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."
If I had known this week there was going to be a sudden calendar roll back to 1994, the personal preference would have been at the gas pumps. A dollar and a dime was our cost, per gallon.
I don’t speak for the vast world of CowNation, but it’s safe to say that particular fandom would kill for a 1994 sudden calendar roll back while gladly paying the three-fifty pump prices of today.
The Dallas Cowboys, of course, were two-time Super Bowl champs and the title stampede looked as if it would never end.
Instead, out of nowhere, what we got this week was a cheap imitation of the way it was, football-wise, in 1994.
Jimmy and Jerry, back at it again, squabbling over who should have the most credit for the remarkable building of not only a Super Bowl champion, but a dynasty team.
Which also flips us back to the spring of 1994, when in an ego collision, Jimmy Johnson left town over exactly the same disagreement.
Then there was only Jerry.
Much has changed in the past 18 years in the Cowboys’ world, changed dramatically for the worse. But there’s still Jerry.
I’m not climbing in the middle of this latest spat, because there’s no reason for even a debate. No reason to take sides.
Jerry and his ego both know the truth.
Jimmy was in charge of all things football from the day Jerry and Jimmy took over the franchise in 1989. Anyone in the local media who was around in those days knows this is the truth, and we know it because Jerry repeatedly told us it was the truth.
And anything involving football, from a low-end roster move to the trade of Herschel Walker, no one was asking Jerry for a football opinion. A financial opinion, yes, we asked. And certainly in the case of the Walker trade, there were financial considerations galore.
But on anything involving any area of football, the questions went to Jimmy. Because Jerry told us Jimmy was in total charge of that area.
With the first Super Bowl in 1992, that certainly changed. It was only then that Jerry started seeking more of the roster-building glory. And that’s when the ego collision began building.
Even as we watched it take form, however, another Super Bowl was won the next season, and although we all could see a parting of the ways on the horizon, no one thought it would happen in the midst of a championship binge.
To this day, I’m shocked at the timing of the breakup, and both sides are to blame. But the breakup foundation was laid when Jerry went against his original game plan. He’s the one who placed Jimmy in charge of all things football, and then wanted to take it back, or at least share it, 50/50. Jimmy’s ego would have none of that.
In the many years since then, and again last week, Jerry has attempted to manufacture a story that presents himself as not just a partner in building that Super Bowl dynasty, but as the No. 1 shot-caller.
It’s absurd. Jerry is delusional on this topic. But that’s just Jerry, who took the lie to national TV before the Cowboys played in Atlanta last Sunday night.
What he said was nothing new. Jerry has done this for years. Jimmy, who now has a good relationship with Jerry, let it ride in the past without response. For whatever reason, Jimmy fired back strongly at Jerry this week.
Suddenly, it was exactly the way we left these two in 1994.
It was good this week for a laugh, but Jerry also walks in verbal quicksand every time he brings it up. The three Super Bowls of the ’90s might now be his lone ownership/GM crutch, but he’s not on solid ground in the most important area of all.
Jimmy has been gone for 18 years. The last Super Bowl was 16 years ago.
Since then, as The Man, totally alone at the top and in charge of all things Cow, Jerry can point to exactly two playoff wins.
(Jimmy also had his brief post-Jerry failure as head coach of the Dolphins. But in four seasons there, he did win two playoff games.)
Meanwhile, we are at the halfway point of what appears to be another rotten season under Jerry’s watch. The Cowboys over 16 years have become one of the most dysfunctional franchises in football. Coaches come and go, but Jerry remains the constant, always and forever more, The Man.
Whether Jerry thinks he needed Jimmy or not, he’s had 18 years on his own, and he’s driven into the Valley Ranch ground what was once a model organization on a Super Bowl roll.
Telling us and telling the world about him being the football generalissimo of a long ago dynasty is Jerry’s ego lie. But it’s what’s happening right here right now that traps him where it matters the most. The truth.
And it’s now 16 years in this trap. Trapped in the truth of a football hell.
