Dallas Cowboys: Peyton Manning

Insiders not high on Cowboys' future

July, 11, 2014
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IRVING, Texas – ESPN Insiders John Clayton, Mel Kiper, Louis Riddick and Mike Sando had the difficult task of coming up with power rankings for teams over the next three years.Insider

The Dallas Cowboys did not fare well. They came in at No. 28. Only the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders were worse.

Using five categories – roster, quarterback, draft, front office and coaching – the Cowboys checked in with 68.10 out of 100. The Seattle Seahawks checked in at No. 1 with 88.4 points.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/John FroschauerTony Romo's age could be a factor in the Cowboys' low ranking in the NFL Future Power Rankings.
To read the full article, you have to be an Insider, but here’s what they wrote about the Cowboys:
The overview: Dallas and Oakland are the only teams ranking among the NFL's five worst in four of the five categories. The Cowboys were 13th at QB. Tony Romo ranked tied for eighth in our recent "QB Tiers" project, but that was for the present. The future rankings project forward through 2016, when Romo will be 37 years old. How will his surgically repaired back hold up? Subtracting DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee from a defense that's already shaky appears devastating. That helps explain why the Dallas roster (beyond QB) ranked 29th. There aren't enough front-line players on defense. Salary-cap challenges persist. Only the Raiders and Dolphins ranked lower than the Cowboys in the front-office category, which is a strong statement of disapproval for how Jerry Jones runs the franchise. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: For Dallas, the real issue going forward is how successful it is at developing its draft picks on the defensive side of the ball, primarily 2012 draftees Morris Claiborne and Tyrone Crawford and 2014 draft picks DeMarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens. The offense is set, regardless of how easy it is to pile on Romo. Defense is where championships are won. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: The Cowboys are betting on two rookies from the 2014 class to be exactly what they hope they can be. If Zack Martin performs well at guard after transitioning from playing mostly tackle at Notre Dame, the offensive line could be the best in the NFL -- no exaggeration. And second-rounder Lawrence needs to provide pressure for a defensive line that is really light on ceiling elsewhere. --Mel Kiper
Analysis: If they’re going to hold Romo’s age against the Cowboys, then why isn’t that a factor for Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees? Injury, too. Manning has a medical risk to him and is the oldest of the quarterbacks. Brady’s 25 touchdown passes in 2013 were the fewest he has had since 2006. Is that a sign of age catching up with him?

While I have said the Cowboys should have kept Ware, are the Insiders sure Ware’s best days aren’t behind him? He has been slowed by injuries as well the last few years. Can he be a consistent 12-15 sacks-per-year guy for the next three years?

I’m not so sure salary-cap challenges persist. They’ll be in really good shape in 2015 and should be in great shape in 2016, all while being able to keep Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant off the market, and perhaps DeMarco Murray, too. The days of the Cowboys doing huge deals for players they don’t know, I believe, will be few and far between.

The Cowboys have re-tooled this roster in the last three years. They have tried to rebuild – without using that word – and win at the same time. Where I agree the most is the development of defensive players. They need Claiborne, Crawford and Lawrence to play at a high level this year. They also need guys such as Bruce Carter, Brandon Carr and whoever plays safety next to Barry Church to play much better than they played last year.

I was a little more optimistic in my three-year take on the Cowboys, while using the last three years as a template.

Some of this is the benefit of the doubt. I get it. Those teams and quarterbacks have earned the benefit of the doubt. The Cowboys haven’t earned anything.

I just don’t think they earned a No. 28 future ranking, either.

Five questions with: Barry Church

July, 3, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- With the players entering the downtime of the offseason, we offer up a Five Questions segment.

Today’s subject is Dallas Cowboys safety Barry Church.

Church
Church led the Cowboys in tackles last year with 135. He had five tackles for a loss, one interception, six pass deflections, three forced fumbles and returned a fumble for a touchdown against the New York Giants. He did it after missing all but three games in 2012 because of a torn Achilles.

What is your first football memory?

Church: It would be playing Little League taking a kickoff return like 80 yards and I felt like I was the man on campus. I was maybe 12.

If you could play any other position, what would it be?

Church: I think I would be a cornerback just because they get put on an island and it’s just man to man. It’s the ultimate competition, so I’d definitely want to be a cornerback.

If you were NFL commissioner for a day, what rule would you change?

