The right way to repair the Cowboys in 2022: Appropriate current teaching errors, rebuild the O-line and extra


“Right here we go once more.” – Earl Simmons

One other 12 months, one other method the Dallas Cowboys have discovered a method of sawing off their very own ankle as if being tied to a 12-5 document with potential to win the Tremendous Bowl was the identical as being chained to a bath with Jigsaw speaking to them from the opposite room. An abysmal finish to a once-promising season landed after they largely laid an egg in opposition to the San Francisco 49ers on NFL Tremendous Wild Card Weekend, dropping 23-17 in a recreation that once more proved all they needed to do was be considerably awake and they might’ve walked away with a win. 

However as infuriating because it was for proprietor Jerry Jones and Co., they’ve opted to maintain issues regular atop the teaching pyramid — confirming my reporting for CBS Sports activities relating to Mike McCarthy returning as head coach in 2022 — settling that dialogue earlier than it grows any legs this offseason. That does not imply they’ll sit again and easily hope for the very best in Yr 3 of McCarthy’s five-year deal, nevertheless, as a result of there’s a lot work to do and no time to waste in getting it accomplished. 

Uncertain of the way forward for their two coordinators, Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn, one other main shakeup within the teaching workers might ship ripples — if not shockwaves — all through the workers beneath McCarthy and the roster beneath all of them. That leads me to the very actual query of the place precisely do the Cowboys go from right here, as each a group and as a corporation?

In the event that they wish to lastly break the curse and land a sixth Lombardi trophy anytime quickly, they should hear up, as a result of here is the blueprint for 2022 and past:

Finish the ‘my man’ method

I am not going to say McCarthy must be fired, as a result of that is each knee-jerk response and one which serves solely to pander for clicks, so no thanks. The truth is I’ve seen sufficient enchancment over Yr 1 to warrant giving him yet another likelihood (and just one) to keep away from forcing Prescott — whom you signed to a multi-year deal — to study a 3rd head coach in as a few years, one thing that would even have the alternative of your supposed aim, so we’ll be far more scientific right here and depart the emotions for Valentine’s Day. 

Additionally, watch out what you would like for, seeing as a few of you wished for City Meyer in 2020. Hell, even Kliff Kingsb-… nvm. 

Let’s focus. 

Now let’s speak about what McCarthy has to get higher at, and yesterday. There may be numerous good that comes with the altering of the guard at NFL head coach, notably if the group making the transfer is parting methods with a long-stale regime and putting in a coach atop the totem that is confirmed, revered and has a transparent route for the long run. Fortunately for the Cowboys, they have been in a position to sidestep errors in hiring Matt Rhule and the landmine that’s Meyer, and for as a lot flak as McCarthy will justifiably take over the following a number of months, the actual fact he is really gotten the group again to profitable video games is a large plus — together with the actual fact he does not grasp again to occasion at bars whereas getting handsy with the patrons (i.e., issues could possibly be higher in Dallas, however they is also a lot worse). 

McCarthy just isn’t with out apparent flaws, nevertheless, and one is in his analysis of assistants in his regime. You would simply label him an old-school form of man and, to that time, he tends to lean extra closely towards implanting his guys than having the open-mindedness wanted to really construct what can be the best workers obtainable. To that time, in the course of the ousting of Jason Garrett, there have been a pair gems on Garrett’s workers that have been despatched packing as properly, regardless of having accomplished properly at their jobs.

I am going to establish the three that matter most and who’s absence is being felt in a serious method:

  1. Marc Colombo – former Cowboys offensive line coach
  2. Gary Brown – former Cowboys working backs coach
  3. Jon Kitna – former Cowboys quarterbacks coach

Wholesale modifications wanted to be made within the teaching workers, undeniably, however the Cowboys threw out the child with the bathtub water in making an attempt to present McCarthy every thing he needed. Permitting him the facility to construct his personal workers is vital, and retaining Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator was an important indication he could possibly be satisfied to stay with the assistants that have been performing properly on the time, however not sufficient was accomplished to place a bug in his ear about Colombo, Brown and Kitna, who have been changed by Joe Philbin, Skip Peete and Doug Nussmeier, respectively, the latter two merely altering roles inside the group. 