There was a sudden calendar roll back this week to the way it was around here in 1994. Jerry and Jimmy feuding, egos flaring, plenty of wasted verbal gas.
We’d all have been better off if the roll back had been to the dollar and a dime at the pumps.
Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on
Galloway & Company. on
BALTIMORE — Whatever you do, don’t do that. Whatever the plan, it couldn’t have been that, could it?
Excuse both the rant, and the confusion, but 20 seconds, 20 precious seconds, were wasted by the Dallas Cowboys at the end of Sunday’s game, leading to, if nothing else, a flashback to the horror show of clock mismanagement in Arizona last season.
That one was Jason Garrett’s worst 2011 head coaching moment, and the lack of accountability in the aftermath still hangs over him.
Maybe not so much, which still doesn’t excuse what appeared to be a blunder. In this one, however, at least quarterback Tony Romo and Garrett had the same story, the same explanation on why those 20 precious seconds were left blowing in the Maryland wind.
And no, it wasn’t the "plan," both said.
As in Arizona, however, the Cowboys ended up losing a winnable game, falling 31-29 to the Ravens, and the lament of "oh-so-close" is becoming more hollow the more the Cowboys blow these kind of heartaches.
Always dependable Dan Bailey was a tad wide left on a 51-yard field goal in the final seconds, allowing the Ravens to escape.
But with a little less distance to cover with his foot, or with a better placement of the ball — as in between the hash marks — would the outcome have been different for Bailey?
Count that as one of a hundred coulda, shoulda, woulda questions the Cowboys had to answer in the aftermath.
First of all, they finally got a call, maybe a gift call, in the final minutes from an officiating crew that made the replacement boys look more acceptable with every yellow hanky that fell.
After a pass interference flag, the Cowboys had the ball at the Ravens’ 34-yard line with 26 seconds left and one timeout.
That has to be two-play territory, right? Heck yes, it’s right.
The Cowboys ran one play. Then came the failed kick.
What happened after a quick Romo inside throw to Dez Bryant netted only a yard? At that point the clock was running with 20 seconds left when Dez was taken down.
"What we were trying to do there is what we talked about before the play," Garrett said. "Tony was trying to get them on the ball as quickly as possible [after the Dez catch] knowing we had one [timeout] in our pocket.
"It just took too long for everyone to get unpiled, so it got down into single digits, so we said take it down to four seconds and bang the timeout."
Obviously, it’s up to the Cowboys to get "unpiled." The unpiling was not quick enough. But was there also clock panic? It sure looked like it.
Romo: "With the time left, we didn’t think it was in our best interest to run another play. We had guys who needed to get off the pile and receivers who needed to come to the huddle. There just wasn’t enough time."
But was there enough to time to get a snap off, with Romo diving forward to the middle of the hash marks, then get the timeout? It appeared to be the case, but Bailey wanted no such excuse after the game.
"Being on the hash mark makes no difference," he said. "My job is to make the kick. If the hold is on the hash, I’ve got to still make the kick. If you’re always hoping for the middle of the field, you aren’t going to be kicking very long."
But while Bailey blew off the advantage of kicking from the middle of the field, his long attempt was extremely tricky due to the windy conditions. The wind was swirling inside the bowl, and although not necessarily against him, there was a crosswind involved. He had plenty of foot on the kick, just not between the uprights.
Garrett’s boss, Jerry Jones, backed the decision to let 20 seconds escape at the end of the game. "I wanted the kick right there rather than take the risk of attempting to get more yards," said the owner-GM.
But even as Jerry admitted, it was a "sickening" kind of loss.
The Cowboys’ offensive line totally manhandled a once proud Ravens’ defense, paving the way for 227 yards rushing, the most ever allowed by this defense. And much of the pounding was done by, yes, Felix Jones (he lives, he lives), because of a foot injury to DeMarco Murray that took him out for the second half.
Garrett went an unheard-of four deep at running back, with third stringer Phillip Tanner heavily involved, and even rookie Lance Dunbar, signed off the street last week, getting a carry that went for 11 yards.
