Category Archives: Mickey Spagnola

REALLOCATING ROMO’S RESTRUCTURE: Absurd Adrian Peterson assumption analyzed | Salary-Cap Swallowed Space

Cowboys ironworks - Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back website 2015

IRVING, Texas – With so many putting two and two together and coming up with eight, maybe we should perform a little Dallas Cowboys salary cap analysis to shed some light on this situation.  Continue reading →

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FALLOUT FOLLOW-UP: Hansen on Hardy–Wife thinks he went too far | Charlotte Jones Anderson not afraid of 2nd chance opportunity | Diggin’ Deeper | Mark Cuban Chimes in | Hot Air Hansen | Salary Break-down | Greg Hardy poll

Dale Hansen on the Dan Patrick Show (Full Interview)

WFAA’s Dale Hansen joined the Dan Patrick Show on Thursday to discuss his comments on Greg Hardy. Here are some highlights from the interview. Continue reading →

2015-2016 DALLAS COWBOYS: GM swaps DM’s–From DeMarco Murray 2 Darren McFadden | Scouting Report–Then & Now | The Fiscal Free-Agency Formula | Jerry Jones official statement | RB ROPES RIVAL–DeMarco Murray officially a wealthy Philadelphia Eagle

2015-2016 DALLAS COWBOYS - The GM DM swap–From DeMarco Murray 2 Darren McFadden - Scouting Report–Then & Now

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COWBOYS DOLLARS AND SENSE: Dez, from Tags to Riches | DeMarco Deal of Fortune | The Timeframe Temptation with Tony Romo’s contract | Jerry Jones extensive interview | Bonus MP3 audio download

COWBOYS DOLLARS AND SENSE: From Tags to Riches | DeMarco Deal of Fortune | The Timeframe Temptation with Tony Romo’s contract | Jerry Jones extensive interview | Bonus MP3 audio download

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2014-2015 GAME 9 PRIMER: Cardinals vs. Cowboys | Romo rest, Weeden test | Rushman DeMarcus Lawrence activated | Josh Brent signs extension | Keeping Hope Alive | Injury and Practice Report

2014-2015 GAME 9 PRIMER - Cardinals vs. Cowboys - Romo rest, Weeden test - Rushman DeMarcus Lawrence activated - Josh Brent signs extension - Keeping hope alive - Injury and Practice Report

IRVING, Texas – It’s looking more and more likely that Brandon Weeden will start Sunday against Arizona, but the Cowboys aren’t willing to rule Tony Romo out just yet.  Continue reading →

2014-2015 GAME 8 RECAP: Washington vs. Dallas | Tuesday’s Monday Morning Quarterback Report | In-Depth insider viewpoints and analysis of the Cowboys loss | Game takeaways and talking points | Moving on to the next game

2014-2015 GAME 8 RECAP: Washington vs. Dallas | Tuesday’s Monday Morning Quarterback Report | Insider viewpoints and analysis of the Cowboys loss

ARLINGTON, Texas – The capacity crowd at AT&T Stadium buzzed when Tony Romo returned to the Cowboys’ sideline – it downright roared when he returned to the field in a tie game.

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MASTERMINDING A MARINELLI MIRACLE: Anticipating the Dallas Cowboys 55th NFL Training Camp | Overcoming historic 2013 defensive struggles | Defensive coordinator faced with restoring faith in America’s Team

MASTERMINDING A MARINELLI MIRACLE - Anticipating the Dallas Cowboys 55th NFL Training Camp - Overcoming historic 2013 defensive struggles - Defensive coordinator faced restoring faith in America’s Team

IRVING, Texas – Defense … defense … defense.

That will be the Dallas Cowboys battle cry when they land Tuesday (July 22, 2014) at Naval Air Station Point Mugu in Southern California.

Defense … defense … defense.

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UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: 1-on-1 interview with DT Henry Melton, your newest Dallas Cowboy | NFL Free Agency 2014

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL - 1-on-1 interview with DT Henry Melton, your newest Dallas Cowboy - NFL Free Agency 2014

Meet Henry Melton | “This Was The Best Fit For Me” | 3:41

Insider Mickey Spagnola caught up with the Dallas Cowboys newest defensive lineman Henry Melton right after he signed his contract at Valley Ranch. (Watch Video | Play Audio)


UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL - 1-on-1 interview with DT Henry Melton, your newest Dallas Cowboy - NFL Free Agency 2014 - Melton signing contract with Dallas Cowboys

IRVING, Texas – Henry Melton officially signed his one-year contract with a three-year team option today in Dallas at Valley Ranch.

The Dallas Cowboys new three-technique defensive tackle, who agreed to terms with the Cowboys on Tuesday, believes he should be ready to roll fully by training camp after an ACL injury ended his 2013 season early.

“Anybody that checks me out and looks at my knee, they’re all saying training camp is a good day,” Melton said.

That’s good news for the Cowboys, who just picked up the defensive tackle widely regarded as the best player left in free agency at his position.

The Cowboys signed Melton believing he can get back to being the player who accumulated seven sacks in 2011 and six sacks in 2012, but the unique contract Melton signed gives the team some protection. Melton, who’s from the Dallas area and went to high school in nearby Grapevine, Texas, will only count $2.75 million against the cap with a $1.25 base salary in 2014 and can earn up to $5 million this year.

If Melton proves himself worthy by getting back to his Pro Bowl level of play and is on the roster by the start of the 2015 season, the team can exercise their three-year option. That’ll raise Melton’s price tag, give him reportedly $9 million in guaranteed money and allow him to get paid on par with some of the top defensive tackles in the league.

Melton knows he has to earn that three-year option or risk returning to free agency, and that doesn’t bother him. He said this year in Dallas is a proving ground, and pairing back up with Rod Marinelli, his former defensive coordinator during his best years in Chicago, adds to his faith he can return to form.

“It’s like you’re betting on yourself,” Melton said. “I feel like with me and my rehab and coming back with Rod and the good defense that’s here, I can get back to that form. I believe in that, and obviously they believe in me to get it done.”

Melton had surgery on his knee in October, but he’s already sprinting and lifting and gradually working his way back into shape. He’s five and a half months removed from the surgery, and he said every team he visited, including the doctors in Dallas, said he’s on track with where he needs to be to return for training camp.

Despite the injury, Melton still garnered significant interest in free agency and made visits to the Vikings and the Seahawks before coming to Dallas. He said he didn’t know what to expect in terms of offers from teams when he entered free agency off the knee injury, but he wasn’t worried about it.

“God has a plan for everybody,” Melton said. “It was all out of my hands. My agent really didn’t know what the market value was. We were just going to visit some teams, see where everyone’s heads were at. I came here and pretty much fell in love, so that was the end of that story.”

Melton also had a visit set up with the Rams after leaving Dallas with no deal, but he said he knew when he visited the Cowboys that he wanted to be in Dallas.

“They really wanted me to come,” Melton said. “I looked at what I can do here and what they’re trying to build here.”

Melton said Dallas felt familiar, from the actual surroundings to the defensive system he’ll be playing in. After losing DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher in free agency, the Cowboys need to rely on Melton as the primary disruptive force in the middle.

The Dallas Cowboys saw at home, in first person, what Melton was capable of doing to an offensive line. Melton began his Pro Bowl 2012 season with four sacks in the first three games, including one on Tony Romo at AT&T Stadium.

“I had about 30 people there,” Melton recalled. “The atmosphere there is just crazy. I was back home and everything was just clicking. It was a great game.”

At only 27, The Dallas Cowboys hope he’s still got many more of those left in the tank.

THIS WEEKS FREE AGENCY FRENZY: The dollars n’ sense of the Dallas Cowboys NFL Salary Cap | 2014 NFL Free Agent Review

2014-2015 FREE AGENCY REVIEW - The dollars n’ sense of the Dallas Cowboys NFL Salary Cap - NFL Free Agent Frenzy - The Boys Are Back website

IRVING, Texas – First the good news.

As expected the Dallas Cowboys successfully ducked under the NFL salary cap last week despite all the consternation being made out there.

By this afternoon they still had roughly $7 million of cap space, and by June 1 they will add another $5.5 million when the release of Miles Austin takes effect, basically a savings fund to absorb this year’s rookie pool, projected to cost them roughly $5.3 million for their eight draft choices.

Oh, and this may be a reach, but the current Dallas Cowboys Top 51 cap figure for 2015 is only $108 million, but then that doesn’t account for Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith’s option ($10.5 million), Doug Free, DeMarco Murray, Bruce Carter, Ronald Leary, and Miles Austin’s $5 million more of dead money that rolls over into next year. But still, that’s better than this year right, when the Cowboys were projected to be nearly $25 million over the cap heading toward March 11 before the cap increased nearly $7 million (to $133 million).

Now the bad news, and be forewarned, you might not have the stomach for all this.

As you know, after the Dallas Cowboys released DeMarcus Ware the Broncos signed him in the blink of an eye to a three-year deal too rich for the Cowboys’ cap blood to match. Then it took Washington all of two full days to sign unrestricted free agent Jason Hatcher to a four-year deal, another one too rich for the Cowboys’ salary cap constitution, and the Redskins seem to also be flirting with Cowboys unrestricted free agent Anthony Spencer, although with his knee condition there should be a buyer-beware tag on him. And the Cowboys no longer own the rights to wide receiver Miles Austin, designating him a June 1 release.

Now the Cowboys did ink a couple of guys, defensive end Jeremy Mincey and defensive tackle Terrell McClain, but remember, Denver didn’t even attempt to re-sign Mincey and the Texans didn’t even offer McClain a minimum restricted free-agent tender ($1.4 million). At least the Dallas Cowboys didn’t commit a lot of cap dough to them.

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NFL FREE AGENCY DOLLARS AND SENSE: Ask yourself … if they’re so good, why are they Free Agents? | Special Feature

THREE AND OUT - Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin unlikely vs. San Diego Chargers - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys injury update

IRVING, Texas – Every year around this time of year there seems to be four constants:

  • The dining room table is cluttered with piles and piles of tax return material.
  • Time springs forward over the weekend.
  • Local and national hysteria over what’s portrayed as the Dallas Cowboys untenable salary cap situation is muted when the team swiftly and efficiently ducks under the cap, just as they will have by Tuesday’s March 11 start to the NFL’s new league year.
  • NFL teams are preparing to obnoxiously overspend in free agency, that too commencing on March 11.

When it comes to NFL free agency my yearly mantra staunchly remains:

If these players available in free agency are so good, why are their current teams setting them free?

Makes perfect sense. That team should know everything there is to know about a guy, and if they don’t want to re-sign the player for whatever the going rate might be on the open market then what makes you think you’re so smart looking in from afar that you should take the gamble?

Dallas Cowboys lost one bona-fide player they should have kept, Ken Norton Jr. in first year of NFL free agency Stopping Thurman Thomas in Super Bowl - The Boys Are Back website 2014

See, if you look back over the history of the Dallas Cowboys, you can make an argument that since the start of free agency in 1994, the Cowboys really have lost only one bona-fide player they should have kept, that being Ken Norton Jr. in that first year of free agency. OK, maybe two, cornerback Ryan McNeil after the 2000 season when saddled in cap hell at the time.

But in general terms, the Cowboys mostly have managed to keep their own until they determined the player no longer was worth the free-agent expense.

Oh, you can pick and peck in free agency, do some bottom feeding and find serviceable help, maybe find an exception now and then to my rule, but usually you grossly overpay signing one of the considered top players in free agency.

Dallas Cowboys CB Deion Sanders - The Boys Are Back blog

See, looking back, most fans will say Deion Sanders was the best free agent the Dallas Cowboys ever signed. I disagree. They paid way too much for Sanders, even if they won Super Bowl XXX with him that first year. Hmmm, over the next four, they won only one more playoff game, and had only two more winning seasons to show for what turned out to be a five-year, $35 million contract that included a $12.999999 million signing bonus.

To me, the best free agent the Cowboys have ever signed, considering bang for their buck, has been defensive tackle La’Roi Glover (pictured) back in 2002. For five years, $22.5 million and just a $6 million signing bonus, they found themselves a four-time Pro Bowler – each year he was with the Cowboys before they released him in 2006.

Dallas Cowboys La’Roi Glover - The Boys Are Back website 2014

Man, for an average of $4.5 million, these days you can barely find yourself a starter.

So here we go on Tuesday, NFL Free Agency 2014. And yes, the Dallas Cowboys will be under the now official $133 million NFL salary cap. In fact, after the moves this week, the latest being officially releasing offensive lineman Phil Costa ($1.5 million) and reducing the scheduled $2.75 million base salary of Mackenzy Bernadeau on Friday, the Cowboys will be well under their official cap of $134.4 million. Maybe by as much as $2 million.

Certainly the near $7 million jump in the salary cap helped the Cowboys eliminate what began as roughly $24 million in cap excess. Then the foresight to roll over the $1.3 million of unspent 2013 cap space into this year helped increase theirs to the $134.4 million.

Still not a whole lot to go out speculating with in free agency.

Now that’s where Miles Austin and DeMarcus Ware come in. If the Cowboys decide to make Miles Austin a June 1 cut, they will recoup his $5.5 million base salary on June 1 and will be able to spread his unaccounted prorated bonus money over two seasons, $2.8 million this year and the rest, $3.9 million of dead money in 2015. So the savings this year would just about fund their draft, a projected rookie pool of $5.3 million … but push the dead money against the cap to just more than $15 million, nearly half ($6.9 million) caused by Jay Ratliff’s release.

