Friday, January 22, 2016

1/22/16 - Cowboys Mailbag - DMN

This morning, let's answer some of your finest questions of the week!
Q: What do you think of getting Colt McCoy to back up Tony Romo? I think McCoy would have won 3-4 games and allow Romo to be completely healed before rushing back to play. -  Zeke 
Zeke, to me this is the move I would like to strongly consider if I want to look at a veteran free agent at the QB position to play backup.  Obviously, there are better QBs in free agency, led by the mysterious case of Denver's Brock Osweiler. I just don't see a scenario in which Denver let's him get out of there after all of the trouble taken in grooming him to replace Manning.  Then, there is Ryan Fitzpatrick, who we just saw last month play a pretty decent level of QB.  I assume his intention is to start.  There is also Sam Bradford and Robert Griffin on the market.  I imagine their price hopes and starting ambitions are still too high to take a QB2 job in Dallas.  Now, McCoy is in that next tier of QBs you would hope to take the job from Kellen Moore.  Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel, Matt Moore, or even former Scott Linehan backup Drew Stanton.  They are likely in the price range and in the spot of their careers where this could make some sense.  
As you know, I prefer we get serious about a QB at #4, so any of these moves might not fit my plan.  I am good with a QB up top in the draft and keeping Moore to be that bridge between draft day and when one of these young lads is ready to be Romo's backup.  That could be 2 weeks, 2 months, or 2 years.  
Q:  Say Dallas falls in love with Wentz but they don't think he's "worth" the #4 pick. Do they overdraft him to ensure they get the guy they want, or do they take the risk of trading down/waiting to see if they can get more players AND Wentz? - Matt Houston
Matt, if they "fall in love" with Wentz at the Senior Bowl and during the spring, then you take him at #4.  But, I suppose we all have different views on what "falling in love" means.  To me, it means you are convinced this could be your QB1 to open the 2026 season.  If you are working with a guy that you think could be your QB past his 30th birthday, then you don't screw around and risk losing him.  Quarterbacks are too hard to find.  Look at what Washington has gone through looking for a starting Quarterback since Mark Rypien.  He was the last time they had the same QB starting for them for 5 straight years.  1989-1993!  I am here to tell you that is not is what happens when you don't invest properly in QB.  Ask Detroit before Stafford.  Ask Chicago before Cutler.  Ask Jacksonville after Brunell or Tennessee after McNair.  Or Houston.  Ask Houston.  
The point is that if you think Wentz or Jared Goff or Paxton Lynch is "the dude", then you don't get cute.  you draft your QB and run for the hills.  I am not a big "trade down" guy.  I have seen that the team that gets the best player in a trade usually wins.  And that best player is found by going up, not moving back.  If you want a QB, trading up can blow up in your face.  But, trading down and hoping a QB of your dreams keeps falling so you can add another pick is dangerous and ill-advised.  
If I don't care which one I get, then I can start trading down.  If I don't think Wentz is all that great, then I risk it.  But, if they "fall in love" with the kid - think he can be a 23-year old version of Romo or better, then you take him at #4 and don't think twice.  
Q: Who would you say has been Jerry jones' biggest bust as a draft pick in his tenure with the Cowboys? - Stephen
The Cowboys have had some very disappointing draft picks since Jimmy Johnson has left town, so we have a few to choose from, don't we?  But, to the Cowboys great credit, they have hit home runs on just about all of their 1st rounders since 2010.  Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zach Martin and now Byron Jones all appear to be maximizing value in that top round.  Yes, JJ Watt for Tyron Smith would have been cool, but for the most part, there is little to 2nd guess about since 2010.  
Yet, likely the biggest disappointment of Jones' entire tenure - with all due respect to Bobby Carpenter, David LaFleur, and Shante Carver (A biggest bust cannot be a pick after the 1st round because the investment is quite a bit smaller.) - we need to look no further than Morris Claiborne.  Claiborne was a top pick at #6, yet besides never coming close to his hype actually required a pretty significant trade-up to get him.  It is one thing to pick a player that disappoints, but it is quite another to gamble other assets (in this case, the Cowboys paid their 1st and 2nd rounders) to get him and then he busts.  That was catastrophic and if it weren't for getting All-Pros in the 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014 1st rounds, the trade would likely be talked about even more as the disaster that it was.  
It was said he was the best defensive player in the 2012 draft and perhaps the best prospect since Deion Sanders by the Cowboys brass.  Yet, in that 1st round, you find amazing difference makers on defense that would enhance any roster until 2020 - Luke Kuechly, Fletcher Cox, Dontari Poe, and Chandler Jones were all in that 1st round and if any of those players might have been the apple of the Cowboys' eye, you might argue that the trade was worth it.   Heck, Bruce Irvin, Melvin Ingram, Dont'a Hightower, Stephon Gilmore, and Whitney Mercilus were all in that 1st round, too.  Look at that list of defensive talent!  
So, Mo Claiborne is my vote for biggest bust for all of those many reasons.  I am not sure anything is that close when you consider all of that.
Q: What's the hardest part about evaluating college prospects in your expert opinion. - Hailey
Hailey, I will tell you that I am no scout or anything.  The only requirement to looking at prospects is time and the willingness to figure out what translates to the NFL and what doesn't.  But, I have seen that over the course of time, if you get to know these players well enough, it does seem pretty reasonable to often sniff out busts and fantastic players.  That said, like any experiment, it is probably important to try to keep track of how many players you get right or get wrong.  It is the most inexact science ever and there are many degrees of right and wrong.
If a guy is out of the league by 25 years old, then yes, he busted.  If he goes to the Hall of Fame, then yes, he had an amazing career.  But, what do we do with everyone in between.  For instance, is Bobby Carpenter really a bust?  Yes, he underachieved from what the hope was and he never became a starter in the NFL.  At the same time, he played 8 NFL seasons in a league where the average player lasts slightly more than 3.   That seems like a rather reasonable accomplishment given the odds.  
Regardless, the toughest position for me to evaluate is Running Back - because so much goes into a RB's success than just his own personal talents.  The thing I have learned in the last 12 months is not to undervalue a corner because he doesn't like to tackle or support versus the run.  Marcus Peters in Kansas City proved that really doesn't matter.  But, the more you spend a few hours with each draft prospect's tape, the more you learn every year.  I really enjoy it.  
Q: If the Cowboys somehow have another 4-12 year, does Jason Garrett get fired? - Nevil
Yes.  Absolutely, yes.  They cannot have another disappointing year.  The Romo clock is ticking, the natives are restless.  Now is the time for the Cowboys to bounce right back into contention.  They play in the right division for that to happen and have a reasonable schedule.  I would imagine, injuries or no injuries - a bad year would mean change.  Even with the contract payout he would receive.  

