Dallas Cowboys: Terry Gray
ESPN.com Dallas Cowboys reporter Todd Archer makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: San Francisco 49ers
Surprise. The Niners have been among the best teams in the NFC the past few years, but they won't have NaVorro Bowman and Glenn Dorsey and likely Aldon Smith on their tough defense. That's good news for Tony Romo and the offense. Prediction: Win
Week 2: at Tennessee Titans
The last time the Cowboys played in Nashville, Jerry Jones was signing autographs in his suite during the game. He should be fortunate to do the same again with the Cowboys off to their first 2-0 start since 2008. The Titans don't have the passing game to keep up with the Cowboys, even with a subpar defense. Prediction: Win
Week 3: at St. Louis Rams
If this game was at home, it would be a win and DeMarco Murray would have a huge game on the ground. But it's at the Edward Jones Dome and the Rams' defensive front will provide a huge test for the Cowboys' offensive line. Prediction: Loss
Week 4: New Orleans Saints
The Saints annihilated the Cowboys last year, picking up 40 first downs and 625 yards in a 49-17 win that wasn't even that close. This game will be closer but Drew Brees will be able to pick apart a secondary that will be facing the best quarterback to date. Prediction: Loss
Week 5: Houston Texans
J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney are a nightmare duo for offensive lines, but the Cowboys won't be afraid. New Texans coach Bill O'Brien will succeed but Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't the answer at quarterback. This is one of those early-season must wins for the Cowboys. Prediction: Win
Week 6: at Seattle Seahawks
There are all sorts of bad memories at Seattle, starting with Romo's bobbled snap in the 2006 playoffs. But the Cowboys' most recent visit to CenturyLink Field was a 27-7 drubbing in 2012. The Legion of Boom will be looking forward to Dez Bryant. This will be another day of bad memories. Prediction: Loss
Week 7: New York Giants
The Cowboys finally beat the Giants at AT&T Stadium last year and will make it two in a row in Arlington. Eli Manning doesn't look comfortable in the new offense and the Giants' defense does not match up well against the Cowboys' strengths. Prediction: Win
Week 8: Washington Redskins
Jon Gruden will be in the house calling the game for ESPN on "Monday Night Football," to see his brother Jay lose in a low-scoring, hard-hitting game like most of the contests between the Redskins and Cowboys. Dwayne Harris makes the difference again on special teams. Prediction: Win
Week 9: Arizona Cardinals
The Cowboys put together their first three-game winning streak since late in the 2012 season to get to 6-3. If they want to stay in the playoff conversation, this is the kind of start they would need, but it does not guarantee them a postseason appearance. Prediction: Win
Week 10: at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have the kind of defense the Cowboys would like to have: young, fast, aggressive, angry. This game will surprise many people, but Gus Bradley is building something in Jacksonville worth noting. The Cowboys might be America's Team, but they're not London's Team. Prediction: Loss
Week 12: at New York Giants
The Cowboys have fared well at MetLife Stadium with some surprising wins, but the doubts start to creep in after the Jacksonville loss and the bye week does not help them get things corrected. Playing the second time in five weeks, New York will have better answers at home. Prediction: Loss
Week 13: Philadelphia Eagles
The NFL did the Cowboys no favors by giving them a night game on Sunday in New York to make a short week even shorter. Despite their defensive woes a year ago, the Cowboys were OK against Chip Kelly's offense. They'll be better than OK here to temporarily right the ship. Prediction: Win
Week 14: at Chicago Bears
Last year's visit to Soldier Field was a mess. Josh McCown lit up the Cowboys for four touchdowns and 348 yards. He's now in Tampa Bay and Jay Cutler is a better quarterback to feature wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Prediction: Loss
Week 15: at Philadelphia Eagles
Like the Giants in Week 12, the Eagles come up with the answers in the rematch. The Cowboys will have a 10-day break leading into the game to help prepare for Kelly's pace of play, but it won't help. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek have big days against the Dallas linebackers. Prediction: Loss
Week 16: Indianapolis Colts
The Cowboys are in must-win territory with four losses in their past five games. The offense will be able to do its part, but the defense will not have any answers for Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who will be making his first visit to AT&T Stadium. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: at Washington Redskins
The Cowboys can make history with a win. It's just not the history they want. With a win, the Cowboys will become the first team with four straight 8-8 finishes. Is this the last game of the Jason Garrett era, or does Jerry Jones give him an extension? Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 8-8
The story is from more than 10 years ago, when Edwards was coach of the New York Jets. As a boy, Edwards' father made him sweep the back patio of their house. When Edwards was done, his father went out back, saw the pile his son made and immediately went to the corners. They were untouched.
The message that stuck with McClay when he first heard the story was simple: Details matter.
In his current job as the Dallas Cowboys' assistant director of player personnel, McClay is sweeping the corners.
In this case, sweeping the corners is looking anywhere and everywhere for a player to help the Cowboys in next month's draft. This is McClay's first as the Cowboys' highest-ranked personnel chief not named Jones.