The Cowboys game-planned the run after the Ravens had been plowed under by the Kansas City ground attack a week ago. It worked incredibly well, but not for a win.
And here we go again. Garrett has one dumb football team. The penalties were immense (13 for the Cowboys) and some were very questionable, but heavily penalized, dumb teams normally end up on the short end of the officiating.
Once again, a special teams coverage breakdown also factored into this loss, with Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones returning a kickoff untouched for 108 yards and a touchdown, tying an NFL record for the longest runback.
And even with Bryant repeatedly making tough, productive catches, he still muffed the biggest throw of the game. In the final minutes, after Romo made a gutty 120-yard drive (including 40 yards in penalties), the Cowboys had to go for two points and a tie game after the touchdown catch by Dez.
The 2-point throw was right there for Bryant. He flat missed it. The Cowboys, however, recovered the onside kick that led to the missed field goal. The Dez drop, however, low-lighted a frustrating end to a frustrating afternoon and a frustrating loss.
Also frustrating were the 20 seconds the Cowboys will never get back.
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.
The dominant color for all NFL games in Week 3 will be yellow.
As in yellow hankies littering the field.
A flag-fest in a football game has absolutely no appeal to anyone, including those of us attending the Cowboys home opener at the Big Yard, but it’s a predictable counterattack by the Goodell Gang-bangers on Park Avenue in New York.
With its replacement officiating crews — "scabs," if you want to get unionized about it — the NFL took a PR beating across the land last weekend. This was a dramatic one-eighty from Week 1, when we all had to agree the league won the PR battle against the locked out regular officials.
A friend who draws a paycheck from the NFL didn’t exactly agree with me on the difference between Week 1 and Week 2. On Thursday, he said, "The league won Week 1, and last week, I’d call it a Mexican standoff."
I didn’t see the Mexican standoff. I saw the replacements seriously lose a battle over control and respect, which was predictable. Sooner or later, or as long as the replacements are working at a job they aren’t qualified to do, the players and coaches would take advantage of these newbies.
The abuse flowed across the league in Week 2.
Which brings us back to what people with knowledge of the situation are predicting for Sunday. That being, the league has ordered the replacements to fight back with their yellow hankies, including an emphasis on unsportsmanlike conduct calls.
Yes, the replacements have missed calls, or thrown phantom flags, or have had issues with rules interpretation. But over the years, how many times have we seen the regulars miss calls, or throw phantom flags?
In fact, the league now issues positive "talking points" on the officiating each week, but what missed the talking point and what hit Roger Goodell upside his hard head last weekend was a failure by the replacements to take control of games and keep the games moving. Plus, the verbal abuse was immense.
The lack of respect, and no fear of retaliation, empowered players and coaches to go far beyond where they would normally tread with the regulars.
Will a flurry of flags this week change that? No, of course not. Players and coaches smell blood. They will continue to go over the line of protocol when dealing with the replacements. There are games to be won, and there are jobs on the line for coaches and players.
What the combatants see are pigeons working as the "cops" of football. Human nature says the pigeons will be abused.
Meanwhile, I have no stance on which side is wrong in the financial battle between Goodell and the regular officials. Are the money demands of the regulars so far out of line the league had to take the lockout stance, or is the league squeezing the regulars and attempting to break their union?
Don’t know. But we all know the NFL is a massive business where the rich owners become richer because of the value of a league franchise. There is plenty of money to go around and make everyone happy, except those who have the money don’t want to give up the money.
Goodell, of course, has been on a power trip, starting with his overreaction and grandstanding in the case against the New Orleans Saints, a ruling that was more about evidence he could present in the pending lawsuits against the NFL by former players, who claim the league ignored player safety issues.
For an encore, the commissioner also decided to muscle the regular officials. And that has put the league in a position where the emphasis this season has been as much about the replacement officials as it is about the actual playing of the games.
And now, player safety is a central issue again, because with the lack of control by the replacements in Week 2, it put the league back on the defensive about that topic.