As for Ware, a stare down appears headed our way, since the Cowboys do not want to do as they did with Tony Romo, Sean Lee and Orlando Scandrick by turning 2014 base salary into signing bonus to reduce their 2014 cap hits and spread that total over the remaining years of the contract.

demarcus ware teamed up with jason hatcher to take down cleveland qb brandon weeden - the boys are back blog

Appears as if the Cowboys want Ware, coming off another injury-riddled season, leading to a career-low six sacks, to take a pay cut on his $12.25 million scheduled base salary. At this point, Ware told me two weeks ago, un-uh on the pay cut, though his agent must find out quickly what the going rate on the open market might be if the Dallas Cowboys simply release him. Although doing so comes at a cap cost, $8.5 million in dead money this year, meaning that total, including Costa ($225,000) and if we include Austin, will now rise to nearly $24 million for nothing.

Oh, and remember, too, the Cowboys would have to spend money in some form or fashion to replace Ware since I don’t see a ready replacement on the roster to date.

Now then, what do the Cowboys know about Ware that would cause them to consider this hardline move? All they would need to know over a nine-year career. So if you were, say, Cleveland, would that not give you pause if you were considering paying him even $10 million this year when the team that likely will one day induct him into the Ring of Honor and likely attend his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction is choosing not to?

Which brings us back to the beginning of this discussion: If that other team doesn’t think their own guy is worth that much money, why would I think he is?

And need I remind you of some of this:

The St. Louis Rams are releasing cornerback Courtland Finnegan, who just two years ago in free agency signed a five-year, $50 million deal that was to include another $3 million roster bonus on March 13. Wasn’t worth the money, evidently.

The Atlanta Falcons, after signing defensive end Osi Umenyiora last year to a two-year, $8.5 million contract, with $5 million of it guaranteed and due a $1 million roster bonus this year, are asking him to take a pay cut or else …

I see also where the Falcons, after trading for cornerback Asante Samuel and signing him to a three-year, $14.7 million deal in 2012, are cutting him after two years and with but a $3.5 million base in the final year of his deal.

Oh, and how close did this come to being a nightmare for the Cowboys? At training camp in 2011 the Cowboys were all set to sign cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha for like five years, $50 million until at the last minute the Eagles came in with a five-year, $60 million offer for the ninth-year veteran, with $25 million of that guaranteed. He was cut by the Eagles after two seasons, played three games with the Niners this past year and now is retiring. Ouch.

Laughing about any of that now?

Certainly you can find exceptions to my rule, but to me, the percentages of hitting home runs in free agency are low. That’s not the way to build a team. You do that through the draft, and stop your howling, we’ve got two months to continue that discussion.

But let’s just look over the past three years. The Dallas Cowboys have signed 10 players considered unrestricted free agents. Only four of those guys are still with the team, although linebacker Justin Durant is in a tenuous situation and Kyle Orton appears to be threatening retirement.

And only two of the remaining four are considered starters, Bernadeau and corner Brandon Carr, a guy many fans are now screaming over the $50 million he was signed to just two years ago.

Simply put, you just overpay in free agency, same as a live auction when you start competing against other bidders. Like do you really think Muhammad Ali’s gloves he wore to beat Sonny Liston the first time, back 50 years ago on Feb. 25, 1964, while dad and I were listening on the radio, are worth the $836,500 they fetched two weeks ago? Please.

So here we go, same time next year again, and the Dallas Cowboys are insisting they will not be big players in free agency, at least from the start when the cost of doing business is greatly inflated.

And for that, you should hope they are men of their word.

Courtesy: Mickey Spagnola | Dallas Cowboys columnist

DALLAS COWBOYS FOOTBALL CLUB: Looking back at Jerry Jones’ 25 year ownership of America’s Team | Special Feature

DALLAS COWBOYS FOOTBALL CLUB - Looking back at Jerry Jones’ 25 year ownership of America’s Team - The Boys Are Back website 2014

IRVING, Texas – Man, 25 wild and crazy years, zigging and zagging, laughing and crying, running and running faster, trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Never, ever – ever – a dull moment, from the one win of 1989 that kept the Dallas Cowboys from an unprecedentedly poor 16-game NFL season to the eight wins – again – of 2013, one short of acceptable for the third straight year.

Who knew 25 years ago this past Tuesday, Feb. 25, 1989, sitting in the Dallas Cowboys team meeting room out here at what we then were referring to as Cowboys Ranch late that Saturday night, that so many lives would irrevocably change when the then-Arkansas stranger Jerral Wayne Jones was being introduced as just the third owner of the world-renowned Dallas Cowboys.

His life, along with those of his wife Gene’s and their three kids: Stephen, Charlotte and Jerry Jr.

The lives of so many who had worked for the Cowboys – made the Dallas Cowboys – from Day One or for the majority of those first 29 years of the NFL’s first expansion franchise’s existence.

The lives of those who would follow the Joneses to Dallas.

And our lives, too, those of us in the media crammed into a room big enough to house a team of football players but bursting at the seams with nearly everyone already on deadline when the long-awaited announcement began sometime after 8 p.m.

Mine especially.

Tex Schramm Jerry Jones Bum Bright - Dallas Cowboys history - Jerry Jones announcement as owner general manager Dallas Cowboys

Me, I have mental snapshots of that evening, seeing on one hand the pure joy and excitement laced with some anxiety of the Jones Family and all of Jerry’s partners when he was introduced as the next owner of the Dallas Cowboys. But on the other hand, there was basically the team’s godfather, Tex Schramm, standing off to the side, with the glum look of a man attending his own funeral, realizing then the fact he no longer had a seat on center stage was symbolic of what was to come.

Hey, if Tom Landry was no longer needed, and he wasn’t since Jimmy Johnson was coming along with Jones in a package deal and had already been told by Jones what previous owner Bum Bright should have since he more or less resented Landry, surely the appropriately named Tex was not long for his world of 29 years either.

There was Jones, with almost preacher-like enthusiasm, rapidly talking of immediately winning with the 3-13 team he was inheriting, emphasizing his positivity with a fist pounding the air.

There were the arched eyebrows of the skeptical media, wondering what in the world … realizing the 29 years of Cowboys stability was being rattled as if the ground beneath an Apollo capsule launching into space.

A new day was dawning at dusk.

The last snapshot: After the final 30 was put on however many stories we could pound out by midnight, several writers gathered in Tex’s office, soon to be Jerry’s and still is. Sitting-on-the-floor room only. Again, a day of celebration on one hand, and rightfully so when you pledge $140 million you didn’t really have for an NFL franchise and accompanying stadium that were losing money hand over fist, and on this other hand a somber gathering, reminiscing about the good old days that were mostly great but now suddenly just good and old, growing more feint by the minute in the rearview mirror.

It was as if with these stories Tex was giving away his final possessions over drinks – stiff ones I might add – with the very people he had heartily laughed with yet angrily sparred with oh the many years.

“This is a very sad night for me,” Tex said needlessly.

And I distinctly remember this too: My Dallas Times Herald teammate, Frank Luksa, who had covered the Cowboys and Tom and Tex from nearly their 1960 inception, a man who thought he had seen it all, sitting on the floor next to me. He began to rise, held up his near-empty drink in a toast, saying unbeknownst to the rest of us, “Well, time to go home to celebrate what remains of my birthday.”

Will never forget his birthdate, singed into my mind.

And this, too, I’ll never forget, ever. A few days later, March 1, my life, as I perceived at the time, was turned upside down. A guy who was the sports department’s general assignment writer, handling an assortment of jobs, from helping out on the Cowboys to the Rangers to the Mavericks, college football, basketball and baseball, writing lengthy features and having just come off the previous year of covering the Olympics in Calgary and then Seoul, was told the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones were your beat, buddy.

jerry jones sits with then university of miami coach jimmy johnson at a dallas restaurant. jones would hire johnson to replace tom landry soon after - the boys are back blog

You have been chosen to inherit the tradition set by such esteemed writers as Sherrod, Perkins, Luksa and Dent. No way, I said, not me. I’m not cut out for this. They told me I was perfectly fit, having helped out since the middle of the 1984 season and having covered nearly every game over what turned out to be the final four and a half seasons of Landry’s coaching career.

So there I went kicking and screaming, into what seemingly was a daily towering inferno. Every day – every day – there was something, starting with Jimmy Johnson’s introductory press conference on Monday, the Port Arthur native apologizing with hat in hand if he somehow had danced on Landry’s coaching grave, saying to those who had perceived so, “I’m sorry,” and me finishing my story that night with one line:

And so the Cowboys new era begins apologetically.

Then there came all the coaching changes. Jimmy’s new assistants being hired. Tom’s old assistants being fired.

Then there was Jerry, armed with the first pick in the NFL Draft saying, “Troy Aikman should play for half the price” just to get to be a part of the Dallas Cowboys organization. Oh my.

Next day having to do a long profile on Jimmy.

Next day Cowboys lower ticket prices for end-zone seats.

Then the start of Plan B free agency.

Then the owners meetings, along with the start of implementing instant replay and the league’s initial crackdown on steroids.

Then there was no vote on approving the Dallas Cowboys sale to Jones, leaving the deal hanging.

Then 29-year NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle’s retirement, he having just compared Landry’s dismissal with “the death of Lombardi.”

REFLECTIONS OF A CITY and NATION IN MOURNING - Understanding, and overcoming the obstacles of the 1960’s Dallas Cowboys - Tom Landry joins team in 1960

Then Jimmy’s first minicamp, along with the real possibility of Randy White and Danny White not being back with the team, which eventually came to fruition a few months later. Then the contract struggle with quarterback Steve Pelluer.

Let’s see, then Too Tall staying, Doug Cosbie leaving, Jimmy playing coy on Aikman being their No. 1 pick, Mike Sherrard leaving, Nate showing up at 358 pounds for offseason workouts, Barry Sanders challenging the NFL’s draft rules, petitioning as an unheard of underclassman for the draft. Landry throwing out the first pitch at a Rangers game. A Landry parade downtown Dallas. The schedule released, at New Orleans becoming the new era’s opener.

Tex Schramm resigning to head up the NFL’s Worldwide American Football League. Cowboys vice president Joe Bailey resigning to join him. Then eventually business manager Billy Hicks, too, to head across the pond. Then the NFL at a meeting in New York finally approving the sale to Jones. Then negotiations began with Aikman’s agent Leigh Steinberg. Then Aikman signing a six-year, $11 million deal, the richest contract for an NFL rookie to date as the Cowboys No. 1 pick. Then the draft.

Oh, we’re just getting started, and these moves were expected, Jerry wanting to get his own people in place, people he could trust not relying solely on those with allegiances to Tex and Tom. Sort of like if you’ve ever been to an Italian wedding or seen an old-day Italian restaurant run. Only the immediate family handles the money, you know, and immediate means wife, husband, kids, mother, father or grandparents. Seriously.

Then longtime Cowboys employees being let go: Day-Oner Gil Brandt, treasurer of 18 years Don Wilson, public relations man of 18 years Doug Todd, 22-year ticket manager Ann Lloyd. All hard to watch.

Gosh, and it wasn’t even May yet.

And remember, back in those days there were three daily newspapers in the Metroplex: ours, The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The competition was fierce. And remember, too, no internet. Ha, internet. No social media. No cell phones. Dimes and quarters were important commodities for payphones. You had one shot to get every story every night. And if you were a competitor you wanted the impossibility of every story every night, so that meant working to 11 nearly every night. Anxiety filled your sleep.

Then, well, mornings were hell. You were scared to death to grab those other papers for fear of getting beat in black and white. Remember, too, no updating if you didn’t have it all until the next day. Trying to keep up with Jerry and Jimmy was exhausting. They weren’t letting any grass grow under their feet. Blowin’ and goin’ was the slogan. Theirs was an immediate program, not some three-year plan.

By the first of June, felt as if my head was being centrifuged. We had a meeting of sorts, me and the sports editor, who told me I was doing a fine job. Maybe, I said, but I want out. I want my old job back. This is going to kill me. He said no way. I said I can’t. He said we’re eliminating your old position anyway.

I said, well, of course I’ll cover the Dallas Cowboys. Who wouldn’t want to, right? But again, not before agreeing kicking and screaming, having wanted desperately to run for cover.

So here it is 25 years later, and still covering the Cowboys in some form or fashion every single day since, and well, let’s see. By my count, the last game I missed was the season finale in 1988, 23-7 loss to Philadelphia. And swear, I’ve never done this before, so hang with me, that’s 25 seasons times 16 regular-season games a season, equaling, no way, an even 400 straight, along with the majority, but not every preseason game during that span of time.

Seen 1-15 and 13-3. Seen three Super Bowl victories and three consecutive seasons of 5-11. Seen a plane ride home from Philadelphia in 1991 after the Cowboys clinched their first playoff berth in six seasons – first winning season, too, in those six – that barely needed jet fuel to get off the ground, and now three consecutive seasons of 8-8.

