Monday, December 29, 2008

Week 17: Eagles 44, Cowboys 6 (9-7)

That is going to leave a bad taste in your mouth about Dallas Cowboys Football. I realize that hope shall spring eternal, and right about the time training camp rolls around (I was going to say the draft and then I remembered that the 1st round pick is in Detroit for that receiver that broke out yesterday for 2 catches and 4 yards) you will attempt to locate that jersey that you tore off yesterday during the Cowboys trouncing at the hands of the hated Eagles, but wow.

It would seem that breaking down the various elements of yesterday’s game instead of focusing on the far bigger picture would be a bit like pointing out a few weeds in the sidewalk of a house that just burned down, so I think we should attempt to do both here this morning.

First, the big picture. I am reminded of a quote from the Rams game, when Moose was calling the game on TV, he began to suggest to us that the Cowboys mix was not to his liking:

”Adversity doesn’t build character; it reveals it” – Daryl Johnston, On Fox, October 20, 2008, Dallas versus St Louis.

I certainly don’t want to be the old man here, especially if the “young man” needing the lecture is Jerry Jones, but what kind of team has been built? What kind of selfish, narcissistic, ego maniacs have you assembled here? This season has revealed so much. It has shown that when adversity hits, this team reveals its character. And while a large portion of the team may have the “good” kind of character, there is a faction that certainly seems to lack it. That faction affects everything. It undermines leadership, it teaches the kids how to conduct themselves, and when things go poorly, they are the first to turn knives on the team. As they say, this team is not a team of character. It is a team of characters.

So, now you combine a team of characters – many who have already been promised their money - with a coaching staff that seems to command almost no respect from those that would undermine them, and you have what you have right now…a pile of rubble.

What do you do with this underachieving crew that seemed to shrink to the occasion for the better part of the entire year? Jerry Jones has already said he plans to do nothing to his head coach, Wade Phillips. What folly that seems. The statistic Fox offered yesterday says plenty about this entire crew: The Wade Phillips Cowboys started 12-1, since then, they are 10-10. For anyone who thinks that Bill Parcells had this team set up to dominate, and then Wade and Jerry have allowed this thing to erode back into a mess, that statistic will make your case pretty well.

I think a new coach is very necessary. I also think that Jason Garrett is not who I would hire. I might entertain the idea of Garrett staying at coordinator, but I would surely not promote him after this mess. I think the days of not considering elements of team building when assembling a roster needs to stop. From now on, if they are a head ache, they don’t play here. If they require special rules, they don’t play here. If I have to hire a special security detail to babysit them, they don’t play here. If Ed Werder makes a full time living reporting on what my diva WR says everyday, then my WR doesn’t play here.

But, I know that expecting Jerry Jones to stop being Jerry Jones is an exercise of complete stupidity. So, with a new stadium ready to open, we can only hope that the man has learned a lesson. Fat chance.

Anyway, since we did all suffer through 44-6, let’s at least look at a few moments of the last chapter of a very bad book:

• Tony Romo is a mess right now. I hardly recognize the guy who I have bought stock in. His grasp of where to go with the football is completely screwed up right now, and his decisive ability to make reads and throws seems long gone. I think this off-season will be an interesting one, because for the first time in his life, he is going to have a lot of doubt. He is going to begin to question how good he is going to be, and how badly he wants it. His stock is way, way down, and his own organization is going to begin to question whether he is the man. I caution everyone against declaring a player of his quality and age a complete failure (see: Manning, Peyton), but at the end of the proverbial day, it is not very important what you or I think about this situation. It is important what he thinks. If he spends the off-season trying to convince himself that he has it all figured out, then I will be afraid. But, if he is obsessed with figuring out where it all went wrong and what he needs to get back to doing to make it all make sense again, then I think he will be one of the best QB’s in the league again.

• Speaking of Romo and Garrett, for an offense that was not nearly affected by injuries in December like the defense was, is there a chance we can figure out the confusion before next season? You know, the WR and the TE and the QB looking like they are not on the same page? How many times in the last few weeks have they looked like they had never played together? How many years before Roy Williams looks like he knows what plays are being called? And why am I already tiring of his routine this early in the game? Bad routes, drops, body language, and at times looking like he is just out there running around. Some franchise Wide Receiver.

• If the Eagles are dumb enough to let Brian Dawkins get away, I would send a jet to go pick him up immediately. I know he is just a shadow of what he once was – he once was the best safety in football – but if there is a guy who understands the position, it is that guy, the heart and soul of the Eagles defense for all of these years. His blitzing again yesterday was superb, and his sure tackling is something the Cowboys defense has lacked. Roy Williams may have faults, but when Williams, Patrick Watkins, Keith Davis, and friends are all hurt, we see the big plays multiply. Safety appears to once again be a sizeable hole in the defense. And Ken Hamlin may be paid like a great safety, but I am not sure he is much better than average.

• Bradie James is one of the positives of this season. Wade has really figured out how to best utilize him through blitzing. But, there is still that issue of covering receivers, and opposing QB’s still look for 56 on defense in the red zone to isolate a back or TE. Easy money.

