A week later, and not a creature was stirring at Valley Ranch, not even Jerry.
Reports from the Irving compound say it was an uneasy week, which would have been the case anyway after another end-of-season failure, but uncertainty about the future added greatly to the negative fog.
Jerry would be button-popping proud, if he had been hanging around, to witness, yes, an "uncomfortable" bunch of football people.
When Mr. Jones declared he was placing Valley Ranch on "uncomfortable" lockdown, and said "change" was coming, some of us laughed. Well, OK, I laughed anyway. This man loves and promotes the country club atmosphere for his football team, and now, suddenly, he’s going Vince Lombardi on us?
But my paycheck doesn’t have Jerry’s signature on it, so laughing comes easy. For those, however, who draw paychecks from Mr. Jones, they are sweating the fact that this time — yes, this time — Jerry might be serious about "changes."
Whatever, Jerry has already achieved his declaration that "uncomfortable" would prevail. And since Jerry wasn’t in sight at Valley Ranch by the end of the week, that added to the agony of waiting.
The guess from here, and I’d say it’s a good guess, is Jerry is dug in, maybe at his duck hunting lodge in Arkansas, and working the phone lines nonstop, calling his long-standing list of priority "advisers."
That would include such names as Gibbs, Holmgren, Switzer, Wolf (Ron, the former Green Bay GM), and surprisingly enough, even Parcells and, yes, Johnson, as in Jimmy.
Due to a little verbal dust-up in early November between Jimmy and Jerry, it’s not certain Jones will be making that particular call this time.
But if so, it’s already a fact that Jimmy would deliver a message that Jerry has heard before from him. And so has Jason Garrett.
I’d call that message the No. 1 priority of the off-season: Hire an offensive coordinator and play-caller, while making Garrett the head coach only.
And this is really not about Garrett. It’s about Tony Romo.
Over the last six years, Tony has had only one offensive guru, confidante, adviser and friend.
Most quarterbacks, due to the nature of the job, need all that.
What Tony also needs, however, is a guy who will scream at him when a scream is necessary. Say, oh, maybe like halftime in Washington last week.
We all know Tony is a good quarterback who also screws up at the worst possible time. Garrett gives him love. But at this point, Tony needs to hear some screaming.
Besides, what can that kind of change actually hurt? It’s not like you’d be attempting to fix what’s not broke.
I was talking to an NFL guy last week about quarterbacks in general, and Romo in particular.
His praise, by the way, for Romo was immense, and this was just 72 hours after the meltdown against the Redskins.
The Romo defenders — I’ve long been one, but there’s some serious backsliding at the moment — will agree totally with what this guy had to say. Even the Romo haters will have to concede he has a good point.
"There might be 10 to 12 teams out there who don’t need Romo, but there’s close to 20 that would take him in a minute," he said. "He’s good. But he’s not good enough to do what the Cowboys have to ask him to do.
"Tony has to win every game for that team. I’m not kidding. This season he had to win every game. You couldn’t count on the defense to steal you a game. You couldn’t count on the running game to bail him out.
"Tony had to win every game. Even Aikman, even Montana, didn’t have to win every game. Tony got on that roll in November and December and he was winning every game. But the law of averages said it would catch up with him.
"In Washington the other night, it caught up with him."
This guy’s bottom line was the Cowboys have got to get better around Romo. Much better. We all agree with that. That’s just common sense.
But as this particular NFL voice added, "Tony can also make some of the damndest mistakes. He makes bad throws that leave you stunned. I like him, but when asked to do so much, he does have his history of screwing it up."
Would a different offensive voice from a coaching standpoint change that? Maybe not, but what’s wrong with giving it a try?
On the topic of NFL quarterbacks, the name Philip Rivers came up while talking to the NFL guy. The last two seasons, Rivers had been awful. And even while Rivers adamantly defended head coach Norv Turner, when heads rolled last week, it was Norv’s neck that took the hit.
"See, the difference between Romo and Rivers is that Rivers cannot move in the pocket at all," said the guy. "Romo is one of the best at avoiding the rush. Over the last couple of years, teams blitzed Rivers like crazy.
"In the past, you could blitz Rivers, and he had a tight end, a receiver, a running back he could get the ball to, and Rivers made you pay for the blitz. But look what Rivers now plays with. His best weapons all left in free agency and went down with injuries. The front office made some decisions that really backfired.
"Romo, however, has the weapons to beat the blitz. Witten, the emergence of Dez, and the running back, Murray. Tony should have eaten the Redskins alive with all the blitzing they did. Instead, three picks happened."
