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Cowboys Need to Hold Serve on Monday

For more than half of Sunday’s game between Philadelphia and Detroit, it appeared that the Lions and the weather were working in the Cowboys’ favor. With the Cowboys and Eagles tied in the standings at 7-5, a Detroit win would have given Dallas a big boost. With Detroit leading, I stupidly wrote this:

That did not last long. The Eagles erased a 14-0 second-half deficit and ran away with the game, beating the Lions 34-20. Philadelphia has games against the Vikings and Bears. Dallas needs to remain within at least a game of the Eagles to set up a season-ending matchup at AT&T Stadium for the NFC East crown. The Cowboys play the Packers and Redskins in the next two weeks following the game Monday night against the Bears. The Cowboys could also benefit from their division record. Dallas has a 4-0 record in the division, compared with Philadelphia’s 3-2 mark.

* * *

It’s looking as if Mike Shanahan may not be the Redskins’ coach when Dallas travels to Washington on December 22. According to some reports indicate that Dan Snyder may fire Shanahan before the of the season. Dallas may still be a must-win situation on December 22. Not sure whether the firing would be good or bad for the Cowboys. I know, however, that the Cowboys did not make a mistake by not pursuing Shanahan in 2010.

* * *

The Cowboys have played 78 games on Mondays. Most of those were on Monday Night Football. The team’s overall record on Mondays is 44-34. Dallas has faced Chicago twice on Mondays. Both were losses (34-18 in 2012 and 22-6 in 1996).

A Forgotten Tony Dorsett Highlight

Legends (37/365)

Tony Dorsett’s catch and run against the Bears in 1984 helped the Cowboys to a 23-14 win.

The 1984 season did not turn out to be one to remember for the Dallas Cowboys. The team finished at 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1974.

Even for those who watched the team then, it’s easy to forget that the Cowboys began the year with a 4-1 record. With Gary Hogeboom leading the way, Dallas beat the Rams, Eagles, and Packers in the first four weeks of the season and had only lost to the Giants.

In week 5, Dallas traveled to Soldier Field to face the Bears. It was the first trip to Chicago for Dallas since 1973.

This game took place one year before the Bears became dominant. The teams played in 44-degree weather in late September.

The play I happen to remember from that game was a screen pass from Hogeboom to Tony Dorsett. The Cowboys set up the play perfectly, and Dorsett still had the speed that made him a legend.

Here is the play:

The Cowboys won the game 23-14 to improve to 4-1. However, the Hogeboom era did not last long. Dallas lost two straight to the Cardinals and Redskins. Tom Landry soon turned to Danny White again, but though the team finished with winning record, the Cowboys missed the playoffs.

* * *

The Cowboys have a 4-4 record overall at Soldier Field, including a win in the playoffs against the Bears in 1991.

During the 1960s, Dallas traveled to Chicago three times to face the Bears at Wrigley Field, and Dallas won two of those games.

The Cowboys lost their first game at Soldier Field in 1971 in an infamous game where Landry alternated between Roger Staubach and Craig Morton throughout the game.

* * *

The last time Dallas visited Chicago was 2007. The teams were tied at 3 at halftime, but the Cowboys pulled away in the second half to win, 34-10.

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Cowboys’ Defense Not on Track for Notorious Record

The Dallas Cowboys will almost certainly give up more yards in a season than any other team in franchise history. The Cowboys have allowed 5,059 yards in 12 games, which is just 569 yards behind the 16-game record set by the 2010 Cowboys’ defense.

The Cowboys will almost certainly set franchise records for futility on defense, but the Cowboys will probably not break the NFL record for yards allowed.

The Cowboys will almost certainly set franchise records for futility on defense, but the Cowboys will probably not break the NFL record for yards allowed.

How bad is this number? The 1960 Dallas Cowboys went 0-11-1  but only gave up 4,372 yards in 12 games. Yes, it was a very different era, but this defense is just utterly bad.

On the other hand, the Cowboys are not on pace to break the NFL record for most yards allowed in a season. The 2012 New Orleans Saints set the record by allowing 7,042 yards in 16 games, for an average of 440.1 yards per game.

