Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Are the Cowboys the Real Deal?

by: Michael Steffes

As we inch closer and closer towards training camps, expect to hear more and more about the reloaded Cowboys. The most recent example is this article from USA Today which proclaims the reloaded Cowboys are hungry to get a playoff win. I am sure they are, especially when you consider they have been favored in their last two playoff games, one at Qwest and one in big D. One thing worth noting in the article is Boomer Esaison's take on the NFC..."The Cowboys, Seattle and the Giants should be the best three teams in the NFC." I think that is fair to say at this point.

However, well the media keeps hurdling more and more praise on the Cowboys, one would almost think that they are unbeatable. I thought it would be worth taking an in-depth look at some of the issues that are being overlooked for the sake of continuing the national love affair with this team. To continue....

The first thing that needs to be mentioned is question marks within the coaching staff. While Wade Phillips enters his second year with the team, as does Jason Garrett, the team is now quite removed from the Bill Parcells era. This started to show as the year wore on in 07'. Say what you want about a players free time being free, but who takes a trip to Mexico during the first week of the playoffs? Two of the leaders of the team in Romo and Witten. Interesting.

Besides for Parcells being gone, he took a large contingent of Cowboys with him. Not only players, but Tony Sparano, Todd Bowles, and Paul Pasqualoni. Last year, essentially the Boys had a Parcell's staff being led by Phillips and Jerry Jones. Now, one would suspect that Phillips and or Garret have their guys in place. This could be a massive change, especially when you consider that Phillips is described as the total opposite of Parcells, and Jerry Jones keeps feeding combustible personalities to the fire.

So lets talk about that. This team has a ton of talent. Nate Burleson admitted it tonight on Total Access. But football is a team sport, and there hasn't been of ton of team spirit shown so far. This morning, the newly paid Terrance Newman called out everybody's favorite whipping boy Roy Williams on a tv show. Speaking of Roy, he chose not to be with his team over OTA's, not for injury or contract issues, but for a family vacation. Not a good sign for chemistry. Now when you consider that they are adding Pac Man to this family and then putting it all on a reality show, there is the chance that this team will implode from within, and never reach its potential. And I didn't even bring up Romica, a step up on the distraction meter.

Despite from all the personality questions and character issues, this team isn't exactly with out weakness either. First, I appreciate the talents of Marion the Barbarian as much as anyone, but he has started a total of one game. He has never seen a full workload, and his backup is now rookie Felix Jones. There is defintely some talent at that position, but it is not without question marks.

Also, the wide receiver position was not addressed over the offseason. So, as it stands TO, who is 35, is the featured guy. Terry Glenn, Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd round out the group. Glenn is a question mark, and the others were capable last year, but still Owens is a year older and they can't expect the same production from Witten this year. Last year was by far and away the best of his career. While he will still be good, he most likely will not catch 90 some balls again. Behind him, the team traded Anthony Fasano, a gritty in line player and added Martellus Bennett, who could probably use a year or two to develop. Romo relies on Witten quite a bit, he may be the one offensive player, outside of Romo, the Boys need to stay healthy the most.

When they traded Fasano, they also shipped of Akin Adoyle, all for a fourth rounder. I found this to be a curious move. When you consider that Zach Thomas has had serious concussion problems in recent years, Adoyle would have been a valuable back up. Instead the team is relying heavily on the aged Thomas, who has reportedly bulked up over the offseason 20 lbs. If he struggles with coverage, it will be a field day for teams in the middle of the field. Roy Williams and even Ken Hamlin to a point can struggle in coverage. Add Thomas to that mix and the middle could end up being a problem area.
I think that this is a pretty fair view of the Cowboys 2008 team. I think what is clear is that this team could be a boom or bust proposition. Just about every team except Indy has a hard time repeating extremely successful seasons. San Diego had a struggle at the beginning of the year last year after winning 14 the year before. The Seahawks themselves could only muster 9 wins the year after winning 13. I think it should be noted that they lost both Matt and Shaun for extended times that year. Some would say it was the character of the team that got them through. I wonder out loud, how will the Boys handle adversity they are almost certain to face? I think that a lot of the media is viewing this team like a new lover. They refuse to see the flaws because it is just so exciting. It will be exciting all right... the only question is whether it will translate into NFL success.