IRVING, Texas -Shame on me, allowing last year's NFL lockout to dump one of our traditions here on DallasCowboys.com:
Naming the coming season's Mr. Indispensable for the Dallas Cowboys.
Went looking for just who was the 7th annual Mr. Indispensable, and all I found was this dilly-dallying around waiting for the lockout to end, then bam, as if a starter's gun went off, a race to document the frenzied start to the 2011 NFL calendar year and season.
The closest we came to naming a Mr. Indispensable was tagging Sean Lee as the player most likely On The Verge, meaning ready to explode on the scene. Not bad.
But come on, what about tradition, as if I can almost hear Zero Mostel screaming that word, Tradition, in the song with the same title in the Broadway hit Fiddler on the Roof.
So folks, after a one-year hiatus, here we go with ...
2012's Mr. Indispensable for the Dallas Cowboys.
Now to review, we began this tradition back in 2005 when the Cowboys themselves began their trek out of their own dark age, having produced just one winning season in the previous six years, leaving them with an embarrassing 39-57 combined record during that span.
Since then, well, the Cowboys, while never reaching chest-pounding territory, at least have suffered only one losing season in the past seven, a much more respectable combined record of 65-47. Sometimes progress comes in tiny increments.
OK, so let's review in case someone hasn't been paying attention to our little tradition. Here are the previous Mr. Indispensables: 2005 Greg Ellis, 2006 Terence Newman, 2007, Flozell Adams, 2008 Terrell Owens, 2009 DeMarcus Ware, 2010 Miles Austin.
Now looking back, not knowing then what we know now about 2011, and continuing to resist from picking a quarterback, who likely in almost every instance would be the one player a team couldn't do without, or selecting a repeater, I'd say the 2011 designation would have gone to Felix Jones.
Hey, who knew rookie DeMarco Murray would explode on the scene the way he eventually did.
So, 2012, about four weeks before the Cowboys begin training camp, let's reason this out.
Again, first rule, no quarterback, so that eliminates Tony Romo, and at least again this year, as in 2009-11, the Cowboys continue to have a legit backup quarterback capable of winning games, Kyle Orton taking over the ball cap for the highly-capable Jon Kitna.
Now some would suggest naming tight end Jason Witten, and maybe even more so this year since the Cowboys really don't have a backup capable of doing what he does – leading the team in receptions in each of the past five years. But as I've always said, how weak would it be if you said, darn, the Cowboys didn't win the NFC because they lost their tight end, even if he's the best true, all-around tight end in the league?
Murray? I still say Felix Jones is a capable replacement. They wouldn't be left high and dry.
Tyron Smith? Good suggestion, but we haven't seen him play the left side yet, although if he isn't there, well, shudder at that thought.
Sean Lee? Again, one year of evidence, but another year like last season's and we might have our 2013 guy all lined up.
Any one of the new corners? Well, let's see them play a down in the Cowboys uniform first.
Now for the past couple of weeks my inkling was to name co-Mr. Indispensables, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Right? Lose either one of them, and where would the Cowboys be? They aren't even sure who the third guy is, let alone the fourth, who becomes the third if Austin or Bryant go down.
Say Austin pulls another hammy or Dez sprains an ankle. At this point, my guess would be Andre Holmes moves into the starting lineup, and he hasn't even caught his first NFL pass. The third guy, who knows? There is a bevy of those guys, and the only one with an NFL reception is Kevin Ogletree (25), and there is no assurance he makes the team if he does not emerge as the hands-down third receiver.
So the co-thing is not a bad choice, especially if you consider in the past two seasons Austin has totaled 112 catches, 14 for touchdowns, and Bryant has 108 catches his first two seasons in the league, 15 for touchdowns – a virtual tie in importance.
But finally, after much thought – seriously, why over think this entire thing? – the one guy the Cowboys simply cannot do without, and arguably the best defensive player in the National Football League, totally indispensable to the Dallas Cowboys is ...
Right? There just might not be another one like him in the league, and for sure there hasn't been over the past six years, so why the heck wouldn't he be the guy the Cowboys can't do without, forcing us to select a repeater?
I mean, he was just named the sixth best player in the National Football League in NFL.com's recent Top 100 vote of about a fourth of the players in the league, behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers, quarterback Drew Brees, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, quarterback Tom Brady and Jets corner Darrelle Revis, so the second highest rated defensive player overall, by just one spot, but considered by his peers the best pass-rusher in the league.
On top of that, the place serving as his collegiate training ground, Troy University, has recently decided to induct him into its Hall of Fame in Troy, Ala.
So hey, who am I to argue with those credentials? Just how good is Ware? Let us count the ways:
- His 19.5 sacks last year, second in the NFL, marked the sixth consecutive season with at least 10 sacks. Only four guys since the NFL began officially recognizing sacks in 1982 have a longer streak, and none of those is currently active: Reggie White (9), John Randle (8), Lawrence Taylor (7) and Bruce Smith (7) – and every one of those guys is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- White is the only player with more 15-sack seasons (5) during his 15-year Hall of Fame career than Ware (3) in his first seven seasons.
- Only White had more sacks (105) in his first 100 games in the NFL than Ware (85).
- Ware, in his first seven seasons – he's just in his prime now – has led the league in sacks twice (2008 and 2010), which ties him for the NFL's all-time lead with Mark Gastineau, Reggie White, Kevin Greene, and Michael Strahan.
Pretty fancy company. Should I rest my case now?
OK, and how about this?
"The thing that makes DeMarcus so special is that everybody has been talking about how great he is for so long, and people game-plan around him, orchestrate all this help for the tackles with backs and tight ends and stuff and he's still producing," said Eagles tackle Todd Herremans, who has to go up against him twice a year.
"When you're producing and teams know how good you are, and you're still able to produce and fight through all the double-teams and triple-teams you're getting, you're a stud."
Let me add one more stat. His 66 sacks over the past four seasons represent one-third of the Cowboys 178 sacks, and has led the Cowboys in sacks the past six years after tying for the lead with eight his rookie season (2005) while switching from a 4-3 defensive end in college to a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.
The closest to Ware's 66 sacks these past four seasons? That would be nose tackle Jay Ratliff with 19 sacks and fellow outside linebacker Anthony Spencer with 18.5.
Let that sink in.
So to be indispensable, that means there really is no one capable of taking your place, or even picking up the slack in your absence. I mean, other than Spencer, and he's already playing on the other side, would you put your money on anyone else on this team producing like 10 sacks this season?
Didn't think so.
Todd, you're right, Ware is a "stud." An indispensable one at that.