Somebody way smarter than myself once said “those who don’ t learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. While I’m sure they meant that within the context of government, economics, or some other important aspect of civilization, lets pretend they meant it about football.
Although Dallas finished the season with a better than .500 record, I believe it is safe to say that 2017 was the most disappointing 9-7 season for Cowboys fans in recent memory. A season filled with injuries, drama, suspensions, and bad press ( hmm, maybe it wasn’t so different from any other season after all). Keep your chin up, Cowboys fan. There are some lessons found within the past that can help Dallas in the future.
Lesson 1: Variety Is the Spice of Life
No I am not a chef, but I recognize a bland offense when I see one. Yes it is true Dallas’ receivers could not create separation within their routes this year, and yes a large part of that has to do with a lack of explosiveness on the perimeter. But whenever I see Tom Brady throw for over 500 yards to receivers like Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola, don’t you dare tell me Dallas couldn’t have done more with the 2017 passing game. An offense can have 3 of the top 4 most explosive players in the league, and will accomplish very little if the Defense knows the route concept before the play begins.
A majority of New England’s starters and key rotating pieces are either late round picks or undrafted free agents, and they are still massively productive. If the Patriots are able to create mismatches against opponents with a variety of different formations, route concepts and pre-snap ball movements, why can’t the Dallas Cowboys?
A team can have a “run first pass second” identity and still be somewhat unpredictable. Instead of relying solely on the play action pass, add in the run pass option. Instead of throwing in a a traditional spread formation, throw from a stack alignment.
Having trouble getting Cole Beasley the football? Hide him behind Dez Bryant and watch how quickly he will slip through the cracks in coverage. I don’t have the luxury to watch a lot of game tape, but even a casual student of the game like myself understands that Dallas could change some offensive schemes in order to create more parity. After all, it is a copy cat league. So copy.
Lesson 2: Abandon the “Position Flex” Mentality
Dallas Sports Fanatic writer, editor, and podcast host Patrick Conn and I have different thought processes when it comes to football. However I know for a fact we are in absolute agreement in regards to how the Dallas Cowboys draft defensive players.
For those of you who don’t know, the Cowboys allocate a majority of their resources to offense. In order to compensate for the lack of attention Dallas places on the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys love to draft “flexible” players. Players that are capable of playing more than one position.
This flexibility can look like a defensive back playing both corner and safety, or a defensive lineman playing a 5 technique and defensive end. What Pat and I agree on is that position flexibility slows down the overall development of a team’s players if allowed to continue for too long.
Utilizing position flexibility for role players or for a couple starters on a defense is an adequate way to build a team. The problem comes when a team decides to build its entire defense out of position-fluid players. The result? A bunch of players who are only kind of good at one or two jobs, and not enough true to position players that can be regarded as cornerstones to build on.
All I can really ask as a Cowboys fan is for the front office to take an emotionless and objective approach to the off season. The Cowboys will need that to have a chance in the always difficult and increasingly competitive NFC.
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