First, this insane-but-believable story from Calvin Watkins …
As they gather here for Senior Bowl scouting assignments this week trying improve their product on the field, the Cowboys officials also face significant issues off the field.
Multiple sources close to the team paint a picture of turmoil inside the locker room far greater than originally thought, and the organization is determined to solve the problems. Sources say there were many issues this season that call into question team discipline, commitment and accountability.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Monday night he would not discuss certain aspects of the team, including the status of wide receiver Terrell Owens, the coaching staff – specifically offensive coordinator Jason Garrett – and recently cut cornerback Adam Jones.
Jones did say he will talk about other issues regarding the organization Tuesday. Coach Wade Phillips wasn't available for comment Monday night. He declined to talk to reporters earlier in the day.
One of the key off-season disciplinary issues the team must address is tardiness.
The team charter left late for road games five times this season because players were late to the airport according to three sources. The total represented more than half of the eight regular season away games. Sources declined to name the late players. The Philadelphia trip was delayed by more than an hour.
The punishments left little incentive for promptness. Fines for being late or missing meetings and injury treatment sessions were far lower under Phillips than they were under former coach Bill Parcells.
Under Parcells, players were fined $5,000 for being late to meetings, and as much as $12,000 for missing an injury treatment session.
This season, players were fined $100 for being late to meetings or missing a treatment. During training camp, linebacker Anthony Spencer was featured on HBO's Hard Knocks after being fined $100 for missing a treatment session. But sources said Spencer was not alone in missing such treatments.
Owens was a repeat offender in being late for team meetings, sources said. With the Cowboys needing to defeat Philadelphia to reach the playoffs in the season finale, Owens was late for a Dec. 23 meeting, citing traffic problems two days before Christmas. Owens declined comment on his tardiness.
Meetings would sometimes start 10 to 15 minutes later than scheduled, those sources said.
Phillips may not be completely to blame for the smaller fines. A source said Phillips asked Jones to raise the fine total but was rebuffed by the owner.
Jones acknowledged some players are late for meetings. However, he said sometimes a player is late because he has to meet his media responsibilities or had a legitimate excuse.
Compounding those disciplinary issues, was a growing problem of relationships between players and coaches. Sources said players lost respect for defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, who came across more as a player than a coach and made what they termed questionable play-calling.
Another source expressed concern that Phillips treated the offensive and defensive players differently, favoring the defense. It's not unusal, however, for a defensive-oriented coach such as Phillips to spend more time with one unit.
According to five sources, several offensive players lost respect for Garrett for his failure to corral quarterback Tony Romo in practice. Romo, sources said, often forced throws in practice and often did not treat practice work consistently.
The quarterback's practice habits were so bad, sources said, that they affected the way he played in games and could have factored into the offense's problems.
Sources said Owens was upset that Romo directed more passes at tight end and close friend Jason Witten as opposed to the other receivers who he deemed open. Owens has declined to discuss that issue.
The relationship between Garrett and his offensive players will be an important issue for the unit to work out. Garrett was unsuccessful in his bid to land recent head coaching jobs in Denver, Detroit and St. Louis.
Specifically, the relationship between the mercurial Owens and Garrett is in question. Other receivers respect Owens and often share his sentiments.
When asked about his relationship with Owens, Garrett said Monday, "I have a lot of respect for him, certainly as a player, we'll just leave it at that, OK?"
Jason Garrett answers questions about losing the Rams job over cash …
Garrett interviewed for jobs in Detroit, Denver and St. Louis over the last two weeks.
"It was a great experience ... at each of the places," Garrett said. "It was a good process to be able to go through. We love being in Dallas and love working for [owner Jerry] Jones and the players and coaches."
On Saturday, Garrett arrived in Dallas after a second round of interviews with St. Louis Rams officials.
The Rams choose Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Garrett, who makes $3 million a year with the Cowboys, said contract demands were not an issue.
"That's not the case at all," said Garrett, who is the highest-paid assistant coach in the NFL. "It was a really good experience ... being able to talk to the Rams and ... Detroit and Denver as well. It's going though the process and talking about where they are and where they might go in the future."
The following is just a rumor about Ray Lewis coming here, but if my winter thesis is to clean up this locker-room and get some accountability in the room – then I think I must like the idea of the best leader of men in the NFL coming to town, right?
I know Ray Lewis has some baggage from 1999, but what a general on the field …
Word around the NFL is that the Dallas Cowboys are very interested in obtaining Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis if he becomes a free agent. The speculation is that the Cowboys are willing to give Lewis a three-year deal worth between $27 and $30 million, with $25 million guaranteed.
Dallas owner Jerry Jones believes his team is in the serious hunt for a Super Bowl title next season, and that Lewis could help solve some of the team's problems inside the locker room.
The Ravens are expected to begin negotiations with Lewis, who is in the last year of his contract, as soon as the season is over. Fellow linebackers Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs are also in the final years of their contracts.
I can’t think of $30 million better invested. Seriously.
Meanwhile, Jen makes the blog today, too, with her interview with Me-Shawn …
"You know, Jen, why aren’t you touting Todd Haley for the job?" he asked. "He was the only one with the [guts] to tell Jerry 'I really want this job but I can’t coach this team with this guy on it. And I don’t think you are going to win anything of any consequence with this guy on it.’ "
This guy, of course, was Terrell Owens. And he and Haley were not exactly BFFs in their one and only season together as Cowboys under Big Bill.
T.O. vowed to "find the rats" with Haley being his prime suspect and blamed him for failing to use his considerable talent. Haley, a Big Bill disciple in every way, refused to cower and snapped right back which only further enraged perpetually touchy T.O.
Owner Jones did interview Haley, along with almost everybody else, when Bill Parcells left. Of course, Haley did not have a chance, bucking convention and saying what Jerry did not want to hear which is T.O. is the rat.
