America's (offseason) Team

America's (offseason) Team

Published Jun. 19, 2012 4:58 p.m. 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 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

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

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

Otherwise, enjoy the Rangers this summer.