Is it time to blow up this edition of the Dallas Cowboys? I vote no

Now that I have had about a week-and-a-half to cool off after the latest end-of-season crumble by my beloved Dallas Cowboys, I believe I can speak rationally about what the club should do going into next season, and my suggestions will not involve the types of violence that would have been included had I tried to write this last week.

To all the haters ... COWBOYS FOR LIFE!

To all the haters … COWBOYS FOR LIFE!

One of the most common thoughts I’ve heard is that the team and coaching staff need to be blown up and rebuilt. This theory has been advanced by “experts” and average fans, and by Cowboys fans and Dallas haters. It may sound like the right thing to do, but the National Football League doesn’t work that way.

Tony Romo has been an obvious target, and considering the fact that the last play he will be remembered for after this season was one of the more pathetic interceptions thrown in quite some time, targeting Romo is expected, and fair. I am pro-Romo overall, but not to the point where I’m 100% all-in and blind to the facts.

When you take the field with Romo as your quarterback, you are signing on for the good and the bad. Romo will single-handedly win games, as he did on several occasions late this season. He will also single-handedly lose games, which he proved quite adept at doing last season, when he gift-wrapped victories for the New York Jets and Detroit Lions. I still think there is more good than bad in Romo. The bad tends to be overly magnified, which is part of the job of being an NFL quarterback in general, much less the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

For those who want to see a change at the quarterback position: I’d love to hear your suggestions. The NFL is not fantasy football. Aaron Rodgers will not be the starting quarterback for the Cowboys next season, nor will Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady (like Dallas needs yet another reason to be universally hated), Peyton Manning, and so on.

Is replacing Romo with a backup with limited NFL experience the answer? Are the Cowboys really better off with, say, Matt Flynn, who had a couple of brilliant outings for the Green Bay Packers, but couldn’t beat out Russell Wilson for the Seattle Seahawks’ starting job? Is the team better off with someone like its current backup, Kyle Orton, who has extensive starting experience, but who played himself into a backup role? Hell, maybe the Cowboys should buy into the hype and go after Tim Tebow, for he shall lead us to the promised land! I would keep Romo over any of these options, without a second thought.

As for the draft, even if the Cowboys are able to swing the type of deal they pulled off last season, in moving up to select Morris Claiborne, are any of the quarterbacks who will be available really game-changers? Scouting and projecting is nowhere near an exact science — think of it this way: JaMarcus Russell was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, and Romo was undrafted — but I just don’t see an Andrew Luck, a Robert Griffin III, or even a Wilson in this draft.

Overall, I see no choice but to proceed with Romo, for at least one more year. I am not a believer in change for the sake of change.

Another popular target, deservedly so, is Head Coach Jason Garrett. The coach is the easiest thing to change. As the cliché says, “You can’t fire all of the players.” And while Garrett do anything anywhere near as foolish as icing his own kicker, like he did to cost the team a game against the Arizona Cardinals last season, there were times when his judgment was questionable, at best, and I had a major issue with his tendency to give up on the running game at the first sign of adversity.

One thing I will say for Garrett is that this team has never lacked effort under his leadership, as it did on numerous occasions when “led” by his predecessor, Wade Phillips. Of course, the argument can be raised that the players should be motivated by their paychecks and the desire to secure their jobs, but sadly, as is the case on most teams in most sports, it doesn’t always work that way.

But I’ll play along: If Garrett is not the head coach next season, who should it be? Will the team really improve if it replaces Garrett with an NFL retread, or a college coach? I don’t believe that’s the solution.

I would have loved to see Sean Payton come back to the Cowboys’ organization, which never should have let him go in the first place, and there was a brief window of hope when his extension with the New Orleans Saints was declared invalid by the league, but Payton is back in the Saints’ fold and off the table.

I would make an exception for Mike Holmgren, but I don’t see any scenario where Holmgren would work for Jerry Jones. Holmgren clearly wants full control of the team, and as long as the Cowboys’ owner fancies himself as a GM, coach, and God knows what else, the two personalities won’t mix. If you need proof of this, recall that another coach who demanded complete control, Bill Parcells, was force-fed Terrell Owens, who he clearly never wanted on the team. Does that sound like complete control to you?

I also thought about Lovie Smith, mainly because the atmosphere around the Cowboys comes off as too relaxed, and it would be nice to have someone come in and put a foot up people’s asses. But Smith has only been marginally more successful than Garrett, and I’m not sure the move would accomplish anything.

