Category Archives: Tim Cowlishaw

NFL FREE AGENCY FRENZY: Dallas Cowboys doors left open but DeMarcus Ware probably won’t be back

Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware pictured during Oakland Raiders vs. Dallas Cowboys 2013

The worst defensive team in the NFL just parted ways with its most dynamic player.

The post-DeMarcus Ware era is upon us, and don’t believe for a minute that he and his agent will simply test the free-agent waters.

Ware will get the offer he wants. Ware is likely gone.

How can this possibly be a good thing for the league’s 32nd-ranked defense, given that Ware is only 31-years-old?

It’s mostly — but not entirely — a case of money.

We applaud the forward thinking teams of this league that use the unique status of NFL contracts, cutting players when they are simply starting to leave the prime of their careers in order to make room for newer, younger, cheaper talent.

New England has been doing this for a decade. The New York Giants do it. The New Orleans Saints just cast off about half their defense (it seemed) to retool and invest in the future.

The Cowboys? That’s the team that always keeping the salary cap at bay by re-working contracts and moving today’s problems into tomorrow land.

In large part, those past re-workings caught up with the Dallas Cowboys today. DeMarcus Ware was never supposed to count more than $16 million against the cap, but the club had shifted his money and his cap figure down the line until this crossroads was reached.

We don’t know what sort of reduction (if any) that Ware and his agent, Pat Dye, were willing to take in order to stay in Dallas. It sounds as if they were against any sort of pay cut.

They needed a decision by the time free-agency arrived at 3 p.m. They got their wish. The Dallas Cowboys cut a Ring of Honor candidate. See the press release below.

Given that no one really knows the answer to how much Ware was in decline last year or how much injuries contributed.

Jerry Jones chose not to shove today’s worries into next year’s cap. It’s possible that Ware signs with a 3-4 team, returns to his old outside linebacker position and goes to the 2014 Pro Bowl.

Possible.

After all, someone drafted Ware in 2005 when head coach Bill Parcells was pushing for another outside linebacker, Shawne Merriman, who began his pro career with three straight Pro Bowl trips for San Diego. Merriman faded quickly after that. He retired from the NFL a year ago.

Ware, undoubtedly, has football left in him, but his decline in sacks the last two seasons (from 19.5 to 11.5 to 6) is a good indicator of which way he’s most likely headed.

The pertinent question now is: What do the Cowboys do?

They suddenly find themselves with $9 million in cap room, a figure that will grow beyond $14 million if wide receiver Miles Austin gets his official walking papers in June.

It’s almost certain Dallas will remain on the sidelines as the big free-agency dollars are passed out. That’s a good thing. The Cowboys’ plays as big spenders have almost never panned out, and the same goes for other clubs.

But they have to do something. And they have to absolutely nail their first two picks in a May draft that is filled with defensive linemen.

In hindsight, many Dallas Cowboys fans wish Jones has learned this lesson a year ago when he was giving all that money to Jay Ratliff, a failed attempt to placate the recalcitrant tackle.


Related … 

Dallas Cowboys press release announcing release of DeMarcus Ware:

The Dallas Cowboys released defensive end DeMarcus Ware Tuesday. Ware, who was Dallas’ first first-round draft pick in 2005 (11th overall), is the club’s all-time sack leader (117.0). In his nine years with the team, Ware earned seven consecutive Pro Bowl appearances — tied for the fourth-longest streak in team history — and racked up seven straight seasons with 10 or more sacks (2006-12). Jared Allen (2007-13) is the only other league defender with seven consecutive 10-sack seasons since 2006.

A decision like this, involving a man who is a cornerstone player in the history of your franchise, is extremely difficult,” said Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones.

“After meeting this afternoon, DeMarcus and I agreed on an understanding that would allow him to explore the options he will have for the 2014 season and beyond. We were also in very strong agreement that playing for the Dallas Cowboys would be one of the options we would both be exploring.

