Football Guy 008
DeMarcus Ware: The Good Soldier
Mar 12, 2014 1:09 AM EST
No one can really have a bad word to say about DeMarcus Ware. He deserves every accolade he’s ever received and he earned every sack he ever recorded as a Dallas Cowboy. He gave exceptional effort every year. The past couple of years he played through injuries that would make the average player completely obsolete. DeMarcus Ware never let the fans down, but not as much can be said about the team he played on for the last nine years.
Ware put together a Hall of Fame career on a team that went 9-7, 9-7, 13-3, 9-7, 11-5, 6-10, 8-8, 8-8, and 8-8 (gag). Often times it felt like Ware was on a good team that was simply snake bitten, especially in the playoffs or just before the playoffs.
But when I look at Ware’s career as a Dallas Cowboy, the word ‘unfair’ seems to come to mind. It was unfair for Tony Romo and Jason Witten to go to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico when the Cowboys were the best team in the NFC in 2007 with a 13-3 record. I have no doubt that had the team been more focused, they would have beaten the Giants and potentially made a Super Bowl run.
It was unfair that Tony Romo dropped the snap on a field goal that would have advanced them in 2005. It was unfair that he was even in that position. The Cowboys were one of the hottest teams in the NFL at the time and Romo’s star was on the rise. Since that game, Romo has garnered a reputation of a big game choker.
It was unfair that Ware was forced to play for a head coach that was learning on the job. Jason Garrett’s growing pains as a head coach have cost the Cowboys a couple of games a year since he took over full time. It is definitely a far cry from the days when Bill Parcells was taking the Cowboys to the playoffs with guys like Quincy Carter at QB and Troy Hambrick at running back.
It was unfair that Ware got caught up in a scheme switch this past year, when he’d become accustomed to playing stand-up outside linebacker for the first eight years of his career. We all worried that Ware and Spencer were undersized for the switch and that it would take a toll on their body if they had to bulk up to play 4-3 DE. Our fears were confirmed when both players combined for 14 games and 6 sacks (all Ware).
Of course, Ware was the good soldier through all of the ineptitude. He never complained and always fought hard for his team. He was always quick to give a smile and make a joke to keep the mood light. He always said the right thing and tried to push his teammates to the next level. Even with Romo, calling him ‘Superman’ in one season to keep his confidence and then telling him through the media that it was time to put up or shut up after Romo got his big contract last season. It may have seemed out of character, but he was simply letting Romo know that he would be held accountable by the entire team.
Ware set the tone for this team once Greg Ellis departed. He was the one who promised that this team would be better than 8-8 this year and then got them off to a great start by intercepting Eli Manning on the first play of the season. He set the tone by bagging four sacks in the first three games of the season. But injuries took their toll on Ware and we would only accumulate two sacks for the rest of the season. He fought all year long with one leg and one arm to give this team hope of getting over the 8-8 hump, but all he could do was watch as teams went up and down the field on a historically bad defense. Unfair.
Ultimately, this is the business of the NFL (ask Peyton Manning). There’s nothing fair in love and football. The institution of the salary cap meant the end of holding on to franchise players for sentimental reasons. This is a lesson Jerry Jones had to learn the hard way and he has paid dearly in salary cap penalties. In today’s NFL, it’s not a smart move to pay a player for past performance. The salary cap game is about getting younger and getting cheaper. DeMarcus Ware is neither.
As sad as is it is, DeMarcus Ware’s release is the right move for both sides. Ware deserves more than what Romo, Garrett, and Jerry Jones have given him to this point. He deserves to be on a contending team. And the Cowboys have to learn how to operate on more than star power. They have to develop a system that gets more out of their draft picks and puts them in a position to reload each year. All the failed draft picks and big free agent spending of the last decade has put the Cowboys in salary cap jail. I suppose it’s only fair that they set DeMarcus Ware free.