Commentary

Cowboys need to commit to youth

Organization can look across the street at Rangers for blueprint on building contender

Updated: March 2, 2012, 10:51 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

The Texas Rangers have become one of baseball's best organizations during the the past few seasons.

They believe in youth.

They nurture it. And develop it. And then the Rangers give their young, talented players an opportunity to play because it provides them with a cheap labor force that offsets the high cost of their established stars.

[+] EnlargeMichael Young and Elvis Andrews
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesThe Rangers moved Michael Young from shortstop four years ago to make room for 20-year-old phenom Elvis Andrus.

Some youngsters work out; others don't.

The Rangers don't fret because they're consumed with finding the next wave of young talent. That approach has served the Rangers well, and it has helped Texas win consecutive American League pennants.

The Dallas Cowboys could and should imitate the Rangers' approach.

After all, we have tangible evidence the Rangers know what they're doing, while it's pretty evident the Cowboys are clueless these days.

These things run in cycles, so it won't always be like this. Ten years from now, we might be once again talking about the greatness of the Cowboys's organization.

Right now, there's no comparison between the organizations.

The Rangers understand professional sports is a young man's game. They move progress-stoppers -- even if they're still good players -- to find spots for youth.

Michael Young moved from shortstop to third base four seasons ago to make room for 20-year-old phenom Elvis Andrus. Frankie Francisco lost his job as closer a week into the 2010 season because he struggled and the Rangers opted to give a then 22-year-old Neftali Feliz and his electric fastball an opportunity to pitch the ninth inning.

Matt Harrison. Derek Holland. Alexi Ogando. Mitch Moreland. Nelson Cruz. Once the Rangers determine a young or inexperienced player has the talent to thrive, they give him an opportunity to ply his skill at the game's highest level. And that's how it should be.

Understand, it doesn't always work out.

[+] EnlargeDavid Arkin
AP Photo/James D SmithThe Cowboys drafted guard David Arkin in the fourth round at a position of need, but he never saw the field in a regular-season game.

Julio Borbon. Chris Davis. Jason Botts. Laynce Nix. Justin Smoak. Brandon McCarthy. None of them worked out. Only Borbon remains in the organization, and he's competing for the starting center field job in spring training.

Now, let's look at the Cowboys.

They draft guard David Arkin in the fourth round at a position of need, and he's inactive for every single game this season. They opt to sign street free agents such as Montrae Holland and Derrick Dockery instead of playing Arkin.

That's a joke.

They drafted DeMarco Murray in the third round, and he had 25 carries until Felix Jones suffered a high ankle sprain and forced the Cowboys to give him the ball. He responds with 253 yards against the St. Louis Rams, the most productive day in franchise history.

And until he broke his ankle, Murray was on track to gain more than 1,000 yards.

Don't forget the only reason Miles Austin became a starter is he gained 250 yards receiving the week he replaced an injured Roy Williams at receiver. Then the Cowboys kept rookie Dez Bryant on the bench in 2010, while Williams continued to be unproductive.

See, the Cowboys cringe at the thought of playing youth.

Jerry Jones hints at bringing back Terence Newman, if the cornerback will accept a significant pay cut. He hints at bringing Bradie James or Keith Brooking back for another season.

Why?

Any play Brooking or James is on the field is a play that's taking away from a youngster who has a chance to be part of the future. The same goes for Newman.

Old players get hurt more frequently and take longer to recover. As the season nears an end, their performance usually declines. It's the opposite for young players.

Besides, the best organizations aren't just playing for today. They're playing for tomorrow. And the day after that.

Teams can only do that if the front office trusts the scouting department has given them talented players and the coaching staff can develop them.

Too often, the Cowboys are afraid to play youth.

They spent a fifth-round pick on Dwayne Harris, and Jerry raves about the potential of Andre Holmes, a 6-foot-4, 210-pounder. Now is the time to give those guys an opportunity to play.

Instead, the Cowboys will probably overpay Laurent Robinson because they don't trust Harris and Holmes to develop and Robinson was terrific last season. The Cowboys might even check out Hines Ward to see if he has anything left since Pittsburgh has released him.

He doesn't.

The Cowboys aren't good enough to have progress-stoppers on their roster. They must commit to youth.

The Rangers have provided a philosophical blueprint for how to contend for a title. All the Cowboys have to do is follow it.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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