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24. Season in Review: Dallas Cowboys

ARLINGTON TX - NOVEMBER 21:  A Dallas Cowboys fan shows his support as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Detroit Lions at Cowboys Stadium on November 21 2010 in Arlington Texas.  The Cowboys beat the Lions 35-19.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON TX - NOVEMBER 21: A Dallas Cowboys fan shows his support as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Detroit Lions at Cowboys Stadium on November 21 2010 in Arlington Texas. The Cowboys beat the Lions 35-19. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Jerry Jones is probably still drinking, and not in celebration. Everything Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has touched this season has imploded. Even the Super Bowl was a super mess. Dallas suffered its first blizzard in 800 years during super bowl week, Christina Aguilera flubbed the National Anthem and in an ego driven craze to set the super bowl attendance record, Jerry Jones instead prevented 1250 paying fans from sitting in their seats at the game (850 fans were relocated 400 were unable to be seated). The game finished second for attendance. Apparently the seating screw-up made the difference. Talk about karma giving Jerry Jones a sweet kick in his hootin-tootin-cowboy rear (although in fairness, Jones and the NFL were gracious in making it up to the fans).

How Jerry Jones - who oversees every minute detail - couldn't have the stadium ready for the game is beyond me. Its not like the Cowboys were using it for the playoffs...

Then again, the super bowl fiasco was an appropriate conclusion to an appalling season. 

Wade Phillips took the fall, Tony Romo took a big hit and Jerry Jones took 53,439 xanax, 2,374 shots of Jack and a viagra for good measure. 

Season In Review: A Texas sized Meltdown

Every news outlet predicted another super bowl ring for Jerry Jones. On a fan poll at cowboyscentral.con 74 of the 100 people polled said it was a shoe-in. The same site predicted the Cowboys would finish 12-4 (I highlight them because 1. they had the Colts beating the Cowboys 2. They had the Colts winning the super bowl 3. They had the Greenbay Packers in the super bowl - sweet). 

3 of the 5 ESPN 'experts' picked them to win the division and beyond. Only the ny times sensed the trouble ahead yet even they couldn't keep off the band wagon ultimately predicting that the Boys would win the division.

One line from that preview summed it up perfectly "If this were a video game, the Cowboys would be runaway Superbowl favorites. There talent is simply remarkable."

In many respects the pundits were smart to pick the Cowboys. Their talent was indeed remarkable. More importantly, they returned 20-22 starters and added rookie phenom Dez Byrant to an already potent air assault. 

Defensively, they returned two of the fiercest linebackers Anthony Spencer and Demarcus Ware, who actually more than lived up to his hype with 15.5 sacks.

Continuity carried was true for the coaching staff as well. Wade Phillips was back (although he wouldn't last) and Jason Garrett, the league's highest paid assistant was calling the shots offensively.

The only snafu, and a minor one at that, is that you cant take home the Lombardi Trophy on an xbox (If you could, Peyton Manning would have been a 10 time super bowl MVP by now).

A season that started with such high expectations unraveled from the get-go. 

In the first game of the season, Roy Williams had a winning touchdown (as time expired) called off because of a holding penalty, which ended the game.

In game 2, fate struck Roy Williams again, this time masquerading as Bears defensive back Charles Tillman who forced Williams to cough up the football as the Cowboys were driving to tie the score. 

After a nice win at Houston, things got really ugly with the Cowboys dropping 5 straight to drop to 1-7 on the year.

The nail on the coffin of an already lost season was Tony Romo's broken collarbone suffered in the week 7 defeat at home against the Giants.

Two weeks later, after a 45-7 schlacking at the hands of Green Bay (I guess it doesn't look as bad now), a baffled Jerry Jones admitted as much by breaking his 'no change during the season policy' and firing Wade Phillips.

A good coach and nice guy, the move was necessary as it was clear Phillips had lost the ability to motivate and lead the locker room. 

Under Jason Garrett, who has been accused of holding back on the playbook until he was named head coach, the Cowboys fought harder and played a brand of football that everyone had expected at the start of the season.

The Cowboys rallied to semi-salvage their miserable season finishing with qualities wins including a thrilling overtime victory against the Colts (grooaaaaan), and nice wins against divisional opponents New York and Philadelphia. 

Even a 5-3 close was of little solace for Cowboys fans who expected much more. 2010/2011 will go down as one of Dallas' most disappointing seasons on record.

Offseason Momentum: How many times can they be on the cusp of greatness?

Haven't we heard this before? The Cowboys are one of the more talented and deepest teams and should contend for the super bowl? Well yes... and its true again, with one major caveat: offensive line.

