Here we sit, a month or so before free agency is set to begin and the Dallas Cowboys certainly have their work cut out for them.
Over the coming months the Cowboys will be consumed with evaluations. Evaluations of their team, of free agents and of the players eligible for this year’s draft.
Most of you are probably aware by now that Will McClay will be constructing the Cowboys draft board this year.
Last month Jones had a conversation with ESPN’s Chris Mortensen in which he talked about needing to evaluate himself as general manager as part of the Cowboys efforts to turn things around.
To me, McClay’s new job is a sign that Jerry is starting, slow as it may seem, to perhaps put that into practice.
As media outlets across the country question Cowboys leadership over the direction of the team I think the importance of McClay’s new responsibilities gets a bit lost.
Despite stories of Bill Callahan being unhappy with Jones for not being allowed to interview with other teams, I think he is the last person who would want the Cowboys to have a bad season as he would essentially be auditioning for a new job all year.
Both Callahan and Monte Kiffen are professionals. They both know that their success is tied to this team’s success and will coach it to the best of their abilities, despite their demotions.
So while there is a lot going on at Valley Ranch that make things look out of control, in truth I think this team has moved on from it all and is very focused on what it has to do next in both free agency and the draft.
I also believe that Will McClay has a solid vision for the direction of this team and now more than ever, the other members of the Cowboys front office need to be paying close attention to what McClay has to say.
Jerry Jones has shown several times how much he values McClay’s opinion. Giving him the responsibility to run the draft board is just another step in the right direction.
Under McClay’s direction, the Cowboy’s pro scouting department has become a strength of this team and I believe he is the answer to something I have touched on before i.e., turning good drafts into great ones.
McClay has to be the guy in that draft room that Jerry relies on now. The ways of bringing coaches into the war room to discuss potential picks cannot allow you to trade away from a player who is fifth on your draft board.
As good as Travis Fredrick and Terrance Williams have turned out to be, it’s entirely possible Dallas could have gotten them with the picks they already had in the second and third rounds and still have been able to take Sharrif Floyd in the first round.
How badly did this team need talent along the defensive line this last year?
Alternatively, if they liked Fredrick so much, they should have just taken him right there. Knowing now how good he is and has the potential to be, would you still be upset had they taken him and not moved back at all?
The Cowboys made the trade with San Fransisco in last year’s draft due in part to what Monte Kiffen and Rod Marinelli had to say about the current players on the defensive line and what they would be able to do with them. It was a bad trade.
As Cowboys fans found out, any position no matter how strong can become your biggest weakness because of injury.
In reality Dallas is lucky that the trade did not come back to hit them in the face. If they did not do such a good job at evaluating Fredrick and Williams they could have ended up with nothing out of the deal.
I don’t care what a coach says. If your scouts say this is a top five player and you are picking out of the top 15, instead of making a deal that sends all the way down to 31, you take that top five player. If you do not take him then he should never have been that high on your draft board to begin with.
Players play, coaches coach and scouts scout.
I think Jerry might have finally found that out the hard way.
Dallas cannot be afraid of taking a good player even if he plays at a position of strength.
No matter how much this team needs help on the defensive side on the ball, they need to stay true to the board that McClay sets up.
Need an example? How many of you out there would be upset with taking an offensive lineman with the Cowboy’s first pick this year? Would you not take a player because it is a position of strength?
If Notre Dame’s Zach Martin is sitting there when they Cowboys pick and the highest rated defensive tackle, defensive end and free safety are all off the board, do you reach for a player who isn’t as good as Martin? Do you trade away from a player that could help solidify your offensive line for the next decade?
Having Martin come and play right guard before being kicked out to right tackle once Doug Free’s contract expires shows the kind of planning you need to have in today’s NFL.
If McClay’s board says you take him you have to stay true to it.
Does that mean I don’t want to see an Arron Donald or Calvin Pryor taken when the Cowboys pick? No. It just means that good teams take good players and finds ways to put them in positions to make plays. It also means I am going to trust what my scouting department says about each positions depth of talent in this draft.
A record 103 underclassman have declared for this year’s draft. It is so rich with talent that taking the best player available is much more important than reaching for need. The Cowboys need players that can come in and contribute right away, regardless of what side of the ball it’s on.
Dallas has to trust what their talent evaluators tell them. Their scouting department must unite in its direction before it signs a player to a contract out of free agency, select a player, or makes any moves on draft day.
They can start by trusting in Will McClay.