Jerry Jones has insisted since mid-January that the Cowboys will not make a big splash in free agency, and from the looks of things, they won’t. The weekend signings of backup QB Jon Kitna and ILB Keith Brooking should serve as an image of what the off-season holds for the Cowboys, and for once, I will not be using this article to harangue on the shortcomings of our beloved owner, Jerry Jones.
Now, this could go one of two ways: In the Jones-advocated first scenario, the Cowboys would be a team on the brink of playoff success, missing only a few elements, namely role players; Think Tony Kukoc on the mid-nineties Bulls teams.
The second, more frightening scenario, as I see it, is the Cowboys being a fractured franchise, one with underlying problems of such a magnitude that any hope for success is doomed from the start.
But let’s assume that Jerry has not yet gone the way of Al Davis and the Cowboys have not yet missed their proverbial window with this group; let’s assume that the talent in place in Dallas is real, and that, as Jerry tells us, the Cowboys are only a few adjustments away from that ever-elusive playoff success.
In this instance, Brooking and Kitna address the Cowboys’ needs in two senses: First, in a more direct, literal sense, we needed a backup quarterback that could be at least somewhat effective when needed. We also needed an inside linebacker, namely one who is comfortable in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme. Zach Thomas admitted after the unwatchable loss in Philadelphia that he never felt comfortable playing inside linebacker in the Cowboys’ 3-4. Brooking knows it, and excels in it. Two of Brooking’s five Pro Bowl appearances (and arguably his two best seasons) under Phillips, who was the Falcons defensive coordinator during that period.
But in a more metaphorical, intangible sense, Kitna and Brooking are role players; and everyone needs role players, particularly this Cowboys team. Both are quiet, both are former pro-bowlers and both will provide the Cowboys locker room with at least a little bit of sanity. This is an invaluable asset for a team struggling to reconcile a large amount of talent with the egos that inevitably accompany it.
It’s Jerry-season in Dallas, and the owner is being picked to shreds by writers and fans (myself included) like hungry piranhas. This is not completely unwarranted; they say football is like religion in Texas, and most Cowboys fans (that I’ve met, anyway) are hopeless fanatics. And that would make 2008 a blasphemous tour of underachievement in the most loathsome sense imaginable. But these signings may be a couple steps in the right direction.
Barry Horn’s column on DMN’s Sports Media blog recently featured a piece on the Cowboys newest linebacker that should be the cause of a collective smile across the face of Cowboys Nation, if only because of its novelty; when asked about his playing philosophy, Keith Brooking said, "Take the blame and give all the credit. That's the key...That's the great thing about football. If it's not for the other 10 guys you're not going to have success."
I like him already.