Church: Defenseless receiver. The penalty the defense gets hit for hitting a receiver. If you don’t hit him, he’s going to catch the ball and run whoever knows how far. I’d change that rule. That’s just me.

Who is the non-Cowboy you respect the most in the league?

Church: It’s got to be Peyton Manning just because the dedication he takes to the game. His knowledge of the game and how he studies each team and knows the ins and outs more than some of the players on that team do. I just respect his playmaking ability and also his love for the game, his study for it.

If you weren’t playing football, what would you be doing?

Church: I’d probably be at Fox Toledo broadcasting. I’d either be behind the scenes or I’d be an anchor over there. I had an internship with them when I was in college, but I got drafted, so I took that route instead.

What QB tier is Tony Romo on?

July, 2, 2014
Jul 2
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IRVING, Texas -- When it comes to ranking quarterbacks, the debates can be endless and sometimes pointless, but Mike Sando took the question to people inside the NFL with his latest ESPN Insider piece. Insider

Romo
It might surprise some of you that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo finished tied for eighth in the tier-rankings of 26 general managers, former GMs, pro personnel people, coordinators, head coaches, position coaches and an executive.

Four players tied for the top spot in Sando’s rankings, using a 1 for the best at the position and a 5 for the worst. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees shared the top spot. Andrew Luck was fifth.

Romo checked in after Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger and tied with Russell Wilson and Eli Manning in the second tier.

Here’s what Sando wrote and the insiders had to say about Romo:
T-8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (2.23 average rating)

A few evaluators questioned whether Romo had the mind-set to play at the highest level consistently. It's a familiar refrain in league circles, a feeling that Romo is an undisciplined QB playing for an undisciplined organization with a poorly constructed roster.

"People want to knock him," one GM responded, "but the guy has talent and is one of the top 10 starters in the league."

Romo is 34 years old and coming off back surgery, but he still could be in line for a "monster" season, one evaluator said. "But I absolutely believe they will not win big with him. As soon as he decides it's a clutch moment, his brain goes elsewhere. He loses focus and tries to create something."




What’s funny is that the GM and evaluator have the same thoughts of those who love Romo or loathe Romo who are not on the inside. Pete Prisco of CBS Sports went so far as to call Romo “underrated” in his yearly rankings, which drew the ire of some.

The “clutch” talk has been a big thing around Romo since the bobbled snap in 2006 against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs. That talk is always followed up with Romo having the best fourth-quarter passer rating in NFL history (102.4) and his 20 come-from-behind wins.

Those numbers aren’t hollow, although with one playoff win to his credit that’s what his detractors will say.

That’s why this debate is a good one. Both sides can declare victory with their points. If Romo were to ever win a Super Bowl -- or perhaps just get to one -- then the perception would change entirely.

Where does Tony Romo rank all time?

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
2:15
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IRVING, Texas -- The NFL offseasons are built for rankings, top-10 lists, five-best signings, five-worst signings.

SportsNation

Which quarterback would you rather have?

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    51%
  •  
    14%
  •  
    35%

Discuss (Total votes: 13,140)

Chase Stuart at footballperspective.com has ranked NFL quarterbacks in history a few times and his recent ranking has Tony Romo ranked fairly high all time and among current quarterbacks.

You can read about the methodology used in the rankings here and see the entire list here.

Romo is ranked No. 23 all time. Roger Staubach checked in at No. 14. Where is Troy Aikman? He came in at No. 38. The last time these rankings were put together Staubach was No. 15, Romo No. 30 and Aikman No. 42.

Among the active quarterbacks, Romo is behind Peyton Manning (No. 1), Tom Brady (No. 2), Drew Brees (No. 7), Aaron Rodgers (No. 16) and Philip Rivers (No. 21). The next active quarterback after Romo is Ben Roethlisberger (No. 32), and he’s won two Super Bowls.

It’s an interesting look and offers up debates that make the “greatest quarterback of all time” debate so lively.

Cowboys' meeting with Coach K was OK

April, 21, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- While the NFL will look into the recent visit by Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and offensive coordinator Adam Gase to Alabama coach Nick Saban, the visit Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and coach Jason Garrett made to see Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski did not raise an eyebrow.

According to a league spokesman, the trip to Durham, N.C., was not considered football related and in a “social gathering.” Romo, tight end Jason Witten and running back DeMarco Murray were in Jerry Jones’ suite at AT&T Stadium with Garrett for the NCAA basketball championship game as well but it falls under the same discussion as the Duke trip.

