The Stars Have Aligned
For the Dallas Cowboys, everything has gone right in 2016
Never underestimate determination; and mad science. The 2016 NFC East Champion Dallas Cowboys have had one hell of a rollercoaster ride for over a decade. The 13-3 Cowboys are the NFL’s version of a rom-com. Where the main character has a good heart, but keeps screwing things up and never seems to get a break. We laughed, we cried (a lot), but even through the ups and a whole lotta downs, Cowboy’s Nation kept faith that one day it will be our turn.
America’s Team has had their fair share of bad breaks and bad decisions; but haven’t we all? However, that was never an excuse for this resurrected franchise. Just when people are starting to give up, lose faith and stretching their legs for another bandwagon jump, Jerry Jones comes and Cowboy’s player personnel come through in the clutch. I personally have to publicly apologize for being one of the nay-sayers. I was positive that the Dallas Cowboys would not be a playoff contending team until the Jones’ family was not involved with the franchise. How wrong was I? This doesn’t mean I stopped being a fan, or stopped watching games, or jumped on another bandwagon. I was just ok with being “ok”…which is never a good thing.
Little did I know, in 2013, that while I was screaming at the TV when Jerry traded our first round draft pick for a CENTER, that center was Travis Fredrick. The number one center in the NFL as of 2016. That class also included wide receiver Terrence Williams at 74, and tight end Gavin Escobar at pick 47 . In 2014, when I was screaming my head off about picking a guard, who would have thunk that guard would be Pro-Bowler Zach Martin? All-in-one defender, now free safety Byron Jones, was the 2015 Dallas Cowboys first pick as a CORNER. We all knew, after Romo’s heart-wrenching injury in 2014, stemming from the same injury in 2013, we desperately needed a quarterback. Romo was/is an exceptional player with the heart of a beast; but his physical well-being was in jeopardy and the Cowboys didn’t exactly have a plethora of options. Especially since Orton went MIA, Cassel tried but ultimately failed, and Brandon Weeden was, well, Brandon Weeden. Many fans, at the time, wondered what the hell we were doing passing up Johnny Manziel. Although there were rumors Jerry liked Manziel, that disaster was averted and Boys’ fans everywhere thank GOD for that decision. After yet another year of disappointing games, injuries, and lost hope after the 2015 season, in comes first round draft pick, and essential life support to this franchise, running back and number four pick, Ezekiel Elliott. Oh, did I miss someone? Oh yeah, FOURTH round draft pick, at number 145, Dak Prescott. Many people may think that these two extremely talented men were the love potion the Cowboys needed to finally become a winning team again. However, the elixir was already mixed; and Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett knew it all along. They just needed a couple drops to make it complete.
There was a method to Jerry’s madness in which most people didn’t see. Patience isn’t exactly an NFL fan’s best trait. Ever since the days of The Triplets, there always seemed to have been a missing piece of the puzzle. There were great coaches without great players, great players without great coaches, great coaches and great players WITH great injury. It just seemed as though the Universe wasn’t a fan of Cowboys Nation. Yeah, is a it just a little strange the Philadelphia Eagles have caused career ending injuries to key players including: Michael Irvin, Troy Aikman and (hopefully not career ending) Tony Romo? Yes. Again, no excuses. Jason Garrett saw something in star rookie quarterback Dak Prescott that the other 31 teams in the NFL didn’t see; determination, maturity and hunger. Something Dak has proved and Jones and Garrett have perfected. Zeke is seemingly an immortal talent but did Jerry and Jason put all their eggs in his basket? No. Jerry had been meticulously building something great for over a decade almost customized for Jason Garrett.
Since 2003, the year tight end and 10 time Pro-Bowler Jason Witten was drafted, the Dallas Cowboys have picked up 190 players in the NFL draft. Although the very year undrafted free agent Tony Romo was signed, this does not include undrafted free agent pick-ups; this is purely the seven rounds (give or take trades and/or compensatory picks) of the NFL draft each year. Of those 190 players, 158 picks have been lineman, 30 ball handlers, and two special teams players. In 13 years, The Cowboys have only drafted 30 ball handlers…let that sink in for a while. In 2003, Jerry used his charm to “lure” Bill Parcells out of retirement and become head coach after Dave Campo. Parcells lead the team to the NFC Championship in which they eventually lost to the Panthers. With Parcells, came Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer. In 2005, Parcells and Zimmer hoped to transition their regular 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense with first round draft picks outside linebacker Demarcus Ware and defensive end Marcus Spears. Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work out and the Cowboys did not make the playoffs. In 2006, the final year for both Parcells and Zimmer, Tony Romo was named starting quarterback replacing Drew Bledsoe. I think we all remember the botched field goal caused by Romo’s hold that year. Needless to say, another playoff loss for the Cowboys meant Parcells and Zimmer had enough. Although Parcells chunked up the deuces, he is still credited for the development of Tony Romo.
