If the Dallas Cowboys plan on turning around their misfortunes in 2013, then certain things need to change for that to occur. For a franchise that has been the poster child for mediocrity for the past 17 years, the sense of urgency needs to be into the stratosphere.
And that's just for starters.
So where would be a suitable starting point for change? Apparently, some of those changes have already taken place in the form of coaching staff shuffling. Gone are Rob Ryan, Joe DeCamillis, Jimmy Robinson and John Garrett and in are Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli and Rich Bisaccia.
Now that the Super Bowl is complete and free agency and the draft becomes more imminent, roster changes will undoubtedly ensue. The Cowboys need to change a lot about the composition of this team, but the salary cap poses some significant challenges. Six draft picks aren't enough to stock this roster with sufficient depth.
With lots of work to do on what will be an accelerated time frame, the Cowboys must pursue and execute this element of change with vigor and clarity. In order for the Cowboys to start winning consistently, a multitude of things need to happen on an organization-wide basis.
Let's examine what specific things need to change for the Cowboys.
The man responsible for many people's alcohol problems.
Jerry Jones will always be the GM of the Cowboys, and arguing otherwise is simply pointless. You can literally go on and on for months about his inefficiencies or ineptitude, but the man cares about his franchise.
But what about just staying a little more quiet at the conclusion of games or staying off the radio waves or not making pizza commercials.
Last time I checked, football was a results-oriented business, and the Cowboys simply have not produced adequate results. Jones talks about creating an uncomfortable environment, he's shaken up the coaching staff and he can regularly be heard speaking in tongues, but this man needs to look in the mirror.
It's not about him being the GM; it's about providing Jason Garrett and this team with the proper support and the tools to win. The Cowboys can talk all they want about improvement, but Jones has to stop being a cheerleader. He needs to start examining his own processes.
There is something holding this team back, and if Jones wants to wear all the hats, then he needs to figure it out. His best approach in continuing to run things his way is to do it less vocally. Let Garrett do his job, let his coaches coach and let the players dictate their futures.
If they underperform or fail to live up to expectations, then Jones immediately has to identify it as a coaching or talent issue. He needs to make smarter, quicker and more efficient decisions that improve the Cowboys' chances for success rather than set up more failure.
Any good plan starts with tone at the top. In this case, it needs to change. Is Jones sick of losing? Let's see the proof.
The man of 1,000 processes.
Jason Garrett likes to talk about processes. It's a belief that if you do something over and over and over, it becomes so second nature that you eventually will excel at it.
I see it more as the true definition of insanity, because the results don't match the behavior.
Maybe he just needs more time or maturation as a coach, but Jim Harbaugh has accomplished more in two years than the Cowboys have since 1996. In order for the Cowboys to have more success in 2013 and beyond, the question of accountability has to come into play.
Are the Cowboys really accountable under Garrett's watch? When you watch the slow starts, the mental lapses, the dumb penalties, the miscommunications, the dropped passes and the focus issues, it does make you wonder.
Garrett's demeanor leads you to believe that there are little consequences for certain actions. If there are enough consequences, then why are the Cowboys one of the most penalized teams in the NFL? How do you explain the slow starts?
The Cowboys need to make the commitment again to holding everybody accountable, even if it means calling out a player or making an example of him. Players need to be rewarded more for results and less for contract status or reputations.
Failure to do so is eventually going to cost Garrett his job, but raising the level of accountability could do wonders for this team.
The Cowboys need a back-to-basics approach in three areas. First, the Cowboys need to run the football. Second, the Cowboys need to protect Tony Romo, and lastly, they need to punish opposing quarterbacks.
The level of commitment to these three areas will determine the success or failure of this franchise for the next decade. It's that simple.
Tony Romo threw for nearly 5,000 yards in 2012, but that's because the Cowboys threw nearly 65 percent of the time. Factor in the injuries to DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones and you wonder what little choice was given to this offense. The Cowboys will not win with this type of imbalance on offense.
The Cowboys ranked 31st in rushing attempts, total yardage gained and yards per carry. The NFL has become a pass-happy league but defenses become more astute and styles change. One style that never changes is being able to pound the football, and that's what needs to be done.
Of course, none of that is possible without a stellar offensive line.
The Cowboys line has improved but not enough to get excited about. It's time to reverse those trends and finish the construction of an offensive line that can have the ability to dictate the outcomes of games.
Conversely, the Cowboys need to be able to relentlessly pursue opposing quarterbacks and wreak havoc in the backfield in their new 4-3 alignment.
What will that take? A commitment to finding the correct talent that is comprised of tough, physical and smart football players that have one singular goal—to cause headaches.
A commitment to these three areas is something that is not up for debate. It is simply a must have. Look no further for proof than the two teams that just competed in the Super Bowl.
The Dallas Cowboys simply did not create enough turnovers in 2012. The consensus was that Rob Ryan was supposed to bring a whole lot of turnover opportunities with him to Dallas, but he left them somewhere in Cleveland.
The Cowboys created 16 takeaways in 2012, which tied them for third lowest in the NFL. In the five games where the Cowboys failed to produce any takeaways in 2012, they were 0-5. In five games where they did manage to produce at least two turnovers, they finished 4-1.
So when the Cowboys don't create turnovers, they lose, but when they create them, they win.
Sounds like a novel concept, but that's easier said than done. The Chicago Bears finished 2012 with 44 takeaways. I know they failed to make the playoffs, but that's 28 more possessions the Bears had on offense than the Cowboys.
You think the Cowboys could've used some of those 28 possessions? And what are the odds some of those possessions helped them win at least two more games?
Creating more turnovers isn't always the magical elixir or guaranteed way to get to the Super Bowl, but there's evidence to support that the teams that are good at creating them are usually in the mix. Of the top 10 teams in takeaways in 2012, six made the postseason.
I like those odds over the current set of circumstances the Cowboys are currently in. If the Cowboys have any shot at the playoffs in 2013, they will need to win the turnover battle. It's as simple as that.
The Cowboys are starting to assemble a pretty impressive young core of players. That group consists of Tyron Smith, Morris Claiborne, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Dez Bryant, Sean Lissemore and Dan Bailey.
If you combine that with the core veterans of the team, the Cowboys are not short on talent.
To simply insert young players into action for the sake of exposing them to game situations isn't the goal. But the Cowboys need to continue their commitment to finding out which young players represent building blocks of the future and solid contributors.
It will not only help them manage their roster better, but it will help ease difficult financial decisions that every team faces.
The commitment to youth only gives the Cowboys more options, and you can never have enough good, young football players. But the decisions to look beyond a veteran and find out what you could have right in front of you aren't always the easy ones.
The goal should be about finding more answers and solutions right now than learning difficult lessons later.
In 2013, the Cowboys need to find out about players such as Dwayne Harris, Alex Albright, James Hanna, Kyle Wilber, Cole Beasley and Tyrone Crawford. They also need to find out if Matt Johnson is an answer at safety as a playmaker. The faster the Cowboys find answers, the faster their goals can be reached.
A big key to that is player development, but finding them is the hardest part.