Now, Haley is the offensive coordinator of a team going to the Super Bowl and T.O. is whining about locker room rats again and how the offensive coordinator is to blame. And a few misguided souls actually believe this self-plagiarized rant with Haley being replaced by Jason Witten and Jason Garrett.
"What is obvious is you can’t keep Jason Garrett, T.O. and the coach," Johnson said.
And almost as an exclamation point, The Red-headed Genius chimed in from the Senior Bowl where he answered a question about T.O. with a very read-between-the-line-ish "I certainly have a lot of respect for him as a player. And we’ll just leave it at that."
My guess is JG thinks T.O. is going to be waived. No way his normally cautious self says what he said otherwise. Or else he figured out what Haley did two years ago which is you are not going to win anything of any consequence with this guy on your team. So better to jump from that doomed-to-fail ship.
Of course, JG already has started taking another local beating from T.O. apologists.
He needs to be more pc. He is really the problem. He needs to be fired.
If so, take solace Jason. Coaches have a way of looking smarter once departed from Valley Ranch and far, far away from Terrell Owens, with Haley and Tony Sparano immediately springing to mind. And both of them had Parcells backing them, rather than Coach Cupcake.
Of course, Key blames T.O. not Coach Cupcake for this.
"He is the poison pill," he said. "Everybody can see it. Marion Barber is a different personality now. Patrick Crayton is a different personality now. He was not that guy when I was there. He was happy to be in the NFL. He was just happy to be there. And now he is the spokesperson of the team. Sometimes, people have that kind of influence on a team."
In case you haven’t noticed, Johnson does not really respect T.O. And many dismiss everything he says about T.O. as jealous rantings of washed up player.
I kind of like to think of it as the truth.
"I know he screams jealous — jealous of what?" Keyshawn retorted. "What do you have that I don’t? I have my Super Bowl ring. And he can’t figure out how to get it because he can’t figure out how to be a team player."
Haley tried to tell them two years ago.
Of course, what does he know? He is just going to the Super Bowl while the Cowboys are again spending the off-season assigning blame and going on rat hunts.
Good stuff, good stuff.
National Football Post with a great column on Anquan Boldin …
And a big Senior Bowl preview …as we all begin preparations for a 2009 draft – despite the Cowboys not having to prepare for the 1st round…
In other sports:
Stars Lose to Tampa??? …
Wow. That is not what this team needed. Losing 4-2 to Tampa Bay, in a game where they led in the 2nd intermission, only to allow 3 more 3rd period markers taking their 3rd period season to a sad-but-true -21!
-21? In the 3rd? Good gosh, Ken Hitchcock, Hatcher and Matvichuk, and Belfour will be most displeased by the liberal defense that is being played in the late stages of these games these days - we are many years from the days of the streak of 3rd period leads being brought home.
As they try to dig out of the hole, we saw tonight further examples of what it is that has put the Stars in the hole to begin with.
Where to begin?
Key Faceoffs lost in your own end late? Yes.
Key Power Plays wasted early and often? Yes. 1-7, in fact.
Allowed a Shorthanded Goal? Yes.
But more than anything, -3 in the 3rd period.
Must close games better. It is nice to have games in hand, but if you have an extra game, and it is against a team that is not very good, then you must put them to the sword with a 3rd period lead.
Dang, this one might come back to haunt them.
Fan wins 1 million at Blackhawks game …
The Chicago Blackhawks announced tonight the team had a lucky fan win one million dollars, courtesy of the Illinois Lottery, during Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild.
Right wing Martin Havlat scored at the 10:00 mark of the second period, meaning a random fan, whose seat location was selected during the first period, won one million dollars in the "Illinois Lottery Million Dollar Minute." The winner has been notified and will be introduced before the Blackhawks game against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center on Wednesday.>> team release
I was unsure of what the promotion was here, but after a bit of digging, I found this on the Blackhawks' website:
"Fans! If the Blackhawks score a goal at the 10 minute mark of the 2nd period during all the Blackhawk home games for the rest of the season, one lucky contestant will win a million dollars courtesy of the Illinois Lottery! If the Blackhawks don’t score at this time, then everyone sitting in one lucky section will win an Instant Lottery Ticket!"
Meaning, of course, that the goal had to occur at the exact second at the halfway
point of the game. Those are pretty long odds.
There are 3,600 seconds in a regulation hockey game and the home team in this case scores about 3.4 goals per game. So, for the number crunchers out there, what are the chances of 10:00 of the second period coming up in a game? In a season?
Crazy day in Philadelphia saved by Dirk …
Dirk Nowitzki had hoisted 14 shots through two-plus quarters Monday afternoon.
To paraphrase the famous line, he'd made one more than a dead man.
So when the Mavericks needed a basket to avoid overtime against the Philadelphia 76ers, was there any doubt whom coach Rick Carlisle was going to give the ball to?
"No, none at all," Carlisle said.
Nowitzki cleaned up a dirty day of work by going into his spin cycle, shaking and baking on the last play to free himself for a 17-foot shot that swished through at the buzzer. The shot delivered a 95-93 victory to the Mavericks on the start of their four-game trip through Eastern Conference locales.
The Sixers erased a 12-point deficit in the final 2:05. But Nowitzki, never a fan of matinee games as Monday's was, silenced the Wachovia Center crowd and ended the Sixers' seven-game winning streak.
"I'm a shooter," Nowitzki said. "No matter what my percentage is, I'm going to keep shooting. I just stuck with it. The team always tells me, if I miss 10 in a row ... shoot the 11th.
"I'm just happy that last shot went in, but we feel like it shouldn't have come down to that last shot."
Hey, TO, are you staying in Dallas?
Hitler not pleased with the Aggies