Seen a losing franchise, both financially and athletically, become the richest in the United States and first to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span. Seen Hall of Fame coronations and the Jerry-Jimmy spat. Seen Switzer make me laugh until I thought I’d cry and Bill leave me in stitches even when he wasn’t trying to be funny. Seen Jimmy cry How ‘bout dem Cowboys! and smack those lips hard as he could losing those opening two games in 1993.

bill bates was the ultimate free agent for dallas cowboys - the boys are back blog

Seen triplets born to Bill Bates and Triplets land in the Ring of Honor. Seen Dave Campo come and go, and then come back again. Seen a free-agent quarterback rise into becoming the head coach and another rookie free-agent quarterback rise out of nowhere to become the franchise’s all-time leading passer. Seen Texas Stadium come crumbling down and AT&T Stadium rise from that gigantic hole in the ground.

Watched every carry of the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. Saw Michael Irvin the day he arrived hugging the life-sized cardboard cutout of Tom Landry and similarly hugging Jerry Jones the day he retired. Seen tragedies and attended funerals.

Seen it all for 25 years, every step of the way only because someone forced me to take that first step running after a guy I had never met until 25 years ago this past Tuesday. Exhausting, yes. Exhilarating, you bet.

Who knew?

And maybe the best part: 25 years is but a milestone. Got a feeling there’s still much more to come.

Courtesy: Mickey Spagnola | Columnist


RELATED: 25th Anniversary of Jerry Jones’ ownership of the Dallas Cowboys

Tex Schramm Jerry Jones Bum Bright - Dallas Cowboys history - Jerry Jones announcement as owner general manager Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back website 2014

25 Years – Jerry Jones reflects on buying Dallas Cowboys; Replacing Tom Landry

This day, 25 years ago, Jerry Jones purchased the Dallas Cowboys. Listen to the Jerry Jones himself talk about the trials of the purchase, and the journey through the last twenty-five years.

(Watch Video | Listen Audio)


former dallas cowboys coach jimmy johnson and barry switzer - the boys are back blog

Tuesday, Feb. 25 marked the 25th anniversary of Jerry Jones franchise purchase of the Dallas Cowboys from Bum Bright in 1989.

Jones spent more than an hour Sunday on the Cowboys bus outside Lucus Oil Stadium in Indianapolis reminiscing about the historic transaction and the days leading up to it _ the nervousness and excitement that caused him to develop a heart condition called Arrhythmia and the huge risk he took, considering the Cowboys were not only a mess on the field at the time but where swimming in debt, losing $1 million per month.

“It was quite a trying time for me. I get emotional talking about it and I’ve asked a professional about why I get emotional talking about it in public or private and they said, well, that was a traumatic time for you. It was a pretty significant reach risk-wise and I didn’t know how it was going to turn out, so it was a nervous time for me. I developed arrhythmia, and I had never had an unhealthy day in my life. Arrhythmia is called by a lot of people and a lot of med students get it. It was from not resting and never sleeping and then getting up just after you lay your head down. So that kind of describes for me that period of time.”

On the warning his father told him about what would happen if he failed:

“I didn’t know, but I quickly found out the visibility that was involved there. My father called me about 10 days, two weeks into this thing and he said, ‘Jerry, I had no idea this thing would have the visibility it’s got and he said, I don’t care you are a young guy, and he said, ‘I don’t care whether you do it by mirrors, smoke or what, if you are not successful, you’ve got to make it look successful or you will be known by a loser and you won’t be able to do anything else for the rest of your life in terms of getting people to go along with you.’ “

On his biggest regret:

“If I had a chance to do it over again I would’ve waited a year and just got my feet on the ground a little bit more and probably just gone with the staff that we had and then later made the ultimate changes that I made. If I had to do that over again, I probably would do it because probably it was the urgency with how fast we had to move. That got a lot of the criticism that the changes that were made with the staff.”

So you regret hiring Jimmy Johnson and firing Tom Landry so callously:

“I don’t regret what I said was looking back because that contributed to the seemingly insensitive way that coach Landry was changed out and that contributed to it, the fact that it was done at the same time that we made the announcement there 25 years ago, that we made the announcement that I was buying the team, that I was going to be the general manager and all of that was done almost the same night. As a matter of fact, that was done the same night. So if I look back at the criticism, that’s one where you might have taken more time.”

Was Jimmy Johnson always going to be the guy to replace Landry:

“I thought of Barry (Switzer). I did think of Barry. But Jimmy is, of course, more active. He probably had more proximity. I kept up with Jimmy. My oil and gas partners were in Oklahoma City and I spent a lot of time around them. They were very prominent in OSU, Oklahoma State’s athletic department.  So that all fit real good. When I called Jimmy to tell him that I was looking at it, that I was interested — what would you think about joining me? His quote was: ‘I always wanted to be with you, work with you. If you called me to sell insurance, I’d sell insurance.’ So actually Jimmy came on and we officially – not officially – but we announced he was going to be the head coach and it was a significant period of time after that before we every got around to doing an agreement about money, before we even talked about money. He committed and left Miami and came to the Cowboys before we even talked about money.”

Jones on the nervousness of the financial risk because of the state of the Cowboys and NFL:

“I was excited. I was very nervous. I knew I had huge financial obligations. I knew they were ahead of me and I didn’t have all the answers as to how we were going to address them. I knew there were a lot of pitfalls in just the buying of the Cowboys, not necessarily clean. I bought 13 percent of the Cowboys from the FDIC. They had been foreclosed on. And so it was not in a nice complete operational routine. The franchise was not. All that made me extremely nervous. But had I not had the just sheer positiveness of just getting to be involved in the NFL, knowing that when I got up in the morning I would be in the NFL, knowing that I would be part of the Cowboys then those would have been issues in normal business that might have buckled my knees. But because it was so exciting to me to be part of the Cowboys I give that a lot of credit for working through those things. That was 25 years ago.”

Is the passion and excitement still there:

“Yes, of course. It is. Its actually there more than it was because I’m able to think more offense. I’m not as concerned as I was financially about the state of the franchise, about the NFL, about the game. The future is significantly brighter than it was in 1989 for the NFL, for pro football and for that matter pro sports today.  I never thought Gene (his wife) would be waiting tables over this deal. But I did think it had the potential to really knock my stuff in the dirt. I knew that it did. Lamar Hunt got up at one of our NFL owners meetings maybe 12 to 13 years ago. He got up and told the entire ownership that the greatest risk I have ever seen taken in sports was the one the Jerry took when he bought the Cowboys, financial risk. He was well aware of the situation with Cowboys. He was well aware of the lay of the land”

Jones blames his reputation as an owner who only cares about making money on his aggressiveness of being an agent of change in the NFL because of the poor financial state of the Dallas Cowboys organization and the league at time. 

“That’ll motivate you to be an agent of change. That’ll motivate you to want to change some things, and that was a part of the driving thing that early on in the NFL that I wanted to change for the benefit of everyone, but for the benefit of the clubs, for the benefit of the fans, I felt that we could do some things that would create more strength, more energy, and that was one of the reasons that I initially was as aggressive, and the other things was timing. I didn’t have time to sit there and wait on some of these changes 15 years or 10 years, you know the days and the time was burning, and so it had to be really, you had to move on it. So that’s one of the reasons that the perception of aggressiveness, or the perception of, for that matter, one of the things that I regret is that the perception about financial, the facts are I had financial security and gave it up to buy the Cowboys, and I didn’t buy the Cowboys to go make money. But once you get in the chair, once you get in the position, then you want to be as good and do as good as you can do. So that’s kind of how things have evolved over the years.”


RELATED – There’s MORE about Jerry Jones:

SPOTLIGHT – Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones

To see all articles related to Jerry Jones click HERE

LOOKING FOR SOUTHERN COMFORT: Chips and dips instead of Super Bowl trips | The NFL’s fine line between success and failure

Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl XXX ring - closeup

IRVING, Texas – Here is the downside of the needle on this record getting stuck … 8-8 … 8-8 … 8-8 … or having now gone four consecutive years without a playoff appearance; or 18 straight seasons without a Super Bowl appearance, five longer than the previous longest 13-year drought in franchise history, between the 1979 season and 1991; or now also 18 consecutive seasons without having appeared in at least an NFC Championship Game, twice as long as the previous longest drought in franchise history, between 1983 and 1991:

No matter what you do, what decisions you make, you automatically are dead wrong in the court of public opinion until proven right, especially when you’ve been such a proud and successful franchise for the majority of these 54 seasons.

Parody brings disparity

Ask Denver. The Broncos are returning to the Super Bowl for the first time in 15 seasons after going back to back in 1997-98. Miami hasn’t been back to the Super Bowl since 1984. Chicago finally returned after the 2006 season, its first appearance since the Bears won their only Super Bowl in 1985. The 49ers went back to the Super Bowl last year for the first time since 1994. Washington? Geesh, don’t even ask, 23 seasons ago. Minnesota, not since the 1976 season.

And this might be the saddest of all, Kansas City, the franchise playing in Super Bowl I, losing to the Green Bay Packers, hasn’t been back to the Super Bowl since the Chiefs won their lone Super Bowl following the 1969 season.

No, this is not meant for you to find a little southern comfort in other people’s misery, seeing that this will be yet another miserable Super Bowl Sunday for Dallas Cowboys fans, having to watch Seattle take on the Broncos at MetLife Stadium.

This is to provide you some facts to those seemingly pulling their hair out over the Cowboys promoting Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator and hiring Scott Linehan as the pass-game coordinator/offensive play-caller, moves being panned and mocked because of this purported “dysfunction” crippling these Cowboys.

Now, this is not to say every move the Cowboys have made over these past 18 years has been right, far from it. But to just point out past failures doesn’t automatically deem every move they now make dead wrong. So, lets throw out some facts, just pure facts, as you are out shopping for chips and dip, and ordering your chicken wings for Super Sunday.

Defense brings Championship hope

Defense first, and this probably comes with less contention. The Dallas Cowboys finished dead last in total defense this 2013 season, meaning 32nd, and this is the first time in franchise history they have finished dead last defensively since that 13th-place finish in the 13-team NFL of 1960, their inaugural season, and the absolute worst finish since landing 13th out of what was then a 14-team NFL in 1963.

This, though, comes on the heels of last year’s 19th finish, which had matched the second-lowest defensive ranking since finishing 20th during the 1-15 season of 1989 – the Cowboys finishing 23rd during the 6-10 season of 2010 that got Wade Phillips fired after a 1-7 start.

Look, defense matters – a lot. Ask Seattle, right, and the Seahawks will be in big trouble if they don’t hold Denver to no more than, oh, 20 points come Sunday. And to further illustrate just how poorly the Cowboys have performed defensively over the past two seasons, think about this: From 1964 through the 1979 season, that is 16 consecutive years, the Cowboys finished in the top 10 defensively … every single season. Top 10!

This, too, is overshadowed with memories of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith et al: From 1992-1997, the Cowboys owned Top 10 defenses, and were No. 1 in 1992 and 1994.

Understood that injuries do matter, and injuries ravaged the Dallas Cowboys defense the past two seasons. I mean, come on, having to play 20 different defensive linemen in the same season while trying to figure out how to compensate for the injury losses of Anthony Spencer, Tyrone Crawford, Jay Ratliff, and Ben Bass, and then the combined four games missed by DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, not to mention their limited ability in several more.

The pitiful run defense surely illustrates these losses, the Cowboys finishing 24th against the run after being 23rd in 2012. Those two years are the absolute worst rankings since finishing 31st against the run in 2000. And get this, the absolute worst back-to-back seasons playing the run since … 1960 and 1961, finishing last in ’60 and 12th out of 14 in ’61.

Still, face it, putting Rod Marinelli in charge is the right move, yet not sure why everyone wants to just throw Monte Kiffin to the curb. His experience won’t hurt anything having him still around, especially since he would have gotten paid for this 2014 season anyway. Might as well get what you can out of him.

Defense of the Offense

OK, now the offense, and again just the facts.

The Dallas Cowboys finished 16th offensively this season, their lowest ranking since checking in at No. 30 during the third consecutive 5-11 season of 2002 (29th and 25th were the offensive rankings those other two 5-11 years). This after finishing an impressive sixth in 2012.

In fact, since Jason Garrett took over the offense and play-calling in 2007, simultaneously with Tony Romo becoming the fulltime starting quarterback, the Cowboys offensive rankings had been 3rd, 13th (but 2nd rushing), 2nd, 7th, 11th and 6th. And a passing game that was third last season fell to 14th in 2013.

Oh, there is this argument in defense of this offense: But the running game was much better. Well, feint praise since the Cowboys would have been hard-pressed to be worse than last year, the 1,265 yards (31st) the franchise’s absolute worst since the 1,049 gained in the 12-game inaugural 1960 season. So, yes, rushing for 1,507 yards in 2013 is an improvement.

Yet, that too comes with a but: But the 1,507 rushing yards then became the second-lowest rushing total since rushing for 1,500 yards in 1990, and that got offensive coordinator David Shula fired after two seasons. In fact, since the NFL went to a 16-game season in 1978, only three times have the Cowboys rushed for fewer than 1,507 yards in a season: Of course in 2012 and 1990, along with 1,409 in 1989, again that 1-15 season.

Making the ball balance

Funny how there have been complaints all season long about the Cowboys’ inability to create offensive balance, how the Dallas Cowboys didn’t get the ball to Dez Bryant enough and how the Cowboys didn’t throw down the field enough. But then Garrett makes a change in play-caller and it’s as if he’s lost his ever-lovin’ mind.

