And so, we don't have time to have a bad time with the Dallas Cowboys. We need to hit the ground running next year. This has been too much of a disappointment this year.
-- Jerry Jones, December 25, 2010
The owner still smarts over his lost season and the Super Bowl seating mess, but facts are facts. His club, with his hand-picked coaches and his players, went 6-10. Jerry may not ''have time for a bad time,'' but is his team really constructed for a quick and lasting revival?
NFL orthodoxy holds that when you rebuild a broken club, you fill certain foundational roles first. You get your quarterback. You get a dominant pass rusher or two. You get a money offensive tackle or two. You find a top cornerback, though in today's NFL you may need two or even three.
The Cowboys don't measure up in these categories. They have the elite rusher in Demarcus Ware. They have a solid quartetback, but Tony Romo is 31 and coming off a broken collarbone. He's closer to the end of his career than the beginning. Dallas has tackle Doug Free, but little else to protect Romo. The Cowboys corners offer all questions and no answers.
Jerry Time doesn't agree with this base. Nor might it agree with Jason Garrett's timetable. Garrett enters year one of his regime, one he no doubt hopes will follow a Jeff Fisher or Andy Reid or Tom Landry-like path. As Garrett scans his roster, which foundation position players can he count on for the first five years of his plan? I count Ware and Free.
Successful new coaches quickly locate the quarterback to raise their program. Jimmy Johnson made Troy Aikman his first overall pick and the two grew into champions together. Reid selected Donovan McNabb 3rd overall in his first year as Eagles coach and they dominated the NFC East for a decade.
The quarterbacks don't always have to come from the top five. Bill Walsh picked Joe Montana in the 3rd round of his first draft and gave Joe Cool just one start in their 2-14 inaugural campaign. Montana became the starter halfway through their 2nd season together and the following year the 49ers were champs.
Smart coaches have a plan, and all the early PR on Garrett praises his leadership and organizational skills. Does he also have a quarterback, his quarterback, picked out? I wonder because Andy Dalton's name lies quietly among all the offensive tackles, cornerbacks and defensive ends on Dallas' visit list. The Cowboys have worked out Dalton and like him.
They may not get the chance to pick him, as he's part of a second group of signal callers, with Ryan Mallett, Jake Locker and Christian Ponder, who are now expected to be picked in the very late 1st and early 2nd round. Sports Illustrated's Peter King reported this week that teams with elite, older quarterbacks, the Saints, Patriots and Colts, are studying Dalton. If Dalton slides to pick 40, I would not be shocked if the Cowboys draft opened like this:
1. Patrick Peterson, 2. Andy Dalton
1. Tyron Smith, 2. Andy Dalton
Either option would give the Cowboys two key futures players, who could be long-term solutions at foundational positions.
More important for the fans, both openings put the Cowboys on Jason Garrett Time, and offer the hope that a real long-term plan is being implemented to replace the hurly-burly and disappointment of Jerry Time.