Welcome to the best NFL offseason series you'll ever read -- that is, if you're like me, and you want nothing more than the blissful lie that your team will be good in 2019. How Your Team Won Super Bowl 54 will take you through each NFL franchise with one goal in mind: convincing you that there's at least one universe in which Your Team wins it all. I'm Doctor Strange, you're Tony Stark, the Avengers are Your Team, Thanos is...Bill Belichick? I've lost the metaphor.
One thing's for sure:
You'll die in the end. Your Team is going to win Super Bowl 54.
How much money are we paying Tony Romo this year?
This is Little Timmy. He just worked hard all day at his lemonade stand, raking in the customers on a sunny July day. Timmy ends the day with $10 dollars, and he's excited to buy a new bike (which costs $10 dollars in Timmyville, please hush). But then Timmy's dad comes buy, takes $1.50, and shoots it dead, right in front of little Timmy's face.
This is basically what happened to the Dallas Cowboys' cap situation in 2018. Give or take a few gory details.
The Cowboys lost about 15% of the 2018 cap room -- an astonishing $28M-ish -- to large dead cap hits from previous contracts. Now, they weren't the only team to lose dead money space, and losing cap space to dead money isn't always bad. But when you're playing at 85% capacity, you've done a couple things wrong.
Always willing to invest in the short-term and swallow today's pill tomorrow, Jerry Jones and the Dallas front office poured resources and wrenched open cap space into the waning years of Tony Romo's career. That gurgling dead cap bogeyman is in large part due to the bonus money Romo was owed after his early retirement -- guaranteed money Dallas anticipated paying Romo while he was still playing football for them. Despite falling face first into an unbelievable contract nirvana with Dak Prescott making peanuts for four years, the Cowboys didn't enjoy the typical freedom of an unburdened rookie QB contract, because they were still shelling out Romo's bonus cash.
Much the same happened with Dez Bryant, whose extension was timed perfectly with offensive implosion, injury, and upheaval. Free agent Band-Aids like Cedric Thornton, Nolan Carroll, and Benson Mayowa made the team worse while heaping more dead cash onto future piles. Every year, the Cowboys spent money; every year, they were supposed to compete.
And yet, here they are. Unable to get beyond the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs.
However, in the last three seasons -- all winning records, two playoff berths -- the Cowboys have been paying Tony Romo to not play football. In 2016 it was the injury -- but eventually he was healthy, and Dak Prescott stayed on the field. In 2017 and 2018, Romo has been off the team entirely.
This stretch has been the most successful of Jason Garrett's career -- so why would you fix what ain't broke? I move that the Dallas Cowboys continue to pay Tony Romo some portion of their salary cap, seeing as shelling out money to the CBS broadcast booth seems to translate into wins for America's Team. Heck, make a city holiday out of it: Tony Romo Day, July 10th -- when the Cowboys sign Romo to a 1-year, fully guaranteed, $3M dollar deal, and cut him the very next day. Make it a day of altruism and sharing -- give the DFW area the day off and build some playgrounds, clean some city streets. In essence, instead of sacrificing a lamb to a deity to bring rain, sacrifice 2% of the salary cap to Romo to bring another winning season to Dallas.
It's worked so far!
How to prevent Jason Garrett from ever playing on a short week again
I don't want to overreact here, because Kirk Cousins is actually worse than a fair dice is at beating teams with a winning record, but this might be my favorite Godforsaken Stat of all time:
What do you think Jason Garrett does on short weeks? Do you think he rolls into work on Monday ready to get some opposition prep film work done; starts implementing the game plan for their specific opponent on Tuesday; and then on Wednesday someone cautiously reminds him that they play their game tomorrow?!
There are a lot of ways to talk yourself into Jason Garrett as a good head coach. He has a winning record, the Cowboys have been better in the *checks notes* seventh, eighth, and ninth years of his tenure, and he has two playoff wins (again, in N.I.N.E. seasons, people). But there's just no reason to believe he's actually a good head coach -- and this is a great example as to why.
And, lest we forget, the Cowboys have the advantage of a guaranteed home Thursday game -- a tradition that we call "Thanksgiving" here in this great country. So these abysmal short-week performances are even coming at home more frequently than the .500 you'd expect to see.
So, we've guaranteed a playoff berth in the top of the post -- but how can we score the Cowboys a free win? Simple: when Jason Garrett falls asleep on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, everyone rips three days off their calendar; push his phone date forward to Wednesday; remove all newspapers from the Cowboys facilities. Convince Garrett that he coached his precious little heart out so hard the previous weekend that he slept for three straight days, and now he has to prepare for the Sunday game upcoming.*
Yes, still a short week -- but now Garrett will actually feel the urgency of the accelerated timeline, instead of lolly-gagging his way through the preparatory period. Then, once you win on Thursday/Sunday, you can tell him what you did. I'm sure he'd applaud you for that.
*Note: Yes, this strategy would mean that everyone would need to host a fake Thanksgiving with Garrett on Monday. But it also means that everyone would get two Thanksgivings, so I don't really see the problem here.
How The Dallas Cowboys Won Super Bowl 54
Ezekiel Elliott establishes himself as the most valuable Cowboy on offense with a 23 carry, 194 yard, 2 TD game against the Los Angeles Chargers, whose weakness against power running Jason Garrett was able to identify on his two-week prep period (is he the best coach on long weeks, by law of opposites?). As Dak Prescott hosts the Lombardi Trophy, Cowboys pundits wonder -- loudly and boldly -- if he is actually worth the $30M/year contract he'll inevitably sign.
How many universes does this happen in?
x out of 1000, where x is the number of millions they're paying Tony Romo.
How does it all go wrong?
On another free agent binge, Jerry Jones signs Glover Quin, Reuben Foster, Priest Holmes, and Kawhi Leonard -- but the team doesn't gel. Jason Garrett breaks two metacarpals after a particularly vigorous clap and is sidelined for Kellen Moore, who takes the starting job just as Garrett once did, with the promise that "We're gonna do something on offense that was invented after the home radio."