So the Cowboys released DeMarcus Ware. The writing’s been on the wall at least for the last few weeks around here, at least that he’d have to restructure, and despite the fact that he had a rough year last year, it’s not exactly a surprise that he didn’t, ultimately, want to.
It’s the first of many punctuation marks for this Cowboys franchise. It seems like the Boys have had the nucleus of a championship team for the better part of 6 or 7 years. But at no point during that time have they really managed to build around it, and eventually players get old. DeMarcus Ware wasn’t going to stay young until the Cowboys learned how to draft and as it happened he didn’t. Romo might be one of the top 6 or 7 QBs in the game, Witten one of the top TEs, Dez and DeMarco two of the best emerging sill players, yadda yadda yadda, 8-8.
They’re all getting old. And Ware isn’t even the first to go. That was Ratliff, who went from hero and centerpiece to out the door in a confusing three weeks. The good news is it seems nearly statistically impossible for the Cowboys’ 83rd ranked defense to get any worse. But if that’s your good news, you must never tell anyone your bad news, or speak its name.
And so Ware is gone.
A friend of mine suggested it was sad he never got to play under the bright lights, but I’m not sure that’s true. Despite the fact that the Cowboys have been mediocre at best for over a decade now, they’ve somehow managed to maintain their brand pretty comfortably. If it’s Sunday or Monday, the stars at night are still pretty big and bright in Dallas. Take it from a guy who mostly covers the Mavericks, the only team in the metroplex to win a championship in the new millennium. He got some glory, but not enough wins, which makes him different from us fans who mostly just got not enough wins.
To people who don’t really understand professional football, and there are ways in which I have to put myself in that category, football personnel moves exist in a world completely unique among major American sports. Part of it, I think, is that football is a game consistently played at full speed. A basketball player can take more jumpshots when they lose a step, or develop a post-game but a cover corner can’t do anything but get beat. Which means an MVP this season can be nothing next season, and that’s how it goes.
You know, what turned Miles Austin from great to pretty bad? What turned Ratliff from centerpiece to casualty? I’ll always remember how Shaun Alexander went from the leading rusher in the NFL in 2005, to out of the league by 2009. After 2005, he never broke 1000 yards again. Two years ago, we’re talking about Revis Island, about how Nnmadi Asomugha was about the best there is. Asomugha made the Pro Bowl in 2011 and was released by the Eagles in 2012. Revis was in the same restructure or cut box as Ware was in, and was released by Tampa Bay Wednesday.
It doesn’t make any sense to someone used to watching Kobe or Tim Duncan or Dirk settle down in a city no matter what they’re making, as long as they have something left. It doesn’t make sense if you’re used to watching the Michael Young and Ian Kinsler trades come in from a long way off. But this is the NFL and this is what happens. Suddenly someone is asking you to restructure, suddenly you’re out the door.
DeMarcus Ware will go down as one of the greatest Cowboys of all-time, one of the few of this era you can imagine Charles Haley or Nate Newton being proud to play alongside. And before last year he was at his absolute best when it just had to happen. It’s been years since the Cowboys had an even adequate defense, but there he’d be turning a crucial third down into a third and long with a sack, or forcing a fumble. If it never turned into much, he’s the absolute last guy who’s to blame.
I hope DeMarcus has a lot of football left in him. I don’t feel bad for him, it’s not really my thing to think a guy who made millions and played on some decent but not great teams “deserves” better. What’s wrong with crappy teams having some guys to root for? But I want him to at least have the satisfaction of knowing the Cowboys could have used his services.
Happy trails, DeMarcus. I hope being a Bronco is more fun than this.