By Jan Hubbard
Wes Welker signs with Denver. New England responds with Danny Amendola and then adds a rocket returner in Leon Washington. Steven Jackson goes to Atlanta; Rashard Mendenhall to Arizona; Reggie Bush to Detroit.
Big free agent signings in the first few days but at Valley Ranch, there is silence. The Dallas Cowboys – the Jason Garrett Cowboys who are fresh off two 8-8 seasons – have done nothing to get better. Dallas’s only contributions to free agency, in fact, are backward. The Cowboys cut defensive end Marcus Spears and linebacker Dan Conner. Spears went to NFL champion Baltimore and Conner signed with division rival New York.
So the Cowboys are not only not getting better, their free agent activity has helped the Ravens and improved the Giants.
It’s not yet April and Cowboys fans are already depressed.
The problem, which has been analyzed to death, is that the Cowboys took hard salary cap hits this season and they have less than $200,000 to spend right now. If they re-do the contract of quarterback Tony Romo, they could have additional room, but they are not going to sign a premium free agent.
So basically, the Cowboys are saying: We know we were an average team last year, but we think our talent underperformed and with a new direction this year, we can be much better.
In a related event, the Cowboys front office also announced that as a whole, it believes in the Easter Bunny.
More news of the Cowboys shrinking stature arrived last week when several sports books in Las Vegas released the odds on winning the Super Bowl. Understand these odds are not a prediction of how teams will finish; rather they are an indicator of how willing bettors are to wager on a team.
No matter how much they have struggled, the Cowboys have always been popular with bettors, thus their odds have historically been lower than other teams. Take last year, for instance. In the 2012 preseason, the Cowboys were 14-1 to win the Super Bowl. But that was after an active offseason when they signed cornerback Brandon Carr and traded up in the first round of the draft to take LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.
The Cowboys were also coming off an 8-8 season, but there was more optimism among bettors.
But now? Apparently changing much of the coaching staff has not impressed Vegas and clearly bettors are tired of throwing their money away on the Cowboys. This time in early odds to win the Super Bowl, the Cowboys are 30-1. Ten teams have lower odds. The Cowboys, Redskins and Bears are tied for 11th at 30-1.
What Vegas is saying is: We welcome any money you want to bet on Dallas because we’re pretty sure we won’t have to pay you.
I don’t have access to preseason odds from years past, but I would be willing to, well, bet that these are the highest odds of any Cowboys teams since the Dave Campo era. Although they remain one of the wealthiest and most popular teams in the world, the Cowboys are continuing to fade in reputation.
While many fans, who are stoked by an anti-Jerry media, will say this is all because of Jerry Jones, I say – well, I agree with you but for a different reason. It’s not because Jerry the GM makes decisions that only a full time football GM should make, it’s because Jerry the owner does not hire good people.
Much is made of recent drafts, especially the 2009 draft that features not one player on the current team. Although the most gifted general managers spend hours scouting players and reviewing video, they are aided by staffs. Every great GM, I don’t care who he is, has one or more stud assistants who do the legwork and identify top players.
The Cowboys apparently don’t have that. Although Jerry has final say, you can be sure he receives ample input from his staff. So the fact that the drafts have not been good would seem to indicate Jones has a problem with his staff. Either that, or he ignores the scouts and picks wildly.
(Hold the emails – that was a softball).
I’m still not convinced that if Jones hired an ace football GM that it would be the right hire. It says a lot that such major changes were made on the staff in the offseason, including the high profile firing of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and the hiring of Monte Kiffin. Jerry apparently looked at the coaching staff and deduced that it was underperforming.
The good news for Cowboys fans is those changes have been made. The bad news is that it may take another year for Jones to realize he has to make similar changes with the people he relies on to prepare for the draft and, more importantly, the head coach.
Jones determined the coaching staff was average last season. What he has yet to see is his head coach and scouts are also average. Until he notices that and does something about it, the Cowboys will continue to lose stature and Vegas will win every bet from anyone foolish enough to bet on Dallas.