In wanting on the current and now-consistent downturn in manufacturing throughout the offensive line, the working backs room (damage fueled this as properly) and within the group being unable to get Prescott again to kind, it is time to start questioning concerning the incumbents. For instance, the offensive line struggled mightily in the course of the again finish of the season — even with All-Professional left sort out Tyron Smith on the sphere — and once more within the playoff loss to the 49ers, in what devolved into nothing greater than a turnstile occasion. 

When Colombo was promoted from assistant line coach to the lead function in 2018 within the wake of an abysmal choice to strive Paul Alexander on the helm, the offensive line burst to life and was once more probably the greatest within the league.

Granted, he additionally had the good thing about Travis Frederick in 2019, however not in 2018, with the All-Professional middle lacking that whole season after being recognized with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. They have been close to the highest in all offensive line metrics below Colombo, who was dismissed to put in Philbin, however Philbin’s two-year physique of labor now has many extra blemishes than not. Colombo had a quick stint with the New York Giants in 2021 — following Garrett to Massive Blue — however a well-publicized spat with the now-fired Joe Decide led to Colombo strolling away from the scenario. Seeing as he is obtainable in the meanwhile and by no means needed to depart Dallas within the first place, it is perhaps time to ship him the “you up?” textual content.

And whereas Peete has accomplished what he might, Brown had Elliott and Pollard doing wonderful issues below his tutelage, and Elliott merely hasn’t constantly been the identical with out a coach he additionally seen as household — Elliott additionally profitable two speeding titles below Brown, who’s now the working backs coach at Wisconsin after recovering from a serious sickness. As for Nussmeier, properly, Prescott thrived certainly, however when it got here time to educate him up and again to kind, the failure(s) is obvious. Kitna is definitely a key motive for the model of Prescott the NFL loved earlier than the uneven play started on the again finish of the 2021 season, and although he is presently taken his skills to highschool soccer in Burleson, Texas, he is been recognized to return to Dallas a time or two to assist save the day.

Simply saying.

In all, it is price imagining how properly the Cowboys is perhaps doing proper now if McCarthy blended the very best of his incoming workers candidates (e.g., Joe Whitt Jr., Al Harris) with the very best of what was already within the constructing. The choice to rent Mike Nolan was as a lot of a spectacular failure because the Paul Alexander rent was by Garrett, and we nonetheless aren’t certain if the addition of ousted-Giants head coach Ben McAdoo as a guide was moreover liable for the disappointing end to a robust however uneven season that left loads of meat on the bone. There’s additionally a dialog available about particular groups coordinator John “Bones” Fassel, however largely due to his dedication to a declining Greg Zuerlein (hey, there’s that “my man” factor once more), who helped value the Cowboys video games in 2021.

McCarthy is an efficient head coach, I do nonetheless imagine, however till he begins contemplating Nolan may not have been the one mistake he made on his workers, his days in Dallas may have a quickly approaching expiration date. Simply because somebody is “your man” does not imply he is the “proper man,” and simply because somebody is “the opposite man’s man” does not imply he is not precisely what you want.

Rebuild the offensive line

Talking of the offensive line in Dallas, my oh my how the mighty hath fallen. This was a unit that was actually as soon as the very best in your entire NFL — a concrete wall opposing defenses dreaded going up in opposition to. It was so dominant that it manifested into an ongoing narrative for individuals who cannot fathom the unit as something however world-beaters, however they’re as near what they was as a hyena is to being a lion. Positive, they each have fur, 4 legs, a nostril and eyes, however they’re nonetheless two completely totally different animals. So whereas assessing the necessity for a possible change at offensive line coach, the Cowboys should throw some firepower at that entrance this offseason. 

