Former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs was never one to hold his tongue in voicing his disdain for their hated division rivals, and defensive end Justin Tuck also was never shy to express his opinion. Their comments, though, were more part of the game as the customary pregame trash talk that accompanies a historic rivalry.
But when Giants safety Antrel Rolle stated earlier this week that the Cowboys are a good team that is “missing a couple pieces of the puzzle” and that he “doesn’t think the pieces they’re missing are actually the players,” it is the harsh reality that Cowboys fans have been faced with in recent years.
One could successfully argue that Rolle was correct in his assessment that the problem isn’t the Cowboys’ players, but rather the coaches and front office.
Unlike most mediocre NFL teams, the Cowboys are stocked with talent. Tony Romo has been a pro bowler. Jason Witten is one of the best tight ends in league history. DeMarcus Ware has been the best outside linebacker in the NFL for years now and will be a Hall of Famer. DeMarco Murray – if he can stay healthy – could be a star. Dez Bryant has superstar written all over him. Miles Austin has been to the pro bowl. Left tackle Tyron Smith most likely will develop into one of the best in the game at his position. Don’t forget Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne.
But for all their talent, the Cowboys have consistently failed to reach expectations over the years. Talented teams can only do so much, though. Players may win games, but coaches lead. They are ultimately the reason for postseason success. Players play, but proper game planning and execution is what takes teams to the next level.
Bill Parcells’ first season with the Cowboys in 2003 can be evidence of that; he coached the team to a 10-6 record, earning a playoff berth with what was a mediocre roster, for the most part. Quincy Carter quarterbacked that team – a 2001 second-round pick that would spend four years in the league and throw for more interceptions than touchdowns. Troy Hambrick was the running back, and while he rushed for 972 yards that season and 5 touchdowns, it would be his second-to-last year in the NFL.
It was miracle work by Parcells, to say the least.
2007 and 2008 saw the opposite end of the spectrum in Dallas. Wade Phillips was in as head coach, and these Cowboys were loaded.
Romo, Marion Barber, a young and productive Felix Jones, Terrell Owens, Austin and Witten – along with offensive linemen Andre Gurode, Leonard Davis, and Marc Columbo — were the key guys on a stacked offense, and the defense had Ware, Greg Ellis, Bradie James, future Hall of Famer Zach Thomas, safety Roy Williams, and enigmatic, but skilled, talents Adam “Pacman” Jones and Tank Johnson.
The Cowboys won 13 games in 2007, but were bounced in the divisional round against the Giants. In 2008, they fell flat on their faces in a must win game at the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17, getting crushed 44-6.
After Phillips was fired in the middle of the 2010 season, Jason Garrett was promoted to head coach. Garrett is cut from the same cloth as Phillips, a solid offensive mind (in Garrett’s case) who lacks the ability to be an effective head man.
He doesn’t seem to have the right personality to lead this group, and the decision to have him falls on the shoulders of owner Jerry Jones.
In football, you need the right proverbial conductor to lead the orchestra, and the Cowboys at the moment don’t have that.
As much as fans would want to disagree with a hated rival’s comments, Rolle does have a point.
A few scrapped pieces here and a few added ones there, and maybe the Cowboys indeed have a completed puzzle.