“DeMarcus Ware, through his performance on the field and his outstanding character, is someone who is held in the highest regard within the Dallas Cowboys family. He is worthy of our greatest respect, and we want what is best for him and his family.”

In 2008 Ware established a club record and league-high 20.0 sacks, becoming only the seventh league defender to reach 20.0 in a season at the time and was named the 2008 NFC Defensive Player of the Year. En route to his 20.0 sacks in 2008, Ware put together a streak of 10 straight games (beginning in 2007) with at least one full sack, tying Simon Fletcher (1992-93) for the longest sack streak in NFL history.

In 2010 Ware led the league with 15.5 sacks to become only the fifth league defender to lead the NFL in sacks multiple times (Mark Gastineau, Reggie White, Kevin Greene and Michael Strahan). The very next season, Ware racked up 19.5 sacks to join Gastineau as the only league defenders with two seasons of 19.0-or-more sacks.

Through his nine seasons in Dallas, Ware posted the top-four single-season sack figures by a club linebacker  – prior to making the switch to defensive end in 2013 – and four of the top-five single-season figures by any club defender.

Ware was a two-time winner of the Dick Butkus Award (honoring the league’s top linebackers). He won the first ever professional Butkus Award in 2008 and was a co-winner with Terrell Suggs in 2011. Ware was named All-Pro seven times, All-NFC three times, NFC Defensive Player of the Week four times, won the club’s Bob Lilly Award two times and was the team’s Man of the Year once.

Ware leaves Dallas with 710 tackles (ninth in club history), his club-best 117.0 sacks, 58 tackles for losses, 259 quarterback pressures and 32 forced fumbles – the most in club history since 1994 when the stat was first tracked.”

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GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE: What’s next for former Dallas Cowboys DT Josh Brent (extensive coverage)

LENIENCY GRANTED BY JURY - Former Dallas Cowboys DT Josh Brent sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years probation, now what - The Boys Are Back 2014

IRVING, Texas – Former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent was sentenced today to 180 days in jail and 10 years of probation after the jury found him guilty two days prior of driving drunk in a car crash that resulted in the death of his teammate and friend, Jerry Brown Jr.

Brent was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine after being convicted of intoxication manslaughter Wednesday for the December 2012 wreck.

The jurors were sequestered Tuesday before Brent was convicted a day later. The sentencing phase began Thursday to determine the punishment for Brent, who faced up to 20 years in prison. Police said Brent’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit at the time of the incident. Brent was driving at least 110 miles an hour on an Irving service road when he flipped his white Mercedes. Neither man wore a seatbelt and the momentum if the crash threw Brown on top of Brent and cushioned Brent from serious injury.

GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE - What’s next for former Dallas Cowboys DT Josh Brent - attorneys

Photo: The jury in the Josh Brent intoxication manslaughter trial came in with sentencing after deliberations this morning, January 24, 2014. The former Dallas Cowboys player received 180 days and 10 years probation. Defense attorneys George Milner III, center, Kevin Brooks, left, and David Wells, right, spoke with the media following the jury’s decision. (Mona Reeder/DMN)

Prosecutors Heath Harris, Jason Hermus, Becky Dodds and Gary McDonald are asking jurors for prison time. Brent faces up to 20 years in prison but is also eligible for probation.

GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE - What’s next - Assistant District Attorney, Heath Harris, spoke to the media following the sentencing of former Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent.

Photo: Assistant District Attorney, Heath Harris, spoke to the media following the sentencing of former Dallas Cowboys player, Josh Brent. (Mona Reeder/DMN)

Defense attorneys George Milner III, Kevin Brooks and Deandra Grant made a plea for probation.

GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE - What’s next - Josh Brent stands with lawyer Kevin Brooks while his punishment for his intoxication manslaughter conviction is read in court

Photo: Josh Brent stands with one of his lawyers Kevin Brooks while the punishment for his intoxication manslaughter conviction is read in court. Dallas, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Pool/LM Otero, Pool)

The the jury deliberated less than an hour before being sequestered for the night at a hotel.

