They got the job done.
That’s my expert analysis of Sunday’s matchup versus the Browns. They needed to win that game, and they got it done.
The 5-5 Cowboys’ still have a playoff pulse, and it’s with cautious optimism we look forward to a major NFC East showdown on Thanksgiving.
But looking even further down the road, it’s time to identify the problems that are holding this team back and the solutions that are pushing them forward. Who should stay and who should go?
Bryant took a lot of heat in the first part of the season for both on-field and off-field issues. But, he’s made major improvement since the Week 5 bye and finally has his quarterback—and fanbase—believing in him.
Barring injury, Bryant is headed for a hot finish and may very well end up as a top-10 wide receiver once the season is all said and done. And even if he doesn’t, the optimism around his future with this team can finally be justified. If his last few games are any indication of what’s to come, Dallas will have one of the most dangerous playmakers in the game.
We’ll always remember Ogletree for tearing up the Giants secondary in the first game of the season to the tune of eight catches, 114 yards and two touchdowns.
But, that’s where his resume ends. Since being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009, Ogletree has struggled to do anything more than contribute to special teams. He’s done very little as the third wide receiver since that Week 1 performance and has seen his playing time reduced.
Ogletree signed a one-year, $640,000 contract in the offseason, and I would be very surprised if he is given a new contract after 2012. It’s time for the Cowboys to move in a different direction and investigate their options at wide receiver.
Losing a player like Sean Lee for the season is not something that a defense recovers from. But Bruce Carter has been the silver lining since filling in. He’s been the quarterback of the defense as the signal-caller and logged 28 tackles in the process.
The experience he is gaining with Lee out is invaluable, and Cowboys fans should be very excited about their defense going into 2013.
The combination of DeMarcus Ware, Lee and Carter will easily rate them as one of the most dangerous backfields in football, and depending on what happens with Anthony Spencer, I’m not afraid to say that they will be the best linebacker group in the league.
Orlando Scandrick’s stock is rapidly falling as he has struggled to make open-field tackles and can’t seem to cover without drawing penalties. The additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in the offseason have left very few weak spots in their secondary. Scandrick represents that weak spot.
Unfortunately, he signed a six-year contract in 2011 and fellow cornerback, Mike Jenkins, will be a free agent at the end of this year. The Cowboys may have no choice but to keep Scandrick on the roster as his trade value, and confidence, plummet.
We can only hope that he will somehow pull himself out of the funk that he is in. The last three weeks certainly don’t suggest that he will, and as long as he is struggling, he will continue to get picked on by opposing quarterbacks.
I’ve heard a lot of Cowboys fans and football analysts suggest that the Cowboys need to draft a quarterback sooner than later. While I don’t necessarily disagree, as preparing for the future can never be bad, but the timing couldn’t be worse.
I would challenge any quarterback to stand behind Romo’s offensive line and still have the same amount of success. Has he made some dumb decisions? Yes. Has he lost games because of those decisions? Sure. But how bad would this team be if not for his mobility and creativity?
How good would Peyton Manning or Tom Brady be in this offense? I’m not so naïve to think that Romo is even in the same breathe as they are, but if your quarterback can’t move, and your offensive line can’t stay put, your team can’t score points. It’s as simple as that.
Tony Romo is the best thing that’s happened to this team since Troy Aikman. What that says about the Cowboys franchise over the last two decades is best left for another discussion. But, what it says about Romo is that he’s worth every dollar of his contract and is definitely their best option this year and many to come.
Doug Free gets a lot of blame for the poor play of the offensive line.
That’s because Free isn’t a good offensive lineman. According to Pro Football Focus, he has allowed the third-most quarterback hurries among tackles. He’s first in penalties. He’s responsible for blowing the block that subsequently led to a ruptured spleen for Jason Witten. He ranks 63rd out 71 graded tackles.
And yeah, there’s that whole six years for $48 million, which clocks in at ninth on ESPN's John Clayton’s list of the top-10 worst NFL contracts.
The fact that he still has a job at this point in the season just proves the dreadful state of the Cowboys offensive line.
The Cowboys defense is seventh in yards allowed per game, 15th in points and 20th in sacks. Those numbers don’t exactly suggest a team that’s going to shut out opponents or win on defense alone, but considering the injuries they have had and the youth they are fielding, it’s obvious that Rob Ryan’s system is working.
He’s a big reason the Cowboys are 5-5 instead of 3-7, and once they get healthy, this defense is going to be one of the best in the league.
There have been two constants over the last few years that are directly responsible for the wins and losses of this team: the quarterback and the offensive coordinator.
One of them, the quarterback, has improved his game and made major strides to eliminate the mistakes that put his team in losing situations.
The other has regressed.
Jason Garrett is meticulous and organized and certainly has the smarts to coach a football team. But his offense has been unsuccessful. His play-calling has been uninspiring. His game management has been questionable.
This team never seems prepared. They never play with discipline and confidence. They always find themselves in a situation where they have to score late in games to win. That’s not a recipe for success.
The time has come to move on. I don’t know if that means luring Chip Kelly out of college. I don’t know if that means Jerry Jones hiring his good buddy Mike Holmgren. I don’t know if that means going after Andy Reid (who has had great success when given the right quarterback).
I don’t know who is qualified or why any head coach with a lick of self-respect would want to work for Jones, but I do know that Garrett isn’t working out.