Thursday, February 05, 2009

Bob's Blog Post 1,300

Let’s face it: The Cowboys appear to be a joke right now. That is a reputation that they have themselves to thank, and right now, they are either going to have to enjoy being compared with Al Davis’ Raiders, or change their ways.
Which side of that bet do you want to be on?

Depending on who you ask, Dan Reeves either lasted 48 hours, or he was never hired in the first place …I have many thoughts on this nonsense, but it will have to wait until the show…

Veteran NFL coach Dan Reeves told ESPN on Wednesday that he believed he had successfully negotiated a multiyear contract with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones that would have created a senior management position in Dallas. But the partnership dissolved when Reeves became uncomfortable with changes Jones insisted upon after Reeves rejected a job title that would have included him as a member of Wade Phillips' coaching staff. Reeves preferred an executive title with broader authority.

Reeves credited Phillips, his defensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons, with initiating the attempts to return Reeves to the organization with which he began his career. Although in attempting to hire Reeves it might seems the Cowboys acknowledged that Phillips might not be capable of doing the job alone, Reeves cautioned against that perception, saying, "Don't count Wade out."

Reeves, 65, also declined to specifically identify the contractual issue that caused the deal to fall apart. He was working since Monday in the Cowboys facility,
primarily meeting with the offensive coaching staff, learning the system and its terminology and breaking down videotape of personnel. But he exited the building at midday and arrived back in Atlanta late Wednesday night. Jones could not be reached for comment.

"I thought the thing was done, and we finally agreed on what the title was going to be," Reeves said. "I didn't want to have a coaching title and not have authority coaching-wise. I wanted to work with him [Jones] and Wade and help in any way that I possibly could. We finally agreed the coaching thing wouldn't be in there, but then the contract changed and there were some things in there I couldn't see being in there, and they were important to him. He made a lot of concessions, but this was something that was important to him, and I just didn't feel like I could live with it. So it didn't make sense for us to go forward."

Reeves indicated he would have been involved in some critical personnel decisions yet to be made, including the future of wide receiver Terrell Owens. Reeves had recently criticized Owens and his negative impact on team chemistry.

"Honestly, I do feel strongly about team chemistry even though I played on a Cowboys team that won a Super Bowl with Duane Thomas," he said. "But there were so many other strong team leaders in that locker room. I'm not sure that's the case here. I was asked about [Owens] but when I previously spoke about, it was as an outsider. So I wanted more time as an insider before I could make an honest assessment."

Asked if Jones had made a decision on Owens' future, Reeves said, "No, I really don't think one has been made yet. They have a lot of decisions to make and that's one of them because they understand they have to become a unified team. It's one of the things that needs to be addressed."

Reeves, who spent his first 16 NFL seasons with the Cowboys as a player and an assistant coach under Tom Landry, did not conceal his disappointment.

"My heart starts beating when I see that star on the helmet and the pictures of the players I started with in the game," Reeves said. "I just can't get those first 16 years of my career out of my system."

With Phillips serving as his own defensive coordinator with the offseason firing of
Brian Stewart, Reeves could have unburdened Phillips and offered the perspective of an experienced play-caller and game-planner while overseeing the offensive coaching staff headed by offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. The Cowboys' offensive numbers turned downward in Garrett's second season as an NFL play-caller.

Reeves seemed impressed with Garrett, whose performance was often criticized by Owens last season and also by quarterback Tony Romo following the team's 44-6 loss to Philadelphia that eliminated Dallas from making the playoffs the final week of the regular season.

"Jason is someone I have a tremendous amount of respect for," Reeves said. "I was looking forward to working with him, but I'm still really excited about who he is, what he does and how he handles himself."

In addition to helping Phillips and his coaching staff, Reeves also mentioned that Jones -- the Cowboys GM as well as owner -- is stretched to the limit as he attempts to make crucial personnel decisions, purge toxic elements from his underachieving team's locker room and simultaneously promote ticket sales and sell naming rights to the new $1.3 billion Arlington stadium that debuts next season.

"I think Jerry has an awful lot on his plate with the stadium and the football team right now," Reeves said.

The Cowboys issued a statement on Wednesday regarding the deal falling through.
"We had two very good days of dialogue with Dan Reeves, and both the Cowboys and Dan had an interest in working together," Cowboys public relations director Rich Dalrymple said. "By Wednesday afternoon, we were unable to reach an agreement on all of the details of a contract, and both parties were comfortable with the fact that Dan would not be joining the organization."

Dan Reeves featured in 1967 Sports Illustrated

Pat Kirwan asks what NFL teams learned from the Super Bowl

Every year, the Super Bowl provides a few wrinkles that set the stage for the next season. They trigger reminders to the men running a team's draft and the coaches building offenses and defenses. Here are a couple of things that Super Bowl XLIII taught me -- things I expect to see during the 2009 regular season.

