Daily Archives: October 1st, 2011

AP: ‘North Dallas Forty’ author Peter Gent dies

North Dallas Forty by Peter Gent

North Dallas Forty by Peter Gent

BANGOR, Mich. — Peter Gent, a writer whose book about the seamier side of football was made into a popular movie, “North Dallas Forty,” has died in his native Michigan.

D.L. Miller Funeral Home says Gent died Friday at age 69 in Bangor, where he grew up. No other details were immediately available.

Gent was a star basketball player at Michigan State University in the 1960s. He didn’t play college football but got an NFL tryout with the Dallas Cowboys in 1964 and played five seasons.

“North Dallas Forty” was his 1973 novel about pro football, a work that was turned into a movie six years later, starring Nick Nolte and Mac Davis.

RELATED: Former NFL player and author Peter Gent dies – His book, ‘North Dallas Forty,’ was made into a movie.

BANGOR, Mich. — Former NFL player Peter Gent, whose book about the seamier side of football was made into the movie, “North Dallas Forty,” has died in his native Michigan. He was 69.

Gent had been ailing for months and died Friday from a pulmonary illness at his boyhood home in Bangor in western Michigan, where he had lived since 1990, his son Carter Gent said Saturday.

Gent was a star basketball player at Michigan State University in the 1960s. He didn’t play college football but got an NFL tryout with the Dallas Cowboys in 1964 and played five seasons with the team.

His 1973 novel “North Dallas Forty” dealt with drugs, sex, greed and self-preservation in pro football. It was made into a movie six years later, starring Nick Nolte as an aging player and Mac Davis as a quarterback. Gent wrote a sequel, “North Dallas After Forty,” as well as other books, including a memoir about coaching his son’s baseball team, “The Last Magic Summer: A Season With My Son.”

Gent was drafted by the NBA’s Baltimore Bullets after averaging 21 points a game in his final season at Michigan State. Instead, he headed to Dallas to try his hand at football.

“He had heard you’d get $500 just for showing up,” said Carter Gent, 35, of Kalamazoo. “The wide receivers coach liked him. He was long and lean and had good hands.”

Carter Gent said his father seemed pleased with how the movie “North Dallas Forty” turned out but he usually didn’t watch it years later.

“He was just a brilliant guy who had a lot of other interests. He read a lot and loved history,” Carter Gent said. “Watching sports didn’t do much for him.” Gent, who was divorced, also is survived by a daughter, Holly Gent Palmo of Austin, Texas; a brother, Jamie Gent; and four grandchildren.

Courtesy: The Chicago Tribune; Los Angeles Times, AP

RIVAL: Dallas Cowboys’ Rob Ryan, ‘We work against better receivers’ than Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson (BONUS: Video)

Rob Ryan

AP Photo Will Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson leave Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan scratching his head after their game on Sunday?

IRVING, Texas — It seems Calvin Johnson has some more work to do if he wants to be considered among the best wide receivers in football.

Sure, he’s opened the season with three straight two-touchdown games for the Detroit Lions, but according to Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, his secondary sees tougher competition in practice.

“We work against better receivers with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant,” Ryan told the Dallas Morning News’ Brandon George. “They are probably two of the premier receivers in football, but this guy is right there. He’s almost that good. He’s excellent.”

Well, no, yes, yes, no and yes.

Austin and Bryant are very dangerous receivers, but to say they’re better than Johnson is just short of remarkable. They’re definitely two of the better receivers in the NFL, and Johnson is certainly “right there.” But again, he’s not almost as good as the Cowboys duo; he’s at least as good and, like Ryan said, is excellent.

No offense to Bryant, but he’s not the freakish athlete Johnson is. Johnson is taller, bigger, faster and can jump higher. Statistically, the Cowboys’ first-round pick (18th overall) from last year’s draft isn’t worth comparing after just 14 games.

(Just for S&G, Johnson averages more receptions, yards and touchdowns than Bryant.)

in 14 games, Bryant has averaged 3.7 receptions 50 yards and half a touchdown to Johnson’s 4.5, 70 yards and .57

Even taking away the nine games of Austin’s rookie season during which his stat line is filled with bagels, the two aren’t close, statistically. Since the beginning of the 2007 season, Austin has played in one game less than Johnson has.

Yet the statistics show a landslide Johnson victory: 286 catches for 4,416 yards and 39 touchdowns versus Austin’s 182 catches for 2,948 yards and 25 touchdowns. Johnson even holds the edge in rushing, averaging 8.7 yards a carry for eight touchdowns while Austin averages 8.9 yards per carry for just one score.