According to the collective bargaining agreement, players and coaches are not allowed to meet to talk about football until the offseason workouts begin. For the Cowboys, the offseason program started today.

Saban told the Denver Post he meet separately with Manning and Gase, who was an assistant on his staff at Michigan State.

“Peyton, we talked an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon,” Saban told the paper. “Adam had been talking to our assistant coaches. I never talked with Adam about football.”

Tony Romo meets with David Cutcliffe

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
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Over the weekend, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, along with coach Jason Garrett, met with Duke football coach David Cutcliffe.

The details of the meeting weren’t revealed and Cutcliffe wasn’t available for comment, according to Duke officials, because he’s on vacation.

The chat between the trio can be perceived in different ways:
  • Romo might have been trying to gain some tips, and considering Cutcliffe mentors Peyton and Eli Manning, that’s not a bad man to hook up with.
  • Romo might want to bring some of his receivers to Duke for a future workout, something both Mannings have done.
  • Romo and Garrett were just saying hi as they were passing through to visit the basketball office.

Cutcliffe is considered a quarterback guru. If Romo was trying to pick his brain, this is the best time to do it.

He’s got a lot to prove in terms of coming back from back surgery. Then again, regardless of his back surgery, Romo has plenty to achieve.

The man has just one playoff win on his résumé and more failures in big games than he should given the amount of money he’s paid by the Cowboys.

Romo produced a strong season in 2013 with a 96.7 quarterback rating, a 63.9 completion percentage. 31 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions.

Romo also had six games with a quarterback rating of over 100.

Yet, he was far from perfect. It’s great to throw for more than 500 yards, which he did against Denver. It's terrible to lose the game on an interception.

Romo went 3-2 in games he attempted more than 40 passes, including losses to Green Bay and Kansas City. The Cowboys blew a 23-point halftime lead against the Packers and failed to score a touchdown in the second half against the Chiefs.

Is Romo an elite quarterback? It depends on what your definition is of one.

Does a QB need to win a Super Bowl to move to elite status? Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have each won two Super Bowls. Aaron Rodgers has one title.

Are they elite?

Every offseason, Romo says he works on something different with his game. It can be footwork, hand placement when under pressure, arm angles or just improving his decision-making.

Romo is entering his ninth season as a NFL starter with his head coach, Garrett, entering the final year of his deal.

This could be Romo’s last year with Garrett, and if the Cowboys fail to make the postseason that partnership, which started in 2007, will most likely end.

We hope Romo was picking Cutcliffe’s mind about improving his game instead of just passing through the football offices on the way to shoot hoops. If so, it was a smart stop before things get geared up for a crucial 2014 season.

Where do Staubach, Aikman rank on QB list?

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
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IRVING, Texas – Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is one of the finest football writers around, and before Super Bowl XLVIII he ranked the top 25 quarterbacks he has seen play.

Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman made the list. So did one-time Cowboy Randall Cunningham.

Joe Montana was at the top of McGinn’s list and it’s hard to argue that spot. The rest of the top five was Johnny Unitas, Tom Brady, Dan Marino and Peyton Manning.

McGinn did not have any set criteria. He called some of it just a “gut feeling.” He is not afraid to make some decisions others might think are off, like having Ken Anderson check in at No. 14 and Donovan McNabb come in at No. 21.

Brady and Manning were two of the four active quarterbacks on his list. Aaron Rodgers was not on his list, but Ben Roethlisberger (No. 18) and Drew Brees (No. 25) were.

As for Staubach and Aikman, they were ranked Nos. 10 and 19. Staubach was one spot behind Dan Fouts. Aikman not only checked in after Roethlisberger, but also Kurt Warner. He ranked one spot ahead of Steve McNair.

Thoughts?

DL is where Cowboys should copy Seattle

February, 4, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- In this copycat league that is the NFL, all of a sudden everybody needs tall and long conerbacks like Seattle’s Richard Sherman. One problem, there aren’t that many of those kinds of guys around.

Plus from a Dallas Cowboys’ perspective, they have already allocated their cornerback resources in Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick. So scratch that possible remodel.

