Last week on ESPN’s Will Cain Show, Cain discussed the importance of having top-tier talent at the wide receiver position and focused on the Cowboys’ new offensive roster as his main point of discussion.
Cain started off by asking whether or not teams need a big-time receiver to be successful in the NFL. He followed up the question by playing a clip from an interview that Tony Romo participated in recently on the NFL Network covering the same topic. Romo ultimately stated that success in today’s league primarily comes from receivers being able to hit their routes and make plays inside the windows they create. While you do not have to be a top WR1 in the NFL in order to successfully do this, Romo went on to say that the best catchers in the league create the widest windows, allowing them more margin for error and a higher chance at making big plays after the catch. Although this is a talent league and the most talented players can elevate an entire team, Cain makes the argument that route discipline throughout the WR corps and having catchers be in the right place at the right time is where we will see the biggest difference in Dallas’ passing game this season. The teams in the league who have experienced the most playoff success have been ones who know how to evenly distribute the ball and have a quarterback who can make the appropriate reads and act. A properly executed receiver-by-committee has in the recent past seen a measurable amount of success that should be noted by Cowboys fans who are down on this current roster.
Cain gave us the numbers to support it, too. God bless our lawyers.
Since 2000 there have been 18 Super Bowl Champions. Of those the Patriots have obviously dominated that period, taking home five of those titles. They have owned the postseason since the turn of the century, and it looks like that won’t change until Tom Brady decides he is finished playing. But how many top-tier receivers has he had during his career? With the exception of Randy Moss, the answer really, is none. When the Patriots are short on time and need to move chains quickly, they have turned to Gronkowski to muscle his way to yards, but generally have not had a lock down receiver on the outside for the vast majority of Brady’s career.
Just take a look at Philadelphia last season. I can barely even remember who they were throwing the ball to without putting forth some serious mental effort. They completed their first Super Bowl run without a 1000-yard receiver, and they almost made it look easy.
That trend holds true for the past 18 seasons as well. Of those, seven title-winning teams have not had a receiver at or above 1000 yards, and a whopping 11 of them didn’t have a receiver over 80 receptions.
And only two(!) of those 18 teams have had a Pro Bowl receiver on their roster- the 2010 Packers with Greg Jennings, and the 2006 Colts with Marvin Harrison. If you haven’t ever noticed the trend, it’s quite a lot to wrap the mind around.
Being armed with this information, we begin to see the logic behind what Dallas has done with their receiver roster this season, and it also sheds some positive light on the whole Dez Bryant situation as well. If you continue with the Will Cain podcast, he has Darren Woodson in for an interview and Woodson explains how sometimes having that star receiver on your team can be harmful to your offensive production, especially if they aren’t putting up massive numbers. In the case of the Cowboys, having someone like Dez calling for more attempts from Dak results in Dak reading his routes less, sometimes missing the open man and putting it up to Dez instead, which has yielded considerably less success in recent years than when Romo was still quarterbacking Dallas’ offense.
Of course, I think everyone in Dallas would rather have a Dez Bryant from a few years ago as opposed to him being gone, but the argument can be made that Dak and the rest of the Cowboys’ offense will now be better off without Dez Bryant taking receptions. Now with Hurns, Austin, Thompson, Williams, Beasley and Gallup making up the receiving corps, we will begin to see a more responsible distribution of the ball around the field. Couple that with Zeke behind a rejuvenated offensive line, and we begin to catch glimpses of the Cowboys trying to get back to what made them so successful the 2016 season, and that is an offense which doesn’t make big plays in the passing game but controls the clock and wears out opposing defenses by keeping them out on the field.
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