The trial has attracted national attention and has lasted longer that most trials in Dallas County except for those where prosecutors are seeking death in a capital murder case. Jury selection began Thursday, Jan. 9. Testimony began the following Monday.

After reading the sentence, state District Judge Robert Burns scolded Brent for his actions. “You are not the first Dallas Cowboy to kill someone with a vehicle,” the judge said, “but I hope you’re the last.”

Dallas Cowboys players Barry Church and Danny McCray were among the people to testify during the trial. Brown’s mother, Stacey Jackson, also testified during the sentencing phase and has repeatedly stated she’s forgiven Brent for what took place.

GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE - What’s next for former Dallas Cowboys DT Josh Brent - LaTasha Brent, the mother of Josh Brent

Photo: LaTasha Brent, the mother of Josh Brent, is helped from the courtroom following the punishment decision. (Mona Reeder/DMN)

GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE - What’s next - Josh Brent is lead away from court into custody after his sentencing

Photo: Former Dallas Cowboys NFL football player Josh Brent, center, is lead away from the Dallas courtroom into custody after his sentencing. (AP Photo/Pool/LM Otero, Pool)

Brent, who last played with the Cowboys in 2012 and totaled 1.5 sacks in 12 games, has retired since the incident. The Cowboys still retain his rights. Executive vice president Stephen Jones wouldn’t address the possibility of Brent returning to the team as he spoke from a Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Ala., prior to Wednesday’s conviction.

Linebacker Sean Lee attended the trial Tuesday and was in the courtroom to provide support for Brent. Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett have also offered their support for Brent since the accident occurred.

“We understand the very serious nature of this situation and express our concerns for all of the families and individuals that have been affected by the tragedy of Jerry Brown’s death,” owner/general manager Jerry Jones said in a statement after the conviction.


THE PATH BACK TO VALLEY RANCH: Josh Brent’s to return to the NFL, and the Dallas Cowboys rights

THE PATH BACK TO VALLEY RANCH - Josh Brent’s to return to the NFL, and the Dallas Cowboys rights - game

Former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent will have the chance to restart his NFL career one year after he retired if he chooses to pursue professional football again.

And it’s possible Brent could again play with a star on his helmet less than two years after he was responsible for the death of a teammate.

Brent retired from the NFL on July 18 with an NFL suspension looming and less than 24 hours before the Dallas Cowboys were to report to training camp.

Brent could face some hiccups in his path back to the NFL. He’d have to apply for reinstatement, and any request has to be reviewed and approved by the league. If he were reinstated, Brent could still be suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his conviction under the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy.

Such a decision would hinge on how the league ultimately views Brent’s one year away from football. If Brent returns, he would have missed a year by his own choice, and the league could decide not to pursue a suspension. Or, because Brent is a repeat offender with a previous DWI arrest in Illinois, his suspension could be longer than that of a first-time offender.

GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE - What’s next for former Dallas Cowboys DT Josh Brent - will he return to the nfl

The Dallas Cowboys retain Brent’s contract rights, however, and he should be out of jail before the team reports for training camp in late July in Oxnard, Calif. Brent’s time served began Friday, and 180 days from today would put his release date at July 23.

Whether the Cowboys would welcome Brent back isn’t clear. But they’ve fully supported him since the tragic crash, even helping him get a job at a warehouse after he retired from the league. And, on Wednesday, before Brent was convicted of the second-degree felony, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones didn’t exactly close the door on Brent.

Asked if he’d ever consider Brent playing again for the Cowboys, Jones said, “I wouldn’t address that right now.”

The Dallas Cowboys declined to comment today after Brent was sentenced.

Peter Schaffer, Brent’s agent, was asked today if his client has completely closed the door on a future in the NFL.