The current Cowboys have allowed an average of 421.6 yards per game and are on pace to finish the season allowing a total of 6,728 yards. It’s certainly possible the Cowboys could allow opponents to gain more than 500 yards again this year, but the team would have to allow 495.75 yards per game to set a new mark.

Not likely, so we have that going for us.

* * *

Tony Romo has thrown every pass attempted by the Cowboys this year. If Romo continues to do so for the final four games, it will mark the second time during the Romo Era that this has happened. The other time was 2009, which was also the last time the Cowboys made the playoffs.

Romo is on pace to throw for 4,176 yards, which would mark the fifth time during Romo’s career he would throw for more than 4,000 yards.

He is also on pace to throw 32 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions. It would be his best TD-to-Interception ratio in his career, topping 31 TDs and 10 Ints. set in 2011.

* * *

Dez Bryant needs 104 yards to reach 1,000 for the second year in a row. No other player is on pace to gain 1,000 rushing or receiving yards. However, DeMarco Murray can reach 1,000 rushing yards by averaging 75.8 yards per game during the last four games. He has averaged 79.3 yards per game during the last three games.

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Dallas 31, Oakland 24: Thanks for Waking Up, Cowboys

A few posts and articles this week suggested that the Thanksgiving Day game against the Raiders could be a trap for the Dallas Cowboys. Not many believed Dallas would lose, though.

The blue-jersey curse only affected the first half of the Cowboys' game against the Oakland Raiders.

The blue-jersey curse only affected the first half of the Cowboys’ game against the Oakland Raiders.

The Cowboys found themselves down 21-7 near the end of the first half. The offense could not move the ball, and the defense had trouble stopping a receiver who spent time on the Cowboys practice squad in 2011 and 2012.

Fortunately, the Cowboys managed a drive late in the first half that resulted in a touchdown. Dallas took the momentum from that drive and dominated Oakland in the second half. The Cowboys’ 31-24 gives the team a 7-5 record and a half-game lead over Philadelphia for the lead in the NFC East.

After 12 seconds of play on Thursday, the Raiders had a 7-0 lead thanks to a fumble on the opening kickoff by Terrance Williams. Greg Jenkins, playing in his third career game, returned the fumble for a touchdown, and suddenly Dallas fans had reason to worry.

Those concerns lessened at the end of the first quarter when Kyle Wilbur recovered an Oakland fumble at the Dallas 2. DeMarco Murray scored to tie the game at 7.

The Cowboys once had a receiver named Andre Holmes, who had a total of 2 receptions in 7 games in 2012. He was also on the Cowboys’ practice squad.

He looked more like Tim Brown against the Cowboys, though. On the Raiders’ first drive of the second quarter, his 20-yard reception allowed Oakland to convert a third-down play. He later caught a 16-yard pass that set up a one-yard plunge by Rashad Jennings.

Later in the quarter, Holmes caught another pass on third down to extend a drive, and Jennings scored another touchdown. The nightmare: Oakland 21, Dallas 7.

Even worse: Dallas had just 53 yards of offense with 1:56 left in the first half. Former Dallas corner Mike Jenkins and others in the Oakland secondary did a good job stopping Dez Bryant, and none of the other Cowboys stepped up.

With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, the Cowboys took the ball at their own 27 to try to mount a drive to end the first half. Thanks to plays by Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray, Dallas did not have to settle for a late field goal. Murray scored a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the half to cut the Oakland lead to 21-14.

Holmes was not the only player to have a career day on Thursday.

His former teammate, running back Lance Dunbar, had rushed for 75 yards in 2012 and 68 yards in 2013. He had never carried the ball more than 8 times in a game.

On the Cowboys’ first possession of the second half, Dunbar raced off left guard for 46 yards, putting the ball into Oakland territory. Six plays later, Bryant caught a touchdown pass from Tony Romo, and the Cowboys had tied the score at 21.

Dunbar wound up with 82 rushing yards, and Murray finished the game with three touchdown runs. The third of those runs came early in the fourth quarter, and the Cowboys defense forced to three-and-outs by the Raiders.

Dallas extended its lead to 31-21 later in the fourth, and though the Raiders managed a field goal with less than a minute remaining, the Cowboys recovered the Raiders’ onside attempt.