Let’s not blame that on Garrett, the game-plan man and the play-caller. But would a different voice in Romo’s ear make a difference?
And the name of this new guy, if there is one? I don’t have a name. Norv is out there. Jimmy would tell Jerry to hire Norv, we know that. But a guy in San Diego told me this week that Norv has already been contacted by at least 10 teams to be the new offensive coordinator.
Certainly, Norv is in no rush to make a decision. He can basically pick and choose.
But if Jerry is really going to make good on his making a "change," the No. 1 priority has to be …
OK, there are many priorities. I’ve got my No. 1. Jerry, meanwhile, is polling his "advisers."
ARLINGTON — It was Tony Romo’s Monday night nightmare, low-lighted by an ongoing display of quarterbacking malfunctions that sunk him, sunk the Cowboys and considering what’s immediately ahead on the schedule, probably also Titanic-ed the season.
Welcome to October.
December is where the Cowboys usually go to die, but this sucker may be over by Halloween. Jerry Jones, who as of this week is now selling women’s panties at the Big Yard, at least learned the answer to this question:
What exactly is Victoria’s Secret?
Easy answer. Victoria knew. Knew all along the Cowboys belonged in the Lingerie League.
The Chicago Bears enjoyed an MNF road breeze, winning by 34-18, in what will rank as Romo’s most despicable home-field performance ever in this venue, and makes it an early fire-at-will open season for the army of local Romo haters.
Sure, Tony had his helpers in this debacle.
Dez Bryant, come on down. Way down.
Also throw in a Cowboys defense that helped Bears quarterback Jay Cutler restore his tattered reputation by a lack of pressure, despite a Chicago offensive line every bit as much maligned as the Cowboys’ offensive line.
But the bottom line is still a greasy smudge on Romo’s permanent record, and the bottom line showed two Bears defensive touchdowns off a Romo pick and a Romo fumble (ruled an interception), two missed receivers running open for touchdowns, and, overall, being tagged with five interceptions.
Chicago’s defense is respected, of course, but this, this was a start-to-finish evening of what could go wrong for the quarterback did go wrong for the quarterback.
In what actually started as a defensive struggle both ways, the Cowboys trailed 3-0 late in the second quarter when Romo attempted a short out route pass to Bryant. Somebody blew it, and afterward, coach Jason Garrett wouldn’t place blame.
But since Romo does know the plays, and who knows what Dez knows, let us guess, yes, Bryant screwed it up. The pass was picked off by Charles Tillman for an easy TD, and a 10-0 lead. Dez had run upfield. Romo threw short.
Romo, however, came back with a good TD drive before halftime, and it was anybody’s ballgame with a 10-7 intermission score.
The second half, however, was pathetic for the home team, with a Bears opening drive that featured Cutler operating in a rocking chair in whipping his offense to a quick touchdown. No blitz by Rob Ryan meant no chance for pressure.
Down 17-7, the meltdown began. Romo threw a pick that was in the hands of receiver Kevin Ogletree but appeared to be dislodged by a defender, resulting in a pop-up interception near the Bears’ goal line. That was a huge missed chance.
When the Cowboys’ defense got the ball right back on a Cutler fumble, Romo was grabbed by the Bears’ Henry Melton, free because guard Mackenzy Bernadeau blew a block, and a pop-up fumble/interception resulted.
Lance Briggs picked it out of mid-air and rambled 74 yards for a touchdown. A Cowboys scoring threat became a one-eighty disaster and the Bears were on their blowout way, leading 24-7.
Most disturbing, among many disturbing moments for Romo, was him missing a wide-open Bryant in the first half in what could have been a touchdown in a still scoreless game. And again in the second half, Romo missed a wide-open Miles Austin with what could have been a touchdown pass, cutting the lead to 24-14 with still 17 minutes to play.
This just in:
The woulda, shoulda, couldas don’t count.
What does count is the Cowboys crashed to a 2-2 record, and now have a long, long wait through the bye week before attempting to regroup. That regrouping will coincide with the season’s toughest stretch of schedule.
Four of the next five games are on the road, including at the Ravens, at Carolina, then the Giants here a few days before Halloween, followed by at Atlanta and at Philly.
A show of hands please from those local fools who attempted to "style-point" the home debut win last week over Tampa Bay.
The Cowboys aren’t good enough to downgrade any kind of win.
Due to the shaky state of the Bears’ offense, Monday night was as good a chance for a victory as the Cowboys will have between now and almost Thanksgiving.
And then Romo crashed and burned.
And then the flames started building around the entire season.