• Did you know the Eagles only had 5 more yards than the Cowboys? When you see a drive chart that has 5 consecutive drives that end with: “Interception, Fumble, Fumble, Fumble, Fumble” then odds are good that total yards will not matter.

• Did Tony Romo pull Wade’s pants down when he waved the punt team back to the sideline? Is that a reasonable enough sign that your coach lacks respect? I guess I must be forgetting all of the times Parcells was waved off.

• If Pac Man Jones ever plays another second in Dallas, I will be disappointed. Dumb players make dumb plays. We saw about a dozen this season – in 9 games.

• Nick Folk kicks field goals very, very well. He does not kick off very well. No touchbacks, and then he kicks the ball out of bounds, too? It might be time for the designated KO specialist.

• By the way, if Bruce Read is coaching special teams next year, I will be disappointed.

• Plays of the game: The 59 yards catch and run by Correll Buckhalter on 3rd and 8, and then 3rd and 9 pass to DeSean Jackson for 34 yards. Both plays put the Eagles inside the Cowboys 10, and ready for a Touchdown. And both plays featured Terrence Newman coming up empty.

• I roll my eyes when I hear the December records brought up, but there is no running from that reality anymore. This team cannot close the deal. They cannot rise to the occasion. And when their backs were against the wall the last two weeks, all units of the team failed miserably. Jerry Jones must consider any and all alternatives after the way 2008 ended. The message must be sent loud and clear that this is unacceptable. But, will that message be sent?

• And so it ends, one of the most disappointing Cowboys seasons ever. For some reason, it might take several months for many of us to work up a renewed enthusiasm for this thing. Here is a vote for change if there will be hope.


Doctor Jones said...

I was hoping you'd have some sort of optimism for us. I guess football isn't that important. Right?

Josh said...

I don't think the Cowboys problems are as easily fixable as bringing in a Parcells-type coach. Even if you do that, you then have to overhaul the attitude of the players on this team.

We saw that happen when Jimmy Johnson took over in 1989. He got rid of players who were just there to collect their checks, and he brought in guys who wanted to win, who he could mold.

Parcells came to Dallas when the cupboard was empty, and he took that empty 5-11 shell of a team to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth ... under Quincy freaking Carter. But the guys that Parcells molded into his first playoff team in Dallas were not talented enough to build on, and thus the 2004 and 2005 seasons were spent building the foundation for what we saw emerge in 2006 and 2007, a talented disciplined football team. The Tuna didn't just make everything better. It took time. Yeah, he got the Cowboys into the playoffs at first, bringing instant credibility here in town. But then he made sure to build for the future, which seems to now be wasted with Wade Phillips on the sideline.

If the Cowboys do go bring in a Parcells type of coach (I know everyone is kicking around Bill Cowher's name), that new coach would have to change the attitudes of all the current players or just get rid of them all - which cannot happen because of the contracts that Jerry Jones has given out.

Parcells didn't have that problem because the guys he inherited had never accomplished anything, so when Bill said "do it this way" you had to do it that way. Period. With the current team, any coach that would tell them to change their attitude would face questions of "why" and "how come" when a head coach shouldn't have to face those questions from his team.

Jimmy came in and put his stamp on the team in 1989, cutting guys who he didn't feel were playing for a championship. Tuna arrived in 2003 and made Q-Car a playoff quarterback.

Quick show of hands: does anything think the Cowboys would be better off with Quincy instead of Tony Romo? Answer: Hell no!

So how come Quincy became a disciplined QB in 2003 and we heard all about his newfound commitment to staying late and studying film and working hard? It had something to do with the guy standing on the sideline ready to cut him at a moment's notice. Where was that kind of accountability on the 2008 Cowboys? It wasn't there.

Has Romo improved in the last two seasons? I know he's put up good numbers. I know he's been to Pro Bowls. But has Romo actually become a more focused, smarter, better decision-maker on the field since Bill Parcells left? Has he? No. Sadly, the answer is no. And it's obvious why.

You can take that same question and ask it of this entire team. Have they really improved at all over the last two seasons? Not improved their record. But have they become better football players? Have they learned how to be better at the game of football?

And with that answer being "No" it's easy to see why this team clearly needs some sort of shake up.

Your 2008 Dallas Cowboys
Preseason favorites. Playoff spectators.

ben8gan said...

Well said Bob. It starts and ends with Jerall Jones. Maybe the best owner in the league and the worst GM.
Only other point I'd make is how telling is it that the play that goes for the most yardage in the game wasn't even designed by the offensive coordinator? And what does that say about respect for coaches?

Solaam said...

I'd like to offer my cut/fired list.

Wade Phillips and his entire coaching staff.
Jason Garrett
Bobby Carpenter
Cory Proctor
Pacman Jones
Roy Williams (DB)
Brad Johnson
Tank Johnson
Marcus Spears
Barbie Carpenter (repeat necessary)
and maybe TO

coaching staff
a new QB coach
backup QB
new inside LBs
possible veteran WR

Jerry needs to put feelers out right now. I think there will be a change around the Super Bowl. Jerry usually likes to make a splash around then because he's all about the Boys.