“Haven’t thought about that,” Schaffer said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Brown family.”

Defense attorneys George Milner III and Kevin Brooks acknowledged that Brent could play pro football again. But Milner said Brent has never mentioned playing again and doesn’t talk about football unless he’s asked about it. They did not know if Brent still worked out.

“That road is not foreclosed,” Brooks said.

First Assistant District Attorney Heath Harris, the lead prosecutor in the case, said he would not begrudge Brent for returning to football. But he said Brent needs to get treatment and serve as an example to other players about the consequences of drunken driving.

“As long as he’s not out drinking and driving, I don’t have a problem with anybody doing his occupation,” Harris said. “Everybody has a right to earn a living.”

Other NFL players have continued their pro careers after being responsible for someone’s death.

Cleveland Browns receiver Donte’ Stallworth struck and killed a pedestrian in March 2009 while driving drunk. Five months later, Goodell suspended Stallworth the entire 2009 season without pay. Stallworth, who received 30 days in jail and eight years’ probation, was reinstated by the NFL the next season and went on to play in 20 games from 2010 to 2012 for three different teams.

After leaving a birthday party in 1998, then-St. Louis Rams defensive end Leonard Little crashed into and killed a woman in St. Louis while driving drunk. Little received four years’ probation before going on to a 12-year career with the Rams.

Brent will spend his 26th birthday Thursday in jail. Though still young, what kind of shape he’s in when he’s released will play a part in teams’ possible interest in him. And he isn’t exactly an ideal fit for the Cowboys since they’ve switched defensive schemes.

Also, he had only 31 career tackles in three seasons with the Cowboys before his arrest.


ATTORNEY’S LIVE INTERVIEW: Testimony from Jerry Brown Jr.’s mother brings leniency in sentencing for Josh Brent

GETTING BACK ON THE SADDLE - What’s next - Josh Brent stands with lawyer Kevin Brooks while his punishment for his intoxication manslaughter conviction is read in court

Photo: A packed courtroom listens to Judge Robert Burns III, right, admonish former Dallas Cowboys Josh Brent as he stands with his lawyers after Brent’s sentencing for his intoxication manslaughter conviction was read in court Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, in Dallas. Brent was sentenced for a drunken car crash that killed his friend and teammate, Jerry Brown Jr. He could have been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. (AP Photo/Pool/LM Otero, Pool)

One of Josh Brent’s attorneys, Kevin Brooks, joined KRLD-FM today. Here are some highlights from the interview. 

Audio - Josh Brent attorney Kevin Brooks - 1053 the fan krld - The Boys Are Back 2014

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW

On Josh Brent’s feelings right now:

“Josh is not the person that some folks have made him out to be. The people that know Josh will tell you that and if you ever spend any time around him you would see that he’s a very private person. In a lot of ways he’s an extremely shy guy, which would be surprising for someone his size and his physical presence. When we went back in the holding cell after the verdict Josh wasn’t jumping up and down happy. He was still extremely somber. I told him, ‘You’ve got a lot to process,’ because as I said during closing arguments this is something that he has lived with since December 8.”

On how this has changed Josh Brent:

“I can only go — in terms of how he was before this accident — by what people have told me. They described him before this accident as a very upbeat, positive, happy-go-lucky kind of guy. Since then they’ve noticed that he’s become extremely reserved, which is not surprising knowing that he’s had this thing hanging over head for almost a year a half. But he is still a fairly reserved, quiet, private individual.”

On the 10-year probation:

“For him to get probation in this case the jury had to come back with a sentence of 10 years or less. Anything above 10 years, they could not recommend probation so the 10 years was the starting point. And obviously the next point was do they recommend probation, which they did. The judge sentenced him to 10 years of probation. In the state of Texas that’s the maximum amount of time a person can be placed on probation is 10 years. If he were to violate he’s looking at 10 years.”

On returning to football:

“As far as the Cowboys or going back to the Cowboys or anything like that, that’s never been part of our discussions.”

