Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is a realist – he called himself that on Saturday – so he knows the position his team is in heading into his 10th NFL season. The Cowboys’ coaches and executives have been wishy washy on whether they’re rebuilding or reloading since Jason Garrett took over as head coach halfway through the 2010 season. Dallas is a team whose core needs to win right now before the championship window closes. Witten knows that better than any player on the team.
“You try not to think about the window,” Witten said. “But obviously, we’re realists. We understand where it’s at. I feel great and we’re playing great. But it’s about now. I think that’s how this whole organization thinks, from owner to head coach to veteran players to rookie players. That’s the way this league works.”
Indeed it is. While teams like the Indianapolis Colts are rebuilding with a new franchise quarterback and a roster spring cleaning, franchises like Dallas are trying desperately to find the final pieces of the puzzle to put together a serious title run.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Cowboys addressed several areas of absolute need through free agency and the draft, adding veterans and promising rookies to try and fill gaping holes in the lineup. Dallas owner Jerry Jones likes to compare his approach and his team to his quarterback, Tony Romo.
“It’s a little like Romo – you want to basically be able to get it in a way that is sound and wins ballgames,” Jones said.
Indeed, the Cowboys are trying to get to a point where the team consistently plays “sound” football, which leads to wins. However, Jones has been advocating such an approach for years since Dallas’ last Super Bowl, but never acted upon it until now.
Jones traded up in the 2012 NFL Draft to select LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, the top defensive back (and arguably the top defender) in the draft. Jones also signed several veterans to aid in the title chase, including cornerback Brandon Carr, linebacker Dan Connor, fullback Lawrence Vickers and guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau. Notable Cowboys like Witten have taken notice.
“Every year you’re more and more motivated,” Witten said. “You realize that time is now for a lot of key players. You need to take advantage of that.”
Witten, who just turned 30, has quietly become arguably the game’s best tight end while setting several league and club records for his position, including becoming the fastest tight end to 600 career catches and most recently passing Ozzie Newsome for third-most all-time receptions for a tight end. However, the humble superstar will tell you he’d much rather have the team titles than the individuals. It’s time the entire Cowboys’ organization embodied that mindset and if this off-season is any indication, it looks like that might finally be happening.