Thursday, March 05, 2009

Has the Circus Left Town?

Wow. Hardly seems real. I will never forget where I was when Terrell Owens news broke. I was at a Clippers Game , but as you can imagine, I was awfully distracted by my phone blowing up.

So, the Cowboys have released Terrell Owens.

I see the message boards indicate that this is a massive mistake, according to many Cowboys fans. You folks are crazy. No disrespect, but crazy might be an understatement.

Today confirms what we knew all along – that every last rumor and story from the Cowboys locker-room that was reported was true. Ed Werder and Calvin Watkins have been vindicated.

Fantasy Football is all about statistics. Real Football is about much, much more than that. It is about building a team. It is about embracing adversity, not cowering. It is about pulling in the same direction for the same cause.

Is he the only problem? Are the Cowboys now going to automatically win every game next year? Of course not.

But, if ever I believed in “addition by subtraction” – it is right here.
Perhaps there is cause to believe that Jerry is not becoming Al Davis just yet.
Before we get to the fresh reports, here are my thoughts from the day after the debacle in Philadelphia back in December

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.

And here, in mid-February were my thoughts on Jerry trying to convince us Terrell was staying

It sure sounded like he was hinting that he is bringing that lunatic back. And if you don’t know who the lunatic is, just stop reading right now.

However, those of us who are convinced that he must be done with the lunatic can only assume this is a last-ditch effort to secure some level of trade value before the March 3/June 3 deadline hits and a decision must be made.

If you tell everyone he is not going to be with you, and then pick up the phone to work out a trade, the guy on the other end of the line will be fighting back laughter. Now, if you speak courageously, you might still hear giggling, but Jerry is trying to sell another used car.

Right? I am right, here, right? I mean, the alternative is that Jerry is just as lost without a compass as he has ever been.

Michael Lombardi is on the story this morning

It finally happened. The Cowboys decided that the “chemistry” in their locker room is more important than the perceived talent in the room. This move makes sense for the 2009 version of the Cowboys, who seem to have taken a “less-is-more” attitude this offseason. The Cowboys appear to have a specific plan this year. They want to get DeMarcus Ware signed to a long-term contract, and they seem content to work the draft. They are not even kicking tires in the free agent market, which indicates that they’re happy with their team — assuming the “chemistry” is right. This move
is a step in that direction.

A few questions to ponder…

How will the Cowboys replace Owens? This is not going to be as difficult as you might think. They have to get Roy Williams to play at a higher level, and they must use his size and speed to secure the outside edges of the defense, then force teams to roll the coverage to him. This is a big step for Williams, but if he works hard and dedicates himself to the cause, he has the talent to be successful in this role. Owens was the major focal point of the offense last year; he was the target 140 times and produced 69 catches. He is a true talent, but there are times when teams roll the coverage into him that he still feels he’s open — and this is where he’s disruptive to the offense. On third down alone, he was the main target 43 times and had 15 catches for first downs (as a point of reference, the Chiefs’ Tony Gonzalez converted 29 third downs last season). Six of Owens’ 10 touchdowns came against the 49ers and the Eagles, and those two teams were responsible for allowing him to amass 405 of his total 1,052 yards, more than 40 percent. So replacing Owens will be, as Rocco told Michael Corleone in “The Godfather: Part 2” about getting to Hyman Roth, “Difficult, but not impossible.”

Who will make a move for Owens? Sorry, Matthew, but I doubt the Bears will even entertain the notion of acquiring him. Teams that value character and chemistry as much as talent will take a pass. And teams with coaches who have seen Owens’ act up close and personal will also pass. So who will be first to go after him? My guess is the Raiders. Yes, the good old Hotel needs a wide receiver, and they’re not going to care about chemistry in the locker room because they need someone who can help quarterback JaMarcus Russell become a better player. A tandem of Javon Walker and T.O. might be fun to watch.

The Bengals are no longer looking for a wideout after signing Laveranues Coles on Wednesday, so they won’t get involved. The Vikings, who were pursuing a wideout in free agency, have Brad Childress as their head coach, and he witnessed the Owens act the one season he was in Philadelphia. So count them out.

Go down the list. It’s very hard to find a team willing to handle the act known as T.O.

Mac Engle

The Dallas Cowboys’ decision whether or not to keep Terrell Owens for 2009 had more to do with his talent, production, age and money than it would any perceived problem he created in the locker room.

On Wednesday the Cowboys finally decided that he no longer is worth the money and released the 35-year-old receiver, according to a source. The decision to cut Owens punctuates an off-season in which the Cowboys essentially have rid themselves of three of their bigger headaches — T.O., Pacman Jones and Tank Johnson.

The move ends three decently productive yet very expensive seasons for Owens, and clearly creates a path for Roy Williams to assume the No. 1 receiver slot on the Cowboys.

The decision came after weeks of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones soliciting advice and opinions from coaches, scouts and team executives regarding Owens’ future. The consensus was that Owens had become a distraction and if he was going to be released, the team needed to do it before the start of the off-season program, which begins in approximately two weeks.

Owens will count $9.675 million in dead money next season, but the team will lose only $680,000 in actual salary-cap room by cutting him.

The Cowboys also will save the $3.1 million roster bonus he was due June 1 and his
scheduled base salary of $2.67 million.

Jones had been cryptic thus far this off-season regarding Owens, only offering hints that he planned to keep the receiver. But Jones never actually said he would; he always stopped short to give himself an out if he changed his mind.

According to sources, the decision to drop Owens had everything to do with his age, and the fact he no longer is regarded as a legit No. 1 receiver.

When the Cowboys gave him a three-year extension that included $13 million guaranteed after the ’07 season, they expected him to remain a top receiver for at least the next two seasons. Instead, his productivity dropped sharply in 2008; in 16 games, he caught 69 passes for 1,052 yards with 10 touchdowns. His 69 catches were his fewest for a full season since 1999.

