The Cowboys are poised to make the playoffs for a second straight season for the first time in over 15 years and are currently ranked in the top 5 teams in the NFL. Yet, I still see so many threads complaining about everything to the point you’d think they were as hopeless as we all thought they would be after week 1. So, here’s a TL;DR list of significant positives/ some very fortuitous breaks for the team and us fans in the past two years:
· Dallas continues to nail the draft. In addition to having the highest percentage of draft picks on the roster, Dallas traded back and managed to draft what might be a top 5 all time defensive player in Micah Parsons, knocked the Tyler Smith pick out of the park, and have hit in the later rounds with players like Hendershot, Sam Williams, Bland etc. I think we take this teams’ drafting for granted even with the second-round busts they seem to have. They are amazing at drafting compared to other teams.
· Dan Quinn. In just two seasons Dan Quinn came in and took a depleted defense that looked like garbage under Mike Nolan and has unequivocally turned them into a top 3 defense in the league in just two years. Additionally, he’s developed Parsons and Trevon Diggs into all-pro players. I can’t think of another coach that has had even close to this impact on another team in such a short span. We are very fortunate he chose to stick around and need to pray he will stay a few more seasons because I don’t think Mike is going anywhere (rightfully so).
· Mike McCarthy seems to be the real deal at Head Coach. Many of us were on the fence about him but he seems to actually identify problems (even with his own coaching) and make the necessary adjustments. The players seem to love him and want to play for him and he should be the frontrunner for Coach of the Year. This is easily the best coaching job we’ve seen since the Tuna’s first season when he took the Quincy Carter-led Cowboys to the playoffs and is such a far cry from Garrett’s approach of doing the same thing over and over and over and over and hoping it works. Now if Kellen can just be consistent….
· Releasing/not re-signing players like Gregory, Collins, etc., has paid off due to the identification and development of late round/undrafted talent like Dorance Armstrong, Terence Steele, etc. It’s rare to release pro-bowl players and actually improve, but the Cowboys have somehow managed to do this at multiple positions. Depending on how this offense shakes out, even releasing Amari may pan out. When have we ever seen this approach work out as well as it has with multiple positions?
· Cooper Rush and Brett Maher. We all thought at the beginning of the season that backup QB and kicker were going to crush us in some games because of how inactive Dallas seemed to be at improving the positions. We all know what Rush has done, but just as shockingly we resigned a kicker who missed multiple extra points and easy field goals that cost us games just 3 years ago. Maher has come in and been more than solid. I think he has what, one missed field goal (that was close to 60 yards) all season? He’s been incredible, especially given his history.
· Dak getting his groove back. I’m a bit hesitant to put this on the list yet, and he still has a lot more to prove especially in the post season, but Dak getting back to form in the last two weeks after the inexplicable fall-off last season is HUGE, especially after the way the defense is playing. If Dak can maintain that level of play with this supporting cast, in the current state of the NFC, Dallas really could make a championship run this year.
· Trevon Diggs developing into a true all-pro corner. Diggs’ picks were great last year but he really seemed to work his butt off this offseason and has looked like a true shut down corner this year. He’s still making plays on balls but is also shutting down WR’s in coverage. He looks great.
· Dallas has finally hit in FA while still not breaking the bank. Up until last year, Dallas had always been cheap in FA and had pretty much whiffed on their signings. All of a sudden they sign the likes of Kearse, Hooker, Barr, Fowler, etc., while still being cheap, but have added significant talent.
· Dallas has made all of these moves and is a top 4 team without giving up any significant draft capital and is still in great cap shape. Yes, the contracts for Diggs and Parsons loom in the next 2-3 seasons, but they have the capacity to contend for multiple years. While we can be frustrated at the lack of a WR trade, they are still in great shape to make a run this year.
· In addition to finally having a top defense and offense on its way to the top, special teams has been fantastic. I already mentioned how clutch Maher has been. But Dallas also has one of the best punters in the league in Anger who constantly gives us great field position, made a great signing in Turpin at kick returner, and has great special teams play from fringe players like Goodwin and even Kelvin Joseph (though I wish one of my bullets was how great Joseph was playing at CB).
· Finally, they have two RB-1 caliber backs in Zeke and Pollard who can be a fantastic combination if used correctly. With Tyron coming back and the OL developing the way they have the running game should only continue to get better. Zeke has worked his tail off to maintain his level of play, and while he’ll never repeat his 2016 season he and Pollard are maybe the best RB duo in the league.
It’s been a rough 25 years to be fans of this team and it’s very easy for us all to lament any perceived bad move by the coaches, players, and especially the FO. But I think we have a lot to be thankful for when you think about all of the variables that have had to have gone right for us to be where we are right now. This is as complete a team as I can remember, and while we need to avoid the injury bug and need to see Dak continue to elevate his play (especially against good teams), let’s try and think about how many things have gone right for once.