We all applauded Hall of Famer Steve Young for his powerful ESPN comments after the Monday night mess in Atlanta. Young said of the NFL:
"There is nothing they can do to hurt demand for the game. So the bottom line is they don’t care. Go ahead, gripe all you want. Let them eat cake."
Eat your cake. Goodell and the owners Do. Not. Care.
Another funny line on that Monday night mess came from former Cowboys front office executive Gil Brandt, who now writes a column for NFL.com., meaning he’s an employee of the NFL.
With a big fuss over how incompetent the replacements were when attempting to determine which team (Atlanta or Denver) recovered a fumble on Monday night, Brandt told me Thursday:
"Maybe [the replacements] got it wrong, but I also have one less Super Bowl ring and the Cowboys have one less Lombardi because an [regular] official blew a call on a fumble."
Gil has a long and bitter memory, and rightfully so. Official Jack Fette infamously melted down on such a call in the 1970 Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Colts.
According to several sources, the league answer on Sunday to what went on last week will be ordering the replacements to give us a flag-fest, instead of the league simply going back to the negotiating table with the regulars.
Oh, boy. More muscle from Roger Goodell, the commissioner who does not care.
We get that part of it, for sure.
Back there at the turn of the century, the Valley Ranch think tank was in agreement on Troy Aikman. Sadly, his career was kaput. Troy didn’t agree, but the great ones rarely know when to say when.
In something akin to a career eulogy, the Aikman praise flowed and so did the tears as the Cowboys said good-bye. Later, when Aikman finally agreed to call it quits, The Iceman himself even cracked. Troy cried at his farewell media conference.
Watching that so-long scene that day at Texas Stadium, front office football staffer Larry Lacewell wandered over to a reporter, who happened to be me, and in a wistful tone said:
"Well, we are now officially one of those teams wandering through the quarterback wasteland of the NFL. With Troy, we didn’t have to think about it or worry about it.
"But we are now going to run into clubs out there who have been wandering for 10 years, and still haven’t found a quarterback. It’s a vast wasteland."
And so it was.
Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, Anthony Wright, Clint Stoerner, Chad Hutchinson, Vinny Testaverde, Drew Henson, Drew Bledsoe …
Six seasons later, Tony Romo emerged.
Like him or not, Tony led the Cowboys out of the vast wasteland. And whatever your beef with Romo, you are a football idiot if you disagree he’s a top 10 QB in a league where there’s 32 of them.
But speaking of that dreaded wasteland …
Did we have another team make an emergence this week? Did a long, long trek through the wasteland come to an end?
Better yet, would it suddenly be wise to start taking the Washington Redskins much more seriously in the NFC East?
A nice young man from Copperas Cove, Texas, turned the NFL upside down over the weekend. If you were watching ESPN on Sunday night, SportsCenter was on fire with RG3 testimonials.
One game. One NFL start, and this one a mere few months removed from the Baylor campus, yet Robert Griffin stole the Week One show in the league.
Griffin even out-Peytoned Peyton Manning in the national headlines.
As good as Manning was in his Denver debut, as good as the 49ers’ defense was against Green Bay, as good as Romo was against the Giants, the rookie quarterback for the Redskins knocked ’em all off the shelf.
Having had an up close and personal look at RG3 in his Baylor days, and particularly last season, we all could lie and say we weren’t surprised. But nobody saw this coming. Not as a rookie starting and starring in the tough road environment of New Orleans against a Saints crowd and team jacked to the roof.
But when a quarterback pops like RG3 popped, perception and perspective goes radically nuts. Along the Potomac this week, it’s nuts. RG3 fever has consumed Redskins Nation.
A friend who lives in Washington and is a devout ’Skins’ backer, was telling me a story this week about the most-hated contingent of fandom in his universe: that would be the CowSheep.
All along the Eastern seaboard, the Cowboys have a massive fan base, from the New York area, down through Philly and certainly around D.C.
