2012 Dallas Cowboys: How the Cowboys Can Reach the Super Bowl

Lawrence BurnealContributor IFebruary 24, 2012

2012 Dallas Cowboys: How the Cowboys Can Reach the Super Bowl

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    The Dallas Cowboys failed to reach the playoffs for the second straight season in 2011. In Dallas, reaching the playoffs is not their only goal, either. A two-year drought from the playoffs hurts—but what hurts Jerry Jones and the Cowboys more is the 16 straight seasons they have not reached the Super Bowl.

    In 2012, the Cowboys will be desperately looking for a way to end that drought. In some NFL cities, reaching the playoffs would be viewed as a successful season. For the Cowboys, only the Super Bowl is a success.

    Fortunately for the Cowboys, the fact that they missed the postseason in 2011 does not decrease the possibility of them winning the Super Bowl in 2012. Two of the last three teams who won the Super Bowl missed the playoffs the previous season.

    With a couple changes and a little bit of luck, the Dallas Cowboys could reach the Super Bowl in 2012. The Cowboys are not far away, but they do need a terrific offseason to fill some of their holes.

    Here is the 10-step process for the Cowboys to reach the Super Bowl in 2012.  

10. Grocery Shopping

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    Give Jason Garrett the credit card to shop for the Dallas Cowboys’ groceries.

    Jerry Jones is a great owner in that he is willing to spend the money needed for a championship level team. The only problem is Jones does not know what a championship level team looks like. Jason Garrett should be given most, if not all, of the control over the Cowboys’ personnel changes in the offseason.

    Jones has repeatedly stated how smart he believes Garrett is, and it is time for Garrett to prove Jones right. Jones found success quickly as the Cowboys' owner because he allowed Jimmy Johnson to make the personnel decisions. Johnson proved to be a terrific talent evaluator, and it is time to see if Garrett has those same talents.

    No one knows this football team better than Garrett. Garrett has been with the team since 2007. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of the Cowboys, and he understands what pieces are necessary for the Cowboys to make a long postseason run.

    Allowing Garrett to make the personnel decisions is the first step in the Cowboys offseason. 

9. Parting Ways

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    Let Keith Brooking, Anthony Spencer and Martellus Bennett walk away in free agency, and release Terence Newman.

    Now that Jason Garrett has control over the personnel, he can cut more of the slack that he started releasing in 2011. Allowing overrated veterans (Brooking, Spencer and Bennett) to walk in free agency is a must. There are cheaper, younger players already on the roster who can replace and even upgrade Brooking and Bennett. Spencer is not worth the money he will demand.

    One noticeable absence on that veteran free agent list is Bradie James. If James is willing to accept an even more decreased role and a significant pay cut, then bringing James back as Bruce Carter’s mentor and backup would be a great decision.

    After those free agents are not re-signed, the Cowboys should release Newman. Releasing Newman would give the Cowboys greater flexibility in free agency and would open the door for a younger, more talented corner, to start for the Cowboys.

    Newman has been a very good Cowboy for a long time, but his career is winding down. The Cowboys would have to pay him more money than he is worth if they brought him back. When the Cowboys combine the money factor with the decrease in production, it makes bringing Newman back next season unreasonable.   

8. Saving Romo

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    Sign Carl Nicks and solidify the offensive line.

    The departures of those overrated veterans will open the door for the Cowboys to make a big splash in free agency. Their first and most important target should be Carl Nicks. Nicks is going to demand a lot of money as one of the top guards in football. Luckily, the Cowboys have plenty of money to spend this offseason.

    The Cowboys have found two bookends on their offensive line, but the interior line is extremely weak. At both guard positions and at center the Cowboys have a question mark entering the 2012 season. Nicks would solve a lot of the problems on the inside and also improve the play of Doug Free.

    Nicks is not the only piece of the offensive line that needs to be upgraded, but he is the most important. Adding Nicks to an offensive line with Tryon Smith and Free gives the Cowboys crucial pieces to having a phenomenal line for years to come.

7. The Ryan Way

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    Find Rob Ryan plenty of cornerbacks and pass rushers in the offseason.

    Rob Ryan did not have the first season in Dallas he envisioned. The Cowboys crumbled down the stretch defensively in too many games. Essentially, the Cowboys season came down to a 12-point lead that Rob Ryan’s defense could not hold against the New York Giants.

    Ryan deserves part of the blame, but the bigger problem was not having the right personnel for Ryan’s defense to be successful. Ryan needs a plethora of pass rushers and cornerbacks. DeMarcus Ware is an elite pass rusher but no one else on the team created enough pressure consistently for the Cowboys.

    After signing Nicks, the Cowboys should shift their focus to adding as many potential pass rushers as possible and finding cornerbacks to replace Terence Newman, Alan Ball and Frank Walker. The Cowboys do not need to sign the top players in free agency. They should focus on finding a nickel/dime corner and finding as many players who can rush the passer as possible.

