A look back at the Cowboys Season
In the biblical story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the nephew of Abraham, Lot, is saved from the destruction along with the rest of his family. When talking about Lot's wife, the bible says in Genesis, chapter 19, verse 26:
"His wife peered behind him and she became a pillar of salt."
Biblical scholars and moralists try to draw a lesson from this action of the wife of Lot implying that her looking behind at the burning cities, was taking pleasure or drawing satisfaction in the punishment and destruction that others received. Of course, far be it from me to ignore this moral lesson and take happiness in the failure of others, but in this case, I'll make a tiny little exception. It's different when you're talking about the Dallas Cowboys - their moral status is slightly below that of the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah and there might be a little window open for one to take some glee in their demise.
I said in a post earlier in the year that I am not sure what I am hoping for as a result for the Cowboys this year. What would be more painful to their franchise - a big hit this year, where they don't make the playoffs or a little bit of success this year and a longer, slower period of suffering made more bitter because it is built on the high expectations gained from some taste of success. Here's what I mean- it's always fun to see America's team struggle; to see Cowboys fans suffer... those fans who think that they are entitled to success every year and that in effect the Superbowl trophy really belongs to them and they are just lending it to the rest of the league in years where their team doesn't win. It's particularly pleasant to see Jerry Jones squirming at another Cowboys failure, going down to the sidelines near the end of the game so he can get on camera again, and instead of a victorious, triumphant, arrogant look in his face, to have the dazed look of someone who has suffered some great indignity. That's good, don't get me wrong, but there's another side to it. If the Cowboys would have missed the playoffs entirely this year and had not won a playoff game, then Wade Phillips would surely have been fired. That would have been bad. I like Wade Phillips in Dallas; he has shown himself to be a good DC but not a great HC. He's just good enough to keep the Cowboys and their very good talent competitive enough every year, but not quite good enough to get them over the top. Some other coach would have come in and cleaned house, restored some order and some discipline and perhaps would have been able to take these Cowboys to the next level, because they do have a lot of talent. I, therefore, would much prefer a period of long slow suffering for the Cowboys rather than a short quick hit. Pull that band-aid off slowly so it hurts for a long time rather than one quick yank. Wade Phillips had a winning December record, made the playoffs, beat the Eagles in week 17 to win the NFC East division crown and won a playoff game - the first playoff win of his career and the first Cowboys playoff win in more than 10 years. With all those accomplishments, how can Jones fire Phillips? In a year when the Giants don't make the playoffs and the Cowboys do, at least we can take some enjoyment in the (likely) continued reign of Phillips in Dallas. Remember the karma angle - Wade Phillips' father Bumm is the genius who drafted George Rogers as his first draft pick for the New Orleans Saints and let Lawrence Taylor drop to the Giants.
Having said that - the Cowboys are really good - their defense has really grown. The big key is the growth of Jenkins into a very good CB. Cowboys for the past few years had an excellent front 7 but had holes in their secondary. If you could block their pass rush just a little, you could make plays against their secondary. Having two good CBs changes the equation. Phillips is a good DC and improved their defense greatly. As a side digression, with the Cowboys defense as good as it was, they sure didn't seem to miss Canty. Even with Phillips as coach, they are going to be a tough out the next several years. Romo seems to be maturing and Felix Jones is a great threat at RB. Their OL is aging but still good and they found some weapons at WR even if Roy Williams was less productive than they thought. So - I am not writing off the Cowboys, but I don't think Phillips is a great coach who can push them over the top.
There are two big observations from the playoffs and what it means for the Giants rebuilding their team for the next few years. The winning teams showed athleticism and speed that the Giants just don't have. That may sound simplistic and obvious, but I am drawing a distinction between speed/athleticism and size. It is probably true that the Giants have to get a little bigger up front, but they have to get much faster and more athletic everywhere. Look at the big plays made by RBs throughout the playoffs and you'll see that they were all made because of speed, not power. Felix Jones, Reggie Bush and Shonn Green come to mind as RBs that made big plays because of breakaway speed. Partly for this reason, I wanted to keep Derrick Wrad over Jacobs, but that is water under the bridge now. Giants need to get faster at RB and have a legitimate passing threat from the RB position. As much as I like Boss at TE, he is not that fast either. The biggest area that the Giants need to improve their speed, however, is in the back 7 on defense. It's obvious at S, but at LB the lack of speed may be even more glaring. During these playoffs, I saw LBs running down field, playing in space and sticking with WRs and TEs. This is something that the Giants LBs just can't do. Of course, they do have to be athletic and have some size, it's not just speed. They can't put a track and field sprinter in at LB. But speed matters a lot.
Notwithstanding this need to have better team speed, the Giants also have to add a little size and power on the OL and DL. Giants can't completely sacrifice speed and go to oversized, un-nimble players there, but they got a little too light on the DL and OL in the past few years and need to upgrade the size there a little bit. The teams that dominated in the playoffs are the ones that won the battle at the line of scrimmage. That battle was won with size and speed, not just speed.