“I remember,” said my friend, “watching a Sunday night game in Carolina a few years ago , and Romo, who had come out of nowhere, was great. I’m thinking, “Oh …spit. They’ve finally found a quarterback.”
“Well, on Monday, I’m talking to Cowboys’ fans, and all I heard from them was, ‘Oh …spit. The Redskins have finally found a quarterback.’ I was hoping I’d live long enough to hear a Cowboys’ fan have to say that.”
It’s been awhile, for sure.
The Redskins do have two playoff wins since 1996, compared to one for the Cowboys.
But they never had an Aikman, and going back to the Aikman era, the wasteland of D.C. quarterbacks is so bleak it makes the Cowboys of the early 2000s appear almost stable.
Cary Conklin, Heath Shuler, Gus Frerotte, Trent Green, Brad Johnson (who was OK in Washington, but washed up here), Tony Banks, Jeff George, Patrick Ramsey, Danny Wuerffel, Tim Hasselbeck, Mark Brunell, Todd Collins, Jason Campbell, Donovan McNabb and, lately, Rex Grossman.
The good names in that bunch were on their final QB legs by the time they got to the Redskins.
In one game, however, RG3 made us all rethink everything we thought about the Redskins in the NFC East for this season. It’s a good defense, and a team that always plays close games with the Cowboys, but Romo has been better than whomever Washington was running out there at quarterback.
The doubters can claim there’s been a vast overreaction to a rookie quarterback’s first game. But nobody (that saw the game) can claim they weren’t extremely impressed with the kid from Copperas Cove.
At the moment anyway, RG3 has taken the Redskins out of that vast wasteland of the quarterback wilderness, but the Cowboys don’t see RG3 until Thanksgiving Day.
By then we will know much more. Until then, he’s definitely worth watching.
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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.
That was me the other night, sitting on the couch in an otherwise empty house, yelling choice words at Jason Garrett, who was 1,400 miles away, working the sideline of a fake football game, also billed by the NFL as "the preseason."
Yelling at people on your TV screen probably indicates a mental health issue, but we’ll leave that one for the shrinks to ponder.
Actually, I had just departed the Dallas Cowboys training camp in California a couple of days earlier, having spent eight days out there sending back mostly favorable opinions on the head coaching work of Mr. Garrett.
And then there I sat in Grand Prairie, with Garrett in Oakland, and I’m dog-cussing the man.
Why in the bleep was Tony Romo still playing in that worthless, meaningless exhibition game?
From last Monday, however, let’s fast forward to Saturday night, when the Cowboys play fake football game No. 2, this one against the Chargers in San Diego.
Garrett’s decision on playing time for top players — the absolutely essential players — will be under much heavier review because of what turned out to be a very bad week for the Cowboys.
Two days after the Raiders game it was announced that tight end Jason Witten would not be participating in any form of football for at least two weeks, and his loss to the team might stretch into the regular-season opener.
(By the way, that regular-season opener in the Meadowlands, against the world champs, is, gulp, 20 days away.)
Proven to be a tough, tough football customer over the years, Witten took a hit against the Raiders that resulted in a lacerated spleen, an injury that nobody spits on or rubs dirt on and then suits up anyway.
But once the Witten injury was revealed, it has been noticed locally that many are currently sitting on the couch and delivering a load of second-guesses at Garrett.
These howls ask, what the bleep was Witten still doing in that game? Even Jerry Jones was asked this week in Oxnard if he wanted to second-guess his head coach on Witten. Jones, who has been very talkative all camp, swiftly declined.
To each his own here, but allow me, the initial sofa screamer at Garrett, to defend the head coach here.
To rehash an old Parcells-ism, "football players play football in football season."
This is football season in the NFL, or at least a form of it.
But there is one position that has to be protected in these August games. Protected at all costs. Obviously, that position is quarterback. Even Bill Parcells agreed.
Otherwise, football players play football in football season.
Bad luck can happen, and it did. A key cog like Witten caught some real bad luck.
But his injury, on a blind-side hit after catching a desperation pass from Romo, also brings me back to the Oakland game dog-cussing of Garrett in the first place.
