The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Should Andre Gurode Have Been Released?

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Jonathan Bales

I apologize for the lack of posts regarding the Cowboys’ third preseason game.  Many of you know I live in the Northeast, and Irene made watching Dallas’ contest against the Vikes a nightmare.  I have since reviewed the game, but decided to sprinkle my comments on it throughout upcoming posts.  My 53-man roster projection in particular will give you a good idea of who I expect the Cowboys to retain.

Since the game in Minnesota, the most shocking news in Dallas has been the release of veteran Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode.  Gurode was due $5.5 million an apparently refused to take a pay cut, so Jason Garrett sent him on his way.  I agreed with the organization’s decision to give Orlando Scandrick the big bucks, but this is a decision with which I am not on board.

Gurode is certainly an aging player whose best days are likely behind him.  He has consistently been labeled as “overrated,” and that tag might have some merit.  In my 2010 Offensive Line Grades, I gave Gurode a C+ (78.2%) overall grade.  While others saw a player who failed to protect the quarterback, I saw one whose pass protection was fine, but whose run blocking was abysmal.  Here is what I had to say about Gurode’s play:

Run Blocking: D

The Cowboys averaged nearly a full yard less per run in 2010 when Gurode was at the point-of-attack (as compared to 2009).  Even more alarming is the fact that Gurode led the team in negative plays yielded despite playing a position where he receives a ton of help.

In fairness, I think some of that has to do with Jason Garrett’s play-calling.  When you continually run the same strong side dive from the same formation, defenders tend to catch on.  Nevertheless, I didn’t expect Gurode’s run blocking numbers to be this poor.

Pass Protection:  B+

Gurode has been an unpopular player in Dallas recently, particularly due to BSPN’s take on him (oops, I meant ESPN).  Over the second half of the season, however, Gurode was excellent in pass protection.  His numbers improved across the board from 2009, and he led the team with just a 1.20 pressure rate.  I value pressure totals more than sack totals, so that’s an important number to me.  This grade would have been an “A-” had Gurode not committed seven penalties and snapped the ball whenever the hell he wanted about five times this season.

I love the youth movement Garrett is trying to employ, and I really think players like Phil Costa are ready to contribute to this football team.  Garrett preaches competition at each position, and that sort of attitude is one which is necessary for the Cowboys to take the next step.  There are veterans who should have been released (Marc Colombo, Marion Barber, etc.), and then veterans whose contributions still warrant their stay on the roster.  I think Gurode falls into the latter category.

In terms of his contract and his current skill set, Gurode wasn’t a value player.  Unlike a guy such as Victor Butler, Gurode underperforms in relation to his contract.  Garrett’s flurry of moves this offseason suggest he’s all about creating value, whether it is in the draft or in regards to the salary cap.  Overall, that’s an intelligent strategy and one with which I am completely in agreement.

Sometimes, though, retaining players who are underperforming is admissible, assuming it results in an overall team value which is higher than would be the case during the player’s absence.  With the youngsters the Cowboys currently possess on the interior line, I think that scenario is just the case with Gurode.  Despite his hefty contract, cutting him has reduced the overall talent level on the team in a way I think is rather significant.  With Gurode gone, Phil Costa is set to start at center and rookie Bill Nagy will slide in as the starting left guard.

In my opinion, Costa is ready to play.  I thought the notion of him sitting behind Montrae Holland at guard was ridiculous, so I don’t think his play at center will be much of an issue.  In fact, his upside is surely larger than that of Gurode.  It is Nagy, however, whose playing time will be increased (by about 100%) as a result of Gurode’s release.  With Nagy, Costa and rookie Tyron Smith all starting, the ‘Boys certainly have more youth and upside on the offensive line than they possessed last season. . .and more risk.  Unlike many analysts, I still think the Cowboys are a very talented football team that, if things go their way, can make the playoffs and compete in them.  Despite his lack of monetary value, Gurode would have aided the Cowboys in that task.

In addition to the mystery surrounding 3/5 of the starting offensive line, the Cowboys’ backup offensive line situation can be described as “hopeful” at best.  Sam Young are Jeremy Parnell are in line to be the backup offensive tackles, while rookie David Arkin and underachieving Montrae Holland are the primary backups at guard.  And the projected No. 2 and current starting center?  Kevin Kowalski, of course.  If I have to Google a player to make sure I spelled his name correctly, he probably shouldn’t be starting for the Dallas Cowboys.

