The Dallas Cowboys can consider themselves what RantSports.com columnist Bryn Swartz calls the Philadelphia Eagles: off-season champs. Sure, the Cowboys made some critical moves this off-season to try and prevent a third straight .500 or worse season, but that certainly doesn’t guarantee a better performance on the field.
Take a look at Swartz’s Eagles, for instance. Last off-season, they signed a truckload of high-profile free agents with a Super-Bowl-or-nothing mindset. They are to be commended for that, but it didn’t work out. Sure, they had some injuries and whatnot, but that team just didn’t click.
The Cowboys desperately needed help in the secondary, so team owner Jerry Jones got rid of Terence Newman, signed Brandon Carr to a hefty deal and traded up to draft Morris Claiborne. Jones then replaced the departed Tony Fiammetta at fullback with proven veteran Lawrence Vickers, shored up the inside linebacking corps with Dan Connor, drafted pass-rushing options in Kyle Wilber and Tyrone Crawford and added depth on the offensive line with Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau.
However, none of that guarantees anything. Even if all these players perform extremely well in their first season in Dallas, it won’t help unless the Cowboys who were with the team the past two seasons step up.
If quarterback Tony Romo continues to fumble the ball at the goal line in a close game (Week 1 loss to New York Jets), throws an interception in crunch time (Jets and Week 4 loss to Detroit Lions), misses a wide open Miles Austin ahead by five with 2:25 left (Week 14 loss to New York Giants) or gets called for a delay of game penalty in a tight contest (too many to count) then nothing changes.
If head coach Jason Garrett ices his own kicker, Dan Bailey (Week 13 loss to Arizona Cardinals), calls ill-advised pass plays in the second half up by 24 that end up in three interceptions (Week 4 loss to Lions) or doesn’t take responsibility for these faults (multiple times throughout the season and after its conclusion), then nothing changes.
If receiver Dez Bryant doesn’t start acting his age and develop into the superstar he can be, then nothing changes.
If Anthony Spencer doesn’t start playing like a first-round pick, then nothing changes.
If all these great new defenders and the ones who were already on the team don’t learn Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defense and give up touchdowns on simple mental errors (five game-changing instances in 2011 that all ended in losses), then nothing changes.
If these same defenders keep missing easy tackles in the open field that turn into game- or drive-changing plays, then nothing happens.
The list goes on.
You see, big names don’t simply equal success. Ask the New York Yankees. Regardless of who is on the team, the Cowboys won’t win unless the coaches call effective plays at the right times and the players execute those plays. That’s going to take more effort by the organization as a whole, not just these new players. As the old saying goes, don’t count your chickens before they hatch.