Tag Archives: Special Feature

WE REMEMBER: September 11, National Day of Service and Remembrance

Aerial view of September 11th Memorial - The Boys Are Back blog

One of the things that make America such a great country is our proud history of working together to overcome difficult times. It started with the founding of our nation 236 years ago, and it continues to this day. As individuals, we may not always see eye to eye — the current political season provides a clear example of how reasonable people can disagree — but when the time comes to pull together, no other nation does it better than the citizens of the United States of America.

Names on the WTC National 9-11 Memorial in New York City - The Boys Are Back blog

In 2009, Congress designated September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.

PHOTOS: National September 11 Memorial

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Why Tony Romo will throw it deep in 2012

One of the primary areas of concern for the Cowboys’ offense in 2012 is effectively replacing wide receiver Laurent Robinson. Robinson was sensational in Dallas last season; his ability to stretch the field vertically helped the Cowboys move the ball in Miles Austin’s absence. Actually, Robinson caught 58.8 percent of his targets that were thrown 20 yards or longer—good for the third-best mark in the NFL.

Of course, Robinson wasn’t the only receiver to whom Tony Romo succeeded throwing the ball deep. Over his career, Romo has been remarkably adept at throwing the ball downfield. A big reason for that is his ability to buy time in the pocket, allowing receivers to get open even if they were initially covered.

I detailed Romo’s superb deep passing ability in my projection of his 2012 season, arguing the ‘Boys need to throw downfield way more often than their 6.6 deep ball rate from 2011. Here is more evidence why. . .

Tony Romo passer rating by pass length

I’ve tracked all of Romo’s throws from the past three years by location and distance. Above, you can see the passer rating he has generated throughout nine areas of the field. The peak is on throws of 20-plus yards to the right side of the field. Although those throws represent just 4.0 percent of his passes, Romo has amazingly racked up 17.1 percent of his touchdowns in this area.

Overall, Romo’s passer rating on deep passes is 114.3 since 2009—superior than the 103.6 rating on intermediate throws and the 97.0 rating on short throws.

While Romo has thrived on deep throws, you can see he has done the same when throwing to the right side of the field. His passer rating of 114.2 to the right trumps the 92.0 and 101.3 numbers he has posted on the left side of the field and between the hashes, respectively. Despite throwing fewer than one-third of his passes to the right side of the field, he has parlayed those throws into 45.7 percent of his touchdowns.

While the graph above is certainly interesting, I don’t think it tells the whole story. Passer rating is an imperfect measure, artificially inflated by an abundance of completions. It’s also affected heavily by a quarterback’s touchdown-to-interception ratio. In reality, passing efficiency in terms of yards-per-attempt is probably a superior measure of a quarterback’s success.

Below, I’ve broken down Romo’s attempts, charting how they compare to what we should expect from Romo on each throw. That is, taking into account Romo’s overall yards-per-attempt over the past three years, how does his efficiency in each area of the field compare to what we should expect?

Tony Romo effeciency

You can see that, when breaking down Romo’s throws like this, there’s really no comparison; he is far superior on deep passes than short ones. When throwing short, Romo is most effective over the middle (likely due to the presence of Jason Witten), but even in that area, his yards-per-attempt is 17.3 percent worse than what we’d expect.

In terms of pure efficiency, Romo has been at his best when throwing deep down the middle of the field. He’s had a few fluky interceptions in that range (which is what has thrown off his passer rating), but the quarterback has somehow managed to average an incredible 20.0 yards-per-attempt on his 34 deep passes between the hashes over the last three seasons. That’s 144.2 percent above expectations.

Overall, it seems pretty clear that Romo and the ‘Boys should air it out more in 2012. There could be a bit of a selection bias at work, meaning the deep passing numbers are inflated because Romo doesn’t generally force passes downfield unless something is open, but the stats are so skewed that a dramatic increase in deep passes seems likely.

Thus far in the preseason, Romo has already attempted a throw of 20-plus yards on 15.7 percent of his passes. It’s a small sample size, but with his career success throwing the deep ball, I expect that rate to remain pretty steady during the regular season.

Jonathan Bales is a special contributor. He’s the founder of The DC Times and writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He’s also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People.