Where the Cowboys can attempt to emulate the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks is with their defensive line.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware has reached double-digit sacks for seven consecutive seasons, but he'll need four sacks in the final three games to keep the streak alive.
AP Photo/James D. SmithFor years, Dallas has relied on DeMarcus Ware to provide a pass rush. Adding depth to the defensive line could be a priority this offseason.
The Seahawks do what Rod Marinelli wants to do with the Cowboys. He just did not have enough quality players, rolling through 20 defensive linemen in 2013 because of injuries and poor play.

Seattle’s defensive line accounted for 33.5 sacks from eight players. The Cowboys defensive line had 28 sacks from six players.

Michael Bennett led the Seahawks with 8.5 sacks. Fellow free-agent pickup, Cliff Avril, was second with eight. Clinton McDonald had 5.5, and Chris Clemons had 4.5

Jason Hatcher led the Cowboys with 11, followed by George Selvie with seven and DeMarcus Ware with six. Kyle Wilber had two sacks from his defensive end spot before he was switched to outside linebacker later in the season. Everette Brown and and Jarius Wynn each had one sack.

The Cowboys want to rotate defensive linemen as much as possible to keep them fresh. That is a great approach when you have players worthy of being in the rotation. In the Super Bowl win against the Denver Broncos, the Seahawks had four linemen take at least 41 of 69 snaps, led by Bennett, who played 47. In the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers, they had four linemen take at least 31 of 55 snaps. In the divisional-round win against the New Orleans Saints, they had five linemen take at least 43 snaps.

That rotation kept opposing quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Colin Kaepernick and Drew Brees under pressure. The pressure could come from the inside or the outside. And it would come with mostly just four rushers, which allowed that back seven to be even more aggressive.

For far too long the Cowboys’ pass rush has been Ware and nobody else. This past season it was Hatcher, and sometimes Selvie and Ware. The Cowboys hope Tyrone Crawford can develop after missing last season with an Achilles injury, but the defensive line needs a ton of help.

For the Cowboys to make a jump in the defensive rankings -- forget being a top-five or 10 unit -- they need a better pass rush. For a better pass rush, they need better players. To get better players in free agency they need to hope the defensive line market is as slow as it was in 2013 when Bennett received a one-year, $5 million deal, and Avril received two years and $15 million from the Seahawks. That could allow Dallas to either keep Hatcher (unlikely), or get lucky with some other prove-it type deals. The easier way to get better players is the draft, but will the right players be available at the right time?

If the Cowboys get a better pass rush, their secondary will look a lot better.

NFLN Survey/Super Bowl QB: Cowboys

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
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The answers came quickly and were the same two quarterbacks the 10 Dallas Cowboys anonymously quizzed and answered for ESPN’s NFL Nation survey regarding which quarterback they would want with the Super Bowl on the line.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady got seven votes. Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning received three. In the overall vote, Brady, with his three Super Bowl titles, was the winner (128 votes) and Manning, with one title and the chance for a second Sunday, was second (86 votes).

Fourteen quarterbacks received votes in the survey, but Tony Romo was not one of them.

Until Romo delivers the Cowboys deep into the playoffs or maybe even to a Super Bowl, he will have to live with the perception that he can’t get it done when it matters most, even if the fourth-quarter numbers say otherwise.

Once that happens, then Romo would receive votes the way Super Bowl winners Aaron Rodgers (32), Drew Brees (21), Ben Roethlisberger (20), Eli Manning (nine) and Joe Flacco (one) did.
Romo remains the NFL’s highest rated quarterback in the fourth quarter (102.4) with 66 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions. He has 20 come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter or overtime in his career. He had five in 2012 and two last season.

With a herniated disk causing pain down his leg, Romo beat the Washington Redskins with a last-minute touchdown pass to DeMarco Murray as the Cowboys overcame a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to win.

He would have surgery less than a week later and miss the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.

NFLN Survey/Super Bowl player: Cowboys

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
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IRVING, Texas -- Somewhat lost amid Peyton Manning’s return to a Super Bowl is the first trip to the big game Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey will make.

Bailey has been among the best cornerbacks of his generation, and after 15 seasons, he is finally getting a chance to win a title.

When 320 players across the league were asked which player -- active, non-teammate -- they would like to see in the Super Bowl in the NFL Nation survey, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was the top answer. He earned five of the Cowboys’ 10 votes in the survey. Eighty-eight players league-wide received a vote.

Bringing this to the Cowboys, Tony Romo earned the most votes with nine. Jason Witten and Dez Bryant earned two votes. DeMarcus Ware earned one. Somehow, so did Danny McCray.