On people saying Josh Brent got off light:

“They weren’t privy to the evidence that the jury saw and heard, particularly during the punishment phase. They were not there to witness the real grace and forgiveness that Jerry Brown’s mom came across with it. It’s pretty clear from here testimony to the jury that she did not want Josh going to prison and Josh was a second son to hear. And then the other thing that I think most citizens don’t know is there are people on probation for that same offense and one of the things that we brought out during the punishment phase is that presently there are 34 people on probation for that offense. One of the things we did not bring out, the year before there was 55 people on probation for that same offense. So in terms of painting this probation as something that’s unusual or unheard of, I think we were able to show that’s simply not the case.”

On the terms of Brent’s probation:

“There are a lot of terms and conditions. Generally there are 17 that are standardized and they can be as simple as pay your probation fee each month, perform a number of community service hours as determined by the judge, attend alcohol or drug treatment classes, restitution payments if necessary. Things of that nature. Any of those things are what you called technical violations. They rarely result in a person’s probation being revoked. The main thing would be continuing to test positive for any drugs or committing a new offense whether it’s alcohol-related or not.”

On what his restrictions are on driving:

“Those are the types of things that fall under terms and conditions of probation for him and those are things that the judge can add or takeaway. I have no doubt that at the point he’s released at the end of the 180 days, he’s going to put him on a monitor. He’s going to put him on what’s called a ‘SCRAM’ which will let the court know if he’s using alcohol. He’s not going to be allowed to drink alcohol while on probation, so there’s going to be a lot of restrictions on him and there’s going to be a lot of technical devices to monitor him and what he’s doing or consuming.”


Media Coverage immediately following the sentencing of Josh Brent

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Try this link for Dallas/Ft Worth breaking news coverage (NBC DFW)


COWLISHAW EDITORIAL: Will fans be as forgiving if Dallas Cowboys bring Josh Brent back?

dallas cowboys josh brent - the boys are back blog

A light sentence handed to Josh Brent on an intoxication manslaughter charge Friday — 180 days in jail plus 10 years’ probation — was no great surprise. This is Texas. If you’re going to be convicted of manslaughter on a drinking-and-driving charge (after you have already been convicted of another DUI), this is one of the better states to avoid doing hard time.

A recent case in which a 17-year-old was basically deemed too spoiled to be responsible for having killed four people while driving drunk — he received no jail time — still boggles the mind. Against that backdrop, finding a jury quick to sympathize with Brent after he had jeopardized the holiest of careers — playing for the Dallas Cowboys — must not have been overly difficult.

And yet I believe the idea of Brent jumping right back into a Cowboys uniform and playing next season — he will be free from jail in plenty of time — would repulse much of the fan base. Cowboys fans have long accepted a reasonable amount of aberrant behavior from their heroes as long as they produced titles. Such a quick willingness to forgive and forget here could be the last straw for many struggling to maintain ties with a team so far removed from its championship glory.

A DMN survey suggests a majority of fans will be ready to see Brent back in cleats this fall. We shall see on that.

The problem for me is that giving Brent probation has proved to be a failed cure. He received probation for a DUI charge at the University of Illinois and, yet, there he was in the wee hours of Dec. 8, 2012, finishing off about 17 drinks (according to the evidence) before climbing into his Mercedes, driving recklessly and killing his friend and teammate, Jerry Brown Jr.

Brown’s mother forgave Brent long ago. Is that really all that matters? If the victim’s family forgives, does that mean a serious crime was not committed?

A disturbing but not overly surprising sentence was handed down by a jury Friday.

Time will tell whether the Cowboys — desperate for anyone to play the role of defensive lineman — forgive as quickly and how their fans cope with that decision.

ELEVEN GAME REFLECTION: Is this as good as it’s going to get for the 2012-2013 Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) sits on the sidelines dejected as time runs out in the second half - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – Some eight years ago we all received this Football 401 lecture from Professor Bill, at least giving some of us credit for having passed the lower level courses after all these years.

