IRVING, Texas – This is the part of the business that is very difficult for the front office and players. It's not fun to have to make a decision on a player's future – especially one like DeMarcus Ware – but it's one that was made.
For all the grief that has been given to owner/general manager Jerry Jones over the years, I will give him credit for drafting Ware. I remember like it was yesterday, sitting in that draft room when he called Bill Parcells into the office on the morning of the 2005 NFL Draft and clearly laid out his intent to select Ware.
To Parcells' credit, he didn't initially agree with the decision because he had some different ideas, but, once the selection was made, he put Ware at linebacker and made him one of the most dominant players in NFL history.
As proud as our staff was of DeMarcus Ware and how he developed into a player, no one was prouder than Jerry Jones. He had a gut feeling of what he was getting in Ware and he was absolutely correct. As difficult as that decision was for him to make in 2005, this one was just as tough for him. Ware represented everything you wanted in a player on and off the field, which makes the choice to part ways even tougher.
What we have all learned in this era of free agency is when you are talking about salary, performance and health this business can be very cut-and-dry. Nobody wants to see Ware walk out that door after what he has done for this organization over the years, but it is a business for both sides.
The front office felt strongly enough to go to one of their marquee players and request he take a pay cut. The player stood his ground and forced the hand of the organization, thus the club had no choice but to move on – business decision for both sides.
If DeMarcus Ware had reduced his salary, then he could have continued his career in Dallas, but he didn't and this front office and coaching staff are now prepared to move on without him. When you make these types of calls, this is what you have to be ready for.
No one is saying that it's going to be easy to replace a player that Jason Garrett just recently said he still thought of as an elite rusher, but that is the challenge going forward. You can't look back and say, what if? You had a plan in place when you drafted Ware, now you need a plan to try and replace him.
If you look at DeMarcus Ware the player in 2013, the numbers will tell you it was the least productive season of his NFL career. But what was even more surprising to me, is it happened after one of his most productive offseasons.
I was convinced when this club broke camp in Oxnard, Calif., that Ware was going to put up huge numbers. Physically he appeared to have put all the injury problems of 2012 behind him, and he was ready to be that player we had seen throughout his career.
In my view, he had turned the clock back five seasons. It looked like the move from the 3-4 to the 4-3 was going to be an outstanding fit for him because it was going to save him on the wear-and-tear of having to take on blockers. In this 4-3 scheme, he could rush off the edge, get up the field and be disruptive.
In four of the first five games, Ware was at his best and the player that we all saw in Oxnard was well on his way to having the type of season we all believed he would. He once again had to deal with the neck stinger in the Kansas City contest, but it was the quad injury he suffered against the Redskins in the second quarter that was the biggest issue he had to deal with the remainder of the season.
Ware then went on to miss the first games of his career and when he came back, it was clear that he was not the same player. The uncertainty of having to deal with that injury had to weigh heavily on his mind. It robbed him of that explosiveness that was such a major part of his game. [embedded_ad]
Take a look at his games after the injury – 17 quarterback pressures in seven games.
If Ware hadn't been dealing with this injury, he potentially has four to five more sacks. But without that quickness, it resulted in pressures instead, because he could not finish the play. Next to loss of strength, you take away a pass rusher's ability to get around the corner, and you have made him an easily blocked player.
For DeMarcus Ware, this was a harsh reality. When healthy, he still played at a very high level; when not he couldn't make the game-changing plays we had seen throughout his career.
What this front office and coaching staff had to weigh is that even when Ware was in peak shape like he was during training camp, the wear-and-tear of the season was still a problem for him.
Whether it was the stingers, hamstring, quad or elbow, these injuries played a factor in how he performed. To his credit, he lined up every day and went at it, but the defense wasn't getting the same player.
When you make a decision on a player, you have to put all your feelings aside and evaluate the player for what he is currently giving you. DeMarcus Ware can still perform at a high level, the problem is that when the injuries start to add up and he doesn't get to practice during the week to get ready for the game, then you have to make decisions like the one that was made by Jerry Jones on the future of the player – regardless of how great he once was.