IRVING, Texas – With the completion of the 2012 NFL season and last Sunday’s crowning of the Super Bowl XLVII champion, this inevitable question was bound to surface:
So how far away are the Dallas Cowboys from the Baltimore Ravens?
Well, never one to resist being a smart aleck, when asked that very same question over and over on Monday following the Ravens’ narrow 34-31 victory over San Francisco, my sarcastic response was, “Two feet left.”
Cute, huh, just two feet away … the distance between both teams finishing 9-7 and the Cowboys finishing 8-8 while the Ravens would go on to a 10-6 mark. That was good enough to win the AFC North, which was then followed up with four consecutive playoff victories for their second Lombardi Trophy since the turn of the century.
Plus, think about this: The Ravens got to that record and division title and playoff bid by losing four of their final five games of the season – the stretch of champions, right? Like the Giants the previous season, Baltimore got hot at exactly the right time. And if not for that 70-yard, last-minute Hail Mary in the playoffs …
The Cowboys, well, they were hot but cooled off at exactly the wrong time, winning three straight going into Game 15 of the season, only to lose the final two, narrowly to the Saints in overtime and then on the road to the Redskins.
So the answer is, as it always is at 8-8, close, but not nearly good enough. Sort of like a tie, right? Not much gratification either way.
Emotion aside, let’s then look at this pragmatically as the off-season officials begins. We get there by summing up what the Cowboys’ needs are once they begin preparation for the 2013 season. Just how long is that list?
First and foremost, the Cowboys must improve their offensive and defensive lines. Period. Rushing for a franchise 16-game single-season low of 1,265 yards just ain’t going to get it. They must get strong up the middle, whether that means adding a guard, a center or two guards high in the draft. And for those promoting the release of right tackle
Oh, and by the way, keep in mind there is a hard salary cap in the NFL. No, it’s not like you can go out there and buy what and however many you want, especially the Cowboys, who will be operating on a budget tighter than the pants of those folks who spent the previous Super Bowl week in New Orleans.
So can you do all that on the offensive line while still knowing the defensive line is in need of refurbishing, too? From the sound of things, might take a financial miracle to re-sign
So instead of adding, you are replacing.
OK, strong-side linebacker in the 4-3? Good with either
As long as we are on defense, how do you feel about safety? Now, did see
And cornerback? Most viewed
Oh, and since the Cowboys are going to this 4-3, and figure
Head swimming yet?
Now then, back to offense.
What are your thoughts about running back? Sure,
Wide receiver? Got Dez for sure, but I hear all these cries to rid yourself of
Tight end behind all-world
Oh, and I hear all this clamoring for the Cowboys to draft a quarterback. Sure, but how high, since the guy will be no more than third string for the next two years – that is if you draft better than, oh, Stephen McGee. Do that at the expense of what, a safety or a running back, a 1-technique D-lineman, a guard? And consider, just because you take one in like the third round or lower, that doesn’t mean he’s going to be a keeper. Because for every Russell Wilson I can name you 10 guys like Colt McCoy, Pat White, John David Booty, John Beck, Brian Brohm, Ryan Flynn, Ingle Martin and Craig Nall
(by the way, the last four there all drafted by the quarterback draft gurus in Green Bay).
Sobering, isn’t it. That’s a whole lot of work to do in one offseason, especially with the impending salary cap headaches the Cowboys must either mitigate or migrate their way through. Prioritizing will be highly important. As will a heavy dose of frugality.
So how close? Two feet away? Or an overwhelming chasm as wide as the Mississippi?
Somehow, with all of this – and a slew of injuries – the Cowboys managed to finish 8-8, and for the second straight year the only team in the NFC east playing for the division title in the final game of the season both times
Close, absolutely. Good enough, absolutely not.