It is non-negotiable at this level, following a 12 months that noticed Smith once more miss a number of video games, including to his tally of six consecutive seasons by which he hasn’t performed a complete season, together with a neon-colored record of points on the inside. The experiment that noticed Connor McGovern strive his hand at beginning left guard left shrapnel within the face of Prescott, Elliott and Pollard, and it is why Connor Williams was re-installed as LG1 after being benched solely as a result of McCarthy felt the lineman was being focused by NFL officers — not as a result of any perceived points in his play. 

As Williams readies to go into free company, himself having struggled mightily on Tremendous Wild Card Weekend, and with middle Tyler Biadasz taking a step again in his bid to try to succeed Travis Frederick at middle, there’s a lot work to be accomplished on the offensive line in Dallas. It begins with seeing what Josh Ball and Isaac Alarcon may be, notably the latter, who’s now getting into his third season with the Cowboys, and if Philbin cannot get a expertise like Alarcon the place he must be, properly, see above for an answer in Colombo. 

From there, add a extra constant veteran swing sort out to the combination in free company and/or work to find out if Terence Steele will probably be that going ahead, which implies turning an eye fixed to utilizing a high choose on an offensive lineman within the 2022 NFL Draft.

There will probably be choices to make that occur in April, e.g., Tyler Linderbaum of Iowa, however with different wants as properly and sitting at Twenty fourth-overall within the draft order, the Cowboys higher get inventive to permit the dug-in Will McClay an opportunity to once more work his magic. It isn’t but time to pressure Smith to hold up his cleats, however it is time to establish his definitive successor along with bolstering the inside beside Zack Martin. It is an offensive line that has lengthy gone from being a concrete wall to easily a panel of sheetrock being propped up by just one or two metal beams (Zack Martin and La’el Collins).

“You need to coordinate”

The late John Witherspoon knew — he knew. Circling again to teaching for a second, it is time once more for the Cowboys to determine what their workers will appear to be, one thing that is now turning into an offseason custom in Dallas after the decade-long reign of Garrett. The divorce from Garrett created a vacuum of change for the Cowboys, and so they’re nonetheless working to get issues settled two years later, much more so now in the event that they lose defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and/or Kellen Moore to head teaching positions. With McCarthy anticipated to remain put, there’s an opportunity they merely look inward and promote an assistant like Nussmeier or Philbin to the place or, and pardon my [additional] dry heave right here, even McAdoo (who’s now garnering curiosity from the Panthers as their potential OC).

For my cash, any of these choices can be a big mistake and one which strikes on the coronary heart of my authentic level: kill the “my man” method and let it die a watery loss of life in Davy Jones’ Locker. Sufficient of the close-minded consolation that comes with merely turning to the following man sitting on the identical sofa as you and saying, “Because you’re right here…”. Nussmeier would possibly do properly, however odds are in opposition to him when taking a look at his offensive manufacturing on the College of Florida and the downturn of the offensive manufacturing (additionally attributable to Moore and poor execution by gamers) by the Cowboys in 2021. 

And as for McAdoo, who we’re nonetheless working to determine the proper stage of blame for when noting his weekly session classes with McCarthy, one want look no additional than his stint with the Giants to know there’s mildew on that cheese.

Ideally for proprietor Jerry Jones, each Quinn and Moore will stay, and he’ll open the checkbook to try to make it a actuality. If that occurs, this dialogue ends abruptly, as a result of Quinn is a treasure and regardless of Moore’s struggles, he is nonetheless in all probability their most suitable choice at OC except, and listen to me out on this level (once more), they step outdoors of their consolation zone and have a look round each the NFL and NCAA at potential choices who might take over the offense in Dallas and get issues popping like Redenbacher’s most interesting within the nearest microwave.

