Is it time to blow up this edition of the Dallas Cowboys? I vote no

Now that I have had about a week-and-a-half to cool off after the latest end-of-season crumble by my beloved Dallas Cowboys, I believe I can speak rationally about what the club should do going into next season, and my suggestions will not involve the types of violence that would have been included had I tried to write this last week.

To all the haters ... COWBOYS FOR LIFE!

To all the haters … COWBOYS FOR LIFE!

One of the most common thoughts I’ve heard is that the team and coaching staff need to be blown up and rebuilt. This theory has been advanced by “experts” and average fans, and by Cowboys fans and Dallas haters. It may sound like the right thing to do, but the National Football League doesn’t work that way.

Tony Romo has been an obvious target, and considering the fact that the last play he will be remembered for after this season was one of the more pathetic interceptions thrown in quite some time, targeting Romo is expected, and fair. I am pro-Romo overall, but not to the point where I’m 100% all-in and blind to the facts.

When you take the field with Romo as your quarterback, you are signing on for the good and the bad. Romo will single-handedly win games, as he did on several occasions late this season. He will also single-handedly lose games, which he proved quite adept at doing last season, when he gift-wrapped victories for the New York Jets and Detroit Lions. I still think there is more good than bad in Romo. The bad tends to be overly magnified, which is part of the job of being an NFL quarterback in general, much less the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

For those who want to see a change at the quarterback position: I’d love to hear your suggestions. The NFL is not fantasy football. Aaron Rodgers will not be the starting quarterback for the Cowboys next season, nor will Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady (like Dallas needs yet another reason to be universally hated), Peyton Manning, and so on.

Is replacing Romo with a backup with limited NFL experience the answer? Are the Cowboys really better off with, say, Matt Flynn, who had a couple of brilliant outings for the Green Bay Packers, but couldn’t beat out Russell Wilson for the Seattle Seahawks’ starting job? Is the team better off with someone like its current backup, Kyle Orton, who has extensive starting experience, but who played himself into a backup role? Hell, maybe the Cowboys should buy into the hype and go after Tim Tebow, for he shall lead us to the promised land! I would keep Romo over any of these options, without a second thought.

As for the draft, even if the Cowboys are able to swing the type of deal they pulled off last season, in moving up to select Morris Claiborne, are any of the quarterbacks who will be available really game-changers? Scouting and projecting is nowhere near an exact science — think of it this way: JaMarcus Russell was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, and Romo was undrafted — but I just don’t see an Andrew Luck, a Robert Griffin III, or even a Wilson in this draft.

Overall, I see no choice but to proceed with Romo, for at least one more year. I am not a believer in change for the sake of change.

Another popular target, deservedly so, is Head Coach Jason Garrett. The coach is the easiest thing to change. As the cliché says, “You can’t fire all of the players.” And while Garrett do anything anywhere near as foolish as icing his own kicker, like he did to cost the team a game against the Arizona Cardinals last season, there were times when his judgment was questionable, at best, and I had a major issue with his tendency to give up on the running game at the first sign of adversity.

One thing I will say for Garrett is that this team has never lacked effort under his leadership, as it did on numerous occasions when “led” by his predecessor, Wade Phillips. Of course, the argument can be raised that the players should be motivated by their paychecks and the desire to secure their jobs, but sadly, as is the case on most teams in most sports, it doesn’t always work that way.

But I’ll play along: If Garrett is not the head coach next season, who should it be? Will the team really improve if it replaces Garrett with an NFL retread, or a college coach? I don’t believe that’s the solution.

I would have loved to see Sean Payton come back to the Cowboys’ organization, which never should have let him go in the first place, and there was a brief window of hope when his extension with the New Orleans Saints was declared invalid by the league, but Payton is back in the Saints’ fold and off the table.

I would make an exception for Mike Holmgren, but I don’t see any scenario where Holmgren would work for Jerry Jones. Holmgren clearly wants full control of the team, and as long as the Cowboys’ owner fancies himself as a GM, coach, and God knows what else, the two personalities won’t mix. If you need proof of this, recall that another coach who demanded complete control, Bill Parcells, was force-fed Terrell Owens, who he clearly never wanted on the team. Does that sound like complete control to you?