Also, if you remember, when the Cowboys hired Bill Callahan in 2012 as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach, it was not to call plays but to improve a struggling offensive line, which he and Frank Pollack have done wonderfully over this two-year span. And that the Cowboys have retained Callahan with at least a year left on his contract, while not allowing him to leave for a lateral move with another team, is not unprecedented.

Remember, back in 2006 Bill Parcells kept offensive line coach Tony Sparano as the run-game coordinator when Sean Payton tried to take him to New Orleans as his offensive coordinator. And you know what, that same year Miami blocked Jason Garrett, its quarterbacks coach, from going with Scott Linehan to St. Louis as his offensive coordinator.

Oh, and as for the “too many cooks in the kitchen” argument, do you remember back to 2005 when Payton was the pass-game coordinator and Sparano was the run-game coordinator, but were you ever sure if they were calling the plays or if Bill Parcells was? In fact, Parcells did the same thing in 2006 after Payton left for New Orleans, Sparano the run-game coordinator and Todd Haley the pass-game coordinator, yet it still seemed as if Bill was calling the plays.

Or as Cowboys COO Stephen Jones told Chris Mortensen of ESPN the other day, “Half the time, you couldn’t tell who was going to call plays under Bill any particular week – it could be Tony Sparano, it could be Sean Payton or it could be Bill himself,” with most of us taking Door No. 3 in that scenario.

“In this instance, Linehan and Garrett have a good history together, they’ll be on the same page, and it will still allow Jason to grow where we want him to grow as a head coach.”

The fine line between success and failure

You know the weird thing about all this? You would have thought a team with an epically poor defense and declining offense, one changing defensive coordinators and bringing in a new offensive play-caller, would have finished like 4-12 or worse. Yet the Cowboys finished 8-8, losing five of those eight games by a grand total of eight points, though that probably doesn’t make a whole lot of folks – especially the Cowboys themselves – feel any better.

It’s not always in the math

This probably won’t either. But if you combine the Dallas Cowboys offensive and defensive rankings – 16 and 32 – they total 48. Only one other team had a higher combined total, Jacksonville coming in at 58 (31 and 27). And yes, the Jags finished 4-12. The Cowboys then tied Miami for the second-highest total.

Tops? That was New Orleans at 8, fourth offensively, fourth defensively. Next Cincinnati at 13, then Seattle, Arizona and Houston (go figure) tied at 18. Denver’s combined number by the way was 20, (1st and 19th).

Again, as promised, just the facts, no compounded hysteria over past failures, or hollow criticism of these recent coaching moves because, well, that’s what you’re supposed to do with these Dallas Cowboys until …the math works in their favor!

Chips and dips instead of Super Bowl trips

So just maybe give some pause to any or all of this come tomorrow … Super Sunday … while chomping on your nachos.

ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT: Senior Bowl 2014 Calendar and Schedule

ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT - Senior Bowl week begins today - Senior Bowl 2014 Calendar and Schedule - Senior Bowl logo button

IRVING, Texas – Members of the Dallas Cowboys hit the road Sunday for the 2014 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

It’s time to check out some of the best and brightest players from college football’s senior class as they prepare for the 2014 NFL Draft.

Expect detailed notes, features, and videos throughout the week including a wrap-up after each day of practice. We’ll attempt to keep everyone well-informed on players to look at.

Last year, Dallas Cowboys NFL draft picks Terrance Williams, J.J. Wilcox, and B.W. Webb were all members of the South squad at the Senior Bowl. The annual event features a plethora of players who will undoubtedly be selected in the top few rounds of the upcoming draft. It’s where tackle Eric Fisher helped his draft stock, eventually going as the first pick in the draft last year.

With needs across the defense and particularly on the defensive line, defensive tackles such as Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman, Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, Arizona State’s Will Sutton, and Penn State’s DaQuan Jones will all be players Dallas Cowboys fans should take note of.

Outside pass rushers such as Auburn’s Dee Ford, North Carolina’s Kareem Martin, and Arkansas’ Chris Smith will also garner a lot of attention, in addition to the quarterback class which features Fresno State’s Derek Carr, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, and San Jose State’s David Fales, among other notable players.

There are sure to be more surprises in store and players that jump off the field and catch scouts eyes, as we cover the Senior Bowl action through Thursday.

The full schedule for the week of the 2014 Senior Bowl, which culminates in the game Saturday, Jan. 25, can be found here and below. Players weigh-in is followed by the North and South team practices. The teams will practice through Monday – Thursday before getting ready for the game with a walkthrough Friday.


2014 Senior Bowl calendar and schedule

ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT - Senior Bowl 2014 Calendar and Schedule

Monday, January 20

8:30am-10:00am Weigh-In Mobile Convention Center
Exhibit Hall
INFORMAL INTERVIEWS AVAILABLE OUTSIDE EXHIBIT HALL AFTER EACH PLAYERS’ WEIGH-IN PROCESS IS COMPLETED
1:00pm-3:00pm South Team Practice Fairhope Stadium
INTERVIEWS AFTER PRACTICE ON FIELD
3:00pm-5:00pm North Team Practice Ladd-Peebles Stadium
INTERVIEWS AFTER PRACTICE ON FIELD
6:30pm-8:00pm Player/Media Night Battleship USS Alabama
MEDIA EATS AT 6PM
7:30pm-8:30pm FCA Coaches Fellowship Renaissance Riverview Plaza
Mobile Bay II
8:30pm-11:00pm NFL Club/Player Interviews Renaissance Riverview Plaza
First floor meeting rooms
     

Tuesday, January 21

9:30am-11:30am North Team Practice Ladd-Peebles Stadium
INTERVIEWS AFTER PRACTICE ON FIELD
1:30pm- 3:30pm South Team Practice Ladd-Peebles Stadium
INTERVIEWS AFTER PRACTICE ON FIELD
5:00pm News Conference
COACHES/SELECTED PLAYER
Renaissance Riverview Plaza
Mobile Bay II
6:30pm-8:00pm AT&T Seafood Jubilee Mobile Convention Center
MEDIA INVITED
7:30pm-8:00pm FCA Coaches Fellowship Renaissance Riverview Plaza
Mobile Bay II
8:30pm-11:00pm NFL Club/Player Interviews Renaissance Riverview Plaza
First floor meeting rooms
     

Wednesday, January 22

9:30am-11:30am North Team Practice Ladd-Peebles Stadium
INTERVIEWS AFTER PRACTICE ON FIELD
11:30am-1:30am PNC Bank Senior Boil Ladd-Peebles Stadium
Corporate Tent Village
1:30pm-3:30pm South Team Practice Ladd-Peebles Stadium
INTERVIEWS AFTER PRACTICE ON FIELD
5:00pm News Conference
COACHES/SELECTED PLAYER
Renaissance Riverview Plaza
Mobile Bay II
6:30pm-8:00pm FCA Rally
Mobile Convention Center
8:30pm-11:00pm NFL Club/Player Interviews Renaissance Riverview Plaza
First floor meeting rooms
     

Thursday, January 23

9:00am-11:00am Community Service Project Selected Schools/Hospitals
WILL ALERT MEDIA TO LOCATIONS FOR PHOTO/STORY OPPORTUNITIES
2:30pm-4:30pm North Team Practice Fairhope Stadium
2:30pm-4:30pm South Team Practice Ladd-Peebles Stadium
INTERVIEWS AFTER PRACTICE ON FIELD
6:30pm-8:30pm Player Banquet BattleHouse Renaissance Hotel
     

Friday, January 24

10:30am- 11:30am North/South Team Walk Through Mobile Convention Center
COACHES HAVE OPTION TO CLOSE/CHECK DURING WEEK
3:00pm-7:00pm Coca-Cola Meet The Players Mobile Convention Center
INTERVIEWS/TV LIVE SHOTS MAY BE CONDUCTED AS PLAYERS SIGN
3:00pm-7:00pm al.com/Press-Register
Reese’s Senior Bowl Experience
Mobile Convention Center
     

Saturday, January 25

10:00am-1:00pm Baumhower’s Restaurant
Tailgate Challenge
Stadium Parking Lot
11:00am-2:00pm Food For Less Tailgate Party
MUST HAVE PASS TO ENTER
East Parking Lot
Ladd-Peebles Stadium
1:00pm Stadium Gates Open Ladd-Peebles Stadium
  IBERIABANK Corporate Tent
Village opens
 
  PRESS BOX OPENS  
2:30pm Pre-Game Show Begins Ladd-Peebles Stadium
3:00pm Kickoff Senior Bowl 2014 Ladd-Peebles Stadium
Post Game Postgame interviews Under West stands near lobby entrance (approx. 50yd line)

BUTTON - NFL Draft Prospects - The Boys Are Back website

HURRY UP AND WAIT MODE: A slight chance for the Dallas Cowboys to keep defensive linemen Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer

HURRY UP AND WAIT MODE - A slight chance for the Dallas Cowboys to keep last years promising D-linemen

IRVING, Texas – From a Dallas Cowboys-centric point of view, here is the good and bad just a little less than two months away from the start of free agency.

First, the bad.

As we all know by now, the Cowboys once again will have to engage in their yearly fat-trimming to get under the salary cap by the March 11 start to the new NFL year. While many seem to have their own ideas about how the Cowboys get to that NFL maximum, some quite wild I might add, Cowboys COO Stephen Jones does not seem quite as perplexed.

In a recent conversation, though, Jones said, “I don’t think there are any Houdini-type things we need to do to make the salary cap work in terms of being efficient and ultimately improve our roster. Obviously the focus still is with our cap situation, the draft and young players.

“But you don’t ever rule out trying to improve with one or two guys from the free-agent market who can help us.”

Dallas Cowboys defense - Anthony Spencer 93 and Jason Hatcher 97 - The Boys Are Back 2009

Then there is this: Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer, two mainstays on the defensive front over the past several years, are free agents, and the one thing the Dallas Cowboys have always seemingly accomplished since free agency began in 1994 is retaining their own free agents of choice.

Your chances of doing so considerably decrease with limited available salary cap dollars.

Doubly not good when it comes to Hatcher this year – as if it wasn’t going to be tough enough to even attempt to re-sign him, what with his breakout, career-high 11-sack season playing for the first time from the defensive tackle position in a 4-3 defense – is what took place on Thursday. Hatch has been named a replacement to the Pro Bowl team, and any time you are out there in free agency trying to market yourself – in other words, get the best offer possible – just returning from a Pro Bowl appearance in Hawaii is like a slot machine going ding, ding, ding.

No matter what you say, the Dallas Cowboys certainly would hate to write off the defensive tackle who led the NFL in sacks this past season. Double-digit sacks from inside is rather remarkable, and in fact Hatcher recorded the most sacks for a Cowboys defensive tackle since Randy White racked up 12.5 in 1984.

Good for Hatcher, who hit the personal mother lode, being named to the Pro Bowl team while his wife was in the process of giving birth to their baby girl.

For the Cowboys, bad, bad, bad.

Now, the good …

OK, let’s move on to what might become a couple of good breaks for Dallas. Let it be known the Cowboys certainly have not washed their hands of either player, but will be forced to sit back and see what the market might bear. Theirs must be a wait-and-see approach, knowing they can’t be the ones to set market value for either player.

“With our cap situation, that’s pretty much the way we have to go,” Jones said, “and that has nothing to do with the respect we have for Jason Hatcher or Anthony Spencer. They’ve obviously had great careers here in Dallas. We hope they continue to. But at the same time we certainly respect they have to take care of their families and do what’s best for them individually, and we fully expect that to happen.

“But hopefully they can do that and still be a Cowboy. We’ll just have to see. We’ll certainly be watching that. We don’t burn any bridges. I think Darren Woodson and Jay Novacek went into free agency without any contracts and they came home. … We certainly want to be in the mix.”

dallas cowboys linebacker anthony spencer now calling defense - the boys are back blog

Let’s start with Spencer. This may play out in the Dallas Cowboys favor, since most figure no way the team can afford to re-sign their two-time franchised player. Well, not so fast.

Last time anyone saw Anthony Spencer following his Oct. 1 microfracture knee surgery he was still on crutches. That was in December. His recovery from the surgery that tries to promote the regrowth of missing cartilage under the kneecap is not going as well as expected. Chances are, because there was a pretty big divot of cartilage missing, there is no way he’ll be fully recovered when free agency begins on March 11. That means some team would have to take a leap of faith to sign an otherwise healthy Spencer to one of those five-year, $40 million deals with like $20 million guaranteed if he’s still limping around.

That will kill your market value faster than anything, and why players normally squawk when getting franchised as he was the past two seasons, knowing all they have is a one-year guarantee and any sort of long-term injury can kill your market value the coming offseason.

So who knows, maybe teams will take a hands-off approach to Spencer, and if that happens and if his knee doesn’t come around until like May or June, Spencer might be a prime candidate for one of those one-year minimum deals laced with some incentives, but without any guaranteed money.   

That might be right up the Dallas Cowboys cap-depleted alley, and what better place to take a chance on yourself than by staying put. Now this all is unfortunate for Spencer, but let’s remember he’s made roughly $20 million over the past two seasons with the Cowboys while playing but one game this past season to collect half the sum.

