Thursday, October 21, 2010

America's Team

Finally, a Cowboy’s column. As promised. Let me just start out by commenting on my position, pertaining to the state of the Cowboy’s season. I am NOT scared. Hell, I’m not even worried. The Boys’ are 1-4 and I am not even sweating it. Am I glad they have that record? No, but it is not like this the ’01, 1-and-4 Cowboys that resorted to signing RYAN-I’m-the-biggest-bust-head-case-in-professional-sports-LEAF to win games. Guess how the Leaf strategy played out…

This is a talented, well balanced team, predicted by many to go on to the Super Bowl. I for one was never certain, like most sports writers, a Super Bowl trip was in the cards. Of course, as a fan, it is what you want and root for—and they definitely have the talent to do it—but doesn’t this kind of talk happen every year for the team whose city hosts the big game? Maybe things got a little too hyped because it is Jerry Jones’ Cowboys. Or the talent on the team is completely capable of getting there. Or the fact they play in a BILLION DOLLAR stadium. Who knows? Who is John Galt?

However, I do know this small piece of inside information which perhaps could be the reason for the pre-season Super Bowl buzz. It’s kind of long, but roll with it. Every professional sports league has its team which carries the title of ‘Face of the League’. With baseball, if you asked someone what team out of the 30 teams, is the poster child of MLB, they would say the Yankees. I am a Red Sox fan and even I do not debate this. In the 90s you might have gotten the Braves, but pretty much it the New York Yankees. Basketball is bit tougher to determine, but the response you would most likely hear would be the Lakers; maybe even the Celtics because they’ve won the most titles. Right now, I’m saying Lakers. Again, if it were the 90s it’ be the Bulls. Touch on football, the Dallas Cowboys are the clear cut team. No wish-washing the way you see in basketball and baseball. For the longest time I thought this just to be my own personal fan perception, never thinking this was something backed by the league. But it is.

A buddy of mine is dating this chick in California who works for the NFL. From what I’ve heard, and knowing my friend not to be the type to exaggerate to make him seem cooler than he is, she is kind of a big wig (six-figure salary, easy) and does a lot of work directly with the commissioner. During the pre-season he flew out to visit her in Cali and before he booked his flight for the weekend she “warned” him that the Sunday he was there, they probably wouldn’t do a lot except stay in and watch football.

The poor bastard.

Right now the NFL is in the process of the assuming control of all the team websites and his boo is the one overseeing the transition. I didn’t know this but up until now, every NFL team website was run by the team, who typically outsourced this work to some kind of independent contractor. This is why last year, if you went to New York Jets team website and then perused the Baltimore Ravens site, it would be two entirely different animals. Those days are done. All of these sites will now officially be informed and tidy; ran and regulated by the NFL and its staff. From what I was told, this is a pretty big undertaking. The way the transition is/was handled, is they would work on 2-4 teams' sites at a time and bang it out. Apparently, the NFL specifically waited to do the Cowboys last, so they could concentrate all of their time and people solely on the team’s site, thereby limiting glitches and like, in an attempt to not piss off Jerry Jones and Dallas Cowboys corporation. Jerry Jones runs the NFL and Roger Goodell is a figure head and nothing more. I have this on good sources.

Back to the team and current season.

Technically, at least on paper anyway, the Dallas Cowboys are the 6th worst team in the NFL. Below them you have: the San Francisco 49ers (1-5), Cleveland Browns (1-5), Detroit Lions (1-5), Buffalo Bills (0-5), and the Carolina Panthers (0-5). Really, the Cowboy’s record should be 4-1. I’ve seen a bunch of articles and sports writers try and place the blame on Tony Romo or head coach Wade Phillips. The 1-and-4 is because of penalties. Plain and simple. I will not hear otherwise. Break it down.

What happened? Tony Romo finds a wide open Roy Williams in the endzone for the game tying touchdown (win if the extra point is good) with zero ticks on the clock. In all likelihood the kick would have been made and in the words of John Madden, “BOOM! Cowboys win 14-13.” But they did not win. They lost 13-7 to the Washington Redskins because the touchdown was negated on a holding call from offensive tackle Alex Barron.


What happened? Romo had two picks, but also had 374 yards and score. The defense failed to make stops and gave up of couple of big plays that resulted in Chicago touchdowns. TE Jason Witten, easily the Cowboys best 3rd down option, had to leave the game due to an injury. Roy Williams also had a 4th quarter fumble. Cowboys lost 27-20. Again penalties killed a bunch of drives.


What happened? Cowboys won, beating the Houston Texans 27-13.



