Dallas Cowboys Secrecy: Good for the team, bad for the players

(Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys have been shielding their players from prying eyes throughout training camp

You can’t blame them. The Dallas Cowboys are using every advantage they can find in this pandemic-infused preseason to get a leg up over the competition. For Mike McCarthy and his first year coaching staff, that means classifying the playbook and disguising identities.

Highlights from training camp have been heavily censored and strictly calculated moves. Most clips have been generic plays with fairly established players. Any player remotely considered “fringe” has been disguised and protected. The logic being, Dallas can stash them on the practice squad without worrying about another team poaching them.

Good for the Dallas Cowboys

The biggest advantage a new coaching staff has in Year 1 is that they’re difficult to prepare against: What plays do they lean on? What formations mean what? What are their tenancies? Etc… These are all things the opposition wants to know before they face off in the regular season.

Usually, they get some glimpses of potential answers in the preseason games, but as we know, COVID-19 eliminated the preseason games this yea. Other teams would also dedicate some staff to scouring team websites and media reports, searching for information on strategies and personnel.

In a way, COVID-19 eliminated that avenue as well.

You see, COVID precautions has reduced the number of media members that can attend practices and scrimmages. The Dallas Cowboys have requested secrecy in all reporting and have limited the amount of information (video and otherwise) that can be released.

Dallas Cowboys fans are left with nothing more than secondhand retelling, still images, and innuendo. This ensures no useful information falls into the wrong hands. And it makes perfect sense.

The Dallas Cowboys are going to come out of the gates a mystery. Opposing coaches are going to have to prepare for everything and that’s a good thing if you’re a Cowboys fan.

Additionally, this protects players from prying eyes. Other teams have no idea how Dallas’ young fringe players are doing making it less likely they’ll try to swoop in and sign one to their roster when final cuts roll around.

In the past, if a fringe player flashed a big play on camera the team would feel extra pressure to put him on the final roster so they could protect him. Linebacker Luke Gifford comes to mind, here.

Last season Gifford entered training camp a long-shot to make the team. But a couple highlight plays on camera later, he became a player that needed protection. Dallas would go on to stash him on IR to ensure other teams couldn’t sign him. If that happened this season other teams would be none the wiser. There’s no games and there’s no cameras. Dallas could develop him on the practice squad and only call him up when they needed to.

Bad for Dallas Cowboys Players

So it makes perfect sense why these covert practices and lack of tranparency help the team, but what kind of impact does this have on the players? In Sunday’s Blue White Scrimmage, the Cowboys removed numbers and names from players’ jerseys. Not that they needed to since the camera panned away from any meaningful action. And when it did move in, the zoom was so close the only assessment we could make was of the shape of Ezekiel Elliott’s leg pads (they were stars).

The lack of exposure means players worthy of being on NFL rosters go unseen and unrecognized. Players who could make a 53-man roster on 25 other teams inevitably end up on Dallas’ practice squad because nobody outside of Dallas knows how good they are.

So what’s the point in this whole thing?

More from Dallas Cowboys

I’m not sure there’s really a point I want to make. I just want to shed light on the logic behind the Mike McCarthy’s secrecy and how it’s sure to help Dallas in some regard this season (especially early in the season). But I also want to point out the cost:  Hiding players from other teams does the players dirty. It’s not in their best interests and impacts their income and opportunities.

The important takeaway is this – as a Cowboys fan, you don’t have to pick between the team and the players. You can understand and respect both. The Dallas Cowboys are playing this smart and shielding their fringe players from poachers. But it comes at a cost and we should be empathetic to the players who are trying to earn a living and fighting for their dream.

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We can be fans of the Dallas Cowboys organization and also respect the individual players at the same time. McCarthy is playing this smart and I probably wouldn’t change a thing, but it comes at a cost and it’s important to recognize that cost.

  • Published on 09/01/2020 at 11:01 AM
  • Last updated at 09/01/2020 at 07:41 AM