Physically, again, Johnson is taller, bigger, faster and can jump higher than Austin.

Of course, the superiority of one wide receiver doesn’t guarantee victory for Detroit. Not by a long shot, considering Dallas’ impressive defense.

“We’re going to get after him,” Ryan said. “I know he’s on some touchdown thing like that, whatever. [Lions offensive coordinator] Scott Linehan has done this before with great receivers with Randy Moss. If the guy is as good as Randy Moss I’m going to go in there and hide. Thank God he’s not, but he’s a pretty [expletive] good player.”

Whether or not Johnson compares favorably to Moss is another discussion. And maybe the Cowboys will be able to slow the Lions superstar. But hopefully it won’t be too hard to find Ryan among the other ostriches after the game.

Courtesy: Philip Zaroo | MLive.com

TBAB comment: This headline broke in Dallas a few days ago. The take I had was that Rob Ryan was blowing smoke (which he, as you know, tends to do) … making a comment to make his receivers feel like they’re in the upper echelon of the NFL (which they are). I think it was more of an afterthought than an intentional stab at Johnson. The headline is making the rounds in Detroit. Thought you’d enjoy their view on this “non-story” in Dallas.

ORIGINAL STORY (Dallas Morning News):

IRVING — Rob Ryan faces perhaps his toughest task yet as the Cowboys defensive coordinator: This week, Ryan has to find a way to slow Detroit standout receiver Calvin Johnson.

Ryan said Friday that Johnson is “a great receiver,” but not as good as the Cowboys receiving duo of Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Johnson has two touchdowns in each of the Lions’ three games so far.

“We work against better receivers with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. They are probably two of the premier receivers in football, but this guy is right there,” Ryan said. “He’s almost that good. He’s excellent.

“We’re going to get after him. I know he’s on some touchdown thing like that, whatever. [Lions offensive coordinator] Scott Linehan has done this before with great receivers with Randy Moss. If the guy is as good as Randy Moss I’m going to go in there and hide. Thank God he’s not, but he’s a pretty [expletive] good player.”

RR locker room interview - click to watch (about 9 minutes)

 Ryan: We Work Against Better Receivers

In a very entertaining interview, Rob Ryan talks about how he thinks his defense goes up against two receivers that are better than Calvin Johnson every week in practice.

Talkin’ Cowboys: Mane Event (video)

Talkin Cowboys with Mickey Spagnola and Rob Phillips

Talkin Cowboys with Mickey Spagnola and Rob Phillips - Click to watch video

Final notes before the Dallas Cowboys take on the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

This is a weekly show, lasts about an hour. Video will open in a separate window, so you can listen while you browse or read.

Jason Garrett Press Conference: Friday (video)

Jason Garrett Press Conference - Click to watch video

Jason Garrett spoke to the media before his team began it’s final day of preparations for the Detroit Lions.

Dallas Cowboys Today: Romo’s Weapons (video)

 
Dallas Cowboys Today - watch video

Dallas Cowboys Today - watch video

Rob Phillips joins Leah Watkins in the studio to talk about what options in attack will be available to Tony Romo on Sunday.

NFL LOSS: Former Titans OC Mike Heimerdinger dies of cancer at age 58

Click on the picture to watch this video

Click on the picture to watch this video

Former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger died Friday night while in Mexico to receive experimental cancer treatments following a 10-month battle with the disease. He was 58.

“It is with a heavy heart, but a trust in God, that we say goodbye to our beloved Dinger who lost his courageous battle with cancer,” Heimerdinger’s wife, Kathie, said in a statement Saturday. “Mike approached cancer with the same vigor and tenacity that he approached any football game — to win. Even in the final minutes he never gave up — that was our Dinger.”

Heimerdinger, who worked under then-Titans coach Jeff Fisher, relinquished his duties indefinitely upon being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer the day before last Thanksgiving. He later was fired by new Tennessee coach Mike Munchak in February.

Heimerdinger served two stints as the Titans’ offensive coordinator — from 2000 to 2004 and again from 2008 to 2010 — and held the same position with the New York Jets in 2005. Heimerdinger also was an assistant head coach for the Denver Broncos from 2006 to 2007.

Known as a private man, Heimerdinger always tried to downplay his fight with cancer.

“I’m not the first one to have this and go to work and do it,” he said last December. “I just happen to have a disease, but I’m not dying, and I’m not going down the drain, and I don’t feel special. I think there’s a lot of people that fight through this thing just like me that just aren’t offensive coordinators of NFL teams, so they don’t get credit.”