Much like Romo, I believe Garrett deserves one more season. If there is no improvement next year, then it’s time for a change.

What should the Cowboys address during the offseason? The absolute top priority has to be the offensive line. The club tried to remedy this issue during the last offseason, by re-signing Doug Free and adding Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, but it failed miserably. Free has been an utter and complete disaster, and if he can be cut outright without drastic damage to the salary cap, he should. Everyone else was just plain mediocre, at best. While former No. 1 draft pick Tyron Smith is probably the most talented member of the unit, he is also a penalty machine, and the penalties tend to come at the worst times, absolutely killing momentum. I don’t have any specific names in mind, professional or college, but changes must be made.

Another thing Dallas must do, which is much easier said than done, is try to figure out just how much they can rely on some of the players that have performed well but missed time due to injuries. Sean Lee, Miles Austin, and Demarco Murray are all outstanding football players, but an outstanding football player doesn’t do his team much good when he’s on the bench in street clothes, or, as was the case with Austin this season, trying to play through (admirable) at much less than full strength. Can the Cowboys afford to base their offensive game plans around Murray and their defensive game plans around Lee, only to see the two of them go down again?

As I said, this is far easier said than done. Injuries can’t possibly be predicted, and they are part of the game of football, but it’s frustrating to constantly see the team’s most valuable players out of uniform.

This should be an interesting offseason, to say the least, but the window on this team is closing, and closing quickly. I am not on board with rebuilding now. Rebuilding in football doesn’t really exist. At least when teams try to do so in Major League Baseball, their fans can follow their prospects’ journeys through the minor leagues and retain some hope (see: Kansas City Royals). Football doesn’t work that way. However, if this team doesn’t succeed next year, it might be time for drastic moves.

One more thing before I go: If this current nucleus of Cowboys never wins a Super Bowl, I don’t blame Tony Romo, or Jason Garrett, or DeMarcus Ware, or Jason Witten, or even Wade Phillips. I will tell you who I blame: Patrick FUCKING Crayton.

Patrick Crayton, the former No. 3 wide receiver? Yes, that bum. Why? The week before the Cowboys played the New York Giants in a divisional playoff game, Crayton did nothing but run his mouth. The two teams are divisional rivals, and the Cowboys swept both regular-season meetings. Talking trash accomplishes nothing. Shut up, don’t motivate the Giants any more than they already are, and play the game.

After running his mouth all week, Crayton dropped the pass that would have put the game away for the Cowboys, who, at 13-3, had their best season by far since the Super Bowl years of the early 1990s. A perfectly thrown ball to a wide-open Crayton in the fourth quarter would have, at minimum, resulted in 40 yards, a first down, and two or three more minutes off the clock. Instead, Hands of Stone dropped the ball, the Giants took over, and the rest is history.

Would the Cowboys have won the Super Bowl that year? Not necessarily, but you never know, and, as I said, the 2007 squad was the best in recent years.

So, to the Cowboys: Stay the course, improve the O-line, and let’s give this one more run. And to Patrick Crayton, wherever you are: FUCK YOU.

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The 2010 Dallas Cowboys: The entire organization has given up, from the owner down to the players

Love him or hate him (and most people do, indeed, hate him quite fiercely), the one thing nobody could possibly say about Jerry Jones was that he doesn’t care about the Dallas Cowboys. Until yesterday: The fact that Wade Phillips is still the head coach of this team, Jason Garrett is still the offensive coordinator, and Joe DeCamillis is still the special teams coach points to the following conclusion: Jerry Jones got his new stadium, and his millions of dollars of money from personal seat licenses, so the Cowboys’ win-loss record means nothing to him.

We're in more pain than you are, Wade. Just quit already.

No matter how much anyone reading this might hate the Cowboys, there is no way anyone who has watched more than three downs of football can look at this club’s roster and the way its defense has been performing and say that it’s a 1-4 football team. Yet, that’s exactly where their record sits right now, and yesterday’s loss to the vastly overrated Minnesota Vikings and dirty old sexter Brett Favre basically ended any chance this team had to be relevant this season.

Some of the same problems cost the Cowboys yet another game, yet nothing is ever done about them.