Doug Free is a free agent. As is Kyle Kosier. Center Andre Gurode should return but he has poor knees so probably wont last the whole season. Marc Colombo has injury problems as does Leonard Davis who might have to take a pay cut to return. According to Jean-Jacques Taylor of The Dallas Morning News, when its all said and done, Free might be the only returning starter to play significant minutes and The Cowboys still haven't signed him yet!

That's like hoping for a snow day even though its 10 o'clock and it has started snowing!!!! Tony Romo missed half a season after busting his collarbone. Returning one player on the line isn't exactly the best way to restore his confidence. Then again, given that the line was partially responsible for him getting slammed to the turf in the first place, maybe its a good thing that there will be some turnover.

If the Cowboys can shore up their offensive lines, find a corner to replace the aging Terrence Newman and sign or draft a hard hitting safety, they should be right back in the mix of things.

See it when I believe it. 

Offseason Anxiety: Offensive line, Romo's health

Unlike the other teams drafting ahead of them, the Cowboys have their franchise quarterback, they just have to make sure he's healthy. With all indications pointing to yes, the Cowboys need to figure out away to protect him. There are some big time free agent linemen on the market (Logan Mankins comes to mind) otherwise they will look to the draft (they better not take Gabe Carimi - he's ours). Offensive line was already thin last year this year its critical condition bordering on life-support. 

Colts' fans know all to well how a poor offensive line can really hamper a running game and screw up an offense's timing.

Looking elsewhere, the Cowboys will also try to add some depth and youth to their secondary. The unit ranked 26th in the league in pass yards allowed and was constantly Dallas' achilles heel. Ball and Sensabaugh are passable but a safety who could bring some much needed punch ala throwback Roy Williams would be a popular and smart acquisition for Dallas.

Draft Desires: Offensive Line, Saftey

The Dallas Cowboys have the rare luxury of being stacked at all the skill positions on offense. They have a top flight quarterback and three explosive running backs that could all start for numerous teams (not at the same time obviously)... Speaking of running backs, whatever happened to Marion the Barbarian? He was a beast a few years ago. Now he's turned into 'derrick the domesticated' 

Anyway, if Dallas wants to spread the ball, they have numerous weapons including Miles Austin, Roy Williams (who's making a bit of a resurgence) and a star in the making Dez Byrant. When they weren't injured, the offensive line was a big physical mauling unit.

Now with the line in such flux (see above) the rhythm and timing of the whole offense is in jeopardy. The line will be the focus of Dallas draft strategy but might not be targeted with the first pick. 

Defense rules this draft and while its thin on safeties, there are plenty of shut down corners available. If Nebraska's Prince Amukamara is still on the board, expect the Cowboys to lasso him in. Having to face the (young) Philly and NY receivers 4 times a year may force Dallas' hand but how can you argue with selecting a smart, experienced, shut down cornerback. Linebacker Akeem Ayers from UCLA, doesnt fill a need, but he reminds a lot of people of DeMarcus Ware which makes Cowboy fans salivate at the possibility of 2 monsters coming off both corners (poor quarterbacks). 

If they do go offensive line with the first pick, Nate Solder from Colorado is the kind of big, physical mauler Dallas covets. 

Free Agency Farewells: Finally good news to cheer up Jerry Jones

Besides Doug Free, who they will no doubt sign, and Kyle Kosier, whose future with the Cowboys depends on how he recovers from several nagging injuries, the Cowboys have few key free agents. In fact, they have the fewest numbers of free agents in the league. They already signed Miles Austin to a fat contract and could sign DE Marcus Spears as an extra big body, but that is it. The Cowboys only had a handfull of free agents to start with.

Threat to the Stampede: Colts still reeling from being corralled last year

The Cowboys didn't play like a 3-8 team in Indy. They pulled out a shocking and thrilling overtime victory that was one of the most gut-wrenching Colts losses in memory. To think the playoffs might be out of reach and to lose to the Cowboys of all people, while wasting Taj Smith's punt-block touchdown, was sickening. The  pain from that game was like America losing in the World Cup + losing to the patriots 5 times in a row + Gordon Hayward's shot at the buzzer not going in + being a Cubs fan + liking Nascar + watching artest win a ring + Adriana Lima marrying Marko Jaric

Seriously, Marko Jaric!?!?! You kidding me? Arghhhhh

What we saw in the Colts game should be a good glimpse into the level of  the Cowboys this year. The NFC will again be tough but anything short of the playoffs would be a disappointing season. 10-6 should be where the Cowboys end up. It is the Cowboys though, so nothing would be unexpected.