Saturday, October 31, 2009

Various Cowboys Emails

Two quick links that will further make you crazy before we get to some Saturday morning emails. Due to time constraints, I do want you to know I read every email, but when I get 30 emails that say basically the same thing, I think it is far more prudent as a guy with a family to "mass answer" some of those and save a bit of time. Therefore, the occasional email bag as opposed to personally answering each of the 800 emails I have backed up on my laptop.

Anyway, here are the two links:

Sportatorium talks to Jerry :

I asked a rudimentary question of Jones: If a player needs to be demoted it's ultimately the head coach's decision, right?

"Let's just say this, the decision is made a lot of times ... the agreements call for the GM ultimately to make decisions. If not, the only one that can overrule the GM is the owner. Period. And that's always been the way it's been for 20 years."

Ross Tucker at :

I vividly recall a Cowboys game in which one of Jerry Jones' aides walked over to our head coach Dave Campo and said something. Campo then went up to our offensive line coach, who in turn told our high draft pick that he was back in the game, this after he had been pulled a series or two earlier for poor play. It was like an adult game of whisper down the alley, only the message didn't get lost in translation. It was time for Jerry's pick to get back on the field. That always made me wonder what other mandates were coming down from on high.

Like I have said, fire Wade if you want, but what does that actually accomplish?

And now, some emails. Yep. Emails.


In the Game Plan Friday for the Seahawks, you mentioned the Cowboys 3rd down defense as a plus - 25 out of 75 for 33% and 6th in the league, but an interesting comment from Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders caught my attention today in his Week 8 feature

“The Cowboys have the worst third-down defense in the NFL this season.”

I’ve been looking around and can’t find any good stats other than straight-up 3rd down conversion rate. What could be making that big of a difference in their evaluation of the Cowboys 3rd down numbers? All I can think of is if they gave up a lot of long-yardage touchdowns on those 25 conversions, but even then, I still don’t see how you get from number 6 to 32. Any thoughts?

-Joe in Grapevine


I would never doubt the Football Outsiders, as their site and projects are some of my favorite things in the NFL tapestry, however, here is what I know:

Def Opp. 3rd Down Conversion Summary 6
Def Opp. 3rd-and-1 Conversions 24
Def Opp. 3rd-and-10+ Conversions 9
Def Opp. 3rd-and-Long Conversions 5
Def Opp. 3rd-and-Medium Conversions 10T
Def Opp. 3rd-and-Short Conversions 27

The number at the end is the Cowboys rankings. I cited overall 3rd down defense which is 6th in the NFL. I suppose it is possible with their complex metrics that there is a way to show the Cowboys as "worst in the NFL" (especially if they put a ton of stock into strength of oppoenents), but I think many of these numbers - with the exception of 3rd and short scenarios show the Cowboys are top 10across the board.

To me, the name of the game on 3rd and anything is to get your rear ends off the field. The Cowboys do that 67% of the time, and only 5 teams in football can do better. It is tough to see 32nd based on that.



As always I appreciate your posting links to your blogs on The Ranch Report. Your credibility seems to transcend the media hatred by fans in the Metroplex and on the Cowboy boards. Maybe because you are more an X’s and O’s type of guy. Or you don’t use sensationalism to make a point that is contrary to the rank and file fan. They seem to appreciate you, as do I.

Now to my point. I read quite a lot about this team and the HSO’s on Romo. I have read your current comments about him and I have a different opinion from you. You see him as a wildly talented player that needs to have free rein to be Tony. So many in the media are saying that these days. However, I believe your position is different in a lot of ways from mine. I think he is talented, but there may be a ceiling that most fans don’t want to consider.

You cited the Atlanta game as Romo returning to the carefree sandlot player that captured the hearts of the fans. And I believe there are some solid points to be made about that aspect of his game against the Falcons. But where I diverge from your opinion is I believe what we saw is simply Romo using the Kenny Roger’s theory of The Gambler.

Ball security should be job one with Romo. This means he needs to use his brains more than his heart when making decisions. He needs to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. What we saw in the Falcon’s game was the very thing a few of us fans who ask the tough question think. He played within himself and only once did we see Romo turn it loose and make a sandlot play. But dissecting that play reveals something beneath that contradicts what so many want to believe. That they allowed Romo to be Romo and that meant the difference between success and failure. And that position has a chink in its armor.

Now the TD before the half was a brilliant play by Romo. He used his spidey-senses and made the defenders miss. Then he put himself in a position for success and found a wide open Crayton. But what we didn’t see in the remainder of the game before or after was Romo playing out of control. He made smart decisions and did not risk the ball. He found the open guy and had his most accurate game of the season.