It marks the second time this season that Dallas has won back-to-back games, and the Cowboys will finish the month of November with a 3-1 record. Dallas will not play again until Monday, December 9 against Chicago.

 

 

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Wearing Blue at Home

Some discouraging news this week: Despite clear evidence that the Cowboys’ normal blue jerseys bring bad luck (and you will just have to accept my conclusory statement as truth), the Cowboys are going to wear their regular blue jerseys on Thanksgiving Day. The team is doing so because the only other option would be to wear the silver helmets with the throwback uniforms from the early 1960s.

Not sure why the team could not figure out a way to use the silver helmets with the throwbacks, but that’s a different matter.

The Cowboys wore their original blue jerseys during the first four years of the franchise’s existence from 1960 to 1963. When the team changed uniforms in 1964, the Cowboys began their tradition of wearing white at home instead of blue.

The Cowboys first wore their current throwback uniforms in 2004. The Cowboys unveiled those jerseys on Thanksgiving Day against the Bears. Chicago wore orange jerseys instead of white, so the tradition of Dallas opponents wearing something other than white remained intact.

That tradition ended the following year, when Denver wore white jerseys at Texas Stadium while the Cowboys wore their blue throwbacks.

And, of course, what happened when the Cowboys wore those blue jerseys and let the Broncos wear white at Texas Stadium?

The Cowboys lost, that’s what happened! That is why, Jerry, the Cowboys do not wear blue at home!

(Just completely disregard the fact that the Cowboys have a winning record while wearing their throwback uniforms and allowing visiting teams to wear white. Work with me on this.)

(Immediate update: okay, so it’s not true that the Broncos were the first team to wear white while visiting Dallas. The Dolphins wore white when the Cowboys wore their “other” double-star “throwbacks” in 2003. But do you remember what happened in 2003? The Cowboys LOST!)

Anyway, the Cowboys will wear their normal blue uniforms at home. Trivia question: when was the last time the Cowboys wore their regular blue uniforms (not throwback uniforms) as the home team? Here’s a puzzle to help with the answer:

Yes, that was a trick question. In Super Bowl V, the NFL designated Dallas as the home team but would not let the Cowboys wear their white uniforms. That is why Dallas wore blue and Baltimore wore white. You should note immediately that the Cowboys lost Super Bowl V, and the loss is what gave rise to the blue jersey curse. (The 1980 NFC Championship Game did not help matters, either.)

* * *

As for the last time the Cowboys wore blue in a regular season home game in Dallas/Irving/Arlington, the answer is December 8, 1963, when the Pittsburgh Steelers visited Dallas in the penultimate game of the season.

And do you know what happened? Yes, Dallas LOST. Here’s a photo:

cowboys.steelers.1963.jpg

* * *

The Cowboys opened the regular season in 1964 by hosting the St. Louis Cardinals. It marked the first time the Cowboys wore white at home in a regular season game.

Not a great photo, but here is a shot from that game:

cowboys.cardinals.1964

The game marked a new era for Dallas, as the team finally rid itself of the stars on the shoulders. The team would set new standards in the years to come, all while wearing white at home.

Just never mind that the Cowboys lost the game to the Cardinals 16-6. It was not because of the white uniforms. It was because the Cowboys opened their season on a Saturday instead of a Sunday.

C’mon, work with me on this.

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Dan Bailey’s Eight Game-Winners

Dan Bailey has been the Dallas kicker for less than three full seasons, but he has already hit more game-winning field goals (8) than Rafael Septien (7) did in nine seasons.

No kicker in team history has as many game-winning field goals as Dan Bailey.

No kicker in team history has as many game-winning field goals as Dan Bailey.

(Of course, the Cowboys were more often in the lead when Septien was kicker, but that’s a different point.) The list below summarizes Bailey’s game winners. Four of the kicks came in overtime.

September 18, 2011

Dallas 27, San Francisco 24 (OT) Bailey hit a 48-yard field goal as time expired to force overtime, then hit a 19 yarder to win the game.

September 26, 2011

Dallas 18, Washington 16 Bailey scored the final 9 points in the game. His 40-yard field goal with 1:52 remaining won the game for Dallas.

November 20, 2011

Dallas 27, Washington 24 (OT) After Graham Gano missed a 52-yard attempt in overtime, Bailey hit a 39 yarder to give Dallas the win.