Romo has said over and over again that winning is the only way quarterbacks are judged. He has one playoff victory and has missed the playoffs in his past three seasons when he has had 90 touchdown passes and 39 interceptions.

He receives a ton of grief from opponents, media and fans for what he hasn’t done yet. The 2007 season in which the Cowboys went 13-3 but lost in the divisional round of the playoffs to the New York Giants looms as the biggest missed opportunity.

Romo turns 34 in April and the chances are running out on finally making a Super Bowl, like Bailey has, but he is not about to stop trying. With three straight 8-8 finishes, it is hard to imagine the Cowboys making it to Super Bowl XLIX, but that is what drives Romo and Witten as they enter their 12th seasons.

NFLN survey/franchise player: Cowboys

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16
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IRVING, Texas -- The question in the NFL Nation survey was pretty straightforward: If you had to start a team with one player, whom would it be?

Smith
Romo
For those who wanted to win right away, the answer was Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who received 62 votes, even though he is 37 years old and in his 16th season. For those looking at the big picture, the answer was Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who had 56 votes and is in just his second season.

As we localize this for the Dallas Cowboys, we'll answer it two ways. If you're looking to win right now, Tony Romo gets the nod even though he is coming off his second back surgery in eight months and turns 34 in April. The NFL is a quarterback's league. Without one, you do not win. But even with one playing as well as Romo has played the last few seasons, all it has gotten the Cowboys is three straight 8-8 records.

Without Romo, however, the Cowboys are not sniffing Week 17 NFC East title games. Given the timing of his surgery and the recovery time needed, the Cowboys expect Romo to be Romo in 2014, which means he will have them in contention for a playoff spot.

If you're looking for the long-term, then the answer is Tyron Smith.

In Smith, the Cowboys have their left tackle for the next decade. He was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2013. An argument could be made that he was the best left tackle in the game over the second half of the season.

The best part of Smith's development is his age. He is entering his fourth season and he does not turn 24 until Dec. 12.

The Cowboys have his rights through the 2015 season but want to lock him up to a multi-year deal as soon as they can.

They know he will be one of their foundational players for years to come.

NFLN survey/most respected: Cowboys

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16
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IRVING, Texas -- With all that Peyton Manning has accomplished in his career with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, there is no doubt why he is the most respected player in the NFL, according to an anonymous survey of 320 players conducted by ESPN.

Witten
Closer to home, there is no doubt Jason Witten is the Dallas Cowboys' most respected player.

Witten earned five votes in the league tally. DeMarcus Ware earned three.

In 11 seasons, Witten is the Cowboys' all-time leading receiver. He is second to Michael Irvin in receiving yards in franchise history. Only Tony Gonzalez has more catches as a tight end in NFL history. By next season he should pass Shannon Sharpe for second place in most yards all-time by a tight end. He set a record for catches in a season by a tight end with 110 in 2012. He has been named to the Pro Bowl eight times. He could make his ninth trip depending on the outcome of Sunday's conference title games.

With Witten, however, it is more than just numbers. It is physical and mental toughness. It is dedication. It is a belief in doing things the right way. He has missed only one game in his career despite numerous injuries, including a ruptured spleen in 2012. He does not miss offseason workouts.

"He's a great football player," coach Jason Garrett said after the season-ending loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. "He's the best tight end in football and has been for 10 years. He's just a helluva player, as special a guy as I've ever been around. He just is a unique individual. It's no surprise to me or any of us that he played as well as he did in this big game for us. That's what he's done his whole life. He's a great example to his teammates, a great example to his coaches about how to do things and I love him.

"I love him to death. He just does things the right way. He puts more into this than anybody I know. His commitment is as strong as anybody' and it's just disappointing for him. Again, he can walk out of the locker room with his head high and shoulders back because he does [it] the right way and he's done it the right way for a long time. He's going to be a Hall of Fame player and he's a Hall of Fame individual as well."

What about the return of Troy Aikman?

January, 10, 2014
Jan 10
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IRVING, Texas -- John Elway is in his third year as the Denver Broncos' executive vice president of football operations. It's a fancy title that says, basically, he's in charge of all things football when it comes to the Broncos.

The Hall of Fame quarterback has been able to ride Tim Tebow to a playoff appearance -- and win -- and was able to lure Peyton Manning to the Broncos as a free agent.

