Trust Will McClay and the Cowboys’ War Room


“Trust the Cowboys’ war room” are five words I never thought I’d ever hear a rational person say – let alone me be the one saying them, but recently things have changed, and the Cowboys (and especially Will McClay) deserve a little recognition.

Jerry Jones is still “Jerry Jones” of course, but he’s changed massively in one fundamental way – he’s involving others in the decision-making process. Stephen Jones has taken a much larger role and is seen as not only the day-to-day GM, but the long-term GM. Jerry still holds the title and final say in all things Cowboys, but Stephen is doing the daily tasks and making decisions with an eye to the future.

Along with Stephen, is Will McClay, the assistant director of player personnel. McClay has reached almost mythical status as of late, and deservedly so. The Cowboys have had unbelievable success in recent years finding diamonds in the rough. Laurent Robinson, George Selvie, Justin Durant, Jeremy Mincey, and Rolando McClain are all players Will McClay found.

Since joining the Cowboys’ family in 2002 as a Desperados coach, McClay has pulled double-duty working in various capacities for the Cowboys’ personnel department. Known by many as a workaholic, McClay has made a trustworthy reputation and has had an ever-increasing influence on personnel decisions.

"“Will is an incredibly detail-oriented person,” said scouting consultant Terry Gray to the Dallas Morning News last spring. “His work ethic is really unbelievable and he is very, very intelligent. He is probably too smart for his own good sometimes.”"

Previously serving as the Cowboys’ Director of Football Research, McClay was tasked with scouting players on all 31 other NFL teams. This is no small task and explains why the Cowboys have been able to procure so many successful players off the NFL’s figurative trash heap.

One team’s trash is the Cowboys’ treasure – thanks to Will McClay.

It was hard not to see Will McClay’s and Stephen Jones’ influence on the 2014 NFL Draft. Johnny Manziel was available when the Cowboys went on the clock. Jerry Jones saw marketing gold and wanted to pounce. McClay and Stephen thought otherwise and were able to convince Jerry Jones an offensive guard from Notre Dame was the smart way to go.

And Jerry Jones listened.

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The Jerry of Old would never had listened, and for that change we should give him credit. Nevermind the fact Johnny Manziel turned out to be a nightmare while Zack Martin became a transcendent All-Pro. Jerry surrounded himself with smart people he believes in AND he listened to them.

The dysfunctionality of yesterday’s Dallas Cowboys seem to be giving way to the functionality of tomorrow’s Dallas Cowboys. Every offseason acquisition isn’t going to turn out sunshine and rainbows, and every draft pick isn’t going to be Pro Bowl gold, but things are clearly trending in the right direction.

Zack Martin was amazing last year but we don’t know what we have in DeMarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys took the bold move of trading away their 3rd round pick to get Lawrence. Considering who was left on the board the Cowboys could have easily picked up two defensive starters with their 2nd and 3rd pick, instead they are gambling on Lawrence’s vast potential to exceed just finding starters.

Anthony Hitchens was a risky pick that turned out fantastically. He may have even saved the Cowboys’ season considering all the hats he had to wear. Devin Street didn’t do much but he still has plenty of time to shine, especially since Dwayne Harris is a Giant now.

Even the five 7th rounders turned out well. Ken Bishop contributed and could see a bigger role in 2015. Ben Gardner was on IR but is a dark horse candidate to snag a significant role in the DE rotation. Will Smith is still around too.

The two 7th rounders who didn’t make the cut, have managed to find roster spots elsewhere. Terrance Mitchell and Ahmad Dixon may not be Cowboys, but they were still good picks in the 7th round.

No one is going to bat 100% in player personnel, but the new decision-making dynamic at Valley Ranch is noteworthy. No longer is the NFL draft something to worry about. With Stephen Jones and Will McClay leading the discussion, you can trust in the Cowboys’ war room.

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