With a makeshift offensive line because of camp injuries, Romo played the first series, and then he came back for the second series. The ball was not moving. In that second series, there were also two massive breakdowns in the offensive line.
On the first one, Romo was scrambling for his health, and still got off the pass to Witten, and that’s the play that later proved extremely costly. On the next play, Romo was again in a scramble, but was hauled down, and his body twisted sideways. It was a scary moment.
Once surviving that, there was no way Romo would be back out there, right? But wait. Garrett did send his quarterback into the game for a third series, obviously because he thought some positive results for the offense would be a camp boost.
Witten, amazingly, also came back for the third series, caught a pass, and took another hit. Ouch. Nobody, of course, knew about the spleen at the time.
The complaint from here centers on one area and one area only.
On that third series, Garrett foolishly risked the dang quarterback in the exhibition season and did so even after having seen the jailbreak rush on Romo the series before.
For Saturday’s game, allow me to first-guess.
I wouldn’t play Romo even one snap, not with the state of the offensive line remaining in severe flux.
Aim Romo for the third game in Arlington next week, and then even for some snaps in the fourth game, also in Arlington, although the final exhibition game is usually always a no-no for the starting QB.
Red J, of course, will indeed play Romo on Saturday, but didn’t we see enough of the O-line against the Raiders to consider not risking Romo, at least at this point?
Beyond that, however, football players will be playing football in football season. And the rest of us will sit on our butts and watch it, armed and dangerous with the second-guess if there’s a key injury.
Editors Note: I disagree with Randy Galloway on this. I think Jason Garrett likes to end on a positive regarding starters in the preseason. I don’t have a problem with Romo or any other starter being in for the first few drives (including Jason Witten). What is your view?
OXNARD, Calif. — The needs?
What are the Dallas Cowboys’ needs as training camp entered a third week out here right down the road from Ventura County beaches?
The No. 1 need at the moment is…
For all the cussing we do every August about NFL exhibition football, enough is enough at this camp of the same players facing off against the same players on the practice field.
As the last NFL clubs to play an exhibition game, the Cowboys’ Monday night encounter in Oakland with the Raiders can at least provide an early road map in several areas of concern.
Start with wide receiver. Very, very iffy in depth and proven talent. Don’t get me started again on how Jones and Co., or even Jason Garrett, has ignored this position, but "a game" can at least provide the opportunity for an unknown name to emerge.
Include the interior of the offensive line in this preliminary road map, because an injury wipeout in camp has both guard positions and center in a holding pattern.
Cornerback, which on paper is the most improved position for the Cowboys, is also on hold at the moment because of injuries.
Don’t forget safety, also a position of weakness in the past. Will the Barry Church who has surfaced as a positive on the practice field continue that trend Monday night?
OK, you get the point. Even exhibition football will be welcome come Monday night.
Meanwhile, a few observations from eight days of watching practice-field activity, observations that may or may not mean anything:
Tony Romo is a "meaner" quarterback.
"Yeah, I guess I am," answered Romo, who in a show of meanness then cussed at me (joking, I think) but also continued to expand on his noticeable verbal practice-field displeasure when plays are not executed properly.
"It’s about doing what you have to do, and about certain guys responding better to different things."
But why now has his barking at teammates expanded after six years as the starting QB? More leadership?
"It not just a now thing," Romo answered. "It’s not like I just started it. But you let it evolve more and more over the seasons. And now you’ve noticed.
"This has been a progression. Over time, things evolve. Being more vocal has evolved."
From quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson: "Oh, no doubt he’s being a lot more demanding of guys. The good thing is, it’s not been a case of him grandstanding. The positive impact with teammates happens when they know you are sincere instead of grandstanding with it. Tony is good about doing this the right way."
This is as physical a Cow camp as I’ve seen in years, including maybe the Parcells days. The practice-field difference from last August, with the NFL coming off a lockout shutdown, is a one-eighty.
Jason Garrett was a first-time full-time head coach last August.
