Mickey Spagnola has an excellent piece describing the agonizing process the Cowboys are going to have in getting down to 53 players. Finally, the team is in a position where it has a surplus of talent at several key positions and will have to cut ties with a lot of players they’d just as soon keep.
Do you go with youth and building a foundation for the future or do you go with veterans who are more inclined to help you win now?
[S]ince 1999, 49 of 54 draft choices at least have made the initial roster or were placed on injured reserve. That, though, was more of a sign this was a team in need of help or couldn’t afford to purchase adequate help in free agency because of salary cap limitations. A sure sign of that? Only 17 of those 49 from the past seven drafts are still on the roster – all from the 2003-05 drafts.
Parcells said he already has his top 39 players – 18 on offense, 18 on defense, along with a punter, kicker and deep snapper. “I will probably be at 45 or 47,” he said by after this game.
Here will likely be his most difficult decisions:
* How many wide receivers does he keep? Five as usual, or six because a couple of young guys force his hand? Sam Hurd, Jamaica Rector and Miles Austin are making life hard on Green and Terrance Copper, especially if the Cowboys should trade for a moderately experienced guy. And if you keep six receivers, then where do you shave from? Maybe only nine DB’s instead of 10? Maybe only nine offensive linemen?
* Does he go young or old at safety? Roy Williams, Keith Davis and Watkins are on this team. But if he keeps just four safeties, does he go with first-year guy Abram Elam, who he obviously is intrigued with, or veteran Marcus Coleman? Or must he keep five?
* Same at cornerback. The top three are locks, with Terence Newman, Anthony Henry and Aaron Glenn. But Jacques Reeves had a couple of rough days this past week, and Nate Jones is a hard kid to cut, but Quincy Butler is making a little noise, and do you keep less corners but more safeties?
* What about Fabini? The Cowboys signed the veteran tackle to be at least the swing guy and possibly the starter at right tackle. Monday night will be huge for Jason Fabini, because so far it doesn’t seem as if he’s got this team made, no matter the $1.7 million bonus he was paid. He will start at right tackle and play a half. Do you keep him just because of his experience, but at the expense of say McQuistan?
“Every coach comes to a point and looks at a veteran player,” Parcells said. “Where is he in this world? Where are we going to be six months from now? Where will we be one year from now?
“If the veteran player is definitely superior and gives you a better chance to win, that’s when the real conflict comes. If you think a month from now or six weeks from now or eight weeks from now this young player is going to be better than the veteran, then you have to bite the bullet.”
Parcells recalls this tough lesson learned back when he was the head coach of the Giants. He had veteran Tony Galbraith as his third-down back. But then, too, he had this rookie, Dave Meggett, who appeared to be a budding third-down back and kick returner, too. He could only keep one.
His GM at the time, the late George Young, told his young head coach this of Galbraith: “The day before he dies, he’s going to be able to beat someone out of the backfield.
“Do you like Meggett?”
“Yes,” Parcells recalled his response.
“Then don’t stop progress” were Young’s words to Parcells. “Don’t stop progress.”
Parcells says he has remembered that forever more, and he now has Cowboys owner Jerry Jones asking the same question when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, veteran vs. youngster: “Is he a progress-stopper?” Jones will ask.
Nobody has offered to make me an NFL coach, GM, or scout and for good reason. Still, Young’s advice accords with my own philosophy: If there’s any question as to whether to keep–or for that matter, start in an early season game–a veteran (or senior) or a rookie (or freshman), they you go with youth. If the experienced guy is just barely ahead of the kid despite the experience, then it stands to reason that getting a little experience will make the kid better in the not-so-long run.
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