Trying to figure out the method behind the madness of The Cowboys player personnel is next to impossible. But speculation and patterns tend to point to patience, trial and error, and very strategic planning. Clearly, Jerry has concentrated on building a line on both offense and defense for over a decade, and has let the ball handler positions work themselves out; one can assume. After the Parcells/Zimmer era, Jerry went back the the drawing board. Interestingly hiring a head coach with an extensive defensive coaching background. Wade Phillips, as we all know, was/is not head coach material and was a complete train wreck for the Cowboys. The Dallas Cowboys ran through DCs like Taylor Swift runs through boyfriends once Phillips replaced Parcells in 2007. Names like, Brian Stewart, Paul Pasqualoni, Rob Ryan and the horrendous Monte Kiffen, only make Dallas Cowboys fans squirm. One coordinator and coach was constant however; the now Head Coach Jason Garrett. Garrett knew this team, both offensively and defensively, better than anyone ever since 2007. He was named “interim” head coach in 2010 and after taking the 1-7 Cowboys to a season finish of 6-10. In January of 2011, Garrett was officially named head coach of The Dallas Cowboys. He has truly faced adversity with coaches, players, and injuries. However, he continued to fill in the blanks with this team, alongside Jerry Jones, ever since. Garrett has never stopped believing and trusting in this team and is now, deservingly, leading the candidates for the NFL Head Coach Of The Year award. But he couldn’t have done it alone. Enter Rod Marinelli, defensive line coach in 2013 then named defensive coordinator in 2014. Ironically infamous for being head coach of the Detroit Lions during their 0-16 2008 season. What was Jerry thinking!? Was this history repeating itself? As fans, we could only speculate. Jerry saw a missing piece to the puzzle in Marinelli. A puzzle that has been been building for years and years but has never been fully complete. Again, patience.
Did it help that we crapped the bed last year and got the fourth pick in the draft, landing us the shining light of Ezekiel Elliot? I hate to admit it but yes. Was it strategically planned? Probably not but who knows. But when it came to the finding of one Dak Prescott, that was purely excellent coaching skills and the ability to see something no one else can see. A simple conversation about a DUI Dak received shortly before the draft told Garrett everything he needed to know. A conversation with nothing to do about football, showed Garrett that this future star quarterback was a VERY essential piece to the puzzle. No one could have expected Tony’s injury this year, yet no one was shocked. Garrett and Jones had a plan in place though; and man was it a good one!
Although no one truly knows what goes on behind closed doors at The Star, one can only give credit where credit is due. That credit is overdue to Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones, Rod Marinelli, and the hard-working and talent players of this 2016 Dallas Cowboys team. Something came together this year on all sides of this franchise, and whether or not it was meant to work out this way, at this time, it did; and no one can argue that. This year, there truly is no “I” in “team”. A very apparent and, long overdue, cohesiveness is shown every time the Dallas Cowboys step onto the gridiron. Lessons and strategy aren’t being force fed to these players, it’s being modeled. Team moral has been lifted, fans have been louder than ever. Not just because of just two additions of talent or the fact The Dallas Cowboys are leading the NFL; it’s because the wait is finally over. Forget about the money being made, the ratings or the super-stardom. The Dallas Cowboys are more than a Cinderella story. Super Bowl or not, this season should remind everyone that the love of the game, hard work and PATIENCE, are keys to not only the NFL but to life in general. No matter what comes your way keep the faith; the stars will align eventually.
The puzzle is now complete. After years of struggle, injuries, personality clashes, coaching changes and waiting, the stars have aligned for The Dallas Cowboys. This is the year of the Star. Shout out to Sean Lee, Dez Bryant, The Sauce (Cole Beasley), Barry Church, Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, David Irving, Chris Jones, DAN BAILEY (I am DB’s number 1 fan), the entire defensive and offensive staff and especially Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones. Also, to Tony Romo who has handled a tough situation with grace and has been this team’s biggest fan since day one. I am sure I can speak for most Cowboy’s fans when I say we are sorry for doubting you. In The Star We Trust! Let’s go Boys!!