Before breaking into the NFL in 1995, Heimerdinger was an offensive coordinator in college at Duke (1994), Rice (1989 to 1993) and Cal State Fullerton (1988).

Heimerdinger, who grew up in Illinois, played wide receiver at Eastern Illinois and also was a standout baseball player. He is a member of the university’s Hall of Fame.

RIVAL: Detroit Lions face daunting task establishing the run against Dallas Cowboys’ front seven

jahvid-best.jpg

AP Photo Detroit running back Jahvid Best didn't see a lot of running room against the Vikings, and can't expect to see much more in Dallas when they battle the Cowboys.

ALLEN PARK — The Detroit Lions are 3-0, but there are still plenty areas for improvement. While the team is racking up the points, averaging 33.7 per game, and torching opposing secondaries to the tune of 322 yards per contest, the Lions have struggled to establish the run.

Heading into a Week 4 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys, the Lions’ run game ranks 26th in the NFL, gaining just 78.3 yards on the ground per game.

It’s not from a lack of effort. The Lions are seventh in the league in attempts, pounding the rock 28 times each Sunday.

For those of you not carrying a calculator, that comes out to a paltry 2.8 yards per carry, ranking them 30th in the NFL ahead of only the San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans. (Sympathetic shout out to anyone who drafted Chris Johnson and Frank Gore in your fantasy leagues.)

Well, don’t expect a trip to Dallas this Sunday to be the cure for the Lions’ woes. The Cowboys have been elite at stopping the run, holding their first three opponents to averages of 61.3 yards per game and 3.0 yards per carry.

Ouch.

“It’s not just their talent, it’s the scheme also,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “Their scheme is designed to make a team one-dimensional and take the run away and be able to get after the passer after it’s one-dimensional.

Detroit’s lead back, Jahvid Best, who is one of the league leaders in yards from scrimmage because of his impact in Detroit’s passing attack, has seen his rushing numbers drop each week. Against the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday, Best was limited to just 14 yards on 12 carries. He knows he’s facing a similar challenge this Sunday.

“Their defense, their mind frame, is to shut down the run,” Best said. “When they get up there, those guys are really good at reading run first. We just have to take what they give us. If they come out and drop a bunch of guys, we should run. If they get up there and load the box up trying to stop the run, we should throw the ball on them all day.”

DeMarcus Ware, who leads the NFL in sacks, gets most of the press on the Dallas defense, but it’s a collective effort from their front seven keys their effectiveness.

“Their front seven, their linebackers, their interior player (Jay) Ratliff, this is a great defense, not a good defense,” Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “That’s a tough matchup for any offensive line. It’s not like you can concentrate on one side, or one interior player. You’re talking about having those speed guys on the outside and a guy like Ratliff does in the middle, it’s a tough duty.”

One of those linebackers, Sean Lee, was the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September. In his second year out of Penn State, Lee racked up 31 tackles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions in Dallas’ first three games.

“He’s got great range – a very productive tackler,” Schwartz said. “He’s always around the ball, and that shows in his interception totals. He’s young. He’s added a dimension for them because he brings them so much speed at the linebacker position.”

Offensive center Dominic Raiola echoed Best’s sentiments when asked what the Lions need to do to crack the Cowboys’ run defense. But if the Lions strategy is to just take what Dallas gives them, be prepared to see Matthew Stafford throwing the ball early and often.

Courtesy: Justin Rogers | MLive.com

Dallas Cowboys coaches: Jason Garrett, Rob Ryan practically two peas in a pod

Dallas Cowboy coaches Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan

Dallas Cowboy coaches Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan

IRVING — Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan say they’re more alike than anyone thinks.

When it comes to football.

“We’re both smart. And we both want to win. We do everything we can to win,” Ryan said, then he couldn’t resist some extra fun: “I think the only difference maybe is in appearance. He’s got a long way to go there.”

And in vocabulary?

“He uses some big words,” Ryan said. “There’s no question. And I got a ways to go there.”

Ryan was in a good mood Friday at Valley Ranch, and why not? His defense ranks fifth in the NFL in overall defense, second in rushing defense and 12th in passing defense.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has noticed, and he said Ryan’s competitiveness is one of the reasons the two seemingly different personalities are working well.