November 24, 2011

Dallas 20, Miami 19 Bailey hit a 28-yard field goal as time expired to give Dallas the one-point win.

November 18, 2012

Dallas 23, Cleveland 20 (OT) Bailey hit three field goals in the game, including a 32 yarder to tie the game at the end of regulation. He nailed a 38-yard attempt in overtime to give Dallas the win.

December 9, 2012

Dallas 20, Cincinnati 19 Rival Josh Brown hit four field goals in the game, but Bailey’s 40 yarder as time expired gave the Cowboys a one-point win.

December 16, 2012

Dallas 27, Pittsburgh 24 (OT) The Cowboys intercepted Ben Roethlisberger in overtime, setting up Bailey’s 21-yard field goal, which gave Dallas the win.

November 24, 2013

Dallas 24, N.Y. Giants 21 The Giants erased a 21-6 Dallas lead in the second half, but the Cowboys drove the length of the field to set up Bailey’s 35-yard game winner.

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Dallas 24, N.Y. Giants 21: Clutch Overcomes Stupid

Jerry Jones refused to say so, but the Dallas Cowboys’ season was on the line on Sunday. A loss would have allowed the Giants to tie the Cowboys in the standings and given the Eagles a one-game lead in the division.

Dan Bailey's 35-yard field goal as time expired gave the Cowboys a 24-21 win over the New York Giants.

Dan Bailey’s 35-yard field goal as time expired gave the Cowboys a 24-21 win over the New York Giants.

The team did not look great in the first half but managed to take a 14-6 halftime lead. A 65-yard drive early in the third quarter ended with a touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Jason Witten to give Dallas a 21-6 lead.

Up to that point, the Giants had moved the ball but could not punch it into end zone. On the drive before the Cowboys’ touchdown in the third quarter, the Giants had failed convert a 4th-and-6 play in Dallas territory.

The Cowboys could have buried the Giants on New York’s drive after the Dallas score. The Giants had the ball on the Dallas 27 but faced a 4th-and-3.

Eli Manning looped a pass to tight end Brandon Myers, who had only one score all season. Myers caught the pass near the 10 and fell down. The NFL rules are pretty clear that a defender needs to touch a downed runner, but neither Bruce Carter nor Jeff Heath bothered to look at Myers, who got up and ran in to complete a 27-yard touchdown. New York cut the Dallas lead to 21-13.

The Cowboys only managed a total of 57 yards on the next three drives. On one of those drives, Dez Bryant caught a pass that would have been a five-yard gain, but Bryant fumbled the ball, which rolled 20 yards in the other direction.

Yes, these are the stupid ways the Cowboys lose games.

The Dallas defense forced two punts, but the Giants managed a drive midway through the fourth quarter. Manning hit Victor Cruz on a 22-yard pass to convert a 3rd-and-5 play, and Manning found Louis Murphy for a 4-yard touchdown. Andre Brown ran the ball in on a two-point attempt to tie the game.

With the game and the season on the line, Dallas took over on its own 20. At that point, a few Cowboys redeemed themselves.

With the Cowboys facing a 3rd-and-7 from the Dallas 23, Bryant made a clutch catch for a 19-yard gain, giving Dallas another set of downs. Bryant later caught an 8-yard pass on a 3rd-and-5 play.

Miles Austin had not caught a pass since September, and he dropped an easy pass on the last drive. However, on the next play, he caught a 17-yarder over the middle to move the ball into field-goal range.

Bryant appeared to catch a pass that would have put the ball inside the 10, but the referees ruled he did not maintain possession. On the next play, though, Romo hit Cole Beasley, who was able to move down to the New York 15.

Two plays later, Dan Bailey nailed a 35-yard field goal to give Dallas a 24-21 win.

Dallas is now 6-5 and 4-0 in the NFC East. Dallas faces Oakland and Washington in the next two games.

* * *

Fun with church signs:

churchsign (1)

The win will allow Cowboys fans to forget the whiff by Carter and Heath that allowed the Giants to score.

In the first quarter, Heath made a heads-up play, snagging Cruz fumble out of the air and returning it 50 yards for a touchdown. His touchdown makes it a bit easier to forgive him for the mistake on the Myers score.

