Recently Jerry Jones reflected back on last year’s decision to cut veteran offensive linemen Davis, Columbo, and Gurode in favor of younger inexperienced (and cheaper!) players. He said, “We’re playing well enough as a group that we’ll be able to not be too compromised and they’ll evolve and get better and better and better.’ That was a mistake. LINK
Jerry basically admitted it was a mistake. I think in particular letting All Pro Center Gurode go was detrimental and Gurode must have been some where shaking his head while watching his replacement at center, Costa, repeatedly send shot gun snaps way over Romo’s head early in the season. But it even got worse for Romo who took some shots that caused him to play with injured ribs, hand, etc.
As if that wasn’t enough changes last year, they started Tyron Smith a rookie at right tackle and asked Free to play an unfamiliar but very critical left tackle. Smith played better as the season progressed and shows tremendous potential however Free struggled at Left Tackle. They also moved Kosier to Right Guard to help the rookie tackle Smith so everyone was basically doing something they never had done before. That is chaos. It’s a wonder that it didn’t go even worse than it did. An absence of continuity up front made for a tough year.
Now you may be a bit surprised to hear Jerry admit his mistake in trying to force too much change in an effort to save money on the O-Line last year. “He learned his lesson now” you might assume. But not so fast! This is Jerry we are talking about and in an effort to save money he is already creating a similar scenario next year on the O-Line as he did last year. Let me explain.
Kosier was released recently because of his injury last year and age. Sound familiar? That’s pretty much what was said of the guys cut last year. Two free agent guards were brought in, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings. Nate comes over from the Bengals where he has starter experience but his play shall we say was less than impressive. The Bengals made no effort to keep him. Bernadeau came from the Panthers where he failed to crack the starting line up on a team with a really weak offensive line. Not a good sign.
Next year Free goes back to Right Tackle which should be an improvement however Smith in his second NFL season will move to the very important Left Tackle position which he has never played before. I think Smith will be a very good NFL tackle but realistically you must expect a learning curve to take place while on the job next year. I talked more in depth about this move earlier. LINK
Oh and by the way, they also have a new offensive line coach too in Bill Callahan which will only cause more confusion in the beginning at least.
So let’s recap the offensive line as it looks right now prior to the NFL draft:
New O Line coach, Two new guards who are younger and bigger but probably not better, a very young left tackle with no prior experience on that side, and a center that struggled last year. “Deja vu.” Or as they say in less haughty parts, “Been there, done that and bought the T-shirt.”
Honestly I want to be optimistic but all I can say is, good thing we picked up QB Orton in free agency we may need him. Don’t know if Romo will hold up physically to the abuse again in 2012.