“One of the things that was so attractive to me about Rob when he showed up for an interview was how much we hit it off and how natural it was right from the start,” Garrett said. “I had great respect for him from afar as a position coach and as a coordinator, and then when we got together and started talking football, it was really, really natural. I think our values about life and about football are very similar. We hit it off right from the start.”

Key Matchups: Detroit Lions vs Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys OG Kyle Kosier vs. Lions DT Ndamukong Suh: I have this listed as a matchup of Kosier against Suh, but it really could become a matchup of Suh against Kosier and center Phil Costa.

Suh can be a dominant player inside. The traits that make him so impressive are his ability to get pressure and push inside through just sheer power and strength. When you study Suh, you always see him attacking the blocker with a wide variety of moves. He is relentless in his effort and pursuit. He plays with quickness with his hands and feet. There is explosiveness to his game.

The Cowboys have to be careful if the scheme or the situation requires that Costa has to help Kosier with Suh, and that leaves left guard Bill Nagy one-on-one with Corey Williams or Sammie Hill. When Nagy struggles, it is with bigger players. Both Williams and Hill go 320-plus pounds and can get inside push.

In the running game, look for the Cowboys to try to down or angle block Suh, working to his outside. The Vikings had success some success against Suh when they didn’t try to block him straight up in the running game and allowed him to run up the field.

The plan for the Lions will be simple: use their four man line, get push in the middle with Suh and close the edges with Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril giving Tony Romo no room to operate. The Cowboys could counter by doubling Suh when they can to control him but making sure that Nagy doesn’t have to fight Williams and Hill one-on-one many snaps.

Cowboys CBs Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins vs. Lions WR Calvin Johnson: This matchup appears better for the Cowboys with Newman in the lineup than it would have two weeks ago with Alan Ball potentially making a start. Newman and Jenkins will have an all-day fight on their hands with one of the most physical and dynamic receivers in the game.

What makes Johnson so difficult is that he has outstanding hands and the ability to use his body to go get the football. He has legitimate speed down the field and can eat up a corner’s cushion quickly. He is the type of player that is on you right now. You feel him when he runs his routes. He attacks the ball whether it’s in the open field or in the red zone.

He has a quarterback in Matthew Stafford that is not afraid to throw it to him on any point in the drive. Johnson is most dangerous when he is able to get separation because he can cover some serious ground when he catches the ball on the move.

Both Jenkins and Newman have the speed to run with Johnson and I like Jenkins’ more physical style to match up better than Newman when fighting for the ball in the air. Stafford is an accurate quarterback, but Newman and Jenkins need to make those throwing windows as tight as possible and not allow Johnson to take this game over.

Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware vs. Lions OTs Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus: Rob Ryan has done an outstanding job of taking his pressure players and putting them in a situation where they can take advantage of weaker opponents. This week, the Cowboys face an offensive line that has issues.

At tackle, Backus and Cherilus aren’t good enough to block Ware — or Anthony Spencer, for that matter. I don’t see the Lions being able to run the ball against the Cowboys, but they can make plays in the passing game. The key will be how much pressure Ware and Spencer can get on Stafford.

Look for Ryan to really try to attack this pocket and force this Lions’ offensive line to have to pick up blitzes. Ryan will have to try to get rushers home before the ball gets out of Stafford’s hand. Ware can cause problems over Backus, who can’t bend and adjust, much-like the broken-down version of Marc Colombo we watched all last season. Ware is just too athletic for Backus, and if the Lions do not try and help him, the left tackle could be in for a long day.

If the Lions do help Backus, look for Ryan to continue to move Ware around until he finds the matchup he likes. If not over Backus, then Cherilus is an option, too.

RIVAL: Lions’ Suh says he wants to win at Cowboys Stadium, for once

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh appreciates the grandeur of Cowboys Stadium. But he doesn’t have warm feelings about the place.

He talked to Detroit reporters this week about how he’s 0-2 there. His Nebraska team lost to Texas in the Big 12 championship game in 2009, despite his 12 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks.

Last year, he had eight tackles for the Lions in a 35-19 loss to the Cowboys.

“Yeah, I don’t really like that stadium,” he said. “I’m 0-2 in that stadium. So I plan on going down there this week, kind of my own extra oomph getting after this game. I want to come out a winner at least once in that stadium. I don’t know how many times I’ll be able to play in that stadium.

“But definitely that stadium has a great feel to it,” he said. “I think anybody in that type of situation, and really just playing in the NFL, you want to have big games whenever you can. But for me, I definitely have a lot more energy going into this game just because I haven’t come out with a win out of that stadium yet.”

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