During his four-year reign as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Bill Parcells’ teams would get off to 5-2, 3-4, 4-3 and 4-3 starts, causing most everyone to eagerly want to know in each of those seasons if the Cowboys were a playoff-caliber team.

And each year Parcells would deliver the same lecture, cautioning over premature speculation, insisting a seven-game body of work lacked sufficient evidence.

Then, right on cue, as if some sort of edict coming down from on high scribbled on stone tablets, he would bark, “Check with me after Thanksgiving. By then you are what you are.”

Well, in this 2012-2013 season of NFL football, the 53rd for your Dallas Cowboys, Black Friday had more to do with the deafening silence following Thursday’s colossal failure than anything to do with gigantic sales.

And if we are to be black and white, though seasons are always loaded with pastels, here is what the Cowboys are:

  • 5-6.
  • Tied with the Washington Redskins for second place in the NFC East.
  • 1.5 games behind the division-leading New York Giants, who must play the 7-3 Green Bay Packers tonight, trying with all of their might to break a two-game losing streak that only Dez Bryant’s fingertips prevented from being three.
  • Possibly just one game behind the Giants in the East if the Packers should win, or two games back with five games remaining if the Giants prevail.
  • And once again facing a must-win situation next Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium against the Philadelphia Eagles, the second time in one month they have plummeted into this same pickle against the very same team.

Soooo, Prof. Bill, with 69 percent of the precincts reporting this day after the Thanksgiving line of demarcation in the 16-game schedule, your Dallas Cowboys indeed are who their record says they are:

A maddeningly inconsistent team. One capable of winning two of the first three games, losing four of the next five games, winning consecutive games for the first time since last November and then laying a big fat egg to the 4-6 Redskins with 90,000 crowded into Cowboys Stadium thoroughly convinced the team would stretch their all-time record over their hated rivals on Thanksgiving Day to 7-0.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) throws a pass to wide receiver Dez Bryant that goes for 85 yards and a touchdown - The Boys Are Back blog

Instead, in a historically dastardly performance, the Cowboys get skinned alive by Texas’ prodigal son, RGIII (and with his holiday performance on national television there really is no need any longer to make reference to the former Baylor quarterback’s lengthy legal name).

Redskins 38, Cowboys 31, the final score only putting gobs of mascara on ugly, simply highlighting a season seemingly on this loop of constantly going up the down staircase, eliciting this equally ugly word mediocre.

In short, a team steaming toward a .500 finish, certainly no barometer for a division title or playoff invitation. Even Mr. Optimistic, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones now understands the score.

“All I can do is sit here and look at the numbers,” Jones said, understandably down in the dumps following the third home loss in five games. “I can’t enthusiastically talk about our odds because I don’t know what New York’s going to do.

“It looks like our best opportunity would be to end up with the best record in the NFC East. I don’t know if 8-8 will get it there or not, and I sure don’t know if we’re going to be 8-8. I’m not trying to be negative, but we’ve got to play these guys again.”

Kenny Chesney perfumes at halftime of the Washington Redskins against the Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

Jerry had just witnessed what, by all odds, figured to be a joyous Thanksgiving Day. The Cowboys and The Salvation Army kicking off the annual Red Kettle Campaign with a Kenny Chesney halftime extravaganza. Their own drive toward first place in the NFC East by winning their third straight game.

Instead, halftime nearing to a merciful close, you could note:

Just awful.

In fact, embarrassing – embarrassing on offense and especially on defense.

There have been two Cowboys turnovers already, a lost fumble and an interception.

There have been three RGIII touchdown passes, and four total Washington touchdowns against a defense so lost in coverage I wonder if these guys will ever find the locker room at halftime. And time running out is the only reason this Washington second-quarter blitz will ever cease.