There’s one thing to be mentioned for opening a dialogue with Gators’ coach Dan Mullen to see if he’d be keen to reunite with Prescott, his protege from their time collectively at Mississippi State, seeing as Mullen as confirmed he can get the best possible out of Prescott with no equivocation. I do know what you are pondering, although. Why would he depart a head teaching function — assuming there’s one other lined up on the faculty stage for 2022 after parting methods with Florida in 2021 — to change into a coordinator? 

To pose that query is to overlook the context surrounding the reply, since you’re asking Mullen to depart a collegiate head teaching place to take a coordinator place within the NFL and on probably the most seen group in all of sports activities, for an proprietor with pockets deeper than the closest black gap and with as a lot gravitational pull. 

It is the identical logic that stored Moore from turning into head coach at Boise State, and if Mullen ever needs to lastly strive his hand as an NFL head coach, he might simply parlay a profitable run as Dallas coordinator into that achievement — as Moore will presumably do quickly. It could additionally take away the stigma NFL groups have about hiring a collegiate coach with no NFL expertise, and many others. and many others. This isn’t to say Mullen is the one possibility, as a substitute noting he is one particularly in the event that they’re so inclined to do due diligence on the matter.

Flipping the coin to the defensive facet of the ball, dropping Quinn can be a gargantuan blow to the Cowboys, however there are no less than viable choices on-staff like Joe Whitt, Jr. or George Edwards (a favourite in 2021 to take the function earlier than Quinn turned obtainable), which does not change my stance one iota about increasing the search radius. There are different spectacular candidates available there, with Vic Fangio main that pack for me. (Brian Flores is not taking place of us, so let’s not spend time considering that one.) 

You would debate a reunion with Mike Zimmer, and that is a stable ask, however I might counter with questioning if he is merely in want of a recent begin or if he is dropping his contact because it pertains to stopping the rapidly-evolving NFL offenses these days — to not say he will not succeed, however take into account every thing and never simply what crutches your level, is all. Whomever assumes the function, they higher be geared up to maintain expertise like Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs working at an elite stage, if not a better one, as a result of taking a step backward defensively after having seen Quinn drag the unit out of the stomach of Hell in 2021 can be a downright unforgivable. 

A key in serving to to guarantee that regression is averted will probably be to do all you may to maintain the band collectively, on the sphere.

Keep away from hemorrhaging in free company

I am going to dig a gap from right here to China in a prolonged column to return that dissects who’s heading to free company for the Cowboys and who must be retained, however let’s simply say the record of the latter is prolonged. They’ve a headline expertise in wideout Michael Gallupwho’s now recovering from a torn ACL suffered in December — however the group continues to be all-in on protecting him round, however on the worth they deem palatable. Gallup is perhaps open to taking much less cash to stick with the Cowboys, notably given his relationship with Prescott (one thing that helped maintain Amari Cooper in Dallas and out of the fingers of the Washington Soccer Workforce), however that is to-be-determined as soon as March rolls round. 

As talked about, on the offensive facet of the ball, can also be the approaching free company of Connor Williams, however that is not in the identical photo voltaic system, galaxy or universe because the scenario with Gallup, so permitting Williams to stroll would not be the tip of the world; however it could be problematic if there isn’t any answer in place to succeed him at left guard. Much like Gallup, albeit not equal, is the standing of Cedrick Wilson, who was tasked with stepping up within the absence of Gallup in 2021, doing so repeatedly but additionally dampening his inventory a bit with errors that killed drives (see the bizarre right-handed lateral try to his left in opposition to the 49ers). Wilson will command a robust greenback this offseason, and would possibly worth himself out of Dallas, though that would go away more cash on the desk to slip towards Gallup.

And seeing as Wilson was a sixth-round choose, McClay would possibly really feel if the Cowboys “did it” as soon as there, they’ll do it once more — additionally having an opportunity to re-sign Noah Brown on one other one-year deal to have him compete for the function alongside a promising and speedy upstart in Malik Turner. In spite of everything, discovering an influence WR4 is not practically as troublesome as discovering a 1,000-yard receiver who can change whole defensive schemes like Gallup can. Then comes the protection, who’ll see Randy Gregory and a catalog of expertise standing on the door ready to see what the Cowboys provide to maintain them round. 