"He's there night and day," said McClay's former Arena Football League assistant and confidante Terry Gray. "He's got a relentless passion to provide Mr. [Jerry] Jones and Stephen [Jones] the very best product available within the means and the parameters of what he's able to work with. He's nonstop. Nonstop. He doesn't sleep a whole lot."
There will be time to sleep after the draft. Maybe McClay, 47, can sneak in a little bit in June after the minicamp ends but before training camp in Oxnard, Calif., begins in late July.
For now, sleep can wait. McClay, whom the Cowboys declined to make available for this story, is in charge of putting the Cowboys' draft room together. It is a painstaking process that takes months to go through but picks up its pace in the final few weeks before the Cowboys pick No. 16 overall in the first round on May 8.
This week, nearly 30 players from across the country will visit Valley Ranch, wrapping up on Wednesday. On Thursday, the club will host its Dallas Day workouts for the local draft prospects. When it is all over, McClay and the scouting department will be back in the office grinding away, sweeping the corners.
McClay's rise to this current position has taken him through the Arena Football League as a player and coach, the defunct XFL and the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was the assistant director of pro scouting. He joined the Cowboys organization in 2002 as defensive coordinator of the AFL's Dallas Desperados and became the head coach in 2004. He also served as a pro scout for the Cowboys, and in 2012 he was named the director of football research. Last spring he was promoted to his current title.
"Everything equates in looking at talent," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "He found some really unique guys in the arena league and then of course when he was back in scouting. He has had a passion for it, and it just seems like every step of the way he's done a good job for us. I commend him on the job he did finding guys like [George] Selvie and [Nick] Hayden, people like that. People that everybody had a shot at, but he brought them in."
Over the past few years, the Cowboys have found several prizes in street free agency in Laurent Robinson, Tony Fiammetta, Eric Frampton, Ernie Sims and Selvie, who had seven sacks last season. The Cowboys dressed 20 different defensive linemen in 2013.
McClay spent most of the season sweeping the corners for defensive linemen. And he was doing it long before he ever heard Edwards' tale. He did it at Houston Marian Christian, playing wide receiver as a freshman and quarterback as a senior to win Class 3A state titles in the Texas Christian Interscholastic League in 1981 and ‘84.
His high school coach, Mike Treybig, remembers walking into his office only to see McClay feeding the 16-millimeter film into the projector.
""William liked watching tape," Treybig said. "I would imagine he would've loved it if we let him call his own plays. I know there were times we allowed him to do that. He was definitely a student of the game. We didn't have to worry about a lot of stuff when it came to William. We knew he did his homework and would take care of things to give us the best chance to win on that Friday."
He found some really unique guys in the arena league and then of course when he was back in scouting. He has had a passion for it, and it just seems like every step of the way he's done a good job for us." -- Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones on assistant director of player personnel William McClay
McClay could have gone to Nebraska, but he chose Rice instead to stay close to home and played defensive back. He was recruited there by Mike Nolan, the current defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. Tyrone Willingham, the former head coach at Notre Dame and Stanford, was the receivers coach at the time.
He remembers questions from McClay about what receivers looked for, searching for ways to get better as a defender even if the wins did not come as much as the Owls would have liked. Willingham and McClay remain close to this day.
"I'm personally excited for the individual, but I'm more excited for the organization because they did not let talent, for one reason or another, slip through the cracks," Willingham said. "That, to me, is so important because when you have talent you want to let it rise to the top to better everyone else in the organization."
Clint Dolezel played two years at East Texas State, throwing for 3,152 yards and 22 touchdown passes. McClay was defensive coordinator with a hand in personnel for the Milwaukee Mustangs in 1995 when Dolezel was recommended and eventually signed.
By the time Dolezel retired in 2008 with the Desperados with McClay as his head coach, he threw for 44,563 yards and 931 touchdowns.
"So many scouts get caught up in the fact, ‘Well, we want him because he went to this big school,'" said Dolezel, now the head coach of the AFL's Philadelphia Soul. "And a lot of times they're right, but those are the no-brainers that no one is pointing a finger at if he doesn't pan out. Hey, he had the pedigree because he went to Texas or Oklahoma or Florida State or Alabama. The good ones find the ones at East Texas State and schools like that."
In his interview with the Jaguars, Tom Coughlin had McClay research a particular free-agent cornerback the team was high on and wanted to sign. McClay watched the tape and concluded that the player would not be worth the money or fit in the system. Coughlin briefly objected, but McClay held firm. He got the job, and the Jaguars did not sign the player.
"There is not a magic formula," Gray said. "It's just good, old-fashioned bust-your-ass hard work and lots and lots of tape. Lots of calls. Lots of research. Just looking at thousands of players until you find one you think fits for you. He's just got a very unique way knowing a football player when he sees one. That's commonly described by a lot of people, but he just knows it at a different level. It's more than just everybody saying, ‘He can't play.' It's Will finding guys that can play that no one considered.
"Will McClay is a machine. He's a film-watching, evaluating, researching machine. He just never stops and he will never stop."
There always will be corners to sweep.