Commentary

Change is coming for Dallas Cowboys

Team must eliminate late-season declines and deal with struggling veterans for success

Updated: January 25, 2012, 1:58 AM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

MOBILE, Ala. -- The Dallas Cowboys haven't reached the postseason the last two seasons. At its current pace, the franchise is headed toward a third consecutive year of missing the playoffs.

The last time that happened, owner and general manager Jerry Jones fired the head coach, Dave Campo, and hired Bill Parcells.

It's uncertain if Jason Garrett will survive should the Cowboys fail to make the postseason for a third straight year, but it appears Jones and Garrett have a plan in place to fix things.

Change is coming.

[+] EnlargeTerence Newman
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireThe Cowboys may finally be ready to move on from cornerback Terence Newman's inconsistent play.
"What you're supposed to do if you're young, smart and ambitious is you're supposed to get in and make adjustments and I expect that in the offseason," Jones said this week from the Senior Bowl. "I expect it to be positive for our team."

One of the adjustments the Cowboys are making is dealing with their late-season struggles.

The Cowboys have missed the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and their December/January record in those three seasons was 5-9. In 2007 and 2009, when the Cowboys reached the postseason, their late-season mark was 5-4.

In the late stages of the 2011 season, the New York Giants won three of four games, including two against the Cowboys to clinch a playoff berth. Guess what? The Cowboys are sitting at home. The Giants? They're in the Super Bowl.

"Their quarterback play, as a team they got better and better near the end and that's obvious and we didn't," Jones said. "We had counted on getting better and we didn't. We went the other way. It was a complete team effort on their part and we didn't play well enough to compete. And I don't know if we had been competing, if we had gotten into the playoffs to the level the Giants are. I'm giving them their credit, and they deserve it."

The other issue the Cowboys face while trying to solve their problems is the veterans.

Last summer, Garrett began the purge by getting rid of Andre Gurode, Marc Colombo, Marion Barber, Leonard Davis and Roy Williams. It was time to play younger players and deal with the consequences later.

Again, the Cowboys are faced with an underachieving veteran player, cornerback Terence Newman.

Jones didn't praise Newman's work when asked about it this week. Instead, he talked up Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins as two players to watch in 2012.

It seems the Cowboys are ready to finally move on from Newman's inconsistent play.

Whether it's Garrett convincing Jones of this or vice versa is insignificant. The Cowboys are not hiding from how far they are as a franchise from where they want to be.

Jones said Eli Manning did more with his supporting cast and was the difference in getting the Giants to the postseason. This was nothing against Tony Romo, who Jones said, "was competing at a level that would've given us that opportunity, but the rest of us need to play better and get better before we can really jell the way the Giants are."

Jones and Garrett want to upgrade the roster. And it doesn't stop there. After the loss to the Giants in the regular-season finale, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan kept saying his defensive unit needed to execute.

Once the offseason officially began, the Cowboys' scouts became excited because they believe some of the holes on the team can be filled.

If the Cowboys really want change, they should give assistant director of player personnel Tom Ciskowski a stronger voice in the war room come April. That would have the scouts more confident in their grades and pounding the tables that certain players be drafted or signed.

The Cowboys' front office is tired of holding on to players who don't make plays. That's why you saw reduced playing time from Bradie James and Keith Brooking. When Frank Walker began his steep decline, he was inactive for the regular-season finale.

The Cowboys are turning this offseason into one of change.

"We got a lot of work to do and we've just begun it," Jones said. "We got a lot of work to do in making sure we're all on the same page, relative to the key personnel we got and what we're doing with all our schemes and what we're doing and what we can do if we added certain personnel and the skills with that personnel."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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