Guys have been known to sign one year deals for a chance to re-establish their market value – that is, if that knee ever does come around – rather than sign some longer-term deal for far below what you might think your worth might be. Sort of like betting on yourself.

dallas cowboys defensive end jason hatcher (97) ready to play - the boys are back blog

And as for Jason Hatcher, turning 32 in July? Well, you know how the many know-it-all’s keep saying no way the Cowboys should “pay age,” meaning don’t sign an aging player to one of these lucrative long-term deals that will outlive his productivity even if you have the funds, which the Cowboys really don’t.

Well, if you’re thinking that, maybe decision-makers for teams around the league are thinking the same thing. If they are, maybe that drives down his market value. Maybe Hatcher isn’t offered what he richly deserves. Just maybe then that means the going rate for a 32-year-old Pro Bowl defensive tackle becomes something more palatable for the Cowboys budget.

Who knows? We’ll see. Only time will tell for both guys.

But without Jason Hatcher and/or a healthy and affordable Anthony Spencer, a Dallas Cowboys defensive front already in bad need of refurbishing will need an even more intensive re-do. Any success doing so then rests at the mercy of the upcoming NFL draft.

NEVER-SAY-NEVER SEASON FINALE: Jason Garrett’s 2013 Dallas Cowboys will play their hearts out

NEVER-SAY-NEVER SEASON FINALE - Jason Garrett’s 2013 Dallas Cowboys will play their hearts out - Dallas Cowboys schedule 2013 2014

IRVING. Texas – The sun was shining brightly late morning on Friday, Dec. 27, out here at The Ranch.

But that menacing cloud seemingly hanging over the Dallas Cowboys’ heads since the start of training camp this 2013 season, similar to that ubiquitous dirt cloud over the head of Peanuts character Pig-Pen, still was there during this final regular-season workout.

No Tony Romo, done for sure following what seemingly was becoming inevitable back surgery all week long, performed sooner on Friday morning rather than later, like after the game if he could possibly play.

No Sean Lee, a sprained neck ligament doing him in, knowing he cannot take any chances until fully healed.

The two most important players for their respective units definitely out for what becomes the most important game of the season, Cowboys-Eagles, 7:30 p.m. Sunday at AT&T Stadium, the winner claiming the NFC East and the automatic playoff berth that comes along with it. The loser left to contemplate one too many losses over the course of the 16-game season – the Cowboys, in particular, having lost three of four one-point decisions, not to mention the three-pointer to Denver after scoring a 33-year-high 48 points way back in October, the most points ever scored in a loss.

Not only that, no DeMarcus Ware, having suffered a hyperextension on Thursday to the same elbow he hyper-extended last year, though he vows to play just the same after having an MRI.

And, even defensive line coach Rod Marinelli was hobbling around practice with the use of a crutch.

You’d have thought the Dallas Cowboys were preparing to cross the Delaware on Sunday instead of bumping into the Eagles (9-6), backs to the wall and staring down the common sense barrel of fate from the wrong end.

MESSAGE SENT AND RECEIVED - Jason Garrett impressed with DeMarco Murray response to benching - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

So there they were on Friday, the 8-7 Cowboys, quietly going through their pre-practice passing drills, the only voice heard over there on the field with the offense being that of head coach Jason Garrett during the skeleton passing drills, imploring them to keep the ball off the ground.

And in front of him, throwing the passes for the drill just three days before the next biggest game in a season seemingly loaded with big games were …

Kyle Orton, who has not started a game in the NFL since 2011 and has thrown only 15 passes this year, all during mop-up time, and …

Jon Kitna, who has not played a game of NFL football since that 2011 season himself, last throwing to his high school scout team back in Tacoma, Wash., this football season.

What a sight to see.

Now, you go win me a football game.

Talk about dabbling in next-man-up extreme.

Of course, the easy, most logical thing for the Dallas Cowboys to do going up against the Philadelphia Eagles, who have won six of their past seven games, is to feel sorry for themselves, just throw in the towel like most everyone else. Yet such logic has no room in a competitor’s mind.

There did not seem to be any towels strewn on the practice field Friday, nor wet ones dampening enthusiasm in the locker room afterward. The only inordinate sight was those blue T-shirts hanging in everyone’s locker after practice, inscribed with white lettering “Deep In The” and then, under the symbolic state of Texas white outline which included a Cowboys Star right in the middle, “Of Texas.”

The subliminal message being “Heart.”

Brother, the Cowboys will need all they have of this organ of fortitude.

“This is why we do it, starting a long time ago, to be in this opportunity,” says Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, never one to let down his guard, and especially not now with everything on the line.

The Eagles, well, see they’re doing some talking, right, running back LeSean McCoy runnin’ his NFL leading-rusher mouth, saying to the Philly fans on WIP, “Sunday night just relax. Turn on the channel, watch your Birds manhandle the Dallas Cowgirls. Let’s go. Merry Christmas,” another indication the Eagles are feeling full of themselves after putting that 54-11 beating on the Chicago Bears this past Sunday. Sort of like the Giants before them when facing a Cowboys team that had beaten them, too, the first time around.

The Cowboys, well, there is nothing wrong coming in with a little quiet humility, flying under the radar, with everyone else giving up on them now that Romo and Lee are definitely out of this game, combined with sporting the league’s 32nd-ranked defense and 31st-ranked pass defense.

But to me, out at practice Friday there seemed to be this quiet focus, understanding something big was about to take place; understanding they were without their general; understanding each and every one of them had to be at their best, no matter if it’s rookie DeVonte Holloman about to start only his second game at middle linebacker or Dwayne Harris returning after missing the past three games or Orton starting his first game for the Cowboys in the two years he’s been here or Morris Claiborne finally getting back on the field after a month’s injury absence or Kyle Wilber starting just his fifth NFL game at strong-side linebacker.

Hey, if Romo can play nearly a full half of football with a back in need of surgery five days later to win GMAC’s Never Say Never Moment of The Week Award, no excuses.

“Everyone just needs to do their jobs as well as they can do it,” Garrett says.

Jason Garrett

Now, of course, all of this is fine and dandy, but you have to be good enough to win, something the Cowboys were not the past two years they were in this same exact win-and-you’re-in predicament, losing in order to the Giants in 2011 to finish 8-8 and to the Redskins in 2012 to finish 8-8.

Although, this time there is something extremely different: The Cowboys are playing an NFC East opponent in the final game of the season that they have already beaten once this year – heck, they’ve won all five of their NFC East games this season – at home, at The AT&T.

With a friendly roof over their heads and what’s expected to be 90-some-thousand towel-waving, screaming fans surrounding them, likely popping some goose-flesh and maybe some Eagle eardrums – can you hear me now? – since those folks will have all day to get ready for the game, if you know what I mean.

dallas cowboys jason witten scores td vs philly eagles

A difference? Hmmm, got any other logical reason why the Eagles, winners of five straight, went under the dome in Minneapolis two weeks ago and got spanked, 48-30, by the now 4-10-1 Vikings who were playing with basically their third-string quarterback and third-string running back?

“We know how difficult it is to play on the road when the crowd is into it, and it’s loud,” Garrett pointed out, likely remembering the playoff loss at Minnesota following the 2009 season or being told of the playoff loss following the 1991 season to the Lions at the Silverdome just before he got here as a player.

Hey, it’s the NFL, right? The Nothing Furshur League, and this is a playoff game, no? This is it.

Now common sense suggests the Dallas Cowboys have no chance in this game, and that is OK for you or even me to believe. But for this team, these players who somehow have muddled through this season of heartbreak, injury and resurgence, showing uncommon resiliency all season long, to stand 8-7 with a shot at the division title, they must keep the faith, gotta believe as former Cowboys safety Charlie Waters once told Cowboys long-time radio voice Brad Sham during the broadcast – Charlie was out with a broken leg – when the Cowboys trailed the Redskins 34-21 in the final minutes of the final game of the season, the Cowboys needing to win – they did in the final seconds – to claim the East title over Washington.

There is this line from the movie Miracle On 34th Street. You know, the one about the guy who believed with all his might he was Santa Claus: Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.

Well, who is to say a national TV audience won’t be witness to The Miracle on Randol Mill?

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THE BOYS ARE BACK ON TRACK: 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys moving in the right direction

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ARLINGTON, Texas – All right, admit it, you were piping-hot mad when Terrance Williams fumbled the opening kickoff, and some Jenkins you probably never heard of – Greg, not Mike – picks up the loose ball and goes 23 yards for a Raiders touchdown in just 12 seconds.

You were spittin’-molars mad when that former Dallas Cowboy wide receiver Andre Holmes guy hauls in four receptions for 56 yards … in the first half. You remember him. Only on the Cowboys practice squad late last season. Available for the Patriots to sign him to their 53-man roster because he couldn’t hang on to the same type of passes with the Cowboys that he was catching at AT&T Stadium for the Raiders.

Guessing that you were cursin’-mad when the erstwhile 4-7 Raiders, losers of three of their previous four games and able to score more than 20 points only once during that span, had taken a 21-7 lead over the Cowboys with just 1:56 left in the first half before 87,572 disbelieving souls.

All the cred the Dallas Cowboys had gained with that spine-tingling 24-21 victory over the New York Giants four days earlier at MetLife to move to 6-5 was going right out the window like a bad pumpkin pie.

Same ol’ .500 Cowboys. Admit it, you said it, or at least were thinking it, right?

It sounds like Mr. Jerry Jones was right there with you, saying, “You really, if it were like the rest of us, you could have gotten your enthusiasm down a little bit.”

Heck, bet some of you were reaching for the remote, or at least the Alka-Seltzer if you already had indulged in your Thanksgiving dinner that was about to come up. Reminiscent of the same shape Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo had been in Wednesday night and the morning of the game.

“We just had to get up out of our comfort zone,” mercurial wide receiver Dez Bryant explained. “I guess we were feeling too comfortable.”

Guaran-darn-tee you they then were the only ones feeling comfortable at that point, the Raiders starting to believe this was going to be a runaway.

But just like that, as if one of those blue norther’s came blowing in from Oklahoma, the gritty Dallas Cowboys dragged you and the Raiders back in. Jettisoning Oakland, 31-24, while creating a not-since colorful holiday collage, as in …

Not since Oct. 13 against the Washington Redskins had the Cowboys scored as many as 31 points or as many as four touchdowns in one game.

Not since Sept. 22 had the Dallas Cowboys rushed for more than the 144 yards they pounded the Raiders with.

Not since Dec. 6, 2004, against Seattle had a Cowboys running back rushed for the three touchdowns DeMarco Murray did on this day in a single game.

Not since Oct. 6 against Denver had the Cowboys converted a higher percentage of third downs than the 54 percent they did so against the Raiders.

Not since Sept. 22 against the Rams had the Cowboys held a team to fewer than the 50 yards rushing they held the Raiders to, and to think Oakland came into the game as the NFL’s fourth-ranked rushing team.

Not since the first four games of the season had Romo completed 70 percent of his passes, going 12 of 12 in the second half and 17 of 19 from the final possession of the first half to finish at 71.8 for the day.

Maybe having just three days between games suits the Dallas Cowboys well, because …

Not since the middle of October had the Cowboys won the two straight games they now have won in a five-day span, first at the Giants, 24-21, and then this one over the Raiders – only the second time in the last 15 games that they have won back-to-back outings.

So then, not since the 2009 season when the Cowboys finished 11-5 did they have a better record (8-4) than their now 7-5 record after 12 games. By the way, puts them back in first place by a half-a-game over the 6-5 Eagles. Philadelphia must now match the Cowboys today when playing the red-hot Arizona Cardinals at home.

And, not since Dec. 16, 2012, that’s 14 games ago, have the Cowboys been as many as the two games over the .500 mark as they are now. Sitting with this weekend off and 10 whole days between meeting the Bears on Monday night in Chicago.

Well then, maybe having grandiose postseason dreams will not jinx this team, just as wearing those blue jerseys at home did not on Thursday, nor did Tony Romo having the cover story on the Sports Illustrated that arrived in mailboxes on Wednesday.

If your head needs leveling off, leave it to Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. He’s the steady-as-she-goes believer, saying after the Cowboys completed their-two-game Thanksgiving week sweep, “You have to be careful about taking a global point of view. You’ve just got to get back to work.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to get away for the next couple of days and then get back to work next week on Chicago. We’re focusing on our preparation and what to do to win a ballgame.”

Maybe there is something to Garrett’s even-keeled approach that more of you need to appreciate. Because if not, for sure panic would have set in late in the second quarter when rookie quarterback Matt McGloin and running back Rashad Jennings had the Raiders up 21-7.

As if awakening from a winter slumber, the Dallas Cowboys only consumed 1:21 of the 1:56 left in the second quarter to march the 73 yards for Murray’s second of three touchdowns. And that began an offensive onslaught of four scores in five possessions to finally reach thirtysomething for the first time in a month. Coming up just one yard short from scoring a fifth touchdown. Using a bit of common sense, Dan Bailey’s field goal from the one, put the Cowboys up 10 with just 1:56 remaining in the game.

Just keep on grinding, keep that head down, and when it’s over, then and only then do you even dare take a global view.

“Everything is happening right now at the right time,” Cowboys veteran defensive end DeMarcus Ware said before the team headed out for some well-deserved rest the next four days, “but you can’t get complacent with where you are, and we aren’t, and we know we have a big game coming up.”