Penalties: The Cowboys hit double-digits yet again, with 11 penalties for 91 yards, although one was a complete crock of shit, which I’ll get to in a bit. How can one team make the same mistakes over and over and over again? And the penalties are getting dumber by the second: The team has been flagged for celebration penalties after touchdowns for two consecutive games. Um, guys, you’re 1-4: Exactly what the fuck is there to celebrate? The only way to remedy this is to pull any player who commits a bone-headed penalty from at least the rest of the series, and the following series, whether it’s Alan Ball, Miles Austin, or even Tony Romo. The same problem is killing this team game after game after game, and absolutely nothing is being done about it.

Oh, yeah, on to the bullshit call: With the Vikings up 24-21 and driving and a little over two minutes left in the game, the Cowboys stopped them on a third down that would have given them the ball back in decent field position before the two-minute warning, but they were flagged for pass interference on a ball thrown 10 feet over the intended receiver’s head. The team has earned such a reputation for penalties that if anything is remotely close to an infraction, the call goes against Dallas. But that was still a gutless call. The officials know what’s at stake in a game between 1-3 teams. You do NOT end a team’s season, for all intents and purposes, on a very, very marginal call, at best. If the situation were reversed, there is no way in hell the Vikings would have been flagged for pass interference.

On a side note, supposed head coach and leader Wade Phillips barely protested the call. Would an explosion have caused the gutless officials to change the call? No, but the players need to know that their coaches have their backs. That call doomed their season, and Phillips just stood there with the same flabbergasted look cameras catch on his face several times per game. This is not what an NFL head coach looks like.

Special teams: When the practice bubble collapsed in May and injured several staffers, including special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, did anyone bother to check DeCamillis for brain damage? This special teams unit is a sick joke and a disgrace. The kickoff return unit rarely gets the ball past the 20. The one success by the punt return unit was strictly due to individual effort by Dez Bryant. And the kick coverage, both on kickoffs and punts, is abysmal. I feel bad that the man got hurt, and I feel for the other victims, as well. I’m not trying to poke fun at a tragic situation. But the NFL is a results-oriented business, and the results from the Cowboys’ special teams thus far this season have been absolute and total crap. It’s time for a change. Ask the Miami Dolphins about that. DeCamillis shouldn’t have even been let on the plane back to Dallas from Minneapolis.

Play calling: If Jason Garrett is an offensive genius, then I am an expert in nuclear physics. And since I barely passed most of my science courses in high school and college, you do the math. Where is the commitment to the run I keep hearing about? And I know the Minnesota pass rush dominated the Cowboys in the 34-3 playoff beating last year, but barely throwing downfield and barely targeting Miles Austin? Why have weapons if you’re not going to use them? Jason Garrett is a complete disaster as an offensive coordinator.

But a new problem surfaced Sunday, and it has the potential to be a far bigger issue than any of the problems mentioned above. Of all people, Troy Aikman pointed it out during the Fox broadcast of the game. Yes, the bullshit pass interference call I mentioned earlier pretty much drained any hope, but the Cowboys were still in a position to get the ball back with 30 seconds left and no time outs. Granted, the situation sucks, but it’s one last chance, however small it might be. Yet when the camera panned the Cowboys’ bench, all you saw was offensive players sitting there, staring straight into space. Tony Romo and his receivers didn’t bother getting together to talk about their last shot. The offensive line didn’t bother getting together to discuss how to give Romo time for a miracle play. The team had flat-out given up, which should never happen, and which had never happened before.

Apparently, the owner has given up, as well.

More on the moron (Wade Phillips), and I didn’t forget you either, Jason Garrett

The 2010 season is rapidly slipping away for the Dallas Cowboys, and it’s only two weeks old. For the second week in a row, the Cowboys lost to a team with inferior talent, and I blame the coaching staff for a good part of it.

Jason Garrett, OFFENSIVE offensive coordinator

I am not trying to paint the 2010 Cowboys as the 1992-95 Cowboys when it comes to talent, nor am I trying to compare the 2010 Chicago Bears with the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but on paper, the Cowboys have a far more talented roster than that of the Bears. That and $100,000 will get them a PSL in Cowboys Stadium, however, as the Bears won the game, which is all that matters.

My beefs with the game plan and coaching decisions in Sunday’s debacle, in order of how stupid I thought they were, follow.

