America's (offseason) Team
JUN 19, 2012 4:58p ET
After missing last offseason because of a lockout, Valley Ranch's 'Boys of Summer resumed their annual rite of passage. No other team in the NFL celebrates voluntary workouts quite like the Dallas Cowboys.
Far enough removed from the previous season's disappointment, this is the time players and coaches suggest that things are headed in the right direction. Many of the local media become intoxicated by this idea of a "culture change" that is based on nothing more than the desire to feed the infinite Cowboys' information machine.
Here's an idea for an actual culture change that isn't based on the false hope that 69-year-old Jerry Jones will suddenly turn over the reins to the Cowboys' Beautiful Mind, Jason Garrett: Don't go 8-8 this season!
No one gives a rip about a change of culture unless it actually leads to winning a playoff game at some point. The Cowboys have just one playoff victory during a 15-year span of mediocrity. Fans are supposed to believe that players at Valley Ranch no longer feel a sense to entitlement that allegedly comes with wearing the fabled star on their helmets.
But the fact that players have actually provided that ridiculous explanation/excuse shows how horribly out of touch they've been with reality. The Cowboys don't pull huge ratings because they're a threat to win Super Bowls. They are simply the most polarizing organization in the NFL. You don't hear scouts from other organizations walking around saying, "How could we be more like the Cowboys?"
Locally, the Cowboys' failures have been magnified because of the recent success of the Mavericks and Rangers. The months of June and July used to represent the calm before the Cowboys storm. But after back-to-back trips to the World Series, the Rangers are selling out games at a record pace.
The time is coming where fans won't put up with the hassle of making the trip to Cowboys Stadium. The team saw a little of that last season, although a horrid home schedule played some role in that.
Jones was miffed at a FOXSportsSouthwest.com column in which I discussed all the empty seats, but it's something he better get used to if the Cowboys keep losing. The Giants are coming off their second Super Bowl victory in five seasons and the horribly underachieving Philadelphia Eagles actually finished with a flourish in 2012. Even the lowly Washington Redskins have a hint of relevance now that Baylor's RG3 has arrived on the scene.
But since this column has (against all odds) taken a negative tone, let's review some of the positive moments from this groundbreaking offseason at Valley Ranch.
It appears that third-year wide receiver Dez Bryant benefited greatly by having some place other than NorthPark Mall to spend a couple months. Jones called Bryant out earlier this offseason for not being in proper condition in 2011, which may have led to some of his disappearances in the second half. Bryant appears to have a much better grasp of route-running and he made some spectacular catches during the practices that were open to the media.
He also talked about how important it was to be on the same page with quarterback Tony Romo heading into the season. Some of his lack of involvement in the offense had to do with Romo simply not trusting he'd be in the right place. That opened the door for journeyman Laurent Robinson to become a huge part of the Cowboys offense.
With Robinson signing a lucrative contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason, the Cowboys don't have a proven wideout behind Miles Austin and Bryant. Austin was a disappointment last season, although that was partially due to a lingering hamstring injury. If he can return to form, the Cowboys could be dangerous in the passing game.
Another positive sign was second-year running back DeMarco Murray's return from an ankle injury that ended his season last December. He looks faster than ever and he's determined to become even more of a factor in the passing game. He lined up in the slot quite a bit at Oklahoma and the Cowboys intend to feature him in that role moving forward.
Former Texans fullback Lawrence Vickers is one of the most underrated storylines of this offseason. He's a vocal guy who seems to have everyone's attention at Valley Ranch. Jones thinks he could be the Cowboys' best fullback since Daryl "Moose" Johnston, although I always have a salt shaker at the ready when Jerry starts talking.
Perhaps the best offseason news has been the arrival of offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan. Garrett hasn't had someone on the staff this knowledgeable about play-calling since Tony Sparano left after the 2007 season.
Garrett famously fell asleep at the wheel in the final moments of the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals last season. Members of the Jets organization have said that Callahan was able to help Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer with suggestions during games. Callahan's presence should allow Garrett to do a better job of managing games.
On defense, Garrett pretty much lets defensive coordinator Rob Ryan do whatever he wants. With more help on the sideline, perhaps Garrett will be able to make some suggestions as to how he wants Ryan to call plays.
But for once, it would be nice if no one celebrated a Cowboys offseason. Maybe reserving judgment would be a more logical approach after 15 years of falling short.
Otherwise, enjoy the Rangers this summer.