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The Cowboys: A Cautionary Tale

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The Cowboys: A Cautionary Tale

Many fans, after a depressing 6-10 season, are clamouring for Ted Thompson to go on a free agent spending spree, to bring in a bunch of veterans including Albert Haynesworth. And that's great to think about and debate for the next two months, but I'm here to tell you: It's never going to happen, and I'm very very thankful for it.

Now, I have been quite vocal about the Packers' need for veteran leadership and the need to acquire a few veterans who have won some games in the NFL and won't fold when the pressure ramps up in the 4th quarter. Chiefly, this team needs one or two vocal leaders. Driver, Kampman and Woodson are brilliant, but they lead by example. This team needs a Leroy Butler or Reggie White-type (in manner - if they can play like Butler or White, so much the better), someone who can credibly gather the team when there are 6 minutes left in the game and say "This is our time". Some will point out that this should be McCarthy's job. People who say that have never worn a headset on an NFL sideline. The last thing the head coach is worrying about is giving a rah-rah speech to his professional football players. And this is where Thompson left McCarthy high and dry. Thompson has built this team in his image, chiefly the image of Thompson the linebacker all those years ago: Show up, do your job. That's what Thompson likes and those are the types of players (for the most part) he has sought out. It has given the team a nice bedrock of talent but it has robbed it of any passion. The A.J. Hawk pick is the best example of this. Thompson saw a more talented version of himself in Hawk, a player who loved the game, loved playing for the good of his team, and who wasn't a flashy, mouthy kind of guy.Now, Hawk is a good player, a better player than Vernon Davis, the tight end chosen by the 49ers directly after Hawk (a player, I might add, I wanted the Packers to draft), but he is not a vocal leader by any stretch, which again, this team is in dire need of.

Getting back to free agency - yes, Thompson should look at guys who are still unsigned one or two weeks after the initial bonanza starts, but by no means should he get into a bidding war for 'name' players. Look where all the 'names' have gotten the Dallas Cowboys. Yes, they have a better record than the Packers, but they'll be in the same place the Packers are during the playoffs, watching on their sofa. No one can tell me that's a tight-knit team that just needs to tweak some things to get ready for 2009. All those name players have torn apart the Cowboys. Torn. Apart. The Packers, in contrast, are a young, close-knit group (well, with the possible exception of Al Harris and Brady Poppinga ;) ). They simply need a few solid veterans, not big name stars. Yes, Haynesworth would be wonderful, but not at the price he will undoubtedly command. Whoever lands him will overpay by at least $10 million. And yes, the Packers need some major help on the defensive line, but Thompson can get two or three serviceable guys for the price some team will pay Haynesworth. Plus, he has the ninth overall pick and Brian Orakpo, the defensive end from Texas, just waiting to fall into his lap, not too mention an extra third round pick to try and (!) move up if he so desires.

My point is - Thompson has built this team for the long haul and I don't see him making drastic changes this offseason, nor should he. Yes, his defensive line fell apart, and he certainly put too much faith in Harrell and KGB's ability to overcome their injuries and contribute in any meaningful way. But he has made more good moves than bad and has many avenues at his disposal to improve his team. Yes, the fans will decry his 'frugal' (ie smart) ways come free agency time, but he has the Packers on track. He doesn't need 'names' to fix what ails his team, especially as sometimes those 'names' end up making things much, much worse.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (20) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Donald's Designated Driver's picture

The Cowboys? How about last year's big spenders the Jets?

packeraaron's picture

DDD - Was thinking of them as well, however the Jets seem to at LEAST like each other. The Cowboys reportedly hate each other, with a few different factions all pointing fingers. A complete mess.

Ron La Canne's picture

As far as I know, Haynesworth's negative is he'd likely snooze and eat his way to oblivion post-signing. Dallas FA's have their pictures in the Post Office. FA's will help GB. Rookies(include DC's with minimum experience) cannot be the base of the team. Rookies = Mistakes = Losing. When key players went down this year, their replacements could not hold up their end. When Cullen Jenkins went down, the right side of the defensive line collapsed for the season.

packeraaron's picture

You'll notice that Haynesworth's two good years came as he was playing for a payday. Once he gets it, I fear the worst.

Andrew in Atlanta's picture

Orakpo won't be there at #9. I wish he was. I think he's a stud and would even be willing to trade up a pick or two to get him (but not more than 2 picks)

packeraaron's picture

I know, I know. A guy can dream, can't he?

;)

Andrew in Atlanta's picture

You and me both Aaron, believe me. I think he's a top 3 pick which means Ted has to give up the farm to trade that high and I just don't see it. But think of it - Orakpo at RE, Jenkins back inside (and subbing RE) and 1 quality pickup at DT. Done! On to the O-Line

Andrew in Atlanta's picture

Also, let me just get this out of the way - I'm scared that Knowshawn Moreno might be sitting there at #9 and I'm praying we do not take the "best available athlete." That's hard for me to say as a UGA homer, but that would be a horrible pick. If Reggie Bush is Coca-Cola, Moreno is like Coke Zero. He's the "B" version of the brand and not what we need. Too small, too injury prone, runs out of gas easily. I think he's way over-rated

packeraaron's picture

I would be shocked if Thompson picked a back in the first round. I mean, I don't think we have a great stable of backs or anything, but quality guys can be found latter and this team needs defensive help so badly...