OFF THE CHARTS: Army general delivers talk to Dallas Cowboys at Garrett’s request

Gen. David Rodriguez - Recently speaks to Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he brought in a guest speaker before Wednesday’s practice who was “off the charts” in terms of stressing themes about preparation, adaptability, mental toughness, accountability and trust.

BG David Rodriguez, US Army, comments on IED's during the Jan. 7

The speaker: Gen. David Rodriguez, who oversees the 800,000 troops in the U.S. Army. Rodriguez, a former defensive end at Army who recently led U.S. forces in Afghanistan, is the brother-in-law from the other side of the family of one of Garrett’s brother-in-laws.

“He’s in a different league than the rest of us. Off the charts,” Garrett said today. “He made a presentation and then guys asked questions. He took over the room and it was remarkably good. It was emotional for some of our players. He got an ovation.”

After Rodriguez’s presentation, he received a signed Dallas Cowboys’ helmet from quarterback Tony Romo and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. He also sat in on some meetings.

Garrett said Rodriguez, at 6-foot-5, related well to football players because of his size.

“You didn’t have to say, ‘Quiet down’ very much,” Garrett said. “It was a great learning experience for everyone.”

In terms of bringing in guest speakers, Garrett said he is very selective.

“You’ve got to pick your spots on it,” Garrett said. “If you do too many of them, they start losing the message. But if you have an ongoing theme with your team and have a guest speaker than can support it, that can be really effective.”

Gen. David Rodriguez pins a Purple Heart Medal on SSG Bryan McNees at Walter Reed Army Medical Center - The Boys Are Back blog

From all indications, Rodriguez nailed the message Garrett asked him to deliver.

Jimmy Birch

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: The GREAT Robbini is older and wiser!

It’s August 9th … time to take a pause and recognize one of the most cherished days of the year! Today, The Great Robbini (aka Robert A Knight) celebrates his birthday. Please join me in wishing him the very best on this special day! No one really knows his exact age. He has the wit of a 20 year old … but, the wisdom and fortitude of a centurion. If I had to guess … I’d say he’s exactly 30 years old today.

Regular readers already know that The Boys Are Back blog features the ALMOST WORLD FAMOUS predictions from The GREAT Robbini during the football season. His new crystal ball has been dragged out of the closet … dusted … and polished. The GREAT Robbini is already psyched about the 2012 Dallas Cowboys vibe … and ready to share his prognostications that we all count on from week-to-week.

I do know, for a fact, that he’s Jerry Jones’n for the Glory Hole days of the Dallas Cowboys. Let’s be honest … aren’t we all?

Happy Birthday to The Great Robbini.

SPECIAL FEATURE: Baseball cards found in grandfather’s attic worth millions

baseball cards

Karl Kissner picked up a soot-covered cardboard box that had been under a wooden dollhouse in his grandfather’s attic. Taking a look inside, he saw hundreds of baseball cards bundled with twine. They were smaller than the ones he was used to seeing.

But some of the names were familiar: Hall of Famers Ty Cobb, Cy Young and Honus Wagner.

Then he put the box on a dresser and went back to digging through the attic.

It wasn’t until two weeks later that he learned that his family had come across what experts say is one of the biggest, most exciting finds in the history of sports card collecting, a discovery worth perhaps millions.

The cards are from an extremely rare series issued around 1910. Up to now, the few known to exist were in so-so condition at best, with faded images and worn edges. But the ones from the attic in the town of Defiance are nearly pristine, untouched for more than a century. The colors are vibrant, the borders crisp and white.

”It’s like finding the Mona Lisa in the attic,” Kissner said.

Sports card experts who authenticated the find say they may never again see something this impressive.

”Every future find will ultimately be compared to this,” said Joe Orlando, president of Professional Sports Authenticator.

The best of the bunch – 37 cards – are expected to bring a total of $500,000 when they are sold at auction in August during the National Sports Collectors Convention in Baltimore. There are about 700 cards in all that could be worth up to $3 million, experts say. They include such legends as Christy Mathewson and Connie Mack.