Did you know Parcells has an out clause in Miami for this year? Hmmm.

John said...

Sturm, Here is my list of top 7 worst defeats in franchise history, based on team expectations...

#7 1980 loss to PHI in NFC Championship 20-7
#6 1982 loss to WAS in NFC Championship 31-17 (Hogenboom disaster, 3rd consecutive loss in the championship game)
#5 1972 loss to WAS in NFC Championship 26-3 in the year after the Cowboys won their first SB
#4 1976 loss to LA in the divisional playoffs 14-12 after an 11-3 season sandwiched between 3 SB seasons
#3 1969 loss to CLE in the playoffs 38-14 for the second consecutive year
#2 1968 loss to CLE in the playoffs 31-20 after playing for the NFL Championship game in the previous 2 seasons
#1 2008 loss to PHI 44-6 to end the season out of the playoffs

Jay said...

The NFL is cyclical. It's amazing how year after year, a bunch of teams - maybe even most teams toggle back and forth from mediocre to good. This is more than a down year. I could see the Cowboys winning 11 games next year. The issue is that the structure in place I think will keep this organization from reaching the pinnacle and that's why fans are depressed. For decades this has been an organization that out-manages the other organizations to keep it's team winning more often than not and for the last decade it's been run into the ground and will continue to be mediocre when it counts and that dear friends lands at the feet of one Jerry Jones. I think we all have to rethink whether he really is a good owner.

Dave said...

Well said Bob, It's much easier to take a loss if you feel that the team left it all out on the field...but that was seldom the case for this organization.

It frustrates me to no end to see a team play without heart, and that attitude seemed to carry over to the press conferences.

There are a few players that seem to have the heart of a warrior, (see Witten), but for others, the (seemingly) blase attitude of the coach seems to permeate onto the field.

I don't have the answers either, but with the talent amassed by this organization, one would, and should expect much better...

Phil K. said...

Jay - I've been thinking about the point you've made. The "parity" thought has crept into my mind and I've tried to determine what the best INTANGIBLE method of "beating the house" on parity. I've decided that it's overall team chemistry. Give me the team that plays hard for each other over the most talented group of individuals. Talent rarely wins football games, single-handed. Team play, does (see: Giants, NY Football, 2007).

Iamaspecialbruin said...

Until a Valkryie type plan is successful in eliminating Jerry, the Cowboys will never be successful. Getting the band back together for another year is comical. Jerry will have us back to 5-11 next year at best.

bevo said...

Follow along with me here..This loss is on the defense..Why?

Jason Garrett did the right thing..He played close to the vest..Romo made no mistakes..

The results the middle of the second quarter..Eagles 17/Dallas 0..The Eagles had touchdown drives of 68 and 73 yards..

If not for a fumble by the Eagles..deep in Cowboy could have been worse..

This is all before the Boys turned the ball over..even once..The Game is Over..

The rest determine the final score..

BTW..On Romo only pass interception..The Eagles got the ball on their own 40..same place they started the game..after another kickoff out of bounds..

MK said...

"Oh, cruel fate, to be thusly boned. Ask not for whom the bone bones. It bones for thee."

The Rice Man said...

Hey Cowboy John,

That 1982 loss to the Redskins was the game that Danny White got knocked the heck out by Dexter Manley. Hail to the Redskins

Jay said...

Phil, well said sir. Good way of putting it. said...

As an outsider to Valley Ranch, I don't know what's killing the Cowboys. But here's my rank speculation on three culprits:

(1) Too much "us vs. them" within the team. Maybe it's just a media fabrication, but there's been an awful lot of smoke over the last season about how divided this team has become, with TO the seeming ringleader of the "us" faction that has designated the quarterback, leading tight end and offensive coordinator (and maybe others) as "them." That would certainly explain why the offense looks like eleven guys working off of eleven different play books. And it would fit TO's MO from both Philly and SF.

(2) The assistant coaches are subpar. Time was that this team featured an elite cadre of assistant coaches, guys who made Jimmie look like a genius and even Barry look competent. The current group, though, seems outrageously nondescript. The badness of special teams and defense (pre-Wade) is well documented, and we now hear week after week from opposing defenders that the offense is easily read and predictable. There just aren't very many good teams in the league that don't have good assistants and Dallas doesn't seem to have any.

(3) The players aren't that talented. They've been told they're great so long that they now accept it as gospel, but the fact is the players on this team are not that good. Outside of Ware and Witten, there is not another top-five-at-his-position player on this team. Ratliff and James are solid if one-dimensional players, but nobody else rates mention. And Dallas is particularly lacking at the offensive and defensive "skill" positions, where I would take at least 10 other guys each at QB, RB, WR, CB and S before I'd even think about taking a Cowboy. I bet it is hard to coach a team of less-than-stellar talent that thinks it's much better than it really is. It's certainly hard to win with that level of talent.

Brian said...

The motto of the 2008 Cowboys..."It wasn't my fault"