Heavens no, not at this point, not taking a 7-5 record and a two-game winning streak into Chicago next time out while no worse than tied for first in the NFC East.

And goodness knows, not when there is a real chance to break that same ol’, same ol’ mold for the first time since … 2009.

You guys enjoy the break, too.

DALLAS COWBOYS RISING STAR: Marinelli Misfit George Selvie making a name for himself in Texas-2 Defense

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IRVING, Texas – You know that half-a-sack George Selvie was credited with this past Sunday in Philadelphia, the one he shared with the just-arriving Jarius Wynn?

Well, upon further review, Selvie was credited with a full sack. That then officially gave him two sacks in the game.

In turn, that now gives him five sacks in seven games.

Let that sink in: George Selvie, now officially the leader of “Them Other Guys,” is second on the Dallas Cowboys in sacks, just one behind Jason Hatcher, who’s having a Pro Bowl start to this 2013 season.

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Why, Selvie has one more sack than DeMarcus Ware, at this point likely to miss his second game in a row Sunday after having played in every one of the first 134 of his career.

Those five Selvie sacks, they would have been the third most on last year’s Dallas Cowboys team – for the entire season.

Five sacks. Until last year that total was just one less than Anthony Spencer’s career-high over his first five years in the NFL, and until this year one more than Hatcher’s previous seven-year career-high.

Five sacks. Just one less than the team’s previous high by a player not named DeMarcus Ware from 2009-2011, and just three less than what Greg Ellis and Bradie James posted in 2008.

And on July 25, three months to the day this Friday, with all 32 NFL training camps in full swing, this very guy, George Selvie, was sitting at home in Pensacola, Fla., out of work, having been released by Tampa Bay back on May 6.

He had just turned 26, released for the fourth time since he was a seventh-round pick in 2010 out of South Florida, and his mind was understandably beginning to wonder, “What do I do now? What do I do after football?”

Please don’t pinch the dude. Let him be.

Dallas Cowboys Defensive End George Selvie sacks Eli Manning

Selvie, the guy who had never started even once over his 36-game NFL career the previous three seasons – drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2010, released on the final cuts of 2011, claimed by Carolina only to be released four weeks later, then signed by Jacksonville five weeks later, playing 16 games over two seasons with the Jaguars before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2013 and signed a month later by Tampa Bay this offseason – now is tied for 12thin the NFL with those five sacks. He’s in the same company with the likes of Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan, LaMarr Woodley and a half-sack behind Elvis Dumervil.

To further appreciate what Selvie has done so far this 2013 Dallas Cowboys season, a flashback to this summer is necessary, back to when the Dallas Cowboys called, more so out of necessity. Remember, the Cowboys lost Tyrone Crawford for the season the first practice of training camp (torn Achilles) with Spencer having his knee scoped about a week later.

They were simply looking for warm bodies at that time, defensive end types who were athletic, had high motors, could play the strong side, all with a decent amount of speed and … out of work. The list of candidates Will McClay’s pro scouting department had handy kicked out one George Selvie.

“I was coming to training camp like, they probably just think of me as a [camp] body,” said Selvie during his interview this week that can be heard in its entirety on the Jason Garrett Show, locally at 11 p.m. Saturday on CBS-11. (Watch Video | Play Audio)

Understand, camp body is a derogatory term, meaning a guy simply needed to fill out the 80-man roster and help facilitate training camp practices at minimum wage then discarded before the final 53 is assembled. The percentages are against these guys, especially coming into camp a week late, with no OTA practices or minicamps under their belt.

And in Selvie’s mind on his way to the West Coast, this just might be his last call.

“I’m going to go out here and try to prove myself,” he said of his thinking when getting the call and traveling all the way from Pensacola that same day to Oxnard, Calif., jumping into practice the very next day. And stuff just fell in place.

“I was blessed to be in the situation I’m in now, just fell in place for me – but I am where I am.”

Fell in place? More like crashed down in place. Ten days after arriving in Oxnard, Selvie demonstrated he was more than a camp body in the Pro Football Hall of Fame preseason game, recording five tackles, two sacks, three quarterback hits and two tackles for losses against Miami.

Dallas Cowboys defensive end George Selvie sacks Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Come on, was this for real or one of those one-time wonders?

Judging from emails and phone calls to Talkin’ Cowboys, fans would have just as soon left Selvie in Canton, Ohio, to be measured for his yellow jacket. There actually were questions about the possibility of trading Spencer. Just let Selvie take his place and grab $10.6 million in cap relief.

So there we were, on the tennis courts at training camp, interviewing Selvie on Talkin’ Cowboys, letting him know of his new-found celebrity, but quickly finding out, as Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett likes to say, he is the right kind of guy.

“It’s just been crazy,” he said at the time, “because Twitter and stuff. I was like, got my phone, ‘I don’t want no part of that.’ I got a lot to do, you know what I’m sayin’, I got a lot to do.

“People are like, ‘Great start …’ but I still got … look I know the feeling.”

And he then began earning his eventual nickname coined by defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, who Selvie readily credits for much of his success: Bricklayer. You know, come to work every day, work hard and lay those bricks down one at a time.

And yes, things fell in place. Obviously, Crawford was done for the season. Spencer was on his way to being done for the season. Ben Bass, a guy who could play defensive tackle, defensive end, was headed for injured reserve, too. Suddenly, he looked up one day and basically when it came to defensive ends, it was DeMarcus Ware, Kyle Wilber and … George Selvie.

Man, after never starting in any of those first 36 games he played in the NFL, there he was, under the glare of Sunday Night Football at AT&T Stadium, starting. Starting, mind you, for the first time in his career, no more than six weeks removed from wondering just what he would be doing for the rest of his life.

Nearly two months later and now Selvie is a fixture in the Dallas Cowboys lineup, having started all seven games and now standing second on the team in sacks, tied for second in tackles for losses (3) and third in quarterback pressures (11) behind some guys named Ware and Hatcher.

Meteoric rise would be an understatement, and not likely in his wildest dreams …

“No, I couldn’t have imagined it,” says Selvie when thinking back to those lonely moments in Pensacola, having trudged back home after Tampa Bay released him to contemplate his future.

“But this is the best football I’ve played, the stats show those are the facts, and I’ve had the opportunity to go out there and play, rush the passers, actually get out there on the field. I never had that [opportunity] in the past, but now I do.”

And aren’t the Dallas Cowboys darn glad he does, too.

So don’t even think about it, no pinching allowed.


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George Selvie 1-on-1 interview with Mickey Spagnola (3:10)

Mickey Spagnola sits down for a 1-on-1 interview with Dallas Cowboys DE George Selvie.

(Watch Video | Play Audio)

BREAKIN’ BRONCOS: Time for the Dallas Cowboys to become roughriders

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IRVING, Texas – Talk about a Texas-sized order for these Dallas Cowboys.

Why, the Denver Broncos are coming to AT&T Stadium Sunday afternoon with a 4-0 record.

They haven’t been beaten in their past 15 regular-season games.

During this franchise record 15-game winning streak, no one has even come within seven points of the Broncos, which is one game shy of the Chicago Bears NFL record set in 1941-42, if that’s even possible to comprehend. Heck, in the four games this season, no team has come within the 16 Oakland has.

This also means the Broncos have tied their franchise record with seven consecutive road victories, no matter if they have been playing at the world champion Baltimore Ravens or in the supposedly indomitable collegiate atmosphere of Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium last year, or at MetLife Stadium (Giants) this season.

They are currently averaging 44.7 points a game, as if they are some Alabama playing a bunch of directional schools to start the season. And to think, the Cowboys have already given up thirty-something twice this season: 31 to the now 0-4 Giants and 30 this past Sunday to the then 1-2 Chargers.

The quarterback, The Peyton Manning, leads the NFL in nine of 10 statistical QB categories, most importantly a ridiculous 138 passer rating. Not to mention averaging 367.5 passing yards a game. And just think what that average might be if the Broncos were not winning each of these four games so far by an average of 22 points.

Considering opposing quarterbacks in three of their past six games, stretching back to last season, have thrown for more than 400 yards: Drew Brees (446), Eli Manning (450) and, most recently, Philip Rivers (401). Which brings to mind that the franchise record for most passing yards by an opposing quarterback is 486, set back in 1962 by Chicago’s Billy Wade.

Oh, if this all is not enough, the Broncos kicker, Matt Prater, has not missed a field-goal attempt yet (6 of 6) and their return specialist, Trindon Holiday, has just been named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month, mostly for his 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and 81-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Oy vey!

Beaten team walking?

Well, as a public service announcement, don’t try peddling any of this overwhelming evidence to these underdogs out here at The Ranch, an inherent danger to yourself yesterday, a danger today and even more dangerous come Sunday before the 3:25 p.m. kickoff that is being preceded this season with a little Texas Stadium old-school trumpet-playing of the national anthem.

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“We ain’t scared of nobody,” a defiant Jason Hatcher said this week.

“I’m sick of hearing about Peyton Manning this and that and that,” said starting linebacker Ernie Sims of the Dallas Cowboys nickel defense Sunday, which might as well be called their base defense since the Broncos are expected to do exactly what Rivers and the Chargers did this past Sunday: Go three-wide, hurry-up.

Well, you wanted to know what the mood has been out here at The Ranch, didn’t ya?

Testy, for sure.

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And that’s certainly a good thing. I mean, you don’t want this 2-2 team coming into a game like this, especially at home, meekly tiptoeing around, as if being led down a gangplank.

That’s why I am not one subscribing to this theory of playing some cozy, ball-control offense, as if the Cowboys should set up in some Carolina Four Corners from back in the day when shot clocks were an NBA thing.

Run the ball, absolutely, all you can – all you need to – but you can’t go into some offensive shell just to keep Manning off the field. You’ve got to go into offensive overdrive. You’ve got to score points. You’ve got to take some shots at the bow. Let your hair down and take some chances

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Doggoneit, be aggressive, and same on defense. You can’t just sit back passively on defense, giving ground in fear of giving up a big play, betting Manning and this high-powered Broncos offense won’t execute like 12 plays to cover 80 yards. Ha, do so and you’ll be the one executed.

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This all brings back to mind 1991, when the 6-5 Dallas Cowboys, losers of consecutive road games marching into Washington D.C. to play a third against the 11-0 Washington Redskins, who by the way were on their way to winning a Super Bowl title that season.

And just might have done so as the first 19-0 team had the overwhelming underdog Cowboys not kicked their headdress feathers, 24-21, that Sunday before Thanksgiving.

Did they come in playing conservatively, just trying not to lose?

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Oh, contraire. On this day they were swashbuckling roughriders, then head coach Jimmy Johnson deciding before the game that they would not cower to a soul nor any Redskins.

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Afterward, here is what Jimmy stated he said beforehand:

“I told the players, ‘Don’t ever hit a guy lightly. If you have a big ol’ gorilla in front of you, you don’t tap him on the shoulder.’ And I threw a punch at [guard] John Gesek, and I told them, “If I hit him lightly, I’ll get killed. I’d better take my best shot.’

“Teddy Roosevelt said one time, don’t ever hit lightly.”

OK, Jimmy had a master’s in psychology, not history, sort of twisting Roosevelt’s line about “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

But you get the idea, right? Don’t be taking a twig into a shootout.

That day the Cowboys went for it on fourth down three times. They eschewed a 51-yard field goal at the end of the first half for a “Hail Mary” into the end zone that Alvin Harper pulled in for a touchdown. They successfully executed an onside kick. And defensively, they did not sit back in fear of a Redskins offense that had scored 97 points the previous two weeks, coming with blitzes and stunts they had not shown the entire season.

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Oh, and did I mention that even after Troy Aikman went down early in the third quarter with a sprained knee, offensive coordinator Norv Turner did not baby backup Steve Beuerlein, having him immediately firing aggressively down field, even without the services of injured tight end Jay Novacek and injured guard Nate Newton. They even had the audacity to attack Pro Bowl corner Darrell Green, wide receiver Michael Irvin burning his man-coverage with nine catches for 130 yards and a huge 22-yard scoring grab from Beuerlein to provide clinching separation late in the game.

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And get this, Cowboys linebacker Jack Del Rio at the time, eerily now the Broncos defensive coordinator, said afterward, “I was just happy we didn’t go into a shell and play conservatively.

“We attacked, gave them everything we had.”

Shhhh, don’t tell Jack. Don’t remind him of the gorillas and the stick and the “best shots.”

And please don’t tell him “Hatch” has been doing a slow burn all week in continued defiance, insisting as he was stewing, “We’re not a pushover team at all. We’re definitely ready to play.”

So, almost time to sound that trumpet, sing the anthem and aggressively barge onto the AT&T Stadium field with them big sticks.

Don’t you think?

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2013-2014 DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER: Saturday’s dress rehearsal vs. Cincinnati Bengals brings “what ifs” into forefront

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IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys got a taste of the past Thursday night at AT&T Stadium, stepping back in time to interact with their rich history.

         Present were Pro Football Hall of Famers galore, the likes of Roger Staubach, Rayfield Wright and Mel Renfro, along with Ring of Honor members such as Lee Roy Jordan, Cliff Harris and Charles Haley. And then maybe the less decorated but certainly not forgotten, from center Mike Connelly, a member of the franchise’s inaugural 1960 team, to locally-raised cowboy Walt Garrison to exciting wide receiver Butch Johnson and stalwart center Tom Rafferty and invaluable tight end Jay Novacek, all the way to 11-year deep snapper Dale Hellestrae.