Kissner and his family say the cards belonged to their grandfather, Carl Hench, who died in the 1940s. Hench ran a meat market in Defiance, and the family suspects he got them as a promotional item from a candy company that distributed them with caramels. They think he gave some away and kept others.

”We guess he stuck them in the attic and forgot about them,” Kissner said. ”They remained there frozen in time.”

After Hench and his wife died, two of his daughters lived in the house. Jean Hench kept the house until she died last October, leaving everything inside to her 20 nieces and nephews. Kissner, 51, is the youngest and was put in charge of the estate. His aunt was a pack rat, and the house was filled with three generations of stuff.

They found calendars from the meat market, turn-of-the-century dresses, a steamer trunk from Germany and a dresser with Grandma’s clothes neatly folded in the drawers.

Months went by before they even got to the attic. On Feb. 29, Kissner’s cousin Karla Hench pulled out the dirty green box with metal clips at the corners and lifted the lid.

Not knowing whether the cards were valuable, the two cousins put the box aside. But Kissner decided to do a little research. The cards were at his office in the restaurant he owns when he realized they might have something. He immediately took them across the street and put them in a bank vault.

Still not knowing whether the cards were real, they sent eight to expert Peter Calderon at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, which recently sold the baseball that rolled through the legs of Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner in the 1986 World Series for $418,000.

Calderon said his first words were ”Oh, my God.”

”I was in complete awe,” he said. ”You just don’t see them this nice.”

The cards are from what is known as the E98 series. It is not clear who manufactured them or how many were produced, but the series consists of 30 players, half of them Hall of Famers.

The experts at Heritage Auctions checked out the family’s background, the age of the home and the history of the meat market. They looked at the cards and how they were printed.

”Everything lines up,” said Chris Ivy, the company’s director of sports auctions.

They then sent all the cards to Professional Sports Authenticator, which had previously authenticated fewer than 700 E98s. The Ohio cards were the finest examples from the E98 series the company had ever seen.

The company grades cards on a 1-to-10 scale based of their condition. Up to now, the highest grade it had ever given a Ty Cobb card from the E98 series was a 7. Sixteen Cobbs found in the Ohio attic were graded a 9 – almost perfect. A Honus Wagner was judged a 10, a first for the series.

Retired vintage sports card auctioneer Barry Sloate of New York City said: ”This is probably the most interesting find I’ve heard of.”

In a measure of what baseball cards can be worth, the owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks paid a record $2.8 million for a rare 1909 Honus Wagner. Another version of the card brought $1.2 million in April.

Heritage Auctions plans to sell most of the cards over the next two of three years through auctions and private sales so that it doesn’t flood the market. In all, they could bring $2 million or $3 million, Ivy said.

The Hench family is evenly dividing the cards and the money among the 20 cousins named in their aunt’s will. All but a few have decided to sell their share.

”These cards need to be with those people who appreciate and enjoy them,” Kissner said.

LASTING LEGACY: Former Dallas Cowboys special teams coach Joe Avezzano passes away 1943-2012

LASTING LEGACY: Former Dallas Cowboys special teams coach Joe Avezzano passes away - Joe Avezzano 1943-2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

Joe Avezzano, a former Dallas Cowboys assistant coach when the franchise won its three most recent Super Bowl titles, died Thursday in Italy.

Avezzano was 68.

Avezzano, the head coach of the Milano Seamen of the Italian Football League, was reportedly running on a treadmill when he suffered a heart attack. He is survived by his wife, Diann, and his son, Tony.

"It just breaks my heart," said former Cowboys player Bill Bates, who was regarded for his contributions on special teams. "Joe changed people’s lives in a positive way. If you were around him enough, you would be affected by his ability to make people smile."

A popular figure in the Cowboys organization, Avezzano supervised the special teams units from 1990-2002, working under head coaches Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer and Dave Campo.

"Joe was an outstanding person and he did a great job coaching for me," Johnson said. "My thoughts and prayers go out to his family."

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RICK GOSSELIN: Rob Ryan hasn’t raised his coaching to level of his opponents

Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob-Ryan focusing

Rick Gosselin, sports columnist for The Dallas Morning News and SportsDayDFW.com, answered readers’ questions about the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL.

Click on Read More to read the entire transcript.

Note: The links are disabled.


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