling the shots in the front office since he purchased the team in 1989, and can point to his three Super Bowl titles as reasons enough to stay on.
But as Black Monday showed, teams are willing to take the risk of bringing in a new coach or general manager for a fresh perspective not only of their teams but the entire NFL.
Some candidates to consider would be current ESPN analyst and former Indianapolis Colts GM Bill Polian, or even Scott Pioli if the Kansas City Chiefs decide to part ways with him. The San Diego Chargers also let A.J. Smith go, and he brought in top talent despite a much smaller budget compared to Dallas.
Make A Play For Chris Johnson
Another long shot, but Dallas hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2009, and have one playoff victory in the past decade. Major shake-ups and pay outs may have to happen.
Chris Johnson struggled early on for the Tennessee Titans, and owner Bud Adams publically scolded the entire team and coaching staff for their lackluster efforts. Johnson didn’t make matters any better by calling out his offensive line, and placing much of his poor play on them.
Eventually the three-time Pro-Bowl running back put together five games of 100-plus rushing yards, and tallied 1,243 yards and six touchdowns.
Johnson be a major boost to the Cowboys 31st ranked rushing offense. The Titans were rumored to be playing with the idea of releasing Johnson, but ultimately decided to keep him and his guaranteed $10 million salary for next season.
Jones could ask his new GM to loft a few overtures to the Titans to bring add Johnson who was the last rusher to gain 2,000 yards in a single season before Adrian Peterson did it in 2012.
Sign Or Retain A Top Pass Rusher
Dwight Freeney, Cliff Avril, and Osi Umenyiora are all scheduled to hit the free agent market next season, and any one could create a devastating duo with DeMarcus Ware.
Ware struggled in the second half of the season, but was also battling a shoulder injury. A cheaper alternative could be retaining linebacker Anthony Spencer, who responded when Ware struggled and was dominant in the final weeks of the season. Spencer led Dallas with 95 tackles and was second in sacks season.
The Cowboys tendered him a one-year franchise offer at $10.6 million for this season, and that number may rise, but Dallas would be wise to keep him as insurance for Ware.
Extend Tony Romo’s Contract
Clearly things change quickly in the NFL. After Romo’s Week One performance against the New York Giants, the Cowboys were rumored to be seeking a contract extension. Now critics are calling for his head.
An oft-injured offensive line combined with the lack of a rushing attack forced Romo to throw 98 more times than his previous career-high in pass attempts. He also reached career highs in completions and passing yards. Romo was the focal point of the Dallas offense, and every defense in the NFL keyed on him once it became clear the Cowboys had no running game.
Still Romo poured it on at the end of the season, totaling 18 touchdowns passes in the Cowboys final eight games compared to six interceptions.
Compare all of Romo's stats with the thin list of free agent quarterbacks, and what is considered one of the weaker drafts for skill players in years, and the Cowboys are better served in extending Romo's tenure.