It is a no-brainer to get Gregory paid as properly, him being the defensive counterpart of Gallup on this argument, as a result of he has the potential to be a 10-sack expertise reverse DeMarcus Lawrence and with Parsons patrolling behind them. From there, consideration should even be given to breakout expertise Jayron Kearse (mid-level cash?) and people like Carlos Watkins (low-level cash), as they’ve helped change into mortar for the bricks of the Cowboys protection.

This is a fast have a look at the notable free brokers in Dallas for 2022 (grouped by place):



  • Michael Gallup, WR
  • Cedrick Wilson, WR
  • Noah Brown, WR
  • Dalton Schultz, TE
  • Connor Williams, iOL

Particular groups

Futures offers* (agreed to on Jan. 17)

*futures offers are already set to depend in opposition to the 90-man offseason roster

You are starting to see what the Cowboys are up in opposition to, and in an offseason that sees them getting into practically $21.28 million over the NFL wage cap — per Spotrac — primarily based upon the anticipated boosted cap determine of $208 million for 2022. That implies that together with the inevitability of being unable to maintain everybody, they should resolve who’s finest to throw cash at, and so they’ll in fact had the added consolation of figuring out they’ll pull a number of triggers (e.g., releases, restructures, pay cuts) to assist get them the place they should be whereas nonetheless permitting for house to signal 2022 draft picks to the roster. 

They’re going to seemingly be priced out simply by the marketplace for Dalton Schultz, however they love the potential of Sean McKeon, even when Blake Jarwin is unable to stay wholesome (a degree that may should be resolved with a free company addition or on Day 2 of the draft). It is a group that went 12-5 and was a pair sneezes away from being the highest seed within the NFC, so asking for a whole rebuild of the roster can be asinine. They’ve all the items they should be profitable, presumably in a position to change into even higher and take the following step if they’ll maintain as lots of an important items round as they presumably can whereas sprinkling in treatments the place they’re most wanted (ahem, the offensive line, as one instance).

On particular groups, to not be ignored, ensuring Anger is in uniform subsequent season is paramount after seeing him land an All-Professional nod on a one-year deal that adopted years of struggles with a declining Chris Jones at punter. McQuaide was additionally key in serving to Anger succeed, being good on his lengthy snaps after an offseason that noticed them break up with the legendary and actually football-perfect L.P. Ladouceur, a lot to the shock of everybody (together with Ladouceur). Do not shake the boat within the punting recreation, however seize the placekicker place with each fingers and shake it like a Polaroid image. 

Failing so as to add competitors for Zuerlein in 2022 can be malpractice, interval, contemplating his image is fading as he enters the second 12 months of his three-year deal. And earlier than you begin panicking about making an attempt to maintain most of the above who need to be stored, do not forget that not all cash is equal. Many may be retained on very cheap offers, whereas others have earned the massive bag.

Choice reflection

After hopefully getting drunk off of the success of free company, the plan above taking part in proper into the Cowboys’ need of retention versus fishing for outdoor whales and bass (particularly in a 12 months by which they’ve a number of whales of their very own), it is time to slide the mug down the bar like Sam Malone in an episode of “Cheers” and focus in on the 2022 NFL Draft. That is the place McClay completely shines, and you need to be excited to see what he would possibly do as an encore for drafts that noticed him add CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs, Neville Gallimore, Micah Parsons, and many others. to the Cowboys roster. 

One of many largest hurdles will probably be to assist repair the offensive line, however it’s not the one. Discovering a complement for Parsons is necessary, and whereas there is perhaps one already within the constructing in Jabril Cox — a fourth-round steal whose rookie season ended with a torn ACL — Cox is coming back from a serious damage. Till he reveals he is completely tremendous, you need to fake he will not be. That method, if he’s, you will have that rather more firepower on the linebacker place should you have been clever sufficient to additionally seize one on this 12 months’s draft, and there isn’t any scarcity of expertise obtainable. 

