progress stoppers

Cowboys History of Progress Stoppers

Dallas Cowboys’ head coaches have a long history of “progress stopping” in the way they hand out gameday snaps and it seems 2nd-year head coach Mike McCarthy is on board with this tradition.

What are “Progress Stoppers?” These are coaching decisions involving veterans who demand/receive almost, if not all, practice/game snaps available at a position. From 2003-2017/19 future HOF TE Jason Witten was the primary culprit. There was no denying Witten’s talent or accomplishments. However, his grind for practice and game snaps drove the club to repeatedly spend high draft choices on TE2 players that didn’t really pan out for the Cowboys but often paid off for other NFL organizations.

Here is a list of players the Cowboys drafted to compete/play the same position as Witten.

  • 2nd Round – Anthony Fasano – 2006-2007 – 32 games, 28 receptions, 269 yards, 1 TD
  • 2nd Round – Martellus Bennett – 2008-2011 – 60 games, 85 receptions, 846 yards, 4 TDs
  • 2nd Round – Gavin Escobar – 2013-2016 – 62 games, 30 receptions, 33 yards, 8 TDs
  • 7th Round – Geoff Swaim – 2015-2018 – 37 games, 35 receptions, 336 yards, 1 TD

Fasano and Bennett went on to have long NFL careers, albeit, with other clubs. Oddly enough Dallas seems to love spending 2nd round picks on the position though Witten himself was a 3rd rounder.

Fasano was a quiet guy and left the club with little fanfare following head coach Bill Parcells to the Dolphins but Bennett famously exited with his (now) characteristic “straight talk” offering his take that the club never looked at him seriously and that even getting snaps in practice was an issue with Witten demanding and the staff acquiescing to his demands. When that happens the younger, backup player finds progressing his game to be quite difficult. Consequently, the team spent a lot of draft capital on a position they could never keep filled or get a high level of competency with.

“Progress Stoppers” have a domino effect on a team. The Cowboys were never able to implement the 2-TE offense they dreamed/talked about for many offseasons as their TE2s were not given the opportunity to grow their games. This hits the club on several fronts. With Witten now gone, enter DE Randy Gregory who recently talked about how the staff did the same thing to him in 2020 giving Aldon Smith the lion’s share of snaps in practice and on game days. According to Gregory:

“I felt there was a little bit of favoritism going on, . . . refusing to let me outshine their favorite, They knew I could do it, so they did what they could to keep me at bay. I had my times when I was angry. I used to talk to [agent] Peter [Schaffer] about it, and the best thing I could do was just go out there on the field with the plays they give me and make those plays worth it. I did that, but I truly felt I got robbed of a year last year.”

Randy Gregory via Dan Pompei of

It’s great for the Cowboys Gregory is seemingly turning the event into motivation versus bitterness. What is not great is that a club has a head coach who will let a better performing player sit on the bench while “his” guy gets snaps in a validation attempt. It was obvious Aldon Smith quickly wore down last year after a nice couple of games to begin the season and was clearly not a plus factor on game day. Progress Stopper engaged.

I love what the Cowboys’ D is looking like heading into this season. From the new defensive coordinator down to the new talent via the NFL Draft, the club is looking dangerous on defense. But for the ‘Boys D to take their performance to the next level Randy Greggory will have to be a big part of the reason. Getting to the QB is the name of the game in today’s NFL and that is what they pay Greggory to do.

I love a good rotation, but it’s past time for the club to get Randy Gregory his snaps.

Another Left Coast Sports Post
on Twitter: Steven Van Over

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