Thanksgiving? Bad for Kenny Chesney having to play the halftime show before a less than appreciative crowd …

What else would you have said after witnessing the absolute worst quarter of football in the Cowboys’ 53-season history? That’s right, absolute worst.

Only twice previously had the Cowboys given up as many as 28 points in a single quarter as they did in this second frame against the Redskins. But at least in those horrendous quarters the Cowboys actually scored some points of their own.

But on this Turkey Day, the Cowboys were shut out, those aforementioned self-inflicted wounds – two turnovers, hastening the laying of this goose egg. That’s right beaten 28-0 … in one quarter.

The last time the Cowboys gave up 28 points in a second quarter, going on to a deflating 45-7 loss in Green Bay, the defensive coordinator who happened to be the head coach was fired two days later, Jason Garrett then becoming the interim head coach as Wade Phillips unceremoniously cleared out his office.

So hail to the second half, the Cowboys picking themselves up from under the carpet to outscore the Redskins 25-10, regaining some self-respect and scoring enough points with this show of heart and fight to provoke what remained of this home-game crowd onto its feet after they drew within seven twice, first at 35-28 with 8:18 to go and then again at 38-31 with a mere 18 seconds left.

But the NFL does not accept brownie points, the Cowboys now playing the part of Jack in the Beanstalk chasing their own Giants with five games remaining and the resurgent Redskins an overly-stuff backpack on their shoulders.

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) catches a pass vs. Washington Redskins 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

“We got a long way to go and a short time to do it,” tight end Jason Witten said. “We have the right guys to do it. I think Tony did a phenomenal job keeping things alive. Dez has really come on and become a special elite player. Not only the big plays but the underneath throws as well.

“But all that means nothing if we’re not winning. It’s that time. We have to start doing it. We have to start playing well early in games so you can stay within the game plan. You can’t play football and try to win in those situations.”

Now worse than all that, winning in the NFL is even far more challenging when finishing a game, as the Cowboys did Thursday, missing 12 of your opening day starters. That’s half if you count nickel back Orlando Scandrick and punter Chris Jones. The list is exhausting: All three starting defensive linemen; both starting inside linebackers; one starting and the third wide receiver; top two centers; starting left offensive tackle; starting running back with the backup playing on two bad knees; starting safety with the backup playing on a bad hip that kept him out of practice all week, and even his backup missing practice because of concussion-like symptoms.

There was a point in the second half I thought I was watching the third quarter of the second preseason game: Lance Dunbar running; Romo throwing to the likes of Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and Andre Holmes; Jermey Parnell at left tackle, Derrick Dockery at right guard and emergency center Mackenzy Bernadeau with his hand on the ball; backups Marcus Spears, Josh Brent and Tyrone Crawford the defensive front backed by Dan Connor and Ernie “Off My Couch” Sims at inside linebacker; with Mike Jenkins playing slot corner for the first time and equally off-the-couch Charlie Peprah at one of the safety spots.

Kidding me?

This is no excuse, but certainly reasonable fact, especially now in no-man’s land with the status of Bruce Carter (needing surgery for dislocated elbow), Orlando Scandrick (surgery already for spiral fracture of a hand bone), Jason Hatcher (dinged), Miles Austin (hip strain), Jay Ratliff (groin), DeMarco Murray (sprained foot – still), Tyron Smith (ankle), Phil Costa (ankle), Ryan Cook(knee), Sean Lissemore (ankle) and Kevin Ogletree (concussion).

Sure the Cowboys have a lot to fix and not much time to do it, but as Danny McCray said after the game with a wry smile, having played for the first time in his career without having practiced because of injury and knowing the extent of the team’s injury predicament, “That’s one thing you can’t say we can get fixed.”

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan - The Boys Are Back blog

Just play on. Then see if you are more in the end as the Giants were last year than who you are the day after Thanksgiving 11/16ths pole.

Or is this really as good as it gets, right Bill?

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