Major Off-Season Changes Await for Cowboys, Others

Major Off-season Changes Await for Cowboys, Others
By David A. Lane of

Sunday’s NFL games answered many of the remaining questions on the playing field that were left to be asked about the 2008 regular season while also clarifying the post-season picture for football fans. We all know now which teams exactly are in the playoffs and which ones are already home recuperating for next year. Concerning the latter, it’s all about the changes each team who missed the post-season makes during the off-season that will be the difference and could very well help these teams avoid the same result from occurring to them again next year. Here are some suggestions of change for each that perhaps can lead one of these down teams to a dramatic turn around such as the Atlanta Falcons had- from a lowly 5-11 to a very good 11-5.

Speaking of very good, the New England Patriots are 11-5 yet somehow failed to make the playoffs. Call it karma stemming from Coach Bill Belichick and the Spygate Scandal but one would have to think that with healthy MVP Quarterback Tom Brady returning in 2009, they will definitely be finding their way back into the playoffs if not the Super Bowl again soon. This season, the rest of the NFL and all the Patriot haters should be enjoying this reprieve from their dominance over the league while they can. Although they’re already a legitimate contender, they could improve or get younger on defense, especially linebacker, and it would help them quite a bit to find another running back to take some pressure off of their passing game.

The New York Jets (9-7) and former Head Coach Eric Mangini had a much better time of it in ’08 than they did 2007, however, when your team acquires a future hall of fame quarterback in Brett Favre, expectations tend to go through the roof. Mangini became a victim of these heightened expectations as the Jets- who showed promise at various times this year- failed to make the post season again.

After defeating the then unbeaten Tennessee Titans, it seemed as though they could be potential Super Bowl Champions as many media members even spoke of an all New York final. They then proceeded to go out and lose four of the last five games- a choke even the New York Mets could be proud of- as the offense couldn’t score (16.4) and the defense couldn’t defend (24.4) against such teams as Denver Broncos (8-8), Seattle Seahawks (4-12), and San Francisco 49ers (7-9), down the stretch. To improve, they need to be better against the pass on defense which also includes bringing more pressure against the opposing quarterback because they were destroyed by the pass all season. On offense, they will need to add another quality receiver for Favre to throw too and could use some O-line to help better protect him if he chooses to return.

Coach Mike Shanahan (146-89) of the Denver Broncos (8-8) – wait, former head coach- got about as much out his team as he possibly could year in and year out. Yet somehow this season they couldn’t win any one of three important games down that stretch that were necessary to make the playoffs and most likely save Shanahan’s hide. Although QB Jay Cutler is no John Elway, no one is besides, well, John himself who helped Denver reach so many Super Bowl’s in the ’90s. Living on that success finally caught up with him as his defense couldn’t stop anyone (29th ranked) and the offense though proficient (2nd ranked) just wasn’t good enough to carry the team. New management will inherit needs on defensive line, linebacker, and at running back, but will also find that they’re in a very good situation because this is a proud team that isn’t all that far away from success.

The Chicago Bears (9-7) had a successful season and just missed playing in January. They might have found a premier back in Matt Forte (7th rushing with 1231 yards) after so many years trying to find one after Walter Peyton roamed the backfield. At quarterback however, the jury’s still out because Kyle Orton’s results (25th passer rating at 79.7) didn’t differ from Rex Grossman’s very much. They need help through the draft and free agency on the offensive line, at receiver, and in the secondary.

If any team that missed the post season looks most poised to improve next year and might be a sleeper it would have to be the San Francisco 49ers. They’ve found an awesome coach in Mike Singletary who believes in a disciplined approach and expects only the best from his crew. Always an underdog, Singletary’s intensity will rub off on his team and take them where most teams would only hope to go. The offense (23rd ranked) is where they need the most help- namely at receiver, offensive line, and possibly quarterback- and coach samurai Mike will find it.

Finally, the Dallas Cowboys (9-7) season of futility has to come to mind. Though personally I haven’t been present at the circus in many years, I’m not sure that would still be a true statement any longer after watching the ‘Boys this season. Why coach/GM/owner/4th string quarterback Jerry Jones has come out and backed Head Coach Wade Phillips is beyond me, because apparently “Jerry” has forgotten how the Cowboys won and owned the home field advantage in the playoffs last season. Underachiever’s all- and possibly benefactors of the Bill Parcells regime before them- this is maybe the best team sitting at home watching, but when the organization is out of touch with reality, what we’re seeing is the end result. There will be no new coach here- remember they passed on Texas’ own Singletary- because any coach worth his weight wouldn’t want the job under Jones who remains the teams ‘puppet master’ and Al Davis impersonator. They need to rid themselves of Terrell Owens, Adam ‘don’t call me Pac man’ Jones, and any other malcontents that think they’re greater than the team before even thinking about success occurring there again any time soon.

A dramatic turn-around such as the Miami Dolphins or Atlanta Falcons made this season is never really easy for any team. However, when good fortune does smile on those who struggled mightily before, it’s usually because the right coach got the chance to lead the right talent at the right time- all important ingredients in achieving success. Whether any of these teams reach their lofty goals remain to be seen but as fans we can only speculate before hand and watch from afar as the changes take place regardless of our opinions- which is one of the many reasons we enjoy the sport like we do!