Mailbag: Are the Cowboys set to fall back to the pack?


Dan Hanzus answers questions from you, the reader, in the latest edition of the Around The NFL Mailbag. Thanks to everyone who sent in a query. May you all enjoy an endless Summer of Gronk, whether it be in this life or the next.

During the Derek Jeter years in New York, the Yankees operated under what became known as the Steinbrenner Doctrine, which stated that any season that fell short of a championship was considered a failure. Colts owner Jim Irsay will never be confused with The Boss, but doctrine logic may creep into Indianapolis. The days of the participation banners should be over. If the Colts don't take the next step, it's easy to imagine management shaking things up at the top. This is a make-or-break year for Pagano, who has an improved roster and the best young quarterback in the NFL. Do work.

Let me get this straight: She chose the Giants as her favorite team after you started dating? And she was fully aware you support the Cowboys? I'm not going to sugarcoat this: That is an act of domestic terrorism. You need to get out of this relationship because every issue you have going forward will connect to this. It will be your personal Six Degrees of NFC East Betrayal.

Gotta go with J.J. Watt. I cannot envision a scenario in which he is ever defeated in a post-apocalyptic desert race for survival. You could tie him to the front of an armored car like Tom Hardy and Justin James would find a way. Speaking of which, I just read the plot of Fury Road on Wikipedia and I'm now convinced I saw a totally different movie. Some of the character names: Imperator Furiosa, Immortan Joe, Nux, The Splendid Angharad, Capable, Toast the Knowing, Cheedo the Fragile. J.J. Watt kind of fits as a name when you line them up. Side note: I would also push hard for Charlie Whitehurst to play Doof Warrior, the blind maniac who plays the flame-throwing guitar.

More J.J. ...

I suppose I would have to take into account how loaded the draft classes were and the position of those first-rounders. For instance, I'm definitely saying no if the picks are all in the high 20s or early 30s (i.e. Patriots territory). For fun's sake, let's say you're offering me four top 10 picks over the next two years, including a No. 1 overall.

Thinking ...

Still thinking ...

Nah, I'm keeping Watt. This is a guy who could retire -- and this isn't an overstatement -- as the greatest defensive lineman in NFL history. The only way I hesitate is if I have the opportunity to take a no-doubter quarterback (think Andrew Luck in 2012). Even then, I'm not sure I do it. What I'm trying to say is that J.J. Watt is very good at football and I can appreciate his immense talent.

Geno probably has a better shot at it. Rex Ryan is going to run the ball a ton this season, taking a page out of his own book from his early days in New York. The Jets, meanwhile, added Brandon Marshall and second-round pick Devin Smith and will have a far more balanced attack. I also like Geno better than Manuel as a prospect. I liked a point Gregg Rosenthal made in his Making The Leap piece on Geno: New Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey has a history of getting big-time yardage out of ordinary talents. Remember when he got Ryan Fitzpatrick a $60 million extension?

Definitely Bill Parcells. Nobody was better or more entertaining than the Big Tuna. It legitimately bothers me that history will remember Bill Belichick as the better coach. Parcells mentored BB and won a Super Bowl with Jeff Hostetler!

On last week's edition of the Around The NFL Podcast, we picked 10 teams we decided had no chance of winning a Super Bowl this season. (We're nihilists, Donny.) Our group of the damned: Bears, Buccaneers, Browns, Bengals, Jaguars, Raiders, Redskins, Texans, Titans, 49ers.

I'm throwing the Bengals out of this discussion, because I have no idea how they were picked to start with. So, of the remaining nine teams, who has the best chance to shock us? Let's go with the Browns, who already showed us last year that they could be competitive in the AFC with decent quarterback play. (I realize I just got behind Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel, oof). Another candidate: The Bucs, who will make noise in a weak division if Jameis Winston is the real deal.

Oh, this is why the Bengals ended up on that list. Dalton, fairly or not, has been almost universally diagnosed as The Problem in Cincinnati. We're not saying he's a great quarterback, but the criticism of Dalton has become so hyperbolic that it's clouded any rational discussion of his ability. For me, Dalton hovers somewhere between "Good" and "OK". This makes him a far better option than AJ McCarron, who is a marginal NFL prospect. If McCarron sees meaningful snaps this season, that means something went very wrong for the Bengals.

For those too young to remember, the XFL was a professional football league joint venture from NBC Universal and WWE kingpin Vince McMahon that folded after one season. It was more 2000 than the Baha Men. Some notable XFL rules:

» Opening scramble: Deciding that coin tosses are for cowards, the XFL started each game by placing one player from each team on their respective 30-yard line with a football placed at midfield. The two players would then race to the ball, with the first to gain possession receiving the ability to choose possession. You're not going to believe it, but this led to somebody getting seriously hurt.
» No Fair Catch: This is as reckless as it sounds, even with a five-yard "halo zone" that protected return men from hits prior to the catch.
» No PAT kicks: The league instituted 1-, 2- and 3-point conversions, with the ball spotted further from the end zone in accordance to point value.

It's noteworthy that the XFL was years ahead of the NFL in labeling the conventional PAT as a wasted play. We say the chance of a nine-point possession is just crazy enough to work. I'm all for any changes that put less responsibility on kickers determining the final outcome.

I can't shake the feeling that the Cowboys are due for a course correction. The team's decision to move on from DeMarco Murray without acquiring a proven replacement remains the biggest head-scratcher of the offseason for me. A return to 8-8 seems highly possible. And if Tony Romo gets hurt again? Dallas will pick in the top five next May.

This falls under the umbrella of a topic we discussed last year over at the End Around. The Fault In Our Stars definitely has potential as a Chick Flick You're Secretly In On (CFYSIO). The plot synopsis checks all the boxes for potential waterworks: Plucky teenage girl with cancer, charismatic teenage boy with one leg (and cancer), the seeming guarantee that one (or both) main characters won't make it to the final credits. My advice: See it. Don't be afraid to sob. Just don't lose your dignity like Cupcake the Dentist from The Bachelorette.

There is no way to predict how much unintentional comedy Foster may deliver on this summer's Hard Knocks. He will either embrace the cameras and use them as a showcase of his Zen persona or shun them as an intrusion into his sacred space. The entire fate of the season's watchability hinges on Foster's mindset. As's official Hard Knocks episode recap guy, Foster's power in this situation frightens me.

If you want to be part of the next mailbag, send your question to @danhanzus. Don't forget to use the hashtag #ATNmailbag or your query will almost certainly be lost in a swarm of binary code.