The Cowboys are headed into the 2013 offseason with a lot to prove in the coming year. Though this is certainly nothing new for the entire franchise, times are getting tighter and the blame is becoming broader. Jason Garrett managed to avoid the axe after losing his second straight win-or-go-home season-ending game in a row. The blame was mostly shouldered by defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who was fired almost immediately after the season ended.
Since then, owner/general manager Jerry Jones has revamped the coaching staff by bringing in Monte Kiffin, who was defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 12 years (winning Super Bowl XXXVII). In addition to that hire Jones has also brought in former Tampa Bay assistants Rod Marinelli and Rich Bisaccia for defensive line coach and special teams coordinator, respectively. Furthermore, the Kiffin hire means that the Cowboys will be switching to the 4-3 defense after having run a 3-4 since the Bill Parcells era.
Here are the 5 pressing needs for the Dallas Cowboys this offseason:
Reassign Play-Calling Duties
Jason Garrett was a fantastic play-caller in his first year as offensive coordinator under Wade Phillips in 2007. He was so effective in the role that Jerry Jones made him far and away the highest-paid offensive coordinator in the NFL a year later so that he wouldn’t take the offer he had been given by the Baltimore Ravens.
Five years later the Ravens are in the Super Bowl and Jason Garrett is once again picking up the pieces of another wasted year in Dallas. He has exhibited a particular inability to manage both head coaching duties and play-calling duties—which is a sign of his inexperience—and should be relegated to one job or the other. Jones should follow through on his commitment to take play-calling duties away from Garrett and give them to offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, who has himself displayed much better aptitude in the past calling plays over being head coach.
Strengthen the Secondary
It isn’t as bad this offseason as it has been in the last five years. At the very least both corner positions are in good enough hand, with only the young and impressionable Morris Claiborne needing to further prove his value as a top draft pick in 2012.
If Monte Kiffin wants to integrate his 4-3 Tampa Bay Cover-2 defense with this team then he’ll need tyo improve upon the absolutely porous play at both safety positions. With this in mind, when considering the unfortunate fact that the Cowboys didn’t play bad enough to get a higher draft spot, they should focus on the top safety across the field. Look no further than Kenny Vaccaro from right in their backyard. Many mock draft analyses have him as the top safety in the draft, with only Alabama CB Dee Milliner getting more attention among college defensive backs.
Strengthen the Offensive Line
Kiffin wants to work on putting the right defense in place and, well… that’s his job. However, the most pressing issue for this team has always been the offensive line. To be completely honest, discipline has always been the roughest bruise on this team, but said lack of discipline has always been best highlighted by the embarrassing play of the O-line.
As always, offensive tackles will be in full swing on draft day. The Cowboys could shoot further and trade up higher than required for a top defensive back by going after any of the slew of young linemen. From Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel to Michigan’s Eric Fisher to Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson, the crop isn’t particularly large but it’s sufficient for anyone looking to trade up.
Hold Off on a New Tony Romo Contract
It goes without saying that quarterback Tony Romo hasn’t proven that he deserves a lucrative contract extension. Nevertheless, owner/general manager Jerry Jones remains convinced that Romo is a good player that will come around as he continues to play. Jones favors comparing Romo to John Elway, who didn’t win a Super Bowl until he won two… in his final two seasons. Jones uses selective memory here, as he seems to purposefully ignore that Elway had been to the Super Bowl three times before finally going back and winning one.
Romo is a physically-gifted quarterback, but so was Archie Manning. There have been a lot of physically-gifted quarterbacks in the NFL that have never won anything. I won’t even bother naming all of them off but Michael Vick would be at the top of the list. Conventional wisdom ins sports management is that players produce best when they are in a contract year and their future is at stake. At the very least, Jones should review how Tony Romo performs during his first real contract year before handing the keys to the franchise over to him. There’s far too much talent elsewhere on this team to do something as rash as that.
Hire Jon Gruden
I had to. And, if I was general manager of this football team I would. Gruden is a Super Bowl winner and has demonstrated an innate ability to perform under pressure and to deliver results. In addition to the on-field matter is the issue of personality, and Gruden has what it takes to be a national figure in the national spotlight of being the head coach of America’s Team. Lest we forget, he was a successful coach for three years under the ingratiating Al Davis before he was unceremoniously traded to the Bucs in 2002. He would respond by defeating Davis’ Raiders (coached by Bill Callahan of all people) in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Gruden wins and is known around the league as an excellent motivator and teacher of the game. He works especially well with quarterbacks, having proved as much by winning that Super Bowl with no more than Brad Johnson at QB. And, it’s not as if the groundwork hasn’t already been laid withal of the former Tampa Bay assistants in place for 2013. Maybe Jones has as much irrational hope for Jason Garrett as head coach as he does for Romo as quarterback? Regardless, if and when the Garrett experiment fails it will likely surprise only Jerry Jones. So, why not just end it now?
Hire Gruden, and by all means necessary… for the love of all that is holy in Texas football… DO NOT draft Manti Te’o.