Friday, August 07, 2009

Cowboys Mailbag

Since this is the last day of training camp that I am spending in San Antonio, I thought I might work my way through some reader emails and elaborate a bit more on some various items that are on your sports minds as we enter the week of the first preseason game.

Training camp has an interesting feel to it this year, and I feel like the Cowboys are set up to have a reasonable season that will allow some of them to redeem their good names on a national level. What that means in terms of wins is something we will only know as the season develops. I think "flying under the radar" suits them, and I think they actually enjoy the fact that they are picked to finish 3rd in their division this season.

Anyway, let's take a look at some email:



I'm listening to what your saying about the Cowboys 2009 offense, and what u like about the 12 is this:

The defense will have no idea whether it's a pass or run. The 2 tight end formation is normally a running formation. I like the prospect of what this can it's on Garrett to use thus creatively. If Garrett doesn't make it happen this year with this group of weapons that the national media is overlooking (Bennett, Felix Jone, crayton back in the slot where he thrives more) then I don't think it's ever gonna happen and I don't want him as our eventual head coach. I don't want to compare this team to a great cowboys team, but our best offensive games in the 90's were the ones where Aikman literally spread the ball around to 8 to 10 different guys. That should br the focus to me on offense...and to me you've got something more powerful than having T.O. as your no. 1. This offense thriving would speak very well to the team concept that embodies every championship team.



I don't disagree with you. I believe this is a very big year for Jason Garrett. Last fall was not his fault entirely, but I tend to believe that if he had a better year with the offense, he might have been named the head coach after the Philadelphia debacle last December. But, because he is "earmarked" to replace Wade someday, and because he looked as bad or worse as Wade last season, Wade is still the head coach of this team.

Garrett needed someone on his rear end last season, in my estimation, when this team lost focus on what it does well. They became way too 1-dimensional, and honestly, there may be good reason for much of that. For instance, I am always harping about the fact they played way too much 3WR-Shotgun as the season went on - thus making it way too easy for defenses to play the pass and not worry about the run at all. Well, in looking back, did he have to do this? Were the injuries to Felix and Marion Barber so much that running Tashard out of base running formations too conservative? And more importantly, was Romo's broken finger prohibiting him from taking snaps from under center more?

Also, I wasn't crazy about feeling Garrett did respond to Owens too much. But, was that because Jerry Jones told him to keep Owens happy? Or, was that just his way of trying to keep the peace himself?

The fact is this: In the NFL, ideal scenarios happen every day in August, but rarely in December. For the Cowboys in general, and Garrett specifically, they need to do better when they encounter less-than-ideal circumstances. We shall see what they learned from 2008.


I read your interview of Broaddus and have two questions I’d like answered, if you have the time.

The 12 formation is something this team has really been heading toward for a long time. I agree with you that this was a Parcells’ vision back in the Fasano days. With Marty B. they now have the tools to make this work.

Last year we saw an offensive line that was susceptible to the delayed blitz up the middle. As the season wore on teams would send their front in stunts and then when the middle cleared out, they sent the blitzer. This caused real problems for Romo.

With the 12 formation, what is to prevent a defense from moving closer to the line of scrimmage and keying the run, but move a linebacker to bump both Witten and Bennett at the line to allow this same type of delayed attack? Knock them off their route and disrupt timing.

I understand when you begin doing this you may also be isolating the corners in a one-on-one match-up. But if you can maintain the coverage for a few ticks of the clock, the gunner then gets in Romo’s face.

Second point.

I have read everything you have written recently about Romo. I agree the guy is special. But there is something here that concerns me about him. One of the big issues when discussing Romo is the fanboy’s comment that it’s a team game and you cannot point a finger at him. This city is so starved for success, the rationale of fans has gone out the window.

I refer to the Laughenberg interview where Romo was being pedantic when asked about leadership. He immediately turned it back on Babe saying, “why don’t I conduct the interview and we’ll talk about your career. It will be a short conversation.” He also said no coach can tell him how to lead. They need to tell him how to beat the opponent.

Okay, this is being picky. But then I marry this information with the things I see on the field. Steelers game and Romo throws to a covered T.O. in a fade route when Dallas is in the shadow of their goal line. T.O. was covered and Romo didn’t hesitate to chunk one up for grabs. I see the Giant’s play-off game and twice Romo took sacks when he could have tossed the ball out of bounds and reloaded.

Baltimore 2008 and he makes Ed Reed look like the best safety that ever played the game. One pick was surely right before the half. But the other was clearly a poor decision.

Here is the question I have for you. Does Romo have a mental make-up that causes him to panic when the game has a more significant meaning. The usual response I get when asking this is, do the games in September mean less? My response is simple. When you are on a play-off march in December, each game takes on a much more significant meaning.

I see Romo as a very talented guy. But I’m not sure if there isn’t something in his psyche that causes him to lose focus when the big game is being played and he has to take the team on his back and will them to win.

I understand this is conjecture. But when Aikman walked on the field, and all through-out each game you knew his goal never wavered. Win. Same with Staubach. Peyton, Brady…the list goes on.

Am I standing alone thinking this? I can’t get a rational answer out of any of the fans who now see Romo as a religion. I am usually the heretic on the board because I ask tough questions.

Sorry this was so long. If you have time, could you answer here? I appreciate your wisdom when it comes to sports. Voice of reason seems to fit you.




In response to your first point: I think that is the cat and mouse game that will be played. But, as we know, the defense only has to be wrong once and they pay dearly. With Bennett and Witten, I think they can load up the line, but if they get beat once, they will lose their nerve and play more conservative. You must bracket those TE's from running down the seams. If you do not, I think it will be an easy 20 or 25 yards.