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14 Responses to Should Andre Gurode Have Been Released?

  1. Mark Watkins says:

    Totally understand about being delayed by Irene JB. Hope you got through it in good shape. This situation does make me nervous too, with 3 rooks on the line. I wonder if they might pick up a veteran guard/center after the cuts, at a lower price than Gurode would have cost them. That would make me feel better about it. Of course, they do have Holland in that role who they could still plug in, assuming they don’t cut him too. I was more worried about Costa because center seems like a more demanding position, but it makes me more confident to know that you see him as an upgrade over Gurode. I certainly think they’ll be looking at backup tackles from the cuts though. Are there any guys you (or other fans here) see out there that might be available soon that could be a good fit?

  2. JJ says:

    JB

    Did not know you were in NE and glad you are ok.

    I have a feeling there may be more surprises….all things equal…Gurode should stay as he was not a problem player and still provided value. That being said, i understand cutting the cost of $5M and basically stating the does not fit the new prototype Cowboys lineman.

    Frankly, I wish Gurode could play some DLine as they all got pushed around against the Vikes.

  3. john coleman says:

    Once again, glad you are back JB, and with no ill effects.

    I was certainly surprised when I first heard the Gurode rumors. Then after considering a few things, my thoughts began to change. I thought, “why does a guy wait until a month before the season to get a scope done?” I surmise that he was looking for a way out of camp and was too lazy to do otherwise. I then thought back about reading where JG had posted “Best Oline In Football” somewhere towards seasons end. He was obviously trying to inspire guys to show up in shape and ready to go. From what I hear Davis was way heavy and then Gurode pulls his deal. I’m not so sure that Holland isn’t on skates for the same reason. If it were for his low salary and our need for depth, I feel he would be gone.

    Performance wise I like the newlook guys and have been ranting for this very thing for a while. We seem to be more effective in the run game already, as well as being more effective in blocking screens. We have three guys in Jones, Choice and Tanner who have been finding some holes. Murray didn’t look bad either. Poor Miller is another story. At the end of the day I think we will have some snafu’s, but the Oline now creates much more big play ability. So for me, good ridance. I’ll take my chances with the rookies. I still think Arkin is the 2nd best longterm prospect of the bunch, behind Smith. I love his nastiness. A season and a offseason with Wojciak (I think) should have this group ready.

    As a side note- If we end up 6-10, 7-9, 8-8, I am still not unhappy, because I remember 1-15. However, I also remember the next 5 years after that. I truely like the direction and think we are doing the right things.

  4. greg says:

    Unless Kosier can play a fairly high level center position in a pinch, I just don’t get the Gurode release. Gurode was a big fat tough guy who, in recent year after year, ranked among the best centers in the NFL. But even if a better center came along, Gurode could play a mean (literally) guard. I agree with JB that it really does not matter how skilled the blocker is, if the play is anticipated by the defense, it is not going to produce many yards.

    The Garrett irony only continues. First, the guy who is responsible for not generating sufficient points given enormous offensive talent is somehow promoted to Head Coach despite lacking real success…anywhere. And now, the guy who has been obviously uninterested in a running game (as evidenced by play-action pass plays with a virtually empty backfield), is pinning the ground game to younger, more agile athletes.

    How about putting some effort into calling unanticipated running plays – and as a bonus, make sure the running plays that are called are actually capable of generating 4+ yards before calling them more than twice a game.

  5. Vince_Grey says:

    JB – Bah, you northeastern folk just aren’t used to Hurricanes. I live in the deep south and have faced off against the best Camille, Katrina, and a few others have thrown. No big deal. Man up!

    Just kidding. (About the “man up” part. The rest, about facing those hurricanes, is true)

    Anyway, told you guys Garrett might cut a supposed “untouchable”, to send a message that he’s not to be fooled with. (A’la Jimmy Johnson) As someone never enamored with Andre’s supposed Pro Bowl (Snort!) skills, I have zero problem with this move.