First off, Dez Bryant had just returned a punt for a touchdown, to give the Cowboys the lead and all of the momentum, and the coaching staff calls for an onside kick? Why? Onside kicks are something that should be used by less-talented teams trying to match up with superior teams, not vice versa. I certainly can’t blame the coaching staff for the piss-poor execution of the kick, which was popped up into the air without a Cowboys player in the vicinity, but Chicago’s recovery and resulting excellent field position put all the momentum back on the sideline of the Bears, and they took advantage.

Second, when Marion Barber III ripped off three straight runs of around seven to nine yards apiece, naturally, it made perfect sense to rip out the page of the playbook that contained plays where Barber runs right, because that’s obviously what offensive (and I DO mean offensive) coordinator Jason Garrett did. After absolutely carving through the Chicago defense three consecutive plays, not even being touched until five yards were already in the books, the only times Barber saw the ball the rest of the game were in obvious short-yardage situations, when the entire stadium knew he was running up the gut. It’s elementary football strategy: When you find something that works, keep running it until your opponent proves that they can stop it.

Third, the Bears converted a third-and-17 deep in their own territory by completing a 60-plus-yard pass. That should absolutely, positively never happen. While that may be the fault of the secondary, and not necessarily the coaching staff, a well-coached team doesn’t make mistakes like those. The Cowboys do.

And on the topic of mistakes that should never be made by a well-coached team: Roy Williams finally did something right and caught a few passes, but his fumble was the death knell for any potential Cowboys comeback. It’s one thing to fumble while fighting for more yards, but Williams’ forward progress had been stopped for a couple of seconds already, and he was gaining absolutely nothing by trying to fight off the tackle. The fumble was his fault, but situations like the one he found himself in should have been addressed repeatedly by the coaching staff. My guess is that they weren’t.

The only reason to keep any sliver of hope alive is the fact that there are no 2-0 teams in the NFC East, so the Cowboys are only one game out of first place with 14 to go. But two opportunities for what should have been easy wins were thrown away, and the schedule gets much more difficult now, starting with Sunday’s trip to Houston to take on the Texans. After what I’ve seen during the first two games this season, I am not the least bit confident.

Can someone please wake the Dallas Cowboys’ coaching staff up during games?

I am always bitter and angry after any loss by the Dallas Cowboys, but some of them get to me far more than others, and this past Sunday’s debacle at Green Bay really struck a nerve.

Wade Phillips at halftime

This isn’t sour grapes: The Packers are a good football team, and they were fighting for their playoff lives. They outplayed the Cowboys on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and deserved the victory. Hell, they even deserved the shutout they had until the Cowboys scored a meaningless touchdown with under one minute left.

The reasons why I’m so ticked are basically a horrible game plan and a complete lack of halftime adjustments, which, as poorly as the players executed, falls squarely on the coaching staff.

I am not comparing Marion Barber III, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice to Jim Brown, Gale Sayers and Emmitt Smith. However, they are three solid NFL running backs. Why did the Cowboys only run the ball 14 times?

The score at halftime was 3-0, not 30-0, yet the Cowboys completely abandoned the run. Even worse, Green Bay had constant pressure on Tony Romo after tackle Marc Colombo left the game with a broken leg, yet it seemed like all the Cowboys were trying to do was throw the ball downfield. When an opponent is as successful at creating pressure as the Packers were Sunday, wouldn’t the smart thing be to run the football and run quick-developing pass plays or screens to counter the pass rush? Yet the Cowboys offense tried to duplicate the Al Davis Raiders and throw deep on every play. Perhaps James Jett would like to come out of retirement?

And don’t even get me started on Roy Williams. If you want the ball so badly, why not try catching it and holding onto it, instead of fumbling away momentum and dropping passes in your hands?

Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who knows a hell of a lot more about football than I do, said the same things I just said: “The game became one-dimensional. You can just go out and blitz, but if people are going to run the ball for big yardage on you, you’re foolish.” Actually, what was foolish was abandoning the run.

The quote from super genius head coach Wade Phillips: “We’d like to be more balanced, certainly. We had 218 yards rushing against them last year.” If I’m not mistaken, as head coach, your job is to point this out during the game, and not the day after the game. On Felix Jones: “We need to feature him more. The delays out of the backfield, we’ve seen him have big plays on and then the running game. But it didn’t work that way in this game.” Why not? Again, isn’t that your job?

The Cowboys got outplayed. It happens. That’s life in the National Football League — on any given Sunday. But the coaching staff also did nothing to put the players in a better position to win the game, and there’s no excuse for that.

Does anyone still think Jason Garrett is an offensive genius?