That was still dumb a play, though.

* * *

The Cowboys continue to have hamstring problems. Miles Austin and Morris Claiborne returned from hamstring injuries, but Claiborne could not finish the game because he hurt his again.

Dallas also lost returner and receiver Dwayne Harris to a hamstring, and the team had to play without linebackers Sean Lee and Justin Durant because of hamstring injuries.

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Are Miles Austin and Morris Claiborne Still Key Players?

We begin with fun with a Star Wars crawler generator:

 

The news this week has focused in part on the return of Miles Austin and Morris Claiborne, along with Jason Hatcher and J.J. Wilcox.

If Austin could return to his 2009/2010 form, this would be bigger news. Even his 2012 form would not be bad. However, after catching 10 passes in the season opener against the Giants, he has caught a total of five passes for 53 yards. He has not caught a pass since September 22, thanks mostly to his hamstring injury.

Claiborne is not even a starter, having lost his job to Orlando Scandrick. Advanced NFL Stats ranks Claiborne as the #74 cornerback in the league, while Brandon Carr ranks 6th and Orlando Scandrick ranks 35th.

Assuming those ranks (win probability added especially) have some meaning, 74th is not especially impressive.

The #73 corner is Green Bay’s Micah Hyde, a rookie fifth-round pick. Not exactly the same expectations that comes with the #6 pick overall.

As for the Cowboys’ other corners, some good news is that Carr outranks Joe Haden, who is widely considered the best cover corner in the league.

The bad news? Former Cowboy Terence Newman ranks third.

* * *

Here’s a great article by former Dallas columnist Gary Myers about why the Cowboys will not win with Jerry Jones running the franchise as general manager. This is disconcerting:

“As a general manager, he’s horrific. Just horrific,” said a former GM who once helped his team get to a Super Bowl. “What makes him bad is everything he does is based on perception, star power, making a splash. Fourth or fifth on the list is soundness. Everything revolves around him. He undermines his head coaches with his antics. They don’t have a lot of real harmony and he creates a lot of the storms.”

(Hat tip to Fred Goodwin at Dallas Cowboys Books Blog for the link.)

* * *

You might think that a 5-5 record is fairly common, but not for the Cowboys. Since the league added two games to give the league a 16-game schedule in 1978, the Cowboys have started at 5-5 only three times.

In 1997, the Cowboys started at 5-5. They won their 11th game against the Redskins, but a blowout loss at Green Bay caused a tailspin. Dallas finished at 6-10.

In 1999, the Cowboys saw a 3-0 start become a 5-5 record. Dallas beat Miami on Thanksgiving Day to improve to 6-5 as Chan Gailey beat former Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson. Dallas continued to play mediocre football from that point on and finished at 8-8. However, thanks to a bunch of help, Dallas made the playoffs.

Dallas also started at 5-5 in 2012, losing to the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving en route to an 8-8 finish.

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If the Cowboys Miss the Playoffs Again…

With the Eagles’  24-16 win over the Redskins on Sunday, the Cowboys at 5-5 now sit a half-game out of first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys are also a full game behind the 49ers, Bears, and Cardinals for the last wildcard spot. Even if Carolina loses to New England tonight, the Panthers would still have a 6-4 record.

9013775-largeDallas now has to travel to the Meadowlands for a rematch with the resurgent Giants, who have won four straight. In fact, none of the remaining games are going to be easy for the Cowboys, and it is possible that Dallas will have to beat the Redskins on the road and Eagles at home in the final two weeks of the season to reach the playoffs.

On the positive side, that is exactly what the Cowboys did in 2009, the last year the Cowboys made the playoffs.

On the negative side, should the team fail, the Cowboys will have the third-longest playoff drought in franchise history.

The longest period where the Cowboys missed the playoffs was the first six years of the team’s existence from 1960 to 1965.

The next longest period was the five years from 1986 through 1990, which included the final Landry years and the first two years under Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones.

The current Cowboys have missed the playoffs three straight years. That was the same number of years the franchise missed the playoffs under Dave Campo.

Yes, the current Dallas Cowboys could have a longer streak of missing the playoffs than the teams led by the rotating of quarterbacks that included an aging Troy Aikman, an aging Randall Cunningham, Anthony Wright, Clint Stoerner, Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, and Chad Hutchinson.