         “I think we’re fortunate to be in an organization where such a high standard has been set,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett says of the franchise’s alumni being invited in for practice and the dinner afterward.

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         Saturday night at AT&T Stadium we’ll all get a better taste of the future and hints to if those previously high-set standards can be met, Garrett intending to play his starters at least a half and those in need of more work into the third quarter in the fourth of five preseason games this year, this one against the Cincinnati Bengals, the current Hard Knocks subjects on HBO. This exercise will be as close to real as a preseason game gets, though minus any sort of game plan or regular-season strategic intentions.

         No sense showing your hand before being called upon, and believe me, that will definitely include the final preseason game, too, scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 29, against the Houston Texans, also at AT&T Stadium, where starters will mostly sit and sitters will mostly start.

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         So Saturday night maybe you see Tony Romo throw the ball 10 to 15 times; maybe you see DeMarco Murray carry the ball a handful of times; maybe you see DeMarcus Ware actually play a couple of series instead of just a couple of plays in this new 4-3 defensive alignment; and maybe you see the likes of recently-extended Sean Lee, the up-surging Jason Hatcher and a seemingly revitalized Miles Austin play more than previously. Still, bank on the Cowboys not wanting to overexpose any of them to injury possibilities with the season opener just 15 days away.

         Oh, we know all about these guys, and for sure you’d like to see this Cowboys first-team offense score its first touchdown of the preseason, even if that drought encompasses but five series over the two games Romo has played in, and for them all to do a better job of hanging onto the football than what took place last Saturday in Glendale, Ariz.

2013-2014 DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER - The preseason home opener vs. Cincinnati Bengals brings “what ifs” into forefront

         Fine and good, but this Cowboys coaching staff also must use this game to address the near future, as in the Sunday night of Sept. 8 when the New York Football Giants come calling on national television at the newly named and re-carpeted AT&T Stadium. There still are so many compelling what-ifs so close to the season opener.

         Like:

What if projected starting left guard Ronald Leary does not return in time as expected from arthroscopic knee surgery for the opener?

What if starting defensive tackle Jay Ratliff is not ready to play as expected in the opener after missing the entire offseason, entire training camp and as expected at least the first four preseason games?

What if starting defensive end Anthony Spencer does not return in time as expected from having his knee scoped at the start of training camp to man the strong side of this 4-man front against the Giants?

What if cornerback Morris Claiborne, bothered by patella tendinitis in his knee for the past two weeks, isn’t as ready to play in the opener as he seems to insist?

dallas cowboys safety barry church - the boys are back blog

         Oh, and while we’re at it, what if injured safeties Matt Johnson (ankle) and Eric Frampton (calf) aren’t ready for season-opening duty? First of all, how are you cutting that position down to a probable five and just who are the immediate backups to starters Barry Church and Will Allen?

         These are the present dilemmas that must be solved with time running short, and for that reason you should get an eye-full Saturday night of possible solutions.

         Already the Cowboys have been bracing for the worst on the offensive line. Chances are the do-si-do we witnessed this week in practice will continue Saturday night, with Jermey Parnell being inserted at right tackle, right tackle Doug Free moving over to right guard and right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau leapfrogging over to left guard.

         Hmmm. Everyone seems occupied with Free moving to guard. My concern, and this coaching staff’s, too, is if Parnell is ready to play right tackle. He’s started only one NFL game, and injuries have caused him to miss the entire offseason, the first three preseason games and the first three weeks of training camp. And that’s who you want to trust on the right edge against those Giants ends?

         “So we haven’t seen him,” Garrett says of Parnell, and hasn’t since he rotated in with Free at right tackle in the final month of last season. “We got him back the end of last week, doing some good things and playing a little bit like he did the end of last season. At the end of the day, we want to put our best five guys out there.”

Parnell definitely is on trial Saturday night, and if he can’t hold up, and Leary isn’t ready, don’t be surprised if rookie center Travis Frederick moves to one guard spot, Phil Costa returns to center and Free stays put … that is if a starting-quality free-agent guard is not claimed or signed.

Cowboys Camp Football

         OK, the defensive line. So far with Ratliff and Spencer missing the Cowboys have gone with Nick Hayden at defensive tackle and George Selvie at the strong-side defensive end. Hayden seems to be gaining the staff’s confidence that he can hold down the one-technique DT spot in a pinch, thus allowing Hatcher to play – and play well, so far – Ratliff’s three-technique position. Hayden has started 13 of the 28 games he’s played over his four years in the NFL, but did not play this past season.

         “He’s done a nice job,” Garrett said of Hayden, who also has the ability to play either DT position. “Regardless of what combination he’s in there with or who he is going against he seems to show up and make some plays.”

         As for Selvie, well, let Garrett tell you what he thinks of the 6-4, 270-pounder who previously has been with four teams since drafted in the seventh round by the Rams in 2010. The player who has yet to start a game (36 played) in the NFL and wasn’t signed by the Cowboys until a week into training camp:

         “He played particularly well in the game up there in Canton (Dolphins), played well last week in Arizona – just kind of showing up … a guy we want to keep looking at and see if he has a role on this football team.”

         Who knows for sure, backups today, starters tomorrow?

dallas cowboys cb morris claiborne scores on a 50 yard fumble recovery vs philadelphia eagles - the boys are back blog

         At least Claiborne has started running a bit, and hopes to practice next week. If not, well, the Cowboys have been running nickel back Orlando Scandrick with the firsts at right corner. So, the dilemma there is this: On nickel, does Scandrick move inside to his slot-cover position and the Cowboys then bring in either Sterling Moore or rookie B.W. Webb to play right corner, or do they leave Scandrick outside and go with either Moore or Webb inside? Scandrick previously has struggled doing both in the same game.

         Not sure they’ve decided on which, so keep an eye out on Saturday night.

         And then safety: Johnson and Frampton haven’t practiced for two weeks, and with the final preseason game next Thursday, hardly seems possible they would practice fully on Monday and Tuesday and play against the Texans on Thursday after being out so long. And then would they be ready for the Giants the following Sunday? Heck, will they even make the final 53-man roster?

         If not in either case, then you are looking at Wilcox, who returned Wednesday after going home for his mother’s funeral and is expected to play against the Bengals; veteran Danny McCray, more of a special teams player than a true safety; and then rookie free agents Jeff Heath (Saginaw Valley State) and Jakar Hamilton (South Carolina State).

cincinnati bengals defensive end carlos dunlap (96) gets called for a facemask as he sacks dallas cowboys quarterback tony romo - the boys are back blog

         A little bit of a roster conundrum for sure.

         So call this a dress rehearsal if you wish. But with so many what-ifs hanging over the Cowboys’ heads, this just might be last call for many of these guys since the cuts to 75 come Tuesday (August 27th), then the ones to 53 by the following Saturday (August 31st), and since this likely will be the final chance to prove yourself against first-team opposition.

         See there? So much to decide, so little time left to do so.

New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys - AT&T Stadium - 2013 Dallas Cowboys

Button - Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants - Dallas Cowboys 2013-2014 schedule - 2013 Dallas Cowboys season opener

NO VANILLA EXTRACTION: Now is not the time to show all of the Dallas Cowboys offensive cards

Dallas Cowboys - Opening ceremony - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

OXNARD, Calif. – There’s vanilla.

         And then there is Dallas Cowboys double-secret ultra-vanilla.

         That’s exactly what we saw Friday night from that Cowboys offense in a 19-17 preseason game No. 2 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

         Not surprising to say the least.

         Generally, teams do not like to show much of anything they are planning new for the upcoming season in a mere preseason game, especially just the second of what will be five for the Cowboys this summer. And that’s doubly true when playing an opponent they will be facing at some time during the regular season.

         So no way was head coach Jason Garrett going to give the Oakland Raiders any hint of what might be coming down the pipe during the 2013 season from this Cowboys offense, even if the two teams won’t meet until Thanksgiving Day at AT&T Stadium, Game 12 of the regular season. Not an entirely new offense, granted, but one with two tight ends becoming the base set and now Bill Callahan calling the plays.

         And, of course, with quarterback Tony Romo having a little more say in game-planning and the implementation of some new plays he’s partial, too. Instead of the 11th-year veteran having to “draw those plays up in the dirt,” which he could have Friday night quite easily (since a good portion of the O’s field is consumed by the A’s infield).

         There likely was some great anticipation on everyone’s part to see just how all this would work with the first-team offense making its 2013 preseason debut. The first-team offensive line was allowed to work during last Sunday’s Hall of Fame game. You know, Romo and Jason Witten and Dez Bryant and Miles Austin and DeMarco Murray and them finally out there playing together.

         There would be Witten and James Hanna, maybe some Gavin Escobar and Dante Rosario, too, showcasing these two-tight sets we’ve been witnessing here during training camp practices. Then, too, some of these new pass plays that have become a staple of camp workouts. Oh boy.

         And what?

         Nothing. As vanilla as you can get.

         Oh, the Cowboys ran some two-tight sets, but for the majority of the first-team offense’s two series (and even when Kyle Orton was in there running things behind the first offensive line with backups galore at running back and wide receiver). The Cowboys, of all things for everyone anticipating a hard-charging running attack, seemed to be in three-receiver sets more than anything.

         They weren’t about to expose much of anything, and from my understanding only did so with a couple of plays just to help keep a couple of drives alive to create more reps for some of the younger guys. Secrets are secrets, and no sense putting too much on tape for the Giants to start going to school on at this early date.

         In fact, for all those readily jumping to conclusions about this perceived “new” Cowboys offensive philosophy following that first preseason game in which they ran the ball 34 times and threw it only 21 – you know, see there that Bill Callahan, he’ll emphasize the run more – well, surprise, surprise, in this game against the Raiders the Cowboys ran the ball only 20 times and threw it around 32 times – the very reason no one should draw undeniable conclusions from these practice games.

         Talk about holding the play-call sheet over your mouth to prevent lip reading.

         But having said all this, the Cowboys still piled up 171 yards of total offense in the first half with Romo and Orton totaling three series, scoring on two of them and likely would have scored on all three if not for a blocked 26-yard field-goal attempt Mr. Automatic, Dan Bailey, surely would have made.

         OK, can hear the grumbling in the background already. While that all might be true, you’re screaming, same ol’, same ol’ with the Cowboys offense, three penalties inside the Oakland 30 turned potential touchdown drives into field-goal attempts. The nerve of that Witten to get caught holding, or for potentially first-time starter Ronald Leary to false start and Hanna to do so also.

         And as Garrett said afterward, bemoaning the penalties, the blocked field goal and the game-turning fumbled punt by rookie B.W. Webb, “We’ll continue to harp on that.”

         But did you see, or you should have seen, the ease in which Romo hooked up with Bryant three times for 55 yards; with Austin on slants twice for 22 yards; Orton with Cole Beasley twice, the second for a 15-yard touchdown.

         And guess what? Of the 32 attempts, only three times were tight ends targeted, and only one of those Witten. That ain’t going to happen, Witten targeted just once in a game. Please.

           Just look at the first-half stats alone, a half the Cowboys had a 10-6 lead, for what that matters. Romo and Orton were a combined 12 of 14 for 140 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, one sack, finishing with a QB rating of 132.1. Bryant, Austin and Beasley finished the game combining for eight catches on eight targets, totaling 126 yards and the Beasley touchdown.

         And for the most part Romo and Orton had the time of day in the pocket behind what most perceive as a worrisome offensive line. Hmmm, while the Cowboys are keeping their eyes open for fortuitous opportunities to enhance that crew, particularly at guard, maybe what you saw Friday night isn’t all that bad, from left to right Tyron Smith, Leary, Travis Frederick, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Doug Free. Especially since, unlike the other four, Bernadeau was playing for the first time after returning from injury.

         Maybe their main problem up front is really who is playing behind these guys, especially at tackle since with Jermey Parnell injured (hamstring) and veteran Demetress Bell still trying to get in shape, there isn’t much to write home about. As Jones said after the game, making a move up front “would be determined by the opportunity” available, meaning he’s not necessarily desperate to sign just anybody at this moment.

         Romo did get sacked once, but did you see how long he had in the pocket before everything collapsed? And he did have Austin wide open in the end zone, but explained later, on that particular play that Austin was his third read and by time he got there, Austin was covered and pocket time had expired.

         “I don’t want to get away from here without talking about the offensive line,” Romo said. “There were a couple of times I had all day and we had a sack, an incompletion on those two plays, so that’s going to help us a lot if we’re able to do that.

         “That’s different. I know what it’s like to play behind that, and having that ability like they did tonight would be a huge bonus for us.”

         So with three more preseason games to play, another five training camp practices this week, resuming Sunday evening, there is time to clean things up while still playing peek-a-boo with play-calls and offensive intentions.

          And oh, by the way, if now your concern is the ability to run the ball more efficiently, at the conclusion of the first half, when the first-team offensive line retired for the evening, the Cowboys had run the ball six times for 36 yards with Murray, Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner, a 6-yard average following last Sunday night’s 5-yard mark.

          “It was good,” Romo said of what took place in the team’s first three offensive series. “We did what we’ve been doing in training camp and moved the ball real well. We were holding back on a lot of our stuff, red zone stuff and some other things. We would have liked to have scored a touchdown, but we got hurt by penalties more than anything, and that aspect of it is just going to hurt you no matter what.

