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Debating The Cowboys' Plans To Retool

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The Cowboys have been clear about not re-building this offseason. Is that reasonable or crazy? Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.
The Cowboys have been clear about not re-building this offseason. Is that reasonable or crazy? Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Retooling. Revamping. Re-brushing-up. Call it whatever you like if you’re the Dallas Cowboys, just don’t call it re-building.

Like most things Cowboys, the logic of this approach is debatable. To put the smart and not-so-smart into perspective, let’s consider this “re-tooling” thing from two angles: the handling of the coaches and that of the players.

Three 8-8 finishes punctuated by three consecutive losses in Week 17 would, for other owners, be grounds for overhaul. That means firing Jason Garrett, a coach stripped of his biggest job — calling plays — and reduced to little more than “yes man” status. It means severing your coordinators from 2013 rather than demoting them, and considering other options on the market before immediately promoting from in-house.

It means, as Executive VP Stephen Jones has stated publicly, learning from past mistakes.

But Jerry Jones is still in charge. And his offseason treatment of his coaching staff reflects the resonating rule of re-tooling: change without too much change. His attempts to revamp, in terms of staff, have done nothing but create friction among coaches trying to work toward a common goal. How does publicly shuffling their titles and pay grades help their cause? His reasoning behind those moves is absurd.

In terms of players, chalk up any roster changes to expiring contracts and whopping past deals that left the ‘Boys badly bereft of bills. During Garrett’s run, Dallas has scarcely altered its core playmakers — at least offensively — which is fine. The dogged investment in Tony Romo, the drafting of quality linemen in Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, and the growth of Dez Bryant into an elite receiver are all part of them routinely sporting a Top 10 passing game.

More importantly, all those accomplishments indicate franchise identity.

Defensively, key starters added under Garrett’s tenure, like Morris Claiborne and Bruce Carter, haven’t fully panned out. 2014 will be a deciding year for these third-year guys. The shakeups on the D-line? They’re opportunities to get younger and stronger, which is crucial to any four-man pass rush. And since the Cowboys need all the bodies they can get dropping into pass coverage, a fearsome foursome up front would be an invaluable asset.

While smart drafting and an optimistic perspective are necessary premises, you can argue that Jones has done fine this offseason as far as players are concerned. His free agency moves have been sound in financial scope and tailored in need. He’s made some hard decisions that simply had to be made, like cutting the best pass rusher in franchise history. It’s the handling of the coaching staff that gives this “re-tooling” stuff minimal credibility and makes it sound like a rationale for bad past decisions.

Retooled or rebuilt, the Cowboys still belong to a division that is mediocre at best. The bar hasn’t been set tremendously high. The talent is there.

But then, that’s always the case with the America’s Team.