And yes, because you deserve it, even more emails on the Cowboys and football issues..
Q: In looking at current as well as past analysis of quarterback prospects, two main traits seem to separate the ones the ones at the top of the first round and ones selected later (assuming measurables are similar): good decision making and pocket presence. Is this a fair statement? How would you rate the top three in this draft in terms of those characteristics? Also, in your opinion is it worth the time to try to develop a QB prospect that lacks either of these two traits but has the measurables (such as Cook or Hacklenberg)? - Keith
Keith, I don't disagree with good decision making as a top one.  Pocket presence is certainly a key, but I would suggest that unless a guy is really bad in this category - UCLA's Brett Hundley comes to mind from last year - it is somewhat difficult to distinguish this capability with any degree of significance.  I agree with Pat Kirwan on many football ideas, and in his latest e-book, "Quarterback - the Toughest Job in Pro Sports", he listed the 5 attributes of a QB that should be analyzed.  1) FBI - Football Intelligence  2) Accuracy  3) Pocket Awareness 4) Arm Strength and 5) Leadership.
Now, surely, those each offer their own issues when trying to sort out how to measure it and it becomes much more difficult if you never get closer to them than looking at a screen, but I think I boil it down to two major spots if all other things are sort of equal.  For me, that is judgement and judgement.  On-field judgement - can I trust him to take care of the football and not make too many ill-advised decisions at ill-advised moments.  And, off-field judgement - can I trust him to take his career and his responsibilities as serious as possible.  In the words of Bill Parcells, we are not looking for a celebrity QB.  Handle your business in a professional manner and understand that the job of NFL QB is not for everyone who loves the party that goes with it.  This is a rare chance so understand that and take advantage of it.
Now, that feeling will cost me on a guy like Jameis Winston who violated both.  He showed poor on-field judgement at Florida State with more interceptions than any Top shelf prospect in years and he showed poor off-field judgement for a myriad of reasons.  Despite that, he appears to be doing fine for himself in year 1 and I am awfully impressed about how Tampa Bay has limited his poor decisions.  I would like to know more about how that happened, because he was throwing into coverage repeatedly at FSU.  But, overall, that is what I seek.  
For this group, all 3 QBs at the top have given good initial signs about how they handle the 5 Kirwan attributes and none have set off alarms in what I seek.  But, there is a long ways to April 28.  
Q: Most disappointing 2015 draft pick of the Cowboys goes to _ *drum roll* - Henrik

