Mike Zimmer quits before he can be fired …There is no doubt in my mind that he knew he wasn’t wanted back. His quote confirms as much…
According to multiple sources, Zimmer has agreed to a two-year deal with the Falcons.
Zimmer, who was the Cowboys defensive coordinator for seven seasons, would only confirm that things were close as he was leaving the Cowboys' Valley Ranch headquarters Tuesday.
"I am just trying to have a job," Zimmer said.
Considering his contract was up with the Cowboys and his uneasy place as coordinator of the team's 3-4 defense when his roots are in the 4-3, Zimmer, 50, has ensured himself of a job and a more comfortable situation in Atlanta.
He will be reunited with new Falcons coach Bobby Petrino from their days on staff together at Weber State in 1987 and 1988.
"I am not too surprised," Cowboys linebacker Bradie James said. "I think he got another opportunity to do his own thing. We are going to miss him."
Said Greg Ellis, "I am glad for Zim. Maybe he can get into a situation where he can be happy about what he's doing. He's a good coach. I believe he is going to have success and I enjoyed my time with him."
Zimmer can't escape being linked to the Cowboys' defensive failures in 2006. They allowed 132 points in losing three of their last four regular season games, as a defense expected to be the next Doomsday gave up too many big plays, couldn't rush the passer and couldn't get off the field on third downs.
But Zimmer was also making the best of the situation he was forced into when Cowboys coach Bill Parcells changed defensive schemes from the 4-3 to the 3-4 in 2005.
Zimmer, who shepherded the No. 4 and No. 1 ranked defenses in the league in 2001 and 2003, will run the 4-3 defense in Atlanta.
The Cowboys now must decide who replaces Zimmer as defensive coordinator. The question is clouded by the uncertainty surrounding Parcells' future with the team. Parcells is under contract through 2007. At 65, he has acknowledged that retirement is a possibility.
My pipe dream of Dick LeBeau is likely just that, but Pepper Johnson seems to join Todd Bowles as the leaders in the clubhouse to take over.
Todd Archer looks at solutions …
The coverage problems at safety were well chronicled this year. From Roy Williams to Patrick Watkins to Keith Davis, the safeties had difficulties in pass coverage.
With mega millions tied up in Williams and cornerback Anthony Henry, and Terence Newman's contract expiring in 2008, would Jones want to pour more millions into a free agent? Coach Bill Parcells said he thought Watkins can develop into a consistent player, but that is no sure thing.
The answer might already be on the roster: Henry. He played safety in college. He led the team with 23 pass deflections during the season, and although he's not a speedster, he is always around the ball.
Switching Henry would create a need at cornerback, but that could be answered in the draft.
Two-fifths of the starting offensive line will be unrestricted free agents. Another starter, Marco Rivera, will have back surgery today. The Cowboys were one of two teams to have the same five starters on the line in 2006, but the unit might look different next year.
Center Andre Gurode and right tackle Marc Colombo had better-than-expected seasons but will be free to sign elsewhere in March if the Cowboys do not re-sign them beforehand.
The Cowboys have used four first-day draft picks on linemen since 2000 with middling success. They like the potential of Pat McQuistan, Cory Procter and Joe Berger, but it would be wise to draft a lineman in the first round for the first time since 1981.
Good point to remind us that Right Tackle and Center are both unrestricted free agents. That could be more expensive than we thought at the start of the year.
Shocker: Giants to keep Coughlin? …
The New York Giants are likely to retain embattled head coach Tom Coughlin, but a conference call originally scheduled for Tuesday afternoon to discuss his status was postponed as organizational meetings continued.
Coughlin will enter the final year of his contract in 2007 at a salary of $3 million, but speculation is that Giants ownership will extend his deal by at least one year to keep the veteran coach from being a lame duck. A source close to Coughlin told ESPN.com on Tuesday that he is "cautiously optimistic" the coach will be retained and that his contract will be extended.
But the postponement of the Tuesday conference call signaled there are still some elements to be resolved, possibly with the contract extension and also probably with staffing issues.
One assistant coach acknowledged Tuesday night that the staff remains in the dark about its future.
Coughlin dismissed offensive coordinator John Hufnagel before the team's final
regular-season game. Quarterbacks coach Kevin Gilbride assumed the play-calling chores for that contest and Sunday's wild-card game defeat at Philadelphia. There are almost certain to be further staffing changes in the offseason.
I thought he lost his team!
Rex Grossman being torched for dumb comments ….
Grossman said last week that his 2-for-12 passing performance against the Packers, which included three interceptions, resulted from not preparing fully. He said his attention was not what it should have been.
"It felt like I was going to play about a half," Grossman said on Jan. 2. "It's the last game, New Year's Eve, and there were so many factors that brought my focus away from what is actually important."
In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, CBS-TV's top two game analysts, Phil Simms and Dan Dierdorf, were surprised by Grossman's comments.
"It's pretty stunning that he actually came out and admitted he did not prepare the way he should have, that the game didn't mean anything and that basically he was on cruise control," Dierdorf said. "It was awesomely stupid to do it. It was even more awesomely stupid to say it."
Dierdorf said Grossman's comments had not served his cause well.
"Not many guys in recent memory have invited that scrutiny quite the way Rex Grossman has," Dierdorf said.
Nice Win For the Mavericks …
Jerry Stackhouse called out the Jazz as being "fake physical" and for playing "coward basketball."
The Mavericks, as a whole, just felt vindicated.
After being humbled and humiliated the last time they visited the arena formerly known as the Delta Center, the Mavs finished off an impressive road trip by outfighting Utah 108-105 on Tuesday night at Energy Solutions Arena.