I also thought about Lovie Smith, mainly because the atmosphere around the Cowboys comes off as too relaxed, and it would be nice to have someone come in and put a foot up people’s asses. But Smith has only been marginally more successful than Garrett, and I’m not sure the move would accomplish anything.

Much like Romo, I believe Garrett deserves one more season. If there is no improvement next year, then it’s time for a change.

What should the Cowboys address during the offseason? The absolute top priority has to be the offensive line. The club tried to remedy this issue during the last offseason, by re-signing Doug Free and adding Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, but it failed miserably. Free has been an utter and complete disaster, and if he can be cut outright without drastic damage to the salary cap, he should. Everyone else was just plain mediocre, at best. While former No. 1 draft pick Tyron Smith is probably the most talented member of the unit, he is also a penalty machine, and the penalties tend to come at the worst times, absolutely killing momentum. I don’t have any specific names in mind, professional or college, but changes must be made.

Another thing Dallas must do, which is much easier said than done, is try to figure out just how much they can rely on some of the players that have performed well but missed time due to injuries. Sean Lee, Miles Austin, and Demarco Murray are all outstanding football players, but an outstanding football player doesn’t do his team much good when he’s on the bench in street clothes, or, as was the case with Austin this season, trying to play through (admirable) at much less than full strength. Can the Cowboys afford to base their offensive game plans around Murray and their defensive game plans around Lee, only to see the two of them go down again?

As I said, this is far easier said than done. Injuries can’t possibly be predicted, and they are part of the game of football, but it’s frustrating to constantly see the team’s most valuable players out of uniform.

This should be an interesting offseason, to say the least, but the window on this team is closing, and closing quickly. I am not on board with rebuilding now. Rebuilding in football doesn’t really exist. At least when teams try to do so in Major League Baseball, their fans can follow their prospects’ journeys through the minor leagues and retain some hope (see: Kansas City Royals). Football doesn’t work that way. However, if this team doesn’t succeed next year, it might be time for drastic moves.

One more thing before I go: If this current nucleus of Cowboys never wins a Super Bowl, I don’t blame Tony Romo, or Jason Garrett, or DeMarcus Ware, or Jason Witten, or even Wade Phillips. I will tell you who I blame: Patrick FUCKING Crayton.

Patrick Crayton, the former No. 3 wide receiver? Yes, that bum. Why? The week before the Cowboys played the New York Giants in a divisional playoff game, Crayton did nothing but run his mouth. The two teams are divisional rivals, and the Cowboys swept both regular-season meetings. Talking trash accomplishes nothing. Shut up, don’t motivate the Giants any more than they already are, and play the game.

After running his mouth all week, Crayton dropped the pass that would have put the game away for the Cowboys, who, at 13-3, had their best season by far since the Super Bowl years of the early 1990s. A perfectly thrown ball to a wide-open Crayton in the fourth quarter would have, at minimum, resulted in 40 yards, a first down, and two or three more minutes off the clock. Instead, Hands of Stone dropped the ball, the Giants took over, and the rest is history.

Would the Cowboys have won the Super Bowl that year? Not necessarily, but you never know, and, as I said, the 2007 squad was the best in recent years.

So, to the Cowboys: Stay the course, improve the O-line, and let’s give this one more run. And to Patrick Crayton, wherever you are: FUCK YOU.

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Can someone please wake the Dallas Cowboys’ coaching staff up during games?

I am always bitter and angry after any loss by the Dallas Cowboys, but some of them get to me far more than others, and this past Sunday’s debacle at Green Bay really struck a nerve.

Wade Phillips at halftime

This isn’t sour grapes: The Packers are a good football team, and they were fighting for their playoff lives. They outplayed the Cowboys on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and deserved the victory. Hell, they even deserved the shutout they had until the Cowboys scored a meaningless touchdown with under one minute left.

The reasons why I’m so ticked are basically a horrible game plan and a complete lack of halftime adjustments, which, as poorly as the players executed, falls squarely on the coaching staff.

I am not comparing Marion Barber III, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice to Jim Brown, Gale Sayers and Emmitt Smith. However, they are three solid NFL running backs. Why did the Cowboys only run the ball 14 times?