Pass out of the shotgun

Traditional West Coast-offense coaches don't like the shotgun, but it's becoming more and more apparent that the formation is here to stay and its use is growing.
The Cardinals and Steelers had a combined 48 shotgun snaps in the Super Bowl. Arizona tried one run and 32 passes from the shotgun; Pittsburgh didn't bother to run the ball once on its 15 shotgun plays. Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger combined to complete 31 of the 47 passes thrown out of the shotgun for 398 yards. Imagine if they had a strong run game from the shotgun to balance the attack.

More no-huddle, less run

Both teams incorporated the no-huddle into their offensive philosophy, and they need to do more of it next season. The no-huddle puts a lot of stress on the defense.
All 14 plays from the no-huddle in the Super Bowl were passes, so here's another dimension that needs to develop a legitimate run game as a complement. Warner and Roethlisberger, who now have five Super Bowl appearances between them, completed 10 of 14 passes from the no-huddle for 167 yards. That's 16.7 yards per completion, even though the defense knows you're not running the ball. That's a fine accomplishment.

There were 38 running plays, compared to 77 passes, called in the Super Bowl. That means the Cardinals and Steelers ran the ball just 33 percent of the time, and I don't see that trend going away. In fact, when you consider that neither team could even average 3 yards per carry, it might be time to acknowledge what really got your team to the Super Bowl. The longest run in the game was 15 yards, but eight pass completions were longer than that.

Throw the ball inside the 10

Offensive approaches inside the 10-yard line are really changing, and this Super Bowl was a prime example. There were 20 plays called from inside the opponent's 10 during the game -- seven runs for a total of zero yards and one touchdown; 13 passes for 26 yards and three touchdowns. Still, the 100-yard interception return for a touchdown by Steelers linebacker James Harrison was a great reminder of how difficult it can be to execute a pass play in a confined space.

The Cardinals came into the game with seven touchdown passes from the 1-yard line. They stayed true to form in the Super Bowl with three passing attempts from the 1, resulting in two touchdowns and Harrison's interception return for a score. Neither team really had the big running back who would pile-drive the defense. Maybe they need to think about a player like the Ravens' Le'Ron McClain.

Forget about a 'caretaker QB'

In today's NFL, there's a perception that a team with a great defense just needs a quarterback who won't turn over the ball. It's naive to think a "caretaker QB" can win a Super Bowl. The Steelers had the No. 1 defense in the NFL this season, but they still needed Roethlisberger's late-game heroics to win the Super Bowl. Roethlisberger was 5-for-7 passing for 84 yards and the game-winning touchdown in that final drive.

This is a quarterback-driven league, and the Super Bowl was a great reminder of that. Warner was my MVP had the Cardinals won the game.

Spread out a pressure defense

Both offenses realized that spreading out a pressure defense with a wide-open pass attack is a smart idea. By eliminating a lot of the traditional two-back sets (tight end, two wide receivers) and substituting three- and four-receiver sets, the offense takes away a defense's ability to bring the pressure it likes to apply. We'll see a lot more spread offenses next season, for sure.

Better have interchangeable parts

What came first, the chicken or the egg? I'm not sure about that one, but the Super Bowl convinced me once and for all that modern defenses need 11 athletes who are interchangeable. Defensive backs must be able to pressure the quarterback, linemen have to cover pass routes and linebackers can't be liabilities against spread sets that put them in space.

I saw the Cardinals line up with two men with a hand on the ground, and the Steelers had some looks where just one player had a hand on the ground. The Super Bowl taught us that it's critical to never let the quarterback or the center get a real picture of what's coming. A field full of "jokers" or "wild cards" is what's needed to play against these modern pass attacks. In Super Bowl XLIII, the Cardinals and Steelers did it as well as any team in the league.

Speaking of my football leader, Pat Kirwan, Here is his interview with BaD Radio from last week …thanks to DCFanatic’s page…

Michael Lombardi sizes up the available QBs in free agency

1. Matt Cassel, New England, 26; 6-4, 222 pounds; 5.05; 2005; 7th round (230th overall); David Dunn — Will be the top prize of any team seeking a young, up-and-coming quarterback. Will restore the credibility of a franchise. Any team signing him might have to consider trading down out of the top five. It will be very expensive to sign Cassel and may also cost a high draft choice. Once the tag comes on him, all bets are off. His value is a first round pick above 15 along with a second rounder.

2. Kurt Warner, Arizona, 37; 6-2, 200; 4.99; 1994; undrafted free agent; Mark Bartelstein — Warner will take time to make his decision, and I’m confident he will give the Cardinals every chance to re-sign him. I doubt he will play anywhere else.