Last season, he routinely struggled breaking away from man-to-man coverage. He had only two 100-yard receiving games.

Last season was also filled with controversy and internal strife because of his rocky relationships with quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

The decision to cut Owens had nothing to do with any perceived problems he created with his legendary mouth. Since his arrival to the Cowboys in 2006, Owens routinely made headlines for his mouth.

But when the Cowboys acquired Williams from the Detroit Lions in a trade in the middle of last season, they wanted him to become the offense’s No. 1 receiver. With Owens in the offense, Williams was never going to become the main focal point of Romo’s passing.

The plan was to see how Romo developed with Williams in the off-season; if all went well, Owens was going to be released. If Owens did return, he would be insurance. But the Cowboys never even had to go that far.

By the way, Roy Williams is gone, too

Roy Williams is no longer a Dallas Cowboy.

After attempts to trade the five-time Pro Bowl safety failed, the Cowboys decided to release Williams, their No. 1 draft pick in 2002. Williams confirmed his release Thursday morning in a text message.

By cutting Williams, the Cowboys save roughly $2 million in salary-cap space in 2009 and close the book on a player who was once the face of the franchise.

Williams was named to the Pro Bowl from 2003 to '07, earning a reputation as one of the NFL's most-feared hitters. He was also named All-Pro in 2003 and only five defensive players in franchise history have played in more Pro Bowls than Williams as a Cowboy. He finished his Dallas career with 611 tackles, 6½ sacks, 22 tackles for loss, 21 quarterback pressures, 56 pass deflections and 19 interceptions. He returned three for a touchdown, one shy of the team record.

Torry Holt? …hmmm…
And, sorry, Mavs, bad day to beat the Spurs …wait a minute, there is never a bad day to beat the Spurs…

The San Antonio Spurs arrived as the titan of the Southwest Division. The Mavericks came in more like the Titanic.

That being the case, Wednesday night offered proof that, whether their ship is sinking, the Mavericks still can occasionally take down the iceberg.

Two nights after a weak effort in Oklahoma City had owner Mark Cuban publicly calling out the team, the Mavericks poured heart and soul into a 107-102 victory over the division-leading Spurs at American Airlines Center.

Maybe it was predictable that the Mavericks would come back with a salty effort after getting embarrassed Monday. Maybe it was another wake-up call in a season when the alarm has been constantly going off and the Mavericks have continually hit the snooze button.

Whatever. They got exactly what they needed with crisp ball movement and solid execution to beat one of the legitimate title contenders and increased their lead over Phoenix to three games in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Josh Howard had 29 points, Dirk Nowitzki had 24 and Jason Kidd threw in 17. All three had crucial buckets late that cemented the win.

"It's a big win for us, especially after our last performance," said Kidd, whose 3-pointer with 31 seconds left put the Mavericks up, 105-100.

Cuban danced off the court with the players, who understood why he threatened repercussions if non-efforts like Monday's were repeated.

"He was just as excited as we were afterward," said Kidd, who resurrected a pick-and-roll out of last season's playbook that helped stake the Mavericks to a fourth-quarter lead.

Then, they made three big-time plays to preserve the win. They had led 98-88 – the only time either side led by double figures – before Tony Parker led a Spurs charge.
His free throws made it 100-98 with 1:17 left. But Howard pump-faked Tim Duncan into the air and found a wide-open lane to the basket.

"It parted like the Red Sea," said Howard, who played with a sore left ankle. "I was going to shoot the jumper, but when I saw that, I had to change it up. This was big for us. We've shot ourselves in the foot a few times lately. We needed this."

Stars make a cheap attempt to get help

The veteran center, whom the Stars picked up on waivers Wednesday from Anaheim, played college hockey with Marty Turco and is the brother-in-law of Stars color analyst Daryl Reaugh. Morrison also knows several other Stars players through mutual acquaintances.

"It's almost like welcoming a member of your family in," coach Dave Tippett said. "I expect the transition to be very smooth."

Morrison concurs.

"It's good to go into a room where you know the people and you feel comfortable," he said. "I know they're really pushing hard right now, and I'm looking forward to being a part of that."

Morrison will skate with the Stars this morning in Los Angeles and is expected to play tonight against the Kings. He was the sole addition for Dallas before Wednesday's NHL trade deadline, but he is the right player, according to Stars co-general manager Les Jackson.

Morrison, who has 169 goals and 327 assists in 496 career games, brings many of the same qualities the Stars lost when Brad Richards fractured his wrist. Morrison also is versatile enough to move from center when Richards returns late this month or in early April.

"He's a smart player, a good playmaker, a power-play point man," Jackson said. "He just fits what we need right now."

So if Morrison is so good, how was he available on waivers?

After eight seasons with Vancouver, the 33-year-old underwent off-season knee surgery last summer and signed a one-year free-agent deal with Anaheim. Although he played in 62 games with the Ducks, he had only 10 goals and 12 assists.

On this trip, I have finally got around to seeing some of the Oscar Nominated movies, and this just in: Frost/Nixon is good

Below, Which kid is more impressive?

Hey Jude!

Young Zidane


Zebbie L. said...

I'll take the kid and his ball for $200 please...

Solaam said...

Bob, are you guys going to The Soup taping this Thursday at E!?

ecrosstexas said...

Young Zidane video reminds me of the some the moves Ribeiro has been making lately on the ice.

Yes, I'd take Holt on the Cowboys.

Nelvis said...

I would love Holt as a Cowboy, but there's no way the Rams are cutting a wideout who still has top 10 wideout ability for nothing.

I'll take Holt to Philly for Baskett and a 4th, Alex.