[+] EnlargeTroy Aikman
AP Photo/James D SmithBringing Troy Aikman into the front-office fold would help the Joneses generate goodwill with Cowboys fans.
Before Elway took that job, his personnel experience consisted of owning the Colorado Crush of the Arena Football League.

The Broncos have gone 26-6 in the last two seasons with Manning as quarterback and are the AFC's top seed in the playoffs for the second straight year.

The Dallas Cowboys do not have an executive vice president of football operations.

They have Jerry Jones as owner, president and general manager. They have Stephen Jones as chief operating officer, executive vice president and director of player personnel. Will McClay is the assistant director of player personnel.

On Sunday, I was fortunate enough to appear on "The Score With Babe Laufenberg." Sportscaster Bill Jones asked what changes could or should the Cowboys make in 2014. I came up with change the defensive coordinator. I mean, how hard is that when Monte Kiffin's defense was as bad as it was?

Laufenberg, the former Cowboys quarterback, sports director at KTVT and Cowboys radio analyst, had an ingenius thought.

Hire Troy Aikman.

Brilliant.

Think about the goodwill that would give Jones, who has long been criticized for being the general manager by just about everybody upset with the lack of success the Cowboys have had. Think of the jolt it would give the franchise.

Last year, Jones talked about sometimes having to do something "inordinate" to get the change you seek. His idea of change was to fire Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator and have Bill Callahan call plays. And the Cowboys still went 8-8.

In his role as a Fox analyst, Aikman has been closer to the game than Elway was when he took over. I wonder if a part of him sees what Elway has done and thinks, "I can do that." Is Elway poring over player reports every waking minute and up on all of the salary cap machinations? Not necessarily.

Dan Marino tried to do this in 2004 and it didn't take. He lasted just three weeks as the senior vice president of football operations. Last fall Marino hinted he would be interested in a front-office gig once again, referencing Elway's success.

A lot of this is pie in the sky. We know Jones won't give up the GM duties. Ever. We also don't know if Aikman would ever consider giving up the Fox gig for something a little more grinding than calling games about 20 weekends a year. And we don't know if he could work with (or for) Jones again.

As we sit and wait to see what changes Jones will or will not make in this offseason, it sure is fun to ponder a Cowboys' life with Aikman in the front office.

Thanks for the idea, Babe.

Five Wonders: Cowboys' draft approach

January, 7, 2014
Jan 7
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IRVING, Texas -- What, you thought Five Wonders was going away in the offseason?

Nope. There will be no long-term hibernation even if the Cowboys’ season ended without a playoff appearance for the fourth straight season. There might be some mini-vacations.

Just not this week.

On to the Wonders:

Romo
** I wonder how the Cowboys will look at this draft. It is easy to say take the best player available. It is another to actually do it. Need has to be factored in. The Cowboys need to improve the defense, especially the defensive line. But you could make arguments they need to look at wide receivers, running back, offensive line and quarterback, too. Dez Bryant is entering the final year of his deal. Miles Austin is likely to be released. Terrance Williams had a productive rookie season but they still need to cover themselves at receiver. DeMarco Murray is entering the final year of his contract. Lance Dunbar is coming off knee surgery. Joseph Randle was only OK. The line play was the best the Cowboys have had in years, but Doug Free is going into the last year of his deal. And we know Tony Romo turns 34 in April and is coming off back surgery. So before you pencil in two or three defensive linemen, a linebacker, safety and cornerback into the Cowboys’ eight picks, remember to think about the future, too.

Skelton
** Last week, I mentioned the Cowboys simply can’t dismiss talk about drafting a quarterback so easily with Romo coming off back surgery and Kyle Orton set to count $4.377 million against the cap if they did not want to restructure the backup’s deal. I wonder if the Cowboys should look again at quarterback John Skelton. He was among the five they brought in before the season finale against the Eagles before Jon Kitna offered up his services via text message. Skelton turns 26 in March. He has started 17 games. He has been with the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers. Signing Skelton to a “futures” contract would give him and the coaches a jumpstart on the offseason. He has the physical skills to play or at least be a competent backup and he would come at a cheaper price. If we take Jerry Jones at his word about not drafting a quarterback early, then this would be a way to possibly develop a quarterback with an upside at a no-cost price.

SportsNation

What position should be the Cowboys' top priority in the NFL draft?