3. Kerry Collins, Tennessee, 35; 6-5, 248; 4.98; 1995; 1st round (5th overall); Mark Humenik — The Titans have cap room and will have to make a huge financial commitment to Collins. But doing so ensures that Vince Young will never be back in a game for them. Tennessee has the right system for Collins to achieve and play well.

4. Chris Simms, Tennessee, 28; 6-4, 220; 4.89; 2003; 3rd round (97th overall); Thomas Condon — Finally healthy and ready to be a leader in the locker room. He will not cost a fortune, but he might be the right guy to bridge a team as it drafts a young player, and he can still be competitive. Simms is willing to make all the sacrifices needed to be good again. One of the league’s new coaches will get a boost by bringing in a veteran like Simms, who will assist the coach in laying down the right foundation and attitude in the locker room.

5. Byron Leftwich, Pittsburgh, 28; 6-5, 245; 5.03; 2003; 1st round (7th overall); Thomas Condon — He wants to go to Washington and compete for a starting position with his hometown Redskins. Not sure that will happen since the ‘Skins have indicated they will not be active in the free-agent market. Leftwich has a dominating presence in the locker room and might be a perfect fit for the new offense Scott Linehan is designing in Detroit. Leftwich has some Dante Culpepper-like qualities in his play, and when his weight was down, he was more athletic and had better foot movement.

That will have to be enough football for the day.

To Mavs: They beat up a nice Portland team …but all the papers can talk about is the furious rally late. I grant you it is an issue, but it seems like the good of the first 47 minutes is note-worthy, too…

It was another wild and crazy night for the Trail Blazers on Wednesday, when they nearly pulled out another late-game shocker on this three-game trip that has turned into an adventure.

But while talk of another dramatic rally will dominate talk radio and ESPN highlights, there was a more pressing issue being uttered in the Blazers' locker room following their frustrating 104-99 loss to the Dallas Mavericks before a sellout crowd of 19,767 at American Airlines Center:

Yet again, the Blazers sputtered early.

"Fortunately we were able to get away with it in New Orleans, but the majority of nights when you start off bad, you're going to lose," veteran center Joel Przybilla said. "That was a problem tonight. We dug ourselves a hole."

While it might seem as if they failed to make enough plays down the stretch against Dallas, the Blazers lost because of a shaky start and horrendous second quarter. The Blazers missed six of their first eight shots and trailed by as many as eight points in the first quarter on the way to their 11th consecutive loss in Dallas.

After rallying to take the lead, they threw it away with a second quarter in which Dallas shot 68.4percent from the field and outscored the Blazers 30-16. Sixth man Jason Terry torched the Blazers with 11 second-quarter points.

It resulted in a 57-45 Dallas halftime advantage. And, more significantly, it was the eighth time in their last 13 games that the Blazers started poorly, which all too often has necessitated second-quarter or second-half comebacks. In six of those games, they've trailed after the first quarter and in five of them, including their last two, the Blazers have trailed at halftime.

The poor starts have been masked by comebacks -- the Blazers had won five in a row and 10 of 13 entering Wednesday night's game. But it couldn't be masked against the Mavericks (29-19), who won their fourth in a row.

One on One with Josh Howard ….

BDL: Are you really going to retire at age 33?
JH: I'm 28 now, yeah I think so.
BDL: Five more years and that's it?
JH: Yeah.
BDL: Seriously?
JH: You see me? Look [pointing at his serious face] ... unless somebody gives me a big ass contract, other than that, no.

What is the latest on Sean Avery?

This stuff about Sean Avery has been bouncing around all week. He’s close to being done with his treatment program, which means the Stars are going to have to make a decisions about him. Some Les Jackson comments are below, but here’s TSN’s Darren Dreger on the Avery situation. :

Exiled Dallas Stars’ forward Sean Avery is expected to be cleared from the NHL and NHLPA’s Behavioral Modification program later this week or sometime early next.
Avery is scheduled to begin skating on Monday in anticipation of returning to hockey; however, to do that, Avery knows he will have to regain NHL teams’ trust which will very likely require time in the American Hockey League.

Avery remains Dallas property, so the Stars will have to find an AHL team willing to take Avery on board. The Stars will then place Avery on waivers and providing he clears he will be reassigned.

Avery’s best chance of returning to the NHL will be via re-entry waivers.
Stars co-GM Les Jackson was on the Calgary Flames radio broadcast Monday night and was asked about Avery.

“The problem that will arise is where does he go,” Jackson said. “He’s not coming back to Dallas, we know that for sure. We’ll hopefully find him another place and he can convince a team that he’s going to come back and play, and play to the level that he is capable, respect the game and the respect the people around him.”
Jackson also said what’s left on Avery’s contract is an issue when it comes to moving him to another NHL team.

“That’s a challenge,” Jackson said.

Clubbing Baby Seals

Crombeen takes a beating

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