So, Red J, you’ve really jacked up the intensity this summer, right?
"No," answered Garrett. "There’s not that much difference, not at all."
Huh? Eyes don’t lie. It’s totally different.
But it’s interesting that Garrett dismissed the topic, and for, I guess, psychological reasons, such as he doesn’t want to read or hear that he’s now gone hardball head coach. Or something. I’ve got no answers, really.
But it’s still the most physical and also entertaining training camp I’ve seen in years.
Even if he wants to also deny it, Garrett himself is a one-eighty from a season ago. Instead of the buttoned-up, boring robot when dealing with the media, he’s loose, funny, smiling, engaging, and all this carries over to his practice-field demeanor.
Garrett acts like a head coach totally in charge. Can he be? With Jerry? I guess we’ll see.
I’ll say it again. Sean Lee. Wow. DeMarco (In a Hurry) Murray. Wow. Brandon Carr. Wow
I’ll say it again. It’s a joke, a bad joke, that the Cowboys came to camp with this limited collection of wideouts.
As much as Garrett brings up the name of Kevin Ogletree, as much as we hear publicly about Ogletree being the top candidate as the No. 3 receiver, with an Andre Holmes and a Dwayne Harris the other top contenders…
Late last week, there was one whisper from inside the organizational door that rookie free agent Tim Benford had already become the top candidate as the No. 3 receiver. He’s from Tennessee Tech, and has been impressive.
For seniority reasons, others will get first call on the field Monday night, but Benford, all 5-foot-11 (if that) of him, is definitely a name to remember if you’re watching the Raiders game.
Plaxico Burress? There is limited interest here in plucking this guy off the NFL streets, but he’s signing somewhere soon, and the Cowboys don’t appear ready yet to take a nutcase gamble. It’s a risky gamble I’d take, seeing the state of the receivers in this camp.
On that topic of this being a highly physical camp, I went to new backup quarterback Kyle Orton for an opinion.
Orton has been in camps with the Bears and Broncos. Is this one more physical than those?
"No, not really," he said. "It’s about the same as the others."
So either the eyes did lie, or Garrett has now upgraded the intensity to that of other camps. I believe the latter to be the case.
With so much valid criticism on failed Cowboys drafts in the past, we still don’t know much about the highly acclaimed new cornerback, Mo Claiborne. But future expectations remain high for him.
Meanwhile, keep an eye on defensive end Tyrone Crawford, the third-rounder last April out of Boise State. Maybe his impact won’t happen immediately, but this guy at least has the look of a real find.
All of the above comes under the category of mere observations. They are being offered at no extra charge. Meanwhile, let’s please see "a game."
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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.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo
Mr. Randy Galloway and Mac Engel debate the reasons for the Dallas Cowboys’ recent roll. Is it Tony Romo? DeMarco Murray? Or the quality of the opposition? (Nov. 22, 2011) Video by Kathy Vetter/Star-Telegram
ARLINGTON — Seemingly overmatched and definitely outplayed in so many areas, including the defensive front, the secondary, the offensive line, and on top of all that, the quarterback throws a couple of what-the-heck-was- that picks to start the game.
There were obviously more than enough butt-whippings on Thanksgiving afternoon for the Cowboys to end up a cooked turkey.
“A lot of things on this tape we aren’t going to like,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.
Actually, it’s a game tape that would be better off torched.
But NFL rules say that after 60 minutes of clock time, you add up the points for both teams, and…
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) arranges his linemen, center Phil Costa (67) and guard Montrae Holland (64) in the first 1quarter.
Nobody else wants to say it, so I will.
I will say it for you, and you, and you.
Thanks for saving the Cowboys’ season in Washington.
Thanks for covering for Rob Ryan’s defense, which had a total mind-blowing collapse against one of the worst offensive units in all of ball.
Thanks for covering for Joe D’s special teams, which were consistently horrific in every area except for Dan Bailey’s toe.
Thanks for covering for your offensive line, a group that had been coming around lately but lost the manly battle up front to a good defensive unit that we already knew had refused to quit on the Redskins’ dismal season.