"Our guys battled," coach Avery Johnson said. "They battled. There's nothing soft about this team. They're hungry."
Stackhouse, ejected in the third quarter, verbally feasted on the Jazz after the game, but the Mavs withstood the loss of their sixth man with Dirk Nowitzki mustering up a season-high 38 points, and a number of key performances and plays down the stretch.
Josh Howard added 21 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Jason Terry and Devin Harris, responding to Johnson's halftime challenge, scored 26 of their 32 combined points in the second half.
Erick Dampier, in foul trouble most of the game, blocked a layup that could have brought Utah within a point with 12.9 seconds left. Stackhouse scored 11 off the bench before taking a seat in the locker room.
No doubt the Mavs were motivated. They were coming off Sunday night's defeat at the Los Angeles Lakers that snapped a 13-game winning streak and suffered one of the more gruesome losses of the season here nearly a month ago.
That 101-79 rout at the hands of the Jazz immediately proceeded the 13-game run.
"We didn't want to have a little losing streak going, plus Utah really embarrassed us here a month ago," Nowitzki said.
Unlike two nights prior, the Mavs didn't come apart in the fourth quarter. Both sides spent much of the quarter matching baskets, before the Mavs forged ahead for good with 3:15 left.
"This is not a team you can come out and be passive against," Stackhouse said. "They're going to hold and grab; that's what they're taught to do and try to play a fake physical game."
Ugly Loss for the Stars …
Some games, the Stars can get away with a sluggish period or two and come out with points.
Tuesday wasn't one of those games.
A better third period couldn't make up for a lifeless first and second in a 5-2 loss to Phoenix at American Airlines Center. The only energy the Stars showed came in the first 15 minutes of the third period.
Fifteen good minutes isn't good enough for the Stars these days. Not when they are still missing key players to injuries.
Not when they are playing the resurgent Coyotes, who have won seven consecutive games.
Kidd and Joumana split up …
Among the numerous charges, the papers contend that Joumana sat with T. J. in her front-row seat at Continental Arena on Dec. 27 and “started to shout personal insults” at Kidd throughout a game. At least one member of the Nets’ staff witnessed the incident but could not hear her because she was too far away.
Raoul Felder, the Manhattan divorce lawyer who is one of the lawyers representing Joumana Kidd, said in a telephone interview Tuesday night that she would file a counterclaim.
“If anybody has grounds for extreme cruelty, she has allegations of it and she is prepared to prove it,” Felder said.
New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state, meaning the judge will not make a decision based on the actions of either party.
The Kidds, who married in February 1997, separated about a month ago.
“She has a right to say what she wants,” Kidd said of his wife. “For me, what’s done is done. We’re going to move forward to try to solve the situation.”
Baseball decides to keep Big Mac Out …
Baseball Hall of Fame voters made an unmistakable statement with their ballots Tuesday, rejecting steroid-tainted slugger Mark McGwire while enthusiastically embracing Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn in their first year of eligibility.
When the three players retired five years ago, it was widely assumed they would be inducted together at Cooperstown, N.Y.
Ripken was the game's iron man, having played in a record 2,632 consecutive games and proving that a large man could excel at shortstop. Gwynn was the best contact hitter in decades, winning eight batting titles and posting a career average of .338.
And McGwire ranks seventh all-time with 583 home runs, having mesmerized the nation in 1998 by smashing Roger Maris' long-standing record by blasting 70 with the St. Louis Cardinals to win a lively long-ball race against Sammy Sosa.
Strong circumstantial evidence has connected McGwire to baseball's burgeoning steroids scandal, however, convincing more than three of every four voters that he doesn't belong beside the game's immortals — at least not yet. There was McGwire's flimsy testimony during a 2005 congressional hearing on steroid use, his admitted use of the steroid precursor androstenedione, the detailed accusations of former teammate Jose Canseco, and McGwire's steadfast refusal to comment on the topic.
McGwire received 23.5% of the votes from 545 members of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America, enough to keep him on the ballot next year. Six players who received less than 30% of the vote in their first year of eligibility eventually were inducted in the Hall of Fame, including former Dodgers Duke Snider and Don Drysdale.
And now, a cool email about the other night:
I'm not sure who was talking about the Cowboys return after the Seattle game. I sleep during the day and heard the story on the edge of Ticket coverage on a replay of "the top 10".
Of the 5 people at the airport my son and I were 40% of that group. When I was much younger my dad would take us out the the old Braniff hanger for Cowboy arrivals and departures. I hadn't done that in years and decided at the last minute it was time to go to the airport.
I woke up my son and said "The Cowboys land in an hour lets go" He got up, dressed and we headed out the door. As he walked out the door he got his football and ran back in the house for a sharpie.
We got to the airport about 15 minutes before the plane landed. We picked a spot and watched the coaches and players walk by. Then he saw Mr. Romo "THAT'S HIM!". The lights on the car beside us flashed and he walked toward us. My son asked and Mr. Romo responded. He stopped, autographed the ball gave a little smile and told him to have a good day.
I don't know if we was glad some still wanted an autograph or was glad the posse wasn't waiting for him.
Another player with intials we all know wasn't in the mood for autographes at 400 am.
My son has slept with the ball beside his bed.
Mr. Romo is A Number One with my son and the rest of my family. I don't know if Mr. Romo will ever know how much this meant to my son.
He is the big 14 year old in the video, I had my Cowboy coat on and the other family was from Keller.
David in Mesquite
I vote David as cool Dad of the Day.
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