6. The Third Phase of Football

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    Trade for, sign, or draft a legitimate kick return and punt return threat.

    In 2010, the San Francisco 49ers traded a fifth-round pick for Ted Ginn Jr. One season later the 49ers were a game away from the Super Bowl. Ginn was a big part of the transformation of the 49ers. Their return game was one the best in the league because of Ginn, and that translated into victories for the team.

    The Cowboys enter the offseason without a defined returner for either kickoffs or punts. Dez Bryant should not be anywhere near punts in 2012. He needs to focus on playing receiver and not getting injured on special teams.

    Felix Jones could be the kick returner, but it is more likely that Jason Garrett involves him more on offense than special teams. The Cowboys need to find a legitimate threat in the return game who can be counted on for all 16 games. If the Cowboys special teams can become explosive, the Cowboys offense will score points easier.   

5. NFL Draft

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    Draft an impact cornerback and find production in the early rounds.

    After releasing Terence Newman, the Cowboys will be looking to add a starting cornerback with the 14th pick. Janoris Jenkins and Dre Kirkpatrick are the most likely options. Both are very talented players who excel at different aspects. Either selection would give the Cowboys a corner to start opposite of Michael Jenkins and a potential shut down corner.

    After adding one of those corners in the first round, the Cowboys need to focus on finding immediate production in the next two rounds. Last year the Cowboys selected the very talented, but injured, Bruce Carter in the second round. This season the Cowboys need a player who can contribute immediately.

    There are many positions the Cowboys could address in the next rounds including center, safety, and outside linebacker. The Cowboys need to focus on adding players at those positions who can make an impact from day one.

    With a solid draft, the Cowboys will be well on their way to building a solid foundation for a long time.   

4. The Next 88

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    Develop Dez Bryant into the elite receiver that his talent has shown he can be.

    Dez Bryant has just about as much talent as any receiver in the league. Bryant has tremendous big-play ability and is already one of the hardest receivers in football to tackle. With all of the talent that Bryant has, he has yet to fully develop into the receiver he can be.

    The Cowboys need Bryant to become the receiver they envisioned when they drafted him in the first round. The Cowboys already have huge potential in their passing game but Bryant could become a game-changer.

    If Bryant can develop into a truly elite receiver, the Cowboys could become the best offensive in the league. That offense can lead them to the Super Bowl.

3. The Attitude Era

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    Discover a defensive leader to develop a mean, nasty attitude on defense.

    The Dallas Cowboys have been considered soft on defense for far too long. The Cowboys had their best defensive season in 2009 when the Cowboys made it to the divisional round of the postseason. In 2009, Keith Brooking was their emotional leader and was still able to contribute on the field.

    In the past two seasons Brooking’s play has declined, and with that, his leadership on the field has diminished as well. The Cowboys need to find another emotional leader on defense. This emotional leader needs to give the Cowboys an attitude on defense—an attitude that stands up on the goal line and an attitude that dominates the line of scrimmage.

    With all of the new rules on defense, it is more difficult to develop a nasty defense that offenses fear, but the Lions proved it is not impossible. The Cowboys do not need a player who is going to stomp on the opposing team, but they do need some young players who are going to hit hard and make the offensive players fight for every yard.

    A nasty defense can lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl and give the their defense an identity.

2. A Little Bit of Luck

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    Play some teams at the right time.

    The Cowboys are going to have a difficult schedule next season. The NFC East is not becoming any easier with the defending champion New York Giants, “The Dream Team” Philadelphia Eagles, and a team looking to sign Peyton Manning in the offseason.

    The Cowboys also have to face the NFC South, AFC North, the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears. The Cowboys will face a lot of talented teams, and a little luck will go a long way for the Cowboys to make a playoff run.

    Every season teams need a lot of luck for a successful year. Teams need luck to stay healthy and teams also need luck to play a couple of their harder opponents at the right time. With a schedule as hard the Cowboys’ 2012 schedule, catching a couple of the more talented teams at the right time would go a long way to ensuring the Cowboys reach the tournament in 2012.

1. Romo Being Romo

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    Allow Tony Romo to be himself every game for the entire game.

    During the 2011 season, Jason Garrett seemed to pull the reigns back on Romo when they had a lead. This was very evident against the Patriots. With the new NFL rules, no lead is ever safe in the NFL. The Cowboys need to make sure they have the pedal all the way down on every offensive series.

    Romo is the main factor when the Cowboys win. The Cowboys have to take the good with the bad. Romo does throw some interceptions but the Cowboys will never win the big game until they fully let Romo be Romo.

    Romo is at his best when he is making plays out of nothing and moving around the pocket. When Garrett starts to trust Romo completely and places every game in his hands, Romo will begin to shine even brighter. There is no doubt that Romo is talented, and he will be the biggest factor if the Cowboys make a Super Bowl run.