Okay, Jerry Jones, I’m tired of your constant phone calls and emails begging me for advice on how to manage your underachieving football team.
So here it is, my formula for a winning season next year.
No. 1 — Get rid of Marion “The Contrarian” Barber. Now. Immediately. Yesterday.
The Barbarian was once my favorite player. He was a team captain who played hard, ran like a man possessed, and said little but spoke volumes with his single-minded mission to run over opponents and score touchdowns.
Then he got a big contract and became a whiny primadonna who doesn’t have enough common sense to keep from celebrating after every 1-yard run he makes — even when his team is being manhandled on any given Sunday.
Bucking the new dress code instilled by new head coach Jason Garrett was immature and selfish. And then he went out and ripped off his helmet after a touchdown against Arizona and got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. His stats have fallen each year, he no longer starts, he can no longer be counted on to gain a measly yard when it counts, and he looks for the sidelines now when he used to look for an opponent to plow over.
No. 2 — Get David Buehler a mind coach. The guy busts his ass after kickoffs and often ends up making tackles (he made eight solo tackles this year). At 6’2″ and about 230 pounds, he’s built like a linebacker and he can kick the ball very, very far, making him a triple threat as a kickoff guy, a field goal guy, and a special teams tackler.
Buehler hit four out of five attempts from over 50 yards. Not too shabby. But it’s the short-range stuff that kills him. He missed crucial, game-turning field goals from easy distances this season, and he even doinked two point-after-attempts. But his problems are mental not physical. Find a shrink or hypnotist to get into that guy’s head and fix his focus.
Buehler didn’t have any competition during the last spring training. Jones recently signed former Houston Texans kicker Kris Brown to challenge Buehler next year. This should help his focus. But don’t cut him. Mark my words — the 23-year-old Buehler will become a perennial All Pro kicker before he’s done.
No. 3 — Keep wide receiver Roy Williams. Yes, I know fans are calling for Williams’ head on a platter. He’s an underachiever with a huge contract and a tendency to put his foot in his mouth. But he blocks harder than any receiver on the team and he finally developed some ju-ju with QB Tony Romo this season before injuries hampered them both. I see an upside, finally, after three seasons of subpar play. Mainly, though, Williams is a keeper because cutting him would create a severe hit (about $13 million) on the 2011 salary cap.
No. 4 — Make Dez Bryant the undisputed number one guy on offense. Call him the top guy. Say, ‘Hey, Dez, you’re our guy!” Make him the engine that drives the passing offense. Ride this stud for all he’s worth. This season Bryant proved himself to be a once-in-a-generation playmaker. Miles Austin is an excellent receiver, but he’s a shadow when Bryant is healthy and on the field. Bryant, Austin, and Williams make for an impressive No. 1, 2 and 3 receiver corp. And don’t worry about Bryant’s ankle fracture. Recall that the other No. 88 — Hall of Famer Michael Irvin — was also injured early in his career and missed most of the 1989 season, and then came back the next year and didn’t miss a step.
No. 5 — Nab a premier left tackle through free agency. The draft isn’t offering much in the way of dominating left tackles. And a porous offensive line not only kills the running game, it serves as an invitation to break Tony Romo’s clavicles. I admit I was glad to see the penalty-prone Flozell Adams get released at the beginning of the season. He’d become listless and slow. And while he was infamous for his holding and offside penalties, he’d added tripping to his growing list of bad habits. But the Pittsburgh Steelers signed him and moved him to right tackle and he thrived this year. The Cowboys could have done the same, but instead chose to get rid of Adams and revamp its O-line. It didn’t work. We need new blood next year.
No. 6 — Take down that huge, high-def, big-screen TV that hangs over the field at Cowboys Stadium. Time and time again I see players slowly walking back to the huddle, completely focused on watching a replay of themselves on the big screen rather than hustling back to the huddle and focusing on the upcoming play. As for the fans, the big screen ruins the live experience of a game.