    Personally, I see this as less about Andre’s eroding ability than Costa’s surprising play and AG perhaps not being all that thrilled with Garrett’s regime. I strongly suspect Jason feels there was/is a group of vets not willing to buy into what he’s selling 100% and this tells whoever is left they better get in line or get out the door. Love that.

    We may have less pure talent than in the past few years, but I’ll bet the house we play better overall by season’s end.

  6. brian says:

    I think what might be missing is that maybe this year’s Gurode is not last year’s Gurode. He came to camp overweight, he’s banged up again and he’s just another year older. His play has been on the decline. It might be that his grade for this year would be worse than last year’s, hence the decision might make sense.

    Think of Flozell. He was all right for us his last year but he was very poor in Pitts last year. Sometimes u have to know when someone is falling off that cliff.

  7. JJ says:

    I think Brian nailed it. I don’t think is a “message” move. Andre was a class guy. Frankly, I just don’t think he fits the athletic lineman that Garrett wants and they cannot afford the luxury of him being a backup at his pay. People think Jerry is coy (and he is to an extent) but he telegraphed this weeks ago when he spoke of Costa playing center and we were all wondering if Gurode could move to guard.

    I’m okay with the move. I feel we have bigger issues on defense and where the interior of our d is like swiss cheese and tackling is subpar. I love Rat but he could be the Marion Barber of the defense….taking a pounding in the middle and wearing down. I read all of the debates about him going outside and how OT are bigger than guards but Rat is going to get pounded by two guys in the interior vs one outside.

    The defense just has me very concerned as they seem far from intimidating in the front 7.

  8. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    JB, glad to hear you’re safe. I just got back from DC (live in Houston) and things were ok there except for the no power, excessive water everywhere and everyone’s inability to drive…other than that, the East coast is great.

    Andre shoulda been cut last year.

  9. Thank you for all the well-wishes guys. Working on a season prediction article right now. . .

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  11. Omar says:

    Ehhh…I agree a bit, but at the same time I can see why the Boys did what they did, and agree with their decision. The Cowboys were perhaps a year too early on Flozell, but that’s about it. They should have cut Brooking and Colombo last season and brought in someone else to play ILB, and it ended up hurting them. They’re dangerously thin at ILB this year because they didn’t start over at the position and look for someone else to play along side Brooking last year, now this is probably because they didn’t see anyone they liked at the position, but I digress.

    However, Colombo faced a HUGE cliff season…now if Gurode couldn’t even move a pile (one of the most basic things an O-Lineman can do and is more strength than anything) but had enough technique to keep the QB safe, what do you think another year of wear and tear on his body would do? Maybe he’s headed for a Colombo-esque cliff and Dallas doesn’t want him on the team when that happens? He’s had a long career and it’s not like football is a game where cliff years don’t happen.

    Now I concede the point that having some veteran depth on the OL for rotation purposes and incase of injury is a good thing, but Gurode makes a lot of money and he doesn’t fit the team philosophy that Garrett’s trying to employ. He wouldn’t take a pay cut, and there were some pointed comments that I now know where directed at him. As far as Kowalski goes, he played quite a bit at Toledo, and he had a pretty good 2009 campaign. Sure the draftnicks didn’t really like him and he didn’t really wow anyone, but there’s plenty of film on him he started over 40 games at Toledo. He couldn’t bench at his proday because of a shoulder injury, so that’s probably ultimately why he ended up undrafted. Mel Kiper, IIRC, had him as the 4th ranked center at one point in time. The Cowboys had him start in the third preseason game against the Vikings, and they must have liked what they saw. He was an undrafted free agent at an unglamorous position.

    Now I fully admit that this not an ideal situation for Center, I want Nick Mangold just as much as anyone. However, the Cowboys have always been a smart football organization for the most part. They held on to weak headcoaches for too long, and they let Bill Parcell’s old school football style stay for longer than it should have, but when it comes to player personell they tend to know what they’re doing for the most part. The issue over the last few years was Wade’s perpetual state of not having the team ready to play, Parcell’s insistance on giving carries to Julius Jones and draws on third and long, and not having a QB. My concern is not on the OL, if the Tyronasaurus is healthy, it’s in the secondary.

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