          “So we have to avoid that [and] stress that this week, and we’re going to make sure that stops.”

           But probably not the double-scoops of vanilla approach.

Courtesy: Mickey Spagnola | Columnist

Editors comments: I don’t have a problem with being vanilla with the starters on their first few series this preseason. You come out and keep it simple … basic. The same philosophy deployed with this new 4-3 scheme, also applies to the offense this early in the year. The veterans might not need that as much, sure. But these new roster additions and young rookies do! The beauty of this offensive roster is that they can afford to come out and execute basic runs and passes. See if the opposing defenses can stop that first. With so many Cowboy players wielding star power, it’s a challenge for most defenses to handle them man-for-man. You sprinkle in wrinkles, after you get the basics down … ditch the butterflies, and execute these base plays with precision.

I believe the week-one emphasis (and success) of Dallas’ running attack (in the Hall of Fame game) showed coaches what they needed to see. However, if you think back, there was very little to see (or grade) in the passing game in week 1. The coaching staff needs to grade and develop these young offensive linemen in run and passing situations. I think that’s why we saw more pass (and consequently more pass blocking) in the second preseason game. Expect more balance going forward.

The Romo and Orton led drives were successful. The running game is still on pace. Kiffin’s starters have grasped his base defense … his rookies are coming along. Callahan’s starters are showing rust, but promise. Both of these games were more about weeding out the roster, than going for the kill. I do want to see Callahan/Garrett go for the throat once the regular season starts. They have the weapons to make a statement, and they should.

Friday night, Oakland played their starters longer, and did less with them. The Cowboys will host the Raiders later on … rest assured, we’ll see the full arsenal. Garrett is baking that vanilla cake first. He’ll add the icing later.

NFL LIVING LEGEND: Dallas Cowboys lineman Larry Allen inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame (Special Feature)

 

HOF Dallas Cowboys OG Larry Allen chases down linebacker - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Larry Allen chases down an interception (watch Video | listen to Audio)

“This guy’s got a rocket booster strapped to his back!”, proclaimed Dan Dierdorf (puke) as 325 lb. Larry Allen chased down a Troy Aikman tipped interception during his rookie year.

Larry Allen bench presses 700 lbs. - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Larry Allen bench presses 700 lbs. (watch Video | listen to Audio)

Watch as Dallas Cowboys guard Larry Allen works his way up to a 700 lb. bench press during the spring of 2001.

A Tribute To Larry Allen - Hall of Fame Class of 2013 - The Boys Are Back blog

A Tribute To Larry Allen: Hall of Fame Class of 2013 (Video | Audio)

Dallas Cowboys legends speak about what made Larry Allen so great, as he is announced as a member of 2013’s NFL’s Pro Football Hall of Fame class.


SPAGNOLA: In the beginning of this remarkable L.A. story

Dallas Cowboys lineman Larry Allen inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

OXNARD, Calif. – Here is exactly what we know about Larry Allen.

He will become the 14th true Dallas Cowboys member inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday in Canton, Ohio, and just the second offensive lineman in the expansion franchise’s 53-year history.

While playing for the Cowboys from 1994-2005, he was named to the Pro Bowl 10 times (seven consecutively), one short of the team’s all-time record of 11 held by Bob Lilly, a Hall of Famer himself, and as many as Hall of Famer Mel Renfro but more than the likes of Hall of Famers Randy White, Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Tony Dorsett.

Twice he was named to the NFL All-Decade Team, in the 1990s and the 2000s, quite a feat to have played so long at such a high level during his 12 years with the Cowboys and final two seasons with San Francisco, which included his 11th Pro Bowl selection.

He was a member of the Dallas Cowboys’ 1995 Super Bowl championship team and played in consecutive NFC title games his first two seasons in the NFL.

He had the speed to once run down a New Orleans linebacker from way behind who certainly thought he was taking his interception to the house, and yet strong enough to bench press 700 pounds one day at The Ranch.

Allen, along with Charles Haley and Drew Pearson, were the last inductees to the Dallas Cowboys’ 20-member Ring of Honor.

Whew, that’s a ton, appropriately so since he was a ton for opponents to handle during his career.

But for the rest of the story, or maybe it’s the first of the story, we have to know how in the world a guy who went to Butte Junior College in Oroville, Calif., and then to Sonoma State, a Division II school, winds up getting drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, who at the time were the two-time defending Super Bowl champs.

You will discover a lot of luck and tireless research by many were involved.

Current director of scouting Tom Ciskowski first turned the Cowboys on to this massive offensive lineman. At the time, the Cowboys were members of BLESTO, the national scouting combine service teams used around the league which had written a report on this Allen guy.

“I was the West Coast scout,” Ciskowski said of his role back then with the Cowboys, “so was responsible for all the schools in that area.”

Even tiny Sonoma State, north of San Francisco, past Petaluma, and east of the 101 that runs right through the current Cowboys training camp site. Yet, it’s hard to evaluate players like Allen because of the level of competition he’d been playing against. You just don’t know if he’s throwing guys around because they are two levels below Division I.

Ciskowski made his dutiful school call, and the coach set up a meeting with Allen. “He was fighting for him,” Ciskowski said, a scouting term for endorsing. Then once he had the meeting and put the tape on, he gained enough confidence to recommend Allen to the Cowboys’ higher-ups because “you could see he had something.”

The Cowboys, and many other teams, could see Allen had something, too, when he was invited to play in the East-West Shrine All-Star Game.

“Sure you are concerned,” Ciskowski said of evaluating his play against other D-II schools, “until you saw him against the Penn States, Ohio States, Michigan States in that game.”

That is where then scouting director Larry Lacewell first got a glimpse of this guy going like 6-4, 330 pounds, who was strong as a bull.

“Frankly, looking at a guy from Sonoma State is not real exciting,” Lacewell says, “until you saw him practicing against Division-I guys.

Lacewell, still around at training camp these days, remembers seeing Allen in a pass-rush drill, the first guy trying to rush around him.

“He punched him,” said Lacewell, meaning reaching out and pass blocking with two hands to strike the guy in the chest, “and you could hear ka-baam.”

Then in a full-speed team drill Allen drilled a linebacker, “and I saw him rolling on the ground,” Lacewell said. “Just stuck him. I just remember how strong he was.”

That convinced the Cowboys to push him up the draft board. Ciskowski, Lacewell and offensive line coach Hudson Houck saw what they thought could be, because as Lacewell said after watching film of Allen playing at Sonoma State, “It was unfair,” L.A. against those D-II opponents.

Even at that, there still was another hurdle to overcome. Somewhat of a defective shoulder was discovered at the NFL Combine, or as Cowboys trainer Jim Maurer, then an assistant to then Cowboys trainer Kevin O’Neill, remembers, a rotator cuff problem. As the story goes, there was another problem: Allen was so wide across the chest he couldn’t fit into the MRI chamber, so whatever doctors were worried about couldn’t be confirmed by an imaging picture.

Also there was this: Scar tissue from multiple stab wounds in the shoulder sustained during his formative years growing up in Compton, Calif.

“It was a pretty significant issue as I remember,” Maurer says of the shoulder, “a lot of questions about it.”

Bryan Broaddus, then working in the Green Bay scouting department, remembers Allen, and remembers the Packers were so worried about the shoulder that he was taken off their draft board for medical reasons.

But O’Neill didn’t take the easy way out he could have when the Cowboys front office came to him for an opinion. You know, cautiously downgrade Allen just to cover himself if the shoulder curtailed Allen’s career.

Ciskowski remembers O’Neill saying “the shoulder could be rehabbed” instead of needing surgical repair.

So the Cowboys had Allen on the on board, so on board Lacewell says that they had a first-round grade on the man-kid from Sonoma State. But on draft day, Allen began falling, falling, falling. Look, guys like Heath Shuler, Trent Dilfer, Shante Carver (Cowboys), Eric Mahlum, Kevin Lee, Bruce Walker, Marcus Spears (seriously, an OT) and David Palmer already had been drafted in the first and early part of the second. But Allen? Still was on the board.

“So we’re sitting there, and you know you hear rumors, you heard about the shoulder problems,” Lacewell said, “and we’re asking ourselves, ‘What are we missing?’”

So Lacewell, Ciskowski and Houck went into the room next to the Cowboys war room with the draft in progress and Allen falling out of the first round and into the second. They put the film of Allen on one more time “to make sure we were seeing the right thing,” Lacewell says. “Maybe we were wrong, and you just don’t do that or have the time (during the draft).

“But Hud, Tom and I, particularly Tom – I give him all the credit in the world, because it’s easy to waffle or lose your guts on a guy from Sonoma State – we were confident he was the guy. No doubt we were holding our breath (when he was falling) until he got to us.”

And with the 17th pick in the second round, 46th overall, the Dallas Cowboys select offensive guard Larry Allen, Sonoma State.

Who? What? From where? Thought they produced wine out there in Sonoma not football players?

Oh, and there was one more flashback for Lacewell. When time came for the rookie Allen to take his conditioning test, Lacewell says, “He was pitiful. He couldn’t finish anything.”

But brother, could he finish a block, and as the stories go, finish a guy’s career, too, Cowboys COO Stephen Jones remembering how one opponent lambasted by Allen retiring from football the very next day and how several opponents would develop what became known as the “Allen flu,” turning up sick/hurt the day they would have to take on the Cowboys offensive lineman.

And Saturday, Larry Allen, the man of few words, from tiny Sonoma State will officially finish his NFL career with a bronzed bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame preceded by potentially the shortest acceptance speech in the history of the Hall’s enshrinement ceremony. But that’s OK. They don’t judge these guys on words, just production.

“Over my years I like to name the few really great ones,” said Lacewell, who’s been around a whole lot of great ones, first starting his coaching career under Bear Bryant at Alabama and having then coached at Oklahoma, Iowa State, Arkansas State (head coach for 11 years) and Tennessee before spending 13 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys (1992-2004) in their college and pro scouting departments.

“And Larry Allen is the very best offensive guard I’ve ever seen, phenomenal. I’ve known Cortez Kennedy for quite some time. Recruited him. Cortez Kennedy told me once when Larry would hit you, he said, ‘It felt like a boulder had.’ I remember a linebacker once trying to run from him, he’d punch the guy and the linebacker started rolling on the ground.”

Imagine that. Imagine all of this.

And then you have the rest of this L.A. story.

TRAINING CAMP ON-DEMAND: Watch the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard–Scoring Chances

TRAINING CAMP ON-DEMAND - Watch the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard–Scoring Chances - The Boys Are Back blog

TRAINING CAMP ON-DEMAND: Scoring Chances

Watch the 1-on-1 period in the redzone drills. End-of-game special situations that concluded with a surprise call by Bill Callahan. (Duration – 9:09)

Click HERE to watch video … Click HERE to listen to the audio

TRAINING CAMP ON-DEMAND - Watch the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard–Scoring Chances defended - The Boys Are Back blog


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RESPECTABLE ROSTER: Picking the 2013 Cowboys Mr. Indispensable is not so clear cut (Special Feature)

    IRVING, Texas – Maybe for the first time in the eight years of naming the Dallas Cowboys’ Mr. Indispensable, the annual award that comes with a hearty pat on the back and quite possibly national Twitter acclaim, the chosen one is not so clear cut.

    That can mean one of two things for the Cowboys heading toward training camp for the 2013 season:

    Either the Cowboys have a slew of players they just can’t do without.

    Or they just don’t have that one dominant player standing out above all the rest. You can decide.

    But, well, the ton of injuries suffered by the Cowboys this past 8-8 season sure clouded not only the team’s performance but also individual expectations for this year. Like just how good is this guy? He only played six games or eight games or 10?

    Think back to last season if you can stomach a second consecutive year that winning the NFC East came down to winning or losing the final game of the season, that the Cowboys lost both times. Like Sean Lee, he seemed on his way to the Pro Bowl, yet played just the first games of the season. Or Bruce Carter missing the final five games. DeMarco Murray missing six games. Jay Ratliff missing 10. Miles Austin rarely 100 percent. DeMarcus Ware playing nearly the entire season with a bad hamstring, and then down the stretch with a shoulder in need of postseason surgery and an elbow’s function aided by a brace.

    Some season, huh?

    But we must soldier on, and as always the quarterback is ineligible, meaning Tony Romo doesn’t count. That would be too easy, and usually is the case with I’m guessing at least two-thirds of the NFL teams, that the starting quarterback is the one guy they can’t do without. That certainly applies to Romo, no matter how maybe a quarter of the polled players voted in NFL.com’s Top 100.

    So let’s go.

Continue reading →

DALLAS COWBOYS 2013-2014 OTA: Wrapping Up Week 1

The Dallas Cowboys Week-1 OTA’s wrapped up today, with three days of practices and exercises. The team will have a total of ten days of these activities … three more next week, and four in the final week. Click HERE to see the full off-season NFL calendar for the Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys week 1 OTA's - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Wrapping up Week-1 of the Dallas Cowboys OTA’s – (Video duration – 7:33)

Bill Jones and Mickey Spagnola wrap up the first week of Dallas Cowboys OTA’s on The Blitz.

Dallas Cowboys 2013 OTA - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys 2013 OTA - The Boys Are Back blog - B

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