Then again, this is Ted Thompson we're talking about.

Ron La Canne's picture

Just heard an interesting rumor. Justin Harrell will be undergoing a 3rd back surgery soon. Can we just stitch up the "dough boy" and send him to wherever Used Teddy Bears go.

Draft? How's this for a posibilty? Sounds like Terrance Cody maybe considering coming out early. If he does, he's projected as a Top 15. That puts him firmly in our reach. At 6'5' and 365 pounds he would look very good between Ryan Pickett and Cullen Jenkins.

Andrew in Atlanta's picture

yes, and we took a WR with our first pick last year

Andrew in Atlanta's picture

Not that I wouldn't take Jordy Nelson over Koren Robinson anyday

Mr.Man's picture

I'd be psyched for Michael Oher in the draft. Both lines need help. And I like guys like Igor Olshansky and Chris Canty on the D-line. Though I'd love, love to see Thompson chase Haynesworth (and I think you're underestimating his willingness to do so), I bet he doesn't make it to free agency.

Mr.Man's picture

Also, the problem with Dallas was acquiring free agents who were head cases. If you take away TO and Pacman, I think that team makes the playoffs, especially if Romo is healthy the entire season. Phillips is not a disciplinarian, so you have to give him a team that will be somewhat under control to begin with.

Also, the Jets were vastly improved over last season. What undid them this year was, GASP, terrible quarterback play down the stretch. Shocking.

packeraaron's picture

Mr. Man - good points overall. I would argue that quarterback play alone did not do the Jets in. They seemed to completely lose the ability to stop the run as well, for whatever reason.

Also, re:the Cowboys. Yes, they brought in headcases, but they also brought in names like Roy Williams who, while not a headcase, is not disciplined or a hard worker. Things like that matter more than Jerry Jones will ever understand.

Andrew in Atlanta's picture

Yes Aaron, but did you see the anonymous comments from Jets players re "we're busting our butts and he keeps turning it over?" I believe that's coming from the defense. Just like our offense probably felt this year (frustration that our defense could not stop anybody), I'm sure the Jets defense felt the same about Favre which affected their play. Double that given Pennington didn't throw a lot of pics from my recollection of his time in NY.

Cuphound's picture

I came across this blog randomly, but I'm really glad I did. Your analysis here is the first I've read in either print media or in the blogosphere that has dealt with the issue of passion and in a dispassionate way, no less.

Injuries on the offensive and defensive lines took their toll this year without a doubt. Yet we were so close to winning so many times this year, I can't help but agree with you that the lack of passion in the leadership of the team must be a definitive factor in explaining the losses. Indeed, reading your analysis has brought me a sense of relief, as I have often wondered if this lack of passion stems directly, as you say, from Thompson's own personality being reproduced in personnel decisions. I'm glad to read a knowledgeable opinion that agrees with that instinct.

From what I understand, McCarthy never yells. I just don't know how you can be a football coach who never yells. God knows Lombardi yelled. You <I>want</I> a dispassionate general manager. You want a master of motivation as your coach. A master of motivation may need to be internally dispassionate in order make strategic choices about what to say, but he has to be expressive across the full range of emotions to work the men up. I do wonder if McCarthy is up to it.

One of the primary reasons I became a Packers fan is because Lombardi represented the definitive fusion of passion and discipline. For me, this is a fundamental part of the Packers' identity. I appreciate the discipline that Thompson's presence brings to the team. Yes, he picks a better QB than a punter; I admit it. Nonetheless, I agree with you that he's the right man for the job.

I just hope the team finds the passion, along with stronger defensive and offensive lines, that will pull them to the winning side of the four-point gap we've been facing.

packeraaron's picture

Cuphound - first, welcome. Second - believe me, McCarthy yells. He just does his best not to do it in public (though he cracked more than once this year on the sideline, which he almost never did last year) The funny thing is, McCarthy has a legendary temper, one that would make Holmgren look like a pussycat. He's worked extremely hard to get a handle on it because he was told as a young coach that it would impede his ability to become a head coach. Well, he's got the gig now - he should feel free to let loose a little more often, and trust me, if next year starts the way this one ended, you'll see more than a few sideline tirades.

Donald&#039;s Designated Driver's picture

Also, I wanted to add that the title of this post reminds me of one of my son's favorite books "Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale." Which, if you have small children, I recommend wholeheartedly.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knuffle_Bunny

packeraaron's picture

All my girls love Knuffle Bunny. No doubt working on my subconscious... ;)

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