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Sullivan: Garrett’s 3-Year Plan Among Random Thoughts

Posted Oct 14, 2014


The author of America’s Team: The Official History of the Dallas Cowboys, Sullivan also writes a new column in each issue of Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine. For subscription information, please click here.

  • This didn't happen overnight. It's being portrayed that way, like the Cowboys have been just plugging along, status quo these last three years, and wow, how did this happen? Talk of the NFL at 5-1. When Jason Garrett was named head coach following his 5-3 interim stint in 2010, he devised a plan for how the oldest team in the league could become one of the youngest, and how they could also compete while that transition took place.
  • Garrett estimated the plan would take three years, which is exactly the timetable that has played out. And while there were many layers to the plan, first and foremost was the transformation of the offensive line. When that 2010 season ended, the unit consisted of center Andre Gurode, tackles Marc Colombo and Doug Free and guards Kyle Kosier and Leonard Davis. All but Free were at least 31 years old.
  • Thing is, the line wasn't all that bad in 2010, Gurode was named to the Pro Bowl, the running game averaged 4.2 yards (15th in the NFL) and they allowed just 31 sacks (11th in the league). And the offense overall scored the seventh-most points in the NFL, while the defense allowed 436, which was second to last in the league.
  • Yet, Garrett was adamant in what needed to be done. For this team to succeed long-term, for this team to compete with the league's elite, they needed another Great Wall of Dallas. Jerry and Stephen Jones agreed, which was significant considering that since buying the team in 1989, the Cowboys hadn't taken an offensive lineman in the first round.
  • The first year of the plan saw them release Gurode and Davis while selecting Tyron Smith in the first round of the draft. The team sent legendary line coach Hudson Houck to USC to watch tape and talk with coaches, wanting to be absolutely sure that Smith was the pick. Then in the last two drafts Travis Frederick and Zack Martin were added, and here and now, the case could be made that Dallas has the best offensive line in the NFL.
  • The Cowboys are leading the league in rushing yards by more than 150, and averaging 4.8 per run, which is fifth. They’ve also allowed 10 sacks in six games, tied for fifth among teams having played that many games. Dallas is also second in first downs, behind only Indianapolis.
  • Make no mistake, this team is structured, anchored, whatever the terminology, by its offensive line. Just like it was during the 1990s. And was Garrett's plan from the first day he became the permanent head coach of this team.
  • As for Garrett's contract situation, he's going to be here for the long haul. When it's signed is irrelevant at this point. Jerry Jones has said multiple times that he wants Garrett to be his Tom Landry and that process, yes process, takes its next step with a five-year extension. Would be shocked beyond words if the deal wasn't for that long. Would expect the majority of the assistants to be extended as well. 
  • Went back and watched the Seahawks game again and while I'm certainly no Bryan Broaddus, some quick observations:
  • Martin was impressive, easily his best game thus far. Since the NFL started giving out Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1967, a lineman has never won the honor, which is absurd. Am guessing in at least a third of those instances that a lineman was clearly the best player. If the league wants to change the award to Offensive Skill Position Rookie of the Year so be it. If not, Martin is the runaway favorite right now.
  • But this team would have been better off with Johnny Manziel, right?
  • The Terrance Williams catch is more and more impressive on each viewing. Also, anyone else starting to feel a Michael Irvin/Alvin Harper vibe with Dez Bryant and Williams? One is the clear No. 1 wideout, the All-Pro talent, but the other one makes the big play, stretches the field, seems to be there at the key moment.
  • Besides the touchdown catch, tight end Gavin Escobar played 24 of the 77 offensive snaps, his most this season. Still not sure why we aren't seeing more of him.
  • Tyler Clutts made some nice blocks, five or six lead blocks that really opened a nice lane. Really happy they are keeping a fullback this season. The position is definitely dying, but it's not in the coffin just yet.
  • Someday, someone who knows has to explain to me why the rest of the league never had any interest in Sterling Moore. Kid continues to make plays, and always has.
  • Orlando Scandrick is an elite cornerback at this point. He was every bit as physical and shutdown as Richard Sherman on Sunday. And he seems to be playing with even more attitude; seems to have a different level of appreciation for his career after the suspension earlier this season. Could honestly make the case that Scandrick was the best player on the field in Seattle. On either team.
  • Jeremy Mincey and DeMarcus Ware have each played 260 snaps this season. Mincey has 15 QB hurries, Ware has 14. Now, Ware has four sacks and a forced fumble, and he's seeing plenty of double-teams. Mincey doesn't have a sack, but stats aren't always what they seem to be. Mincey has spent plenty of time in opposing backfields this season.
  • Anthony Spencer looked like his old self on a dozen or so plays against the Seahawks, which is just astounding considering most thought his career was finished. If he continues to improve, and with DeMarcus Lawrence and Josh Brent back in the fold here in the coming weeks, this could be a dramatically improved defense after the bye week.
  • With Doug Free out for three or four weeks, Jermey Parnell will be inserted at right tackle. Don't see moving Martin at this point and putting Mackenzy Bernadeau at guard. The plan all along was for Martin to move to right tackle during the offseason, and he's dominating at guard right now, so why change that dynamic? Also, then Free returns and Martin has to change yet again. As a rookie, that just doesn't make sense.

 

Follow Jeff Sullivan on Twitter, @SullyBaldHead, or email him at jsullivan@dallascowboys.net.

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