Huddle Up: Musing on the Cowboys’ ‘title window’
Throughout the NFL’s lengthy offseason, “Huddle Up” will provide you with a daily quick take on an important story or development from around the league …
The Dallas Cowboys’ championship window is closing, according to Jerry Jones. And I know what you’re thinking: The window was open?
Easy, Cowboys fans. I kid … sort of.
Let’s start with what the always-entertaining Cowboys owner had to say to the NFL Network at the league’s spring meetings:
“Well, my window is getting shorter. Time goes by,” Jones said. “I do feel real pressure because we do have players not only in Tony Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, to leave out several that are [also] in the prime of their career.
“And we need to strike and strike soon with those guys.”
This, in a nutshell, is why Cowboys fans usually find themselves pulling out their hair come the latter stages of the season. There is talent all over this roster — Tony Romo continues to be a better QB than anyone wants to admit; Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, when healthy, form a potent 1-2 combo at wide receiver, with home-run threats like Felix Jones in the backfield; Ware is one of the best defensive players in the league, and the Cowboys constantly attempt to surround him with worthy teammates.
Yet, for all that star power (not to mention the never-ending hoopla surrounding “America’s Team), Dallas has all of one playoff win since the new millennium started and have missed the postseason each of the past two years while going a combined 14-16.
“We have experienced at least a couple of the most disappointing seasons that I’ve ever had because we had great play from Tony and we still didn’t get it done,” Jones told the NFL Network. “What we’ve got to do is, while we’ve still got him on the job, we’ve got to come with the rest of it and position us to better compete for a Super Bowl. I have a lot of confidence in Tony.”
That’s easier said than done for a Dallas team that was pretty middle-of-the-pack across the board last season. The Cowboys finished 15th in points scored and 16th in points allowed during the 2011 season, making their 8-8 finish rather fitting.
Of course, the Cowboys were also one win away from an NFC East crown and playoff berth, both of which were taken by the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants. That outcome is “just inspiring the Cowboys a little bit,” Jones said.
But if Dallas really feels like it can win it all this season, then two things need to happen:
1. The Cowboys need to stay healthy, especially on offense. Austin and Bryant were banged-up to varying degrees in 2011, and every Dallas running back had an injury at one point or another. This is something Dallas can’t really control, but it will be key this year.
2. The team’s offseason additions on defense must produce. The presence of Ware alone should make this unit a Top-10 group, but he didn’t get a lot of help in 2011. In response, the Cowboys traded up for cornerback Morris Claiborne at the draft, added free-agent DBs Brandon Carr and Brodney Pool, plus linebacker Dan Conner, then used four more draft picks on defensive players. Those additions have to pay off.
The Giants have shown twice in the past five seasons how quickly a team can take advantage of just a tiny opening in that proverbial “window.” If the Cowboys can’t figure out a way to follow in their footsteps in the next season or two, Jones might have no choice but to completely overhaul his team, starting with Romo and the Cowboys’ core.