(CBS DFW) — It’s been an interesting offseason for the Dallas Cowboys, with the coronavirus pandemic hanging over the NFL, sports and pretty much everything else. The NFL Draft was remote, free agency happened at a distance, OTAs and preseason games were canceled.
Of course, all teams have had to adjust to these conditions. The Cowboys have the added challenge of transitioning to a new coaching staff. Former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy took over for Dallas at the beginning of the year. For much of the time since, he and his staff have been isolated from players.
But everything is a go in Big D. Official Cowboys practice starts today. And we’ll soon see if this new veteran coaching staff can take the team to the next level.
“The thing about being the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys is Jerry Jones, the owner of the team, is going to do whatever it takes to put a roster around you,” says CBS 11 sports anchor Bill Jones. “And Jerry has a belief that this team can contend. So that puts an awful amount of pressure on Mike McCarthy. He knows it coming in. He won a Super Bowl before, at AT&T Stadium, with the Packers nine years ago.”
McCarthy can’t do it alone, of course. “He’s able to hire Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator,” Jones points out. “John Fassel, one of the most respected special teams coaches in the NFL, comes over from the Los Angeles Rams. Jim Tomsula, the defensive line coach, Joe Philbin, the offensive line coach. This is a veteran staff. They truly believe they have the staff in place to get them over the top.”
The experienced coaching will matter greatly coming out of an offseason conducted remotely. The learning curve for new arrivals is steep even during a normal offseason, let alone one with limited interaction. The Cowboys added important players via free agency and the draft, including veteran safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, defensive tackle Dontari Poe and wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. Another of the new faces is Everson Griffen, who last played with the Minnesota Vikings. He signed a deal reportedly worth $6 million for one year just this week. (The team also held on to team cornerstones like wide receiver Amari Cooper, linebacker Sean Lee and quarterback Dak Prescott, for now.)
“Stephen Jones and Jerry Jones have done a great job with their salary cap, including the fact that they signed Everson Griffen, an elite pass rusher, on Wednesday night,” says Jones. “And that was really the last hole they had to fill on this roster. So they’ve been able to make the moves, signing a lot of veteran players to fill out this roster. They truly believe they have a team that can contend to go to the Super Bowl this year.”
Starting quarterback Dak Prescott did not sign new long-term deal, despite the efforts of all parties involved. He will play on a one-year franchise deal worth $31.4 million. It isn’t having adverse effects on team personnel or leadership. According to Jones, “it’s clearly not affecting the relationship that Dak has with Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones, the ownership of the team. He knew, going into the off-season, there was a possibility he’d be playing on the franchise tag which, by the way, is $31.4 million. He’s got enough money. In fact, this off-season he built a football field in his backyard, and that’s where he and his wide receivers were getting their workouts in when they couldn’t come up to the Star in Frisco this off-season.”
Where does all this leave the team heading into an unusual season in they subpar NFC East? “Hasn’t been that long ago since Philadelphia won a Super Bowl. Carson Wentz, the quarterback, he’s now a veteran. They’re the defending champs in the division, albeit with a 9-7 record. The Cowboys were 8-8 last year. In the NFC East, there has been a new division winner now for 15 straight years. That’s what the Cowboys have going for them, as well as the Giants and that team in Washington.”
“The Cowboys have to feel good about their chances. Because in this league, the longer that you are bad, the quicker you are good in this league. When you’re good, you’re going to be bad pretty soon. It’s just the way the league works itself out. There’s so much parity in the league that I think the Cowboys feel pretty good in that NFC East.”