There’s Butkus Award winner and nationwide champion Nakobe Dean and, sure, that may require shifting up for an opportunity on the former UGA supernova, however he isn’t the one prospect who might tandem with Parsons to do very actual injury. With Jaylon Smith having been jettisoned and Leighton Vander Esch having accomplished simply sufficient to garner a prove-it deal in 2022 (at finest) however not far more, there’s out of the blue and once more a depth downside on the place. Luke Gifford has proven the potential to make an influence however was largely relegated to particular groups in 2021, and Francis Bernard battled accidents that largely derailed this previous season for him.

With that many what ifs on the second stage of the Cowboys protection, McClay might want to crack his knuckles and get to work at repairing it within the draft, and [my] hope is former second-round choose Kelvin Joseph can change into a shutdown nook reverse Diggs to permit for a scaling again of Anthony Brown (additionally, insert Nahshon Wright right here). From there, how free company shakes out will largely decide what else is a obvious want, an instance being the expiring offers on Malik Hooker, Damontae Kazee and Jayron Kearse, which places the Cowboys proper again the place they do not wish to be on the security place beside Donovan Wilson

Within the battle to stay atop the division and to take the following step to sit down atop the convention and in the end your entire league subsequent February, free company and the draft should work hand-in-hand for the Cowboys, and neither hand can afford to undergo cramps. 

The Cowboys oftentimes do properly within the draft, however it’s a few of their current misses which have now change into a hindrance to their aim (e.g., Biadasz?) and whereas no group can ever be good, Dallas has proven it could come rattling shut of their draft courses just lately. So do not be afraid to confess to a possible mistake in younger gamers at sure positions (akin to doing to similar to some veterans within the teaching workers) and discover high quality replacements, pronto.

D-I-S-C-I-P-L-I-N-E, are you aware what meaning?

As soon as it is all pieced collectively for one more run on the Lombardi trophy, the secret will probably be each participant execution and, in that, self-discipline. That is not a phrase that’s unique to the sphere, as a result of the Cowboys have been recognized to garner an sudden suspension or two in the course of the season that has put them in a crunch and value them video games and would possibly once more if the difficulty is not lastly reined in come 2022. Making higher selections off of the sphere will probably be paramount to what occurs on it, so it is time all concerned notice there is a greater prize at stake and keep out of the crosshairs of league commissioner Roger Goodell.

So far as the self-discipline between the traces goes, it is previous time to search out some there as properly. The Cowboys have been probably the most (and presently the most) penalized groups within the league and, sure, lots of these flags have been questionable or downright incorrect, however management what you may management — as a result of the unhealthy flags are going to occur it doesn’t matter what you do. So when the soiled laundry is not flying, do not compound the difficulty by creating clear laundry, and put off the drive-killing holding penalties (on either side of the ball) and anything that siphons momentum away from the Cowboys and pours it into the gas reservoir of the opposition.

The Cowboys have been penalized a complete of 141 instances and misplaced a mixed 1,192 yards due to these flags by their 18 video games, drawing a complete of 168 complete flags (some have been declined by opposing groups) by the common season and the wild card recreation. Additionally they led the league in penalties at residence (78) and away (68) on 2,912 performs.

Backside line: You’ll be able to’t elevate a Lombardi trophy when your fingers are busy doing laundry.

The heartbreaking loss to the 49ers was pushed largely by a complete of 14 penalties in opposition to the Cowboys and, once more, some have been worthy of a head-shake and thrown beer, however not all of them. For those who delete one or two reliable holding calls, for instance, we’re having a a lot totally different dialog this week because the Cowboys put together for a rematch with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As a substitute, we’re speaking about their offseason in January, once more, however they now have 5 methods to ensure the following time we’re doing it — it is not till late February 2023.



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