Jerry still has women’s panties to sell.
Bring on the lingerie.
Hang with me here. Stay alert but patient. I’m thinking hard about stuff this morning. I’m putting this large football brain into supercharged gear. This may take awhile.
But why now, after all these years, would the cerebral objective be to think before you write?
The self-imposed assignment for today is a very difficult challenge:
Find 10 wins for the Cowboys this season.
You doubt, right? You even dog-cuss such foolishness, right?
Eight wins, we can all agree. Nine wins and many rats jump ship, although plenty of Cowsheep will stay aboard. But 10? Women and children first, and the rest of us will cue up the Titanic ballroom band.
But in attempting to make a 10-win case, first you have to wade through a numbers whipping:
Factor in 400. Then factor in 346.
Keep those numbers in mind for Wednesday night at the Meadowlands, when the Cowboys open the season against the world champion New York Giants.
But first, allow 2011 to also be a gateway into 2012. Last season can and will tie directly into this season. "We failed last season, but many areas of that failure we can definitely turn it into a positive for this season," said senior team spokesman Jason Witten, speaking out in Oxnard several weeks ago.
Witten, of course, is going to be optimistic. But he’s not far off in this optimism.
It was an 8-8 team in 2011. Comparing the schedule, and while it’s a crapshoot on strength of schedule until you actually see a season, it appears to be about the same. Non-divisional foes will be tougher in Arlington (Bears, Steelers and Saints are the headline visitors) and the road is about the same.
Headliners this season on the road are Ravens, Falcons and Bengals. Last season it was Jets, 49ers and Pats.
The division? Tough, maybe very tough, but the Eagles are still at the mercy of a quarterback who can’t and won’t stay healthy, and the Giants face a traditional Super Bowl letdown for the next season, and the Redskins, well, how much can RG3 pump up the offense?
I’d make the schedule comparisons pretty much a wash.
Last season, the Cowboys went into December with a 7-4 record. Two of those losses were dreaded Romo giveaways, meaning the early Lions loss and the season-opening Jets loss.
Tony rebounded, of course, and had a good season after that, but he had already inflicted huge damage. Still, the record going into the final month was 7-4 even with the two giveaways. Hey, we’ve found a positive for this season.
Then came the December crash. That loss in Arizona to open the month remains mind-blowing. And of the four losses in the final five games, the L against the Eagles here came with an injured Romo on the sidelines and Stephen McGee at the wheel, plus, it was a meaningless game for playoff implications.
With a little tweaking here and there, the Cowboys’ season could have been much better than 8-8, except for one glaring negative.
The defense. Rob Ryan got caught in the middle of a mess.
Which brings us back to 400. And to 346.
Those were the Eli Manning aerial numbers in his two December wins over the Cowboys. Six TD passes and 746 yards combined. The loss here for the Cowboys involved an immense late collapse by the Cowboys’ defense. Up there, with a divisional title on the line, it was no-contest from the beginning.
Right away, meaning Wednesday night, we have a sudden window into how much the Cowboys have improved on defense. They have improved, but how much? Eli and his receivers will tell us that.
Brandon Carr is the real deal as a new cornerback. Mo Claiborne will be a real deal at the other corner, but he’s a rookie. Rookie corners usually struggle early. As opposed to past years, there actually appears to be depth at cornerback.
But what about a defense applying pressure on the opposing QB, be it Eli Manning or anyone else? The Cowboys were not good in that area last season, and there’s nothing at the moment to suggest it will change. Nothing, that is, except optimism, and the hope that better coverage in the secondary helps create more sacks and pressures.
In attempting to determine how the Cowboys will finish this season, health issues are always a key component. But there will be injuries, and in many cases the Cowboys don’t appear to have depth. How big a negative the injuries become is strictly a wait-and-see process.
The schedule. The injuries. The talent. The bad hoodoo voodoo that has followed Jerry since the mid-’90s. Combine it all, and…
No, I can’t find those 10 wins. Let’s make it 8-8, and another season of local football frustration.
This is what happens when you actually think too much.
But wait. There’s one disclaimer from the massive football brain:
If the defense on Wednesday night actually holds Eli and his receivers to reasonable instead of outrageous production, then we can re-evaluate the think tank.
Don’t believe a word.
That’s the new policy from here, which, admittedly, should have been the old policy, but based on most all Dallas Cowboys’ off-seasons over the past few years, I’ve tended to believe too much.
This time a year ago comes to immediate mind.
Skid marks all over my head happened because of believing too much. Mainly the impact Jason Garrett would have as the head coach, which I expected to be a Harbaugh-type thing that boosted the 49ers last season.