If you guess right, you are golden. But that is the beauty of "12" over almost any other personnel grouping. There is no way to pre-snap read the tendencies of the offense. It is almost a perfect 50/50 group. With Deon Anderson out there, you lean run. But with Witten and Bennett, you honestly have no idea. And with 2 WR's also on the field, you better leave your safety high. If you do, then the Cowboys can run it. Also, we saw plenty of 80 and 82 at the "F" back last year, too. There are so many options that a defense has to respect.

And now on to your second point: In my opinion, Romo does possess a quality that Aikman did not. It can be determined as a negative for sure or a positive, but it is that idea that he can make something out of nothing.

Obviously, I saw this for years with Brett Favre. It is tough to say that he should never do it, because it is part of his genius. But, you have to pick your spots very judiciously. The bottom line is that when the season is on the line, you feel compelled to try to "save your team". Sometimes you do, and sometimes you don't. And, sometimes, you think you can do the impossible when you cannot. The NFL is so good that you cannot always just snap your fingers and save the day. But Favre and Romo both think they can work magic.

I don't know where the answer lies. Favre won more games than any QB ever, but he also had only 1 ring when he should have had at least 2 and maybe a 3rd. So, could a few decisions have changed his fate?

And should Romo try to do what Favre did? Does he have the arm? Does he have the same tools as Favre in his prime? Or was he just influenced by him and therefore has the mentality, but not the cannon.

Aikman's genius, obviously, was based on his proper diagnosis of most situations. Sometimes, you don't have to take a risk. Sometimes, the dump off is better than trying to thread the needle. the question then becomes, did Troy have a stacked deck that Tony or Brett don't quite enjoy? So tough to say for sure.

I keep coming back to the idea that Romo has 39 starts. I know his age is a bit more advanced than most guys with that number of starts, but to me, he has learned some tough lessons. I am anxious to see what this year brings. I believe both on and off the field he has seen how everything he does impacts more than he might have ever thought.

I bet he is a different man this year. But, his burden is heavy until he does it in December and January. So, they could be 11-1 going into December and will all seem like the preseason to that point.

Hot is the spotlight.=====

Hey Bob,

You know I kind of feel for Romo as being the only legit QB to follow Aikman. Aikman set a standard that most humans just can't meet. I think the man was manufactured in a QB factory along with Brett, John, Dan, Peyton, Tom and Roger. Can a man be as fortunate as Troy.....

You're going to be over 6'3" and weigh 220. You'll have blonde hair and blue eyes. Your arm is practically bionic and the ball almost always get to it's destination on time and target. You'll throw to Michael Irvin and you'll throw behind tuani, williams, stepnoski, newton, allen, and sometimes gogan. You're running backs are daryl and emmitt. And, after the game you're blessed with the ability to speak to the media with the eloquence of a president (let's be honest Romo isn't much of a speaker). Your personal life will never make negative headlines and people view you as a dedicated perfectionist at your profession. Your peers, fans, and enemys all respect you. You'll win 3 superbowls and become an mvp in one of them. After your playing career you'll be inducted into the hall of fame and become the lead alalyst of fox football and brodcast at least 50% of the games of your seemingly never ending replacement.

Not a bad life. Good luck Tony.



I wish I could add something to this, but I don't think I can. Your point is well made. Troy Aikman may have bad days, but I am guessing it would be difficult to find a better athlete life around these parts.===


If you go down the roster of the Cowboys and compare them to the rosters of the Giants, Philly, and even Washington; there just does not seem anyway Dallas can win more than 8 or 9 games.

The starting units on the o-line and d-line are pretty depressing, until you start looking at the back-ups biographies. I could have sworn I saw 3 or 4 guys on the roster who were “out of football” last year.

Best way to sum up: Flozell Adams. May be his last year. Period.

Would like to get/hear your thoughts in coming weeks. Keep up the good work.


Fred in Dallas


I don't disagree that talent-wise, New York appears to have a very loaded roster. They have done a great job of stacking their roster through the draft and free agency over the last few years. On offense, I am not sure there is a big difference, but the Giants defense seems to have more talent than the Cowboys right now. The obvious concern for the Giants is life after Plaxico. They folded up after they lost him last year, and how long will it take Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden to prove they can play at the NFL level? Until they step it up, the Giants are easier to defend.

The Eagles are interesting for a number of reasons, but to get Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy in the draft and to add Jason Peters in the trade with Buffalo were pretty significant upgrades across the board. I think to get Peters at LT is a very big move for the Eagles. The WR group of the Eagles is talented with Desean Jackson, Maclin, and Kevin Curtis, but are they tall enough to catch a big 3rd down on a slant? we shall see. The biggest question in Philadelphia is how is Year 1 after Jim Johnson. His genius is gone, and now the Eagles must figure out how to carry on his tradition.

The Redskins talent upgrades since last season is all based on 2 big names: Albert Haynesworth and Brian Orakpo. If these two can help the Redskins finally get a pass rush, they will be a competitive team again. If not, they might be in last again with the QB issues continuing to exist in DC.

As for the Cowboys, they are thin in some departments for sure - Offensive line injuries will be devastating -but they are plenty talented. I have no idea what you are talking about with 3 or 4 players who were out of football last year on the roster at camp. Jesse Holley? Otherwise, I think these guys are all pro football players.

It is going to come down to keeping it together when adversity hits. It will hit. Now, will the Cowboys hit back in 2009?

In the upcoming weeks, I will spend more time breaking down the NFC East foes, but those are my initial thoughts, prior to seeing them play in the preseason.

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