I’m always intrigued when I hear talk of championship windows closing on a roster that has never produced a championship.
I know the Cowboys owner and part-time spin doctor, Jerry Jones, recently said that he felt the window was closing on this team. Some players disagreed on whether the window was closing, partially closing or still wide open.
If you ask me, it just sounds like a lot of hot air coming through that open window, regardless of how open it still is or not.
Being a life-long Cowboys fan, I thought I would break down exactly where the team stands, by reviewing the vital positions to any successful NFL team. You know the spots that, every year, teams are trying to fill with top flight talent to then patch up the other spots.
First up is quarterback, as no position in football and maybe sports, is as vital to a team’s success as the man under center. The Cowboys have one of the best in the league in Tony Romo.
Romo, who turned 32 in April, is coming off his best statistical year of his career and entering his seventh year as the Cowboys starting quarterback. For whatever reason, the general sports media enjoys pinning all losses by the team on Tony, regardless of whether it’s valid or not.
However, the case can be made that Tony is the best quarterback in the league, who has not yet won a Super Bowl. I’d say that now with Kyle Orton (who is 29) behind him, Dallas is pretty secure at quarterback for the next several seasons.
Next up is left tackle, commonly known as the blindside. It appears Dallas has that spot secured for many years to come, with the tremendously talented Tyron Smith.
Smith, a mere 21 years old, appears to just be scratching the surface of his ability and could prove to be the dominant force on this offensive line, similar to the great Larry Allen and Erik Williams.
After quarterback and left tackle, a successful offense needs weapons: a running attack to keep the defenses honest and a go-to number-one wide receiver.
Sitting behind Romo in the offensive backfield is second-year man, DeMarco Murray, who had an outstanding rookie season that was cut short by injury. Murray appears to finally be the every down back the team has been searching for, and at twenty-four, has many years left on the tires, before he hits the trended running back age of thirty.
As for number-one wide receivers, the Cowboys currently have a nice arsenal at Romo’s discretion, with Jason Witten, Dez Bryant (23 years old) and Miles Austin (28 years old). Witten turned 30 recently, Miles is somewhat injury-prone and Dez seems to have issues staying out of trouble off the field, but any of these spots, including even tailback, can always be addressed in an off-season. Plus, losing one would certainly not end a season.
For any 3-4 defense to be successful, a constant and ferocious pass rush is needed from your outside linebackers, and few have ever played the game that brings it as well as DeMarcus Ware.
Ware keeps himself in phenomenal shape, and even though he recently turned thirty, there is no reason to believe he does not have several good years left. Dallas has continued to try to get him help by bringing in young players, in hopes of having more than one reliable pass rusher.
Players like Adrian Hamilton, Kyle Wilbur, and Tyrone Crawford have all been drafted or signed, with the hopes of eventually being the replacement for the under-performing Anthony Spencer. As for inside linebacker, in a 3-4, you need smart, talented players who can read the eyes of the quarterback and make sure the defense front seven is ready to attack, make tackles and cause turnovers. There are few brighter stars in this league than Sean Lee, who is just entering his third season.
For any defense, especially a 3-4, to reach maximum success, it needs to be able to blitz at anytime from anywhere on the field. This means that it has to have corners it can trust to leave “on an island”.
Dallas is poised to have two of the best and youngest corners in Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. If they had one of these guys, they would be excited, but having both—especially at this stage of their careers—has to have the franchise almost giddy.
Granted, the team currently still has holes it is trying to fill, but it appears to me that the whole status of the window being opened, partially opened or closed truly relies on the health and well-being of Tony Romo, as it is very obvious that a franchise quarterback is not someone you can replace overnight. Dallas does have probably the best back-up quarterback in the league and would be wise to draft an heir apparent to Tony in a few years, but as long as they continue to draft smart like they have in the past few years, they certainly should remain a competitive playoff contender for the foreseeable future.
Sorry, Cowboy haters, but I don’t see them falling out of playoff contention anytime soon, and I still feel a strong gust of wind coming from that window.