But no more. I am rededicating my football life to reality when it comes to the Cowboys.
And the 8-8 record of the 2011 season IS reality.
As of last Thursday, the Cowboys wrapped up about a month of off-season OTAs (organized team activities, which are not mandatory), and last week, the one and only mini-camp, which is mandatory for the players.
The next time the team gathers intact will be late July way out west in Oxnard, Calif. That will be the opening of training camp.
But based on the comments coming out of Valley Ranch for the past month, 2012 will have the Cowboys on the verge of a Super Bowl, although it is a positive those two words — Super. Bowl. — were mostly absent from the raging optimism.
On local radio a few weeks ago, running back DeMarco Murray said something along the lines of this being a season when the Cowboys expect to get back to the Super Bowl and win it.
Whoa, kid. Say what?
Murray paused, a tad stunned at our negative reaction to the words Super and Bowl being said in association with the Cowboys.
"Well, shouldn’t that be the way we all think?" he asked. "Shouldn’t that be the goal?"
These kids today. Gotta love ’em.
If that goal is ever met again, and it’s now 16 seasons and counting since the Cowboys made a Super Bowl, players like Murray will be factor in getting them there. At least he will be if the brief run DeMarco had last season, before the ankle injury, was a sign of things to come, including better health.
But after a month of taking notes on all quotes coming out of Valley Ranch, what follows is some of the "optimism" that now overflows as we await the start of training camp:
Garrett had his first full off-season as a head coach. "I need to improve in all areas of the job," he said. Jerry Jones said Jason has improved in all areas, but when it comes to Jerry, we’d prefer to see him improve in all areas of being the general manager. I’m not counting on it.
Rob Ryan had his first full off-season as defensive coordinator. "Blame me for last season," said Rob. When it came to the awful defense last season, I did blame Rob, and maybe too harshly, but he was the captain of that Titanic.
Brandon Carr, the new veteran cornerback, is either the best corner in the history of the NFL or the best corner in the history of the Cowboys. With the $50 million contract, Brandon is certainly the most expensive corner in the history of the Cowboys.
Carr really needs to be good. So does Mo Claiborne, the first-round draft pick. Ryan will be a better defensive coordinator if his corners are better. The corners had better be better with this kind of investment.
It was funny to hear all-world pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware suddenly start using his "critics" as a motivational tool. Ware, also an all-world nice guy, even got snarly with the media at times.
If I can help, let me add: DeMarcus, you were way overrated last season and many of your 191/2 sacks were "empty."
A motivated Ware is a good thing. The Cowboys were weak on the pressure last season, and it doesn’t matter how good your corners are — with no pass rush, even the best will give it up deep.
From an injured and wasteful second-round pick a year ago, inside linebacker Bruce Carter suddenly became the MVP of OTAs and mini-camp.
Of course, let’s see it on the field, but if Carter is possibly taking the same second-year improvement route as the other inside backer, Sean Lee, then that’s something to rah-rah. We await that answer.
Anthony Spencer is actually a good player, meaning our eyes lied all these years. Actually, Spencer is an ongoing borderline bust who was franchise-tagged for 2012 because the Cowboys have failed so badly in drafting outside linebackers that the team had no replacement for him.
Dez Bryant is much, much better as a wide receiver. More mature, too. One question: Has he learned more than three routes yet?
The replacement for Laurent Robinson, the best WR the Cowboys had last season? Don’t worry about a thing. It will either be Kevin Ogletree or Andre Holmes. Oh, great.
Jerry tabbed free agent signee Lawrence Vickers the best fullback here since Moose. Besides being a disgrace to the legend of Moose, Jerry also said that last summer about Tony Fiammetta.
All of the above are a few of the verbal highlights from this Cowboys off-season.
Do yourself a favor.
Until further notice, don’t believe a word.
Randy Galloway | Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. on Galloway & Co.
Photo courtesy: Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner
Dallas Cowboys WR Laurent Robinson dishes on how quickly he’s developed a connection with QB Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray’s success, how to correctly pronounce his name and more.
On the uncertainty of his future entering the season:
I had no idea. Didn’t really have too much going on before the start of training camp, and then my agent worked hard and he got me in with San Diego and I thought I was going to be there for a while. But, you know, the nature of this business is it’s a numbers game and I was let go … They worked hard again and I was able to come to Dallas and try to make it home.
On how he’s developed chemistry with Tony Romo:
He went to Eastern, I went to Illinois State, I just call it a little one Double-A connection that’s all I can call it. We’re working hard together.
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