Really, is it that difficult to say, thanks, Tony?
When Romo deserves to be blasted, he is blasted, without hesitation, and deservedly so. I am always the first to chip in on the blasting. Not a lot of research is necessary. See the Jets game. See the Lions game.
But Romo is now in the midst of an excellent quarterbacking roll over the past three games, and hardly by coincidence, the Cowboys have won all three.
Except, until Sunday, all the credit went to rookie running back DeMarco Murray, and the Murray factor is certainly deserving of praise. But we all knew this, the same as we knew it in the Dynasty Days, eventually it would all come down to the quarterback making plays when all else around him stood still.
Jan. 17, 1993. Candlestick Park. Aikman to Harper. With that one pass, the Super Bowl runs began.
OK, this ain’t that. These Cowboys aren’t Super Bowl contenders. But to continue the entertainment process, and continue the playoff possibilities, the quarterback had to deliver Sunday in Washington. All else had failed.
Romo consistently delivered. Delivered on three clutch throws, all of them on third down, all under duress, and all happening because he created his own time.
Two of those passes went for touchdowns, one to Laurent Robinson early in the fourth quarter to tie the game 17-17, the next to Jason Witten to provide a 24-17 lead. And then on third-and-15 in overtime, the 26-yard strike to Dez Bryant on a play when Romo again skillfully escaped pressure.
That last one resulted in the 39-yard field goal to win it.
Why don’t we all rip Tony for a penalty that never happened?
As the holder, his attempted timeout call (the Cowboys had already used both OT timeouts) as the play clock was down to two seconds seemed to be a bigger emphasis with many than the game he played at quarterback.
First, it wasn’t a penalty because the Redskins also called timeout to freeze Bailey.
Secondly, why wasn’t anyone asking why the hell the play clock was down to two seconds at the most critical point in the game? That’s yet another special teams disaster, that the field goal unit wasn’t lined up and ready to go.
Thirdly, it was third down when the Cowboys were kicking.
If, if, if Romo had gotten the 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct (there’s disagreement over what the penalty would have been), I repeat, it was third down. Third and 23.
Bailey wasn’t going to try a 54-yard field goal.
Romo and the offense would have gotten another shot to make up the yardage lost if there had been a penalty. The way Tony was clutching up on third down, I wouldn’t have bet against him.
But there was no penalty, right?
I also could add that your starting quarterback should never be the holder, but that’s a lost argument, although if the Cowboys can carry four kickers on the roster (they actually had four for one game), why not go get a “holding specialist,” too? Yes, I’m kidding, but…
I just thought I would bring it up that Romo played great in Washington, has played great the past three games, and because it’s a game-to-game process for him, we will see if it continues on Thursday with a revived Miami in town for the Thanksgiving Day affair.
Sure, the Cowboys dodged a disaster in Washington.
Somehow, the defense managed to transform Rex the Wreck into Tom Brady.
Somehow, the worst group of receivers in the NFL managed to consistently win downfield matchups, particularly in the middle of the field.
Somehow, maybe the worst offensive line in the league managed to buy time for Mr. Grossman, who, to his credit, was tricky on play-action fakes, freezing the Cowboys defense.
This game was a matchup of Ryan scheming against a very poor offense, while Romo had to overcome a good defense. Tony did. Rob’s guys were pathetic in their failure.
As far as the special teams, we know the Cowboys have no return game, but at least you can stop it on the other end. Joe D, your guys really, really stunk.
Yet, in the end, it didn’t matter. Each week is a new adventure, not just for the Cowboys, but it’s a consistent theme around the NFL. See the Giants against the Eagles on Sunday night. Both teams were awful.
There are no ugly wins for the Cowboys. The Cowboys aren’t good enough to be style-pointing Ws. But in a bad NFC East, they are good enough to be tied for the lead at 6-4.
Thanks for that, Tony.
You saved all Cow butts in Washington.
I just thought I’d mention it.
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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