Mac Engel

Trusting Cowboys’ brass to build a defense requires faith, prayers

The Cowboys’ brain trust, including, from left, Stephen Jones, owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett may need to find defensive stars in the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Cowboys’ brain trust, including, from left, Stephen Jones, owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett may need to find defensive stars in the 2017 NFL Draft. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

We have arrived to the point as a fan base where offseason cheapness and inactivity from the Dallas Cowboys are considered virtues.

Our ’Boys are clear losers in this offseason, yet we have enough of the Cowade flowing through our veins we are convinced it’s all a giant W.

Doug Free’s retirement, and the departures of free agents Ron Leary, Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Jack Crawford, Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr and Terrell McClain have been met with a confident We got this.

(Losing Leary, however, will sting; there was no way to keep him.)

Then there is also the matter of the backup quarterback, and the continued saga of Where in the World is Tony Romo? This has gone on so long it could be an After School Special. Will he go to Houston? Denver? Fox? CBS? His couch?

The 2017 NFL owners meeting in Arizona begins Sunday, so Romo’s new team address could be decided this week.

Two NFC East titles in the last three years have magically erased two decades of questionable player personnel decisions. It has instilled a belief among the fan base that now Jerry and Co. know what they are doing.

Let us all bow our heads and say a prayer to whatever God you believe. This includes the atheist and the agnostics, too. Just as there are no atheists in fox holes, nor should there be with the Cowboys. And please be sure to give at the plate — Jerry needs our money to do good.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett talked about what he learned at the combine last year about quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Zeke Elliott.

Amid the euphoria of this dormant offseason pause for a moment and ask yourself the following question: Do you trust that Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, scouting director Will McClay and coach Jason Garrett can find replacements and develop adequate upgrades?

Because that is what is still required. Improvements over Carr, Church and the rest are in order to win a divisional-round playoff game and actually reach a Super Bowl.

The Dallas Cowboys’ two big offseason additions are former Eagles cornerback Nolan Carroll and former Titans offensive lineman Byron Bell.

The same brain trust that built the offense is equally responsible for assembling a defense that was eventually exposed. When Dak Prescott, the Ladies Man — Ezekiel Elliott — Dez Bryant and the rest were not controlling a game, the defense was not good enough to carry the team against a quality opponent.

It’s two years later and the defense is no better today than it was the chilly afternoon Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers defeated the Cowboys on one healthy leg in the divisional-round game in Green Bay in January 2015.

And yet somehow we are convinced the brain trust is going to nail this just as effectively as it did the offense. That the combination of Stephen as Jerry’s Fun Governor combined with McClay’s eye will get this right.

We should be optimistic, but not too trusting just yet.

For as effective as this crew has been in building this offense it has been maddeningly average on the defensive side.

It missed on moving up to draft Claiborne; while he developed as a player he could not stay healthy enough to warrant another contract. For the sixth overall pick in the draft, he was costly miss.

Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford discusses a variety of topics as he did a community event with local kids. Video by Drew Davison.

It paid big to sign Carr in ’12, who was a good pro and a great person but limited on the field. It signed Greg Hardy. It signed Rolando McClain. It drafted Byron Jones in the first round, who thus far looks like an average guy. It drafted druggie Randy Gregory.

Their best player at safety, right now, is Little Jeff Heath.

And they have not found high-quality pass rushers on the defensive line since DeMarcus Ware left and Jay Ratliff flamed out.

The Cowboys are strictly embracing the dump-’em philosophy employed so famously and successfully by the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and a few others. You keep a few, and continually flip the rest.

Provided your favorite team can actually pull it off, it is the best method in the NFL.

With the NFL owners meeting this week in Phoenix, Tony Romo’s future with the Cowboys could be decided shortly.

The concept of not overpaying older veterans is a wise decision. There are too many instances, just on the Cowboys’ alone, of it not working to take the financial risk. The most successful teams prefer the cheaper, younger alternatives with scattered showers of middle-of-the-road guys.

The Cowboys’ highlights this season have been the additions of Eagles defensive back Nolan Carroll and Titans offensive lineman Byron Bell.

14th Overall Dallas Cowboys’ defensive ranking in the 2016 season

Carroll will likely start, while the addition of Bell means the Cowboys don’t trust former 2015 third-round pick Chaz Green.

What the Cowboys are doing is assuming their offense will be the same as last year when it was one of the best in the NFL, while a slew of unnamed draft picks and second-year defenders will develop into superior players over the flock that just left. And Sean Lee stays healthy for a second consecutive year. And Jaylon Smith’s destroyed knee heals to allow him to play football again.

What we are doing as fans, and sheep, is taking the risk in assuming Jerry-Stephen-Will-Jason know what they are doing to build a defense that can help the offense when it’s not perfect.

Let us all bow our heads ...

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel: 817-390-7697, @macengelprof

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

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