What must the Dallas Cowboys do to get back to the big game in the shortest amount of time? We look at the two most important things.
The Super Bowl is upon us, and once again the Dallas Cowboys are at home sitting comfortably on their respective couches. The comfort players are experiencing is hardly comforting for us fans. Loyalty remains true in Cowboys Nation but intolerance grows as unmet expectations are about as common as suspensions around these parts.
The good news is turnarounds can happen quickly in the NFL. You just need two things…
Parity is a big part of the NFL. Having a constant churn in the standings is typically prevalent in any single-elimination tournament. A freak play or bad bounce there can completely change the narrative of a team. In a game where the best team doesn’t always win (as hard as that is to admit for some people), opportunity is ever-present for many teams.
Of the teams that qualified for the postseason this year, only New England is a perennial team. Last season Jacksonville finished 3-13 and this year they played in the conference championship game. The Rams finished 4-12 and they turned it into 11-5 this year.
Last season Carolina finished 6-10 and New Orleans finished 7-9. This year they both made the playoffs with 11-5 records.
Minnesota finished 13-3 after just 8-8 the season before. Philadelphia jumped from 7-9 to 13-3 and I don’t need to tell you what they’re playing for tonight.
A quarterback and/or a defense?
Something all successful teams seem to have at this point of year is either a great QB or a great defense. Most seasons, it’s both. A great QB can carry a team. He can make up for poor receivers, he can compensate for a poor running game, and he can protect a suspect defense. There is no position in the NFL more powerful than that of the QB. And rule changes aimed at restricting pass-rushers, limit contact with receivers, and protecting defenseless receivers are only furthering the influence a great QB can impart.
Defense wins championships may be a tired statement but that doesn’t make it untrue. Over the years we’ve seen what a defense can do to seemingly unstoppable offense. From the Legion of Boom to the Bronco’s relentless rush, a great defense can support an otherwise pedestrian attack.
No. 1: A Quarterback
But in this age of free agency, building a strong defense is almost as difficult as keeping it together. In other words, it much easier to pay a franchise QB $25 million per year and have him carry the offense than it is to pay 11 great players on defense. As Seattle has shown, eventually everyone wants to get paid.
If you have the proven QB on hand, you probably can’t afford a dominant veteran defense. Luckily, there’s a shortcut:
No. 2: Pass-rushers
The biggest shortcut to build a Championship defense is to build a dominant pass-rush. Hurrying the passer makes everyone else better on defense. It leads to negative plays, stalled drives, and even turnovers. It’s why pass-rushers are the second highest paid job in the NFL (second only to the passers themselves).
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So it comes down to finding that franchise arm and locking in those elite pass-rushers. To do so takes an enormous investment, but since they are the most influential roles on the field, they allow teams to cut corners elsewhere.
The Dallas Cowboys think they have these players in Dak Prescott and DeMarcus Lawrence. I happen to think they even have it in David Irving. It’s going to take a strong 2018 to know for sure on all three, but if it proves to be true, Dallas cannot hesitate in locking all of them up for the foreseeable future.
The quickest way for the Dallas Cowboys to get back to the Super Bowl is on the arm of an elite QB and behind a dominant pass-rush.
These must be the primary goals of the offseason. Luckily for them, they appear to have some pretty strong candidates already on the roster.
They need to keep developing and Dallas can never stop investing in additional players capable of serving these roles but the Cowboys are in good position heading into the future.