What happened? Cowboys tie the game late in the 4th quarter 27-27, with less than five minutes in the game. It was a 18-yard strike from Romo to Witten. I was going crazy. We had the momentum. The defense was jacked and I knew the Titans were going to have to punt on their next series and we would have had plenty of time at least get in field goal range. Instead they lost 34-27 to Tennessee because after Witten scored the touchdown he handed the ball to offensive tackle, Marc Colombo, who spiked it and fell down after a chest bump. Penalty: excessive celebration, 15-yards enforced on the ensuing kickoff. So instead of kicking off at the 30 and maybe getting a touchback, forcing Vince Young to march 80 yards on the Boys’; Dallas had to kick from the 15. Tennessee returned the kick 73-yards, setting up a 1-yard Chris Johnson TD.


For those of keeping score at home, that is two losses you can credit to stupid penalties.

What happened? On this loss I have two places where I can put blame. Special Teams and penalties? I’ll stick with the trend and go penalties. Never mind a Percy Harvin, 95-yard kick return for a touchdown. I want to point to the three HUGE pass interference calls. The first big one, yanked back a 68-yard Miles Austin touchdown because of offensive pass interference. The second was on 2nd and 3 when Michael Jenkins had a 23-yard defensive pass interference called on him. Minnesota didn’t score, but Jenkins drew all sorts of attention to himself the rest of the game. Now the killer. Fourth quarter, 2:32 to play. Minnesota has the ball, and it is 3rd and 6. Guess who gets their second defensive pass interference call of the game. Thanks Jenkins. Not only did you allow the Vikings to chew more clock, but gave your team crappy field position to work with after the Vikings finally punted. In mini-defense of Jenkins and because I’m such a homer, the ball was thrown over the receivers head making it BY DEFINITION “uncatchable” thereby nullifying the PI call. Whatever. Cowboys lose 24-41.


There you have it. Three games the Cowboys lost because of careless penalties. Hold a mirror next to their record and you see what record they ought to have. Drive me nuts to think about it. To take a positive from all of this, penalties can be overcome and stopped. And I have no confidence whatsoever in any of the other teams in the NFC East. Ok, maybe the Eagles when Vick gets back because not even a two stint in federal prison can contain his game. Regardless, I would much rather have penalty problems and be 1-and-4, then have a: we-have-no-talent-on-our-team-lets-resort-to-Ryan-Leaf-for-our-starting-quaterback 1-and-4. It could be worse. It has been worse. Also the running game over the last two games and shown some bright glimmers. Felix Jones had some moments against the Titans (109 rushing yards), sort of becoming the player I hoped he would be when I drafted him in my fantasy league. Last week he was forgettable against Minny, then again they have one of the Top 10 defenses in the league.

Looking back at the Tennessee game with more depth, maybe the hope of the run game is a farce. Maybe, just maybe, Dallas made it a point to get Felix Jones a bunch of carries so the game comparison of their running back—who they drafted in the 1st round with the 22nd overall pick—didn’t look so terrible alongside Tennessee’s running back (Chris Johnson)—who they drafted in the 1st round with the 24th overall pick. Doh!

And what has happened to Marion Barber. I used to think his game faded because he was too much of a banger and those hits have taken their toll. It could be why he is not the goal line guy they want him to be. Not the case. You see children, sometimes in sports how well a player plays, or the type of position they play; magically and unexplainably depend on that person’s name. I touched briefly on it in an older column. Many of you have probably forgotten that Marion Barber used to go by Marion Barber III. The Third. His secret power. Week 6 of the 2007 season was the last time we knew him as The Third. After that, he was just plain ole’ MB instead of the powerful MB3. Doesn’t MB3 sound so much cooler. Wouldn’t you feel super confident in your fantasy draft saying, “With my next pick I will take MB3”? Don’t believe me? Peep this:

The 35 games played when he was MB3, Marion Barber The Third
Averaged 4.9 YPC (career best)
Rushed for 14 TDs in 2006 (career best)
26 total TDs (3 receiving)

In the 45 games since dropping The Third
Averaged 3.8 YPC
Best rushing TD season was 2007/2008 (7)
24 total TDs (3 receiving)

Less production, 10 more games. For Samson it was his long locks; for Barber it was his generational suffix. The Third baby. Don’t mess.

To close, let us look at the weeks Monday night match-up against the New York Giants. In the Romo era the Dallas Cowboys are 4-5 when playing them, including a playoff loss. Their last meeting, at New York, turned out to be a Dallas loss 31-24, in which Romo went off for 392 yards and 3 TDs (no picks). Since these teams pretty much win every other, look for Dallas to get their first home win of the season come Monday and more importantly look for them to get their season back on track. Remember last year, the Titans starts 0-6 and then went 8-2 over the rest of season—narrowly missing the playoffs. Anything is possible. To say this team is not capable of doing the same or better is just stupid. No knee-jerk reaction from this Cowboys fan. Yeah buddy.

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