The score at halftime was 3-0, not 30-0, yet the Cowboys completely abandoned the run. Even worse, Green Bay had constant pressure on Tony Romo after tackle Marc Colombo left the game with a broken leg, yet it seemed like all the Cowboys were trying to do was throw the ball downfield. When an opponent is as successful at creating pressure as the Packers were Sunday, wouldn’t the smart thing be to run the football and run quick-developing pass plays or screens to counter the pass rush? Yet the Cowboys offense tried to duplicate the Al Davis Raiders and throw deep on every play. Perhaps James Jett would like to come out of retirement?

And don’t even get me started on Roy Williams. If you want the ball so badly, why not try catching it and holding onto it, instead of fumbling away momentum and dropping passes in your hands?

Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who knows a hell of a lot more about football than I do, said the same things I just said: “The game became one-dimensional. You can just go out and blitz, but if people are going to run the ball for big yardage on you, you’re foolish.” Actually, what was foolish was abandoning the run.

The quote from super genius head coach Wade Phillips: “We’d like to be more balanced, certainly. We had 218 yards rushing against them last year.” If I’m not mistaken, as head coach, your job is to point this out during the game, and not the day after the game. On Felix Jones: “We need to feature him more. The delays out of the backfield, we’ve seen him have big plays on and then the running game. But it didn’t work that way in this game.” Why not? Again, isn’t that your job?

The Cowboys got outplayed. It happens. That’s life in the National Football League — on any given Sunday. But the coaching staff also did nothing to put the players in a better position to win the game, and there’s no excuse for that.

Does anyone still think Jason Garrett is an offensive genius?

Salvaging the Cowboys’ season

The noise from all of the Dallas Cowboys haters has been deafening. My cell phone and e-mail box have blown up since the Arizona Cardinals blocked Matt McBriar’s punt to beat the Boys in overtime this past Sunday. I guess the facts that the Redskins lost to the Division III Rams, the Giants got schooled by a Browns team that Dallas trounced 28-10 in Cleveland in week one and the Eagles barely beat the 49ers went over a few people’s heads.

So go ahead, kick dirt on the Cowboys’ season. But may I recommend Texas Pete’s hot sauce for the crow you’ll end up eating later this season.

That is, of course, if the Cowboys do a few simple things.

• It’s time to start blitzing. The secondary has been a weak link on this team for years. With Terrance Newman hurt and Pacman Jones falling back into the world of stupidity and getting suspended, it’s even weaker. The argument against blitzing is that it leaves a weak secondary exposed. My counterargument: What’s the difference? They play like they’re exposed, anyway. Opposing quarterbacks have had way too much time to throw against the Cowboys and, naturally, found wide-open receivers. Even a great QB can’t complete passes with a forearm across his facemask. The Boys need to pressure the quarterback, period. DeMarcus Ware is one of the best football players I’ve ever had the privilege of watching, but he can’t do it alone. Bring some heat. Bring it often.

• This one will have to wait about three weeks due to an unfortunate hamstring pull, but Felix Jones needs to touch the ball more. I’m not suggesting starting him over Marion Barber III. But get him the ball. Line the two of them up in the backfield together. Throw him screen passes. Throw him quick passes in the flat. The man has speed the Cowboys haven’t had at running back since Tony Dorsett. Use it. It will only make Barber’s brute strength more effective.

Little T Learns to Share

Little T Learns to Share

• This may be the toughest suggestion to implement because of the enormous egos involved, but Terrell Owens MUST buy into the idea that newly acquired Roy Williams will only help him. I love Patrick Crayton (although I’m still livid that he dropped the pass that cost Dallas the playoff game against the Giants last year after running his yap all week), but Crayton is far better as a No. 3 receiver in the slot. Defensive coaches don’t game-plan to stop Crayton. They’ll have to game-plan to stop Roy Williams. Maybe T.O. won’t get as many passes thrown his way, but they’ll be much better quality opportunities. After all, what’s the difference if a pass is thrown your way when it sails over your head because you’re double-covered tightly? Even if the Cowboys overpaid, the Roy Williams addition was solid.

• Don’t rush Tony Romo back. Brad Johnson is a perfectly capable quarterback who has played on several playoff teams and won a Super Bowl. Obviously, Romo is better, more mobile and more dynamic. But if he can’t grip the football, having him in the game is insanity.

With all of the craziness, the Cowboys are still 4-2 and the Rams are on tap. This season is far from over.

But it’s time for Wade Phillips and his staff to make some much-needed adjustments.