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    11%
  •  
    1%
  •  
    78%
  •  
    7%
  •  
    3%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,290)

** Let’s play pretend here for a second, which isn’t always hard to do in this Wonderland. Let’s say the Seattle Seahawks win the Super Bowl. As a perk of their title, the Seahawks will open the season on a Thursday night. The Cowboys play at Seattle in 2014. Despite their playoff drought and their everlasting time in .500-land, the Cowboys remain the NFL’s biggest draw. Maybe it would make more sense for the Seahawks to play the San Francisco 49ers, which is becoming one of the better rivalries in the league. Maybe it would make more sense to have a lesser foe to open up the season since everybody will be football-starved by next September, but the Baltimore Ravens opened up against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. But I wonder about this because of the Cowboys’ schedule later in the year. They will play Nov. 9 at London’s Wembley Stadium against the Jacksonville Jaguars. To balance out the travel, the Cowboys have to play Seattle early in the season. Why not put them at the earliest spot possible?

Durant
** I wonder if the Cowboys will bring back strongside linebacker Justin Durant in 2014. Durant did not play badly in his one season with the Cowboys, but a strongside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme is hardly a must-have position. Durant missed six games because of injuries and played only 197 snaps. He has some position flexibility, which is a positive. He did a decent job in his limited work as Sean Lee’s replacement at middle linebacker. But cost is everything. In an offseason in which pennies will count, Durant’s $1.45 million cap figure could hurt his cause. If the Cowboys let him go, then they save $1.25 million. That’s a nice savings when you consider what Kyle Wilber was able to do down the stretch or if they want to play DeVonte Holloman on the strong side.

**I wonder if the Cowboys will make their coaching staff announcements by the end of the week. Last year, running backs coach Skip Peete and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan were fired before the divisional round of the playoffs. The Cowboys’ assistants are on vacation this week, just like last year when Ryan got the news in Turks & Caicos and let people know he was “comfortably numb.” This year the futures of Ryan’s successor, Monte Kiffin, and the few coaches who are without contracts are up in the air. You can throw in some uncertainty around offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, too.

Upon Further Review: Cowboys Week 15

December, 16, 2013
12/16/13
8:00
AM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- A review of four hot issues from the Dallas Cowboys' 37-36 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

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Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesDeMarco Murray and the Cowboys are focusing on winning out and attempting to make the playoffs.
Recuperative powers: If the Cowboys win their final two games, they will make the playoffs. If there is a message Jason Garrett is looking to sell as the team looks to rebound, that's it. The Cowboys' final two games are against the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, teams they outscored 48-19 in meetings earlier this season. It's not the message a lot of fans want to hear, but it is what matters most as the Cowboys look to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

"I feel good that we have a chance to beat the Redskins, and if we do that, we'll get a chance to play Philadelphia with an opportunity to get in the playoffs," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "I know when I see us lose a game after having a lead like we had at halftime, anything can happen one way or the other."

Pathetic work: On a day in which the offense gained 466 yards and 27 first downs, you would think everything worked well. It didn't. The third-down offense continued its season-long struggles as the Cowboys converting on just 2 of 9 chances. It was the third time this season the Cowboys converted on less than 30 percent of their third-down tries in a game. They are 56-of-159 on the season. Tony Romo said he has to be better on third downs, the receivers have to win in man-to-man situations and the blocking has to be better.

"We haven't done that well," Romo said of the third-down woes. "We have to do a better job."

No chance on D: At one point, the Cowboys fielded a defense that had three players who were not with the team when training camp started (George Selvie, Everette Brown, Corvey Irvin), two undrafted free agents (Jeff Heath, Cameron Lawrence), a sixth-round pick (DeVonte Holloman) and a cornerback (Sterling Moore) who was out of football until Nov. 25. Matt Flynn became the fifth quarterback to throw four touchdown passes against Monte Kiffin's defense, joining Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Josh McCown. Flynn and McCown are backup quarterbacks, and the Cowboys will see another backup next week at Washington with Kirk Cousins quarterbacking the Redskins.

Still producing: Jason Witten caught 110 passes last year, an NFL record for tight ends in a season, but he had only three touchdowns. He has 59 catches this year and eight touchdowns. Witten needs one TD in the final two games to equal his career high. His eight from Romo this season are the most the duo has combined for in a season together. With 59 catches for 703 yards, Witten is averaging 11.9 yards per reception, which equals his career best so far. He might not have the starry numbers of the past, but at 31, Witten is not slowing down yet, either.

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