Jerry gave more money to Tony Romo last off-season than any other player in team history, yet one more season without the playoffs means that the Quincy Carter (et al.) era may start looking better than what we are seeing now.

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Drafting a Tight End in the Second Round and Expecting a Different Result

Overused quote of the afternoon:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Well-respected DMN columnist Rick Gosselin on Monday noted that Cowboys use of a second-round pick to take Gavon Escobar is already haunting the team. I would much rather take a week off from worrying about the Cowboys’ decision-making about anything, but this one just bugs me.

Here’s one reason: the 2006 NFL Draft.

Here’s a second: the 2008 NFL Draft.

Let’s review.

In 2006, the Cowboys missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season. The aura surrounding Bill Parcells was much less impressive, but the Cowboys could make some strides with another solid draft.

The team needed help in its secondary, especially at the safety position. It needed a receiver, given that it had two over the age of 32 (Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens).

Let’s stress this point: Tight end was not a need.

The team’s first pick was linebacker Bobby Carpenter. Not a good start, but that’s a story for a different day.

With their second pick, the Cowboys could have had safety Bernard Pollard. Or cornerback Tim Jennings. Or a returner named Devin Hester, who helped the Bears to the Super Bowl as a rookie.

Instead, Dallas took tight end Anthony Fasano with the 53rd overall pick. He was supposed to complement Jason Witten, but the Cowboys barely used him.

Two years later, the Cowboys traded Fasano and Akin Ayodele to the Miami Dolphins for a 4th round pick. Yes, the Cowboys traded a second-rounder from 2006, along with a starting linebacker, in exchange for one 4th round pick.

The result: Fasano caught 177 passes for 2104 yards and 23 touchdowns for the Dolphins over the next five years. Ayodele wasn’t great, but he started 18 games for Miami.

Dallas took that 4th round pick in 2008 and traded it to Oakland for a 4th rounder and a 7th rounder. Oakland used the pick to take Tyvon Branch, who has started 63 games.

I honestly can’t even summarize what happened after that. The Cowboys kept trading picks for more picks and more picks in deals with Cleveland and Jacksonville. The result: the Cowboys wound up with running back Tashard Choice, who lasted just over two years in Dallas.

Before the Cowboys showed their expertise in trading picks for picks and more picks, the Cowboys had a second-round pick in 2008 that they did not trade away.

The Cowboys needs in 2008? Offensive line. Safety. Wide receiver. Perhaps even another running back.

Let’s stress this point: Tight end was not a need.

The Cowboys, however, decided to take a tight end, Martellus Bennett. Yes, there was some theory that Bennett would be more like a receiver. But as everyone probably already knows, Bennett did less and less in his four years in Dallas, winding up with 846 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns in 4 years. In less than 2 full seasons since leaving Dallas, he has caught 9 touchdown passes.

Who did the Cowboys pass up to take Bennett? Cornerback Terrell Thomas, who started 34 games in his first three seasons with the Giants. Safety Charles Godfrey, who has started 74 games with the Panthers. Running back Jamaal Charles, who is just a bit better than Felix Jones, the Cowboys’ first-round pick in 2008. Guard Jeremy Zuttah, who has started 69 games with Tampa Bay.

No, these are not big-time names, but any one of them would have been more valuable to the Cowboys than Fasano and Bennett were.

By the time Bennett left after the 2011 season, the Cowboys had wasted two second-round picks and STILL had needs in their secondary, and on their offensive line, and at the receiver position.

So we come to the 2013 NFL Draft. The Cowboys still had not resolved their problems at safety. The team still needed offensive line help. The team needed defensive line help.

Let’s stress this point: Tight end was not a need.

And so what do the Cowboys do with their second-round pick?

Take another tight end! And as Gosselin’s piece points out, the team knew Escobar could not block, so when he proved to be less effective as a receiver, the team had to know it had wasted yet another second-round pick on a tight end.

It’s perhaps a bit early to say how good the players taken after Escobar will be, but several teams found starters in the second and third rounds. And yes, the Cowboys found a gem in Terrance Williams, but that does not excuse wasting a pick on another tight end.

It is what it is (and I hate that phrase): insane.

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