Henrik, that one is pretty easy for me.  Chaz Green was taken in the 3rd round to nail down tackle as a 3rd in year 1 and then maybe to succeed Doug Free by year 2. Well, that isn't going to happen as we never saw Green on the field in Year 1.  As you may or may not recall, he was hurt a fair bit at Florida, so for him to spend his entire 1st year out of service is certainly not great news.  

Green could still, of course, be something pretty nice, but that pick - #91 - was a pick that I had plenty of ideas for at the time.  The guy they wanted, most likely, was Iowa's Carl Davis who was taken the pick before at #90 to Baltimore.  I am not sure if the war-room panicked or what, but this pick came out of nowhere.  If you want to know, my notes indicate my next 7 at that spot on my board were the following:  Grady Jarrett, Jay Ajayi, Paul Dawson, Bryce Petty, TJ Clemmings, Xavier Cooper, and Steve Nelson.  Now, I still prefer all 7 to Chaz Green a year later, but we still don't know how good he will be.  In fairness to Dallas, they also didn't know they were about to get La'el Collins.  

It should also be noted that the next few picks included a RB in Matt Jones to Washington.  Buck Allen and David Cobb also went shortly thereafter if you wish they would have better invested in a young RB. But, enough of the 2nd guessing.  Let's give Green a chance to take Right Tackle over or at least show as a decent reserve in 2016.
Q: Which prospect were you the most right about? And which prospect were you the most wrong about? - Hailey
2015 draft?  Well, I feel great about suggesting Todd Gurley was the best offensive player in the draft, but maybe that was basic.  So I will suggest Arizona's David Johnson is maybe the deeper pick I am pleased about nailing.  Erik Kendricks to Minnesota has ben solid, too.  Wrong?  Well, there were a few.  Jameis likely is the big one.  I liked him, but I would have taken Mariota first.  I still would.  But, Winston will win rookie of the year, so I guess he is not worried about me.  Also, Arizona State's Damarious Randall was a safety in school (and not good) but Green Bay made him a corner and he was very good this year.  And I definitely thought Melvin Gordon would be better in Year 1.  
But, in all of these cases, right or wrong, it is only 1 season.  A career is much longer and we must show patience.  
Q: Who do you think Tony Romo's best offensive teammate has been in his career? My buddies debated this and I say it's Jason Witten. They like TO - Stan
Well, there is no question that I agree with you.  From 2006 until now, Tony Romo and Jason Witten have hooked up for almost 10,000 yards and 47 touchdowns.  But, your buddies have a reasonable argument for most productive over any 3 years.  Romo to Terrell Owens was amazing while it lasted.  We forget it because Owens was so impossible to deal with and there was always a rift.  But, if you separate 2006-2008, Owens accounted for just under 3,600 yards and caught 38 touchdowns.  During that same stretch, Witten had 2,850 and 12 touchdowns.   Witten had more catches, 241-235, but even that was close.  But, obviously, Owens was all about massive plays while he was here.  
So, big picture?  Witten.  Smaller picture?  Owens.  Sorry.  But that one is too complicated for a simple answer.

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