When the 2014 season came to an end for the Dallas Cowboys, they were as close to regaining their title of America’s Team as they have in more than a decade.
They rolled to the NFC East title with an overachieving team that featured powerhouse running back DeMarco Murray, a resurgent Tony Romo who managed to reverse his reputation as a quarterback who chokes in the biggest games and a defense that hustled and played smart football even if it lacked elite personnel.
The Cowboys won a tight playoff game against the Detroit Lions, and they gained much of the football nation’s sympathy when they lost a playoff game on the road to the Green Bay Packers. Dallas appeared to be ready to overtake the Packers as a result of a sensational catch by All-Pro wide receiver Dez Bryant, but a decision to overturn the on-field ruling left head coach Jason Garrett in an apoplectic state.
While that end was shocking and depressing, the Cowboys appeared to be in good position to be a playoff team for the next few seasons. They had their triplets – Romo, Murray and Bryant – and all they had to do was improve their defense just a bit.
But Jerry Jones is not one to follow a standard gameplan in the offseason. After years of building a flawed team, he did not recognize that the Cowboys were moving in the right direction.
Even though Murray was the best running back in football last season with 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns, Jones wants more. He has been dancing with Adrian Peterson, and he would like to see him in a Cowboys uniform.
Peterson grew up in Palestine, Texas, and the Cowboys were the team he pictured himself playing for when he was a star running back in high school.
Peterson comes with a lot of baggage after being ruled ineligible by the commissioner last season and playing in just one game. Peterson’s horrific beating of his child – in the name of parental discipline – resulted in his arrest by Texas authorities. He ultimately pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault, but his treatment of his child was beyond brutal.
Peterson’s talent as a running back is unquestioned, and he could arguably do just what Murray did last year and perhaps exceed his totals.
Peterson is upset with the Vikings. He has no problems with head coach Mike Zimmer, who has cultivated a strong relationship with the running back. However, Peterson is unhappy with the treatment he received from the front office when his parental practices came to light. He wants out of Minnesota.
While the Vikings have said they won’t release Peterson, they believe they have some leverage. They may be more than willing to part with Peterson, but they want value in return. The NFL draft is coming up next month, and a trade – most likely with the Cowboys – is likely to come to fruition.
If such a deal happens, it would come on the heels of the Cowboys signing free-agent defensive lineman Greg Hardy.
The former Carolina Panthers All-Pro played in one game last season – just like Peterson – before he was put on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list as a result of a domestic violence charge stemming from an incident last May.
While the case was ultimately dropped, there is no guarantee that the NFL will reinstate him any time soon. Even if Roger Goodell allows Hardy to put on a Dallas uniform and play again, there may be issues in the lockerroom.
Jones defended the signing in a statement.
“Obviously a great deal of our study was dedicated to the issue of domestic violence, and the recent events that associated Greg with that issue. We know that Greg’s status remains under review by the National Football League.
“Our organization understands the very serious nature of domestic violence in our society and in our league. We know that Greg has a firm understanding of those issues as well.”
No wonder Jones issued a statement. He couldn’t have kept a straight face if he said those words in a news conference.
Murray was by and large an excellent citizen who helped turn the Cowboys into a division winner, while Hardy brings a stained reputation with him to Dallas.
The trade-off may be quite difficult for many Cowboys players and coaches to accept.
If the Cowboys can acquire Peterson, the character in the lockerroom becomes even more controversial.
This was a team that had regained much of its good will and was moving in the right direction just a few short months ago.
That’s no longer the case. The Cowboys have taken a U-turn around decency and are headed to an ugly fall.