I do not believe Romo morphed into this player that so many want to attribute his success to. He had the look and body language in that play that if he didn’t see someone wide open, he would either try and run it – which would have been a mistake – or he would have thrown the ball away.

He made one errant pass the entire game throwing into double coverage. Otherwise he did exactly what the coaches wanted him to do. Protect the ball and make smart decisions.

I cannot underwrite this notion that somehow he stopped listening to them and went back to this cavalier player who wins by moxie and sandlot plays. Both can have success together. But I think there is a great leap in the thinking that with Romo you get one or the other. Because at no stop in his career from Pop Warner to the NFL was he not preached to about ball security. The proverb that applies to the passing game – three things can happen when you pass and two of them are bad – was not spared with this guy because he is Farve-esque.

Romo, for the most part, had time to throw. His receivers got separation. He found the open guy and took advantage. Garrett called a solid game. In none of those aspects does Romo don a Superman costume and suddenly become a super hero to defeat Atlanta.

He simply played within himself, made smart decisions, and once, when all Hell was breaking loose he used his natural athletic ability to slip a tackle and then pulled himself back together and made a smart decision by finding the open man. Once he recovered from his heroics, he simply went back to doing what he was doing before and after which was finding the open man and making an accurate pass.

The real question is this. When he faces a tougher defense that does apply pressure along with solid corner play, will he use this style of thinking, or will he revert to Favre-lite and spray the ball all over the yard because there isn’t a scenario that cannot be overcome if you just chunk it long?

Or, and this is my real theory, will he then lose his cool just a bit and make thoughtless plays where he tries to force the ball into places it doesn’t belong and turn it over. Which is what I believe is at the root of this guy’s psyche and why he has trouble with the games that mean the most.

When he faces the Saints, Eagles, Giants, Packers and Chargers, will we see Tony White or Tony Black? And it is this question that causes me to drop anchor and not anoint him and his return from his slump as Mission Accomplished.

I want to believe. But one pass play, one series, one drive, one game or one month early in the season will not convince me that when all the chips are pushed to the center of the table, that Romo will hit the panic button and then his advantage is lost.

He is everything you say when he has protection and within his comfort zone. But the killer instinct that you see with Tom Brady, Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach and a lot of other guys who refuse to be defeated is something I am not convinced Romo possesses.

When the going gets tough, Tony’s ability to control his emotions is where he separates himself from the truly greats of this game. Or that is my greatest fear. Because we both know Jerry Jones will ride this pony until it drops because he doesn’t have the football acumen to recognize if he has tied himself to a guy that is Danny White and not Troy Aikman. Then marry Jones’ ego to this and he will try to repackage and sell raw sewage as cologne.

Hope I’m wrong.
All the best,

Michael Leath


I feel like perhaps from a few sentences that I wrote on Monday that I might have given the impression that the key for Romo's success is just to throw the playbook away, let him turn football into a Wrangler's commercial and let's roll.

I don't think that reflects my true feelings at all. Honestly, nobody could use harsh critique and coaching more than Romo these days, and I cannot swear he always gets it from the leadership blueprint that we have in place. In fact, I am not sure he is coached hard at all, and I think that is partly due to the fact that essentially this team lacks a headcoach with any level of authority, an Offensive Coordinator that does not have a superior ripping him a new one when he screws up, and an owner who fills much of the voids left from not having a head coach who rules with an iron fist.

However, after I say all of that, I do think the Cowboys and many of their fans do not understand that to have success in this league, you must take risks. Now, we can debate the risk taking percentages, but first we must agree that any QB performance levels in the NFL require fitting the ball into a tough spot in the face of a blitz. Checking down on 3rd and 11 is not going to cut it. So, with that in mind, I always ask Cowboys fans if they understand that to get Home Runs, you must accept at least some strikeouts. To get 3-pointers, you must accepts missed 3 pointers. And to get touchdowns, you must accept some poor decisions and poor results. I think, in the face of adversity last season, that the Cowboys have spent the last 9 months preaching the idea that they essentially want to turn Tony Romo into a guy who will always make the safer throw, even if it means hurting the chances of the team to win. Yes, I just said that. Sometimes, safer decisions actually hurt your chance at moving the chains and changing the scoreboard.

So, can they harness Romo? Can they realize that many of his best moments come when the play blows up? I know you cannot hope for plays to blow up, but you also have to realize when your QB can do things that most cannot.

Like I said on the air, if you have Dirk - who is 7-feet tall and can make 3's as well as anyone in the sport, do you try to force him to play like other 7-footers who do not have his skill set but do fit the mold of "what a 7-footer should do"? Or do you break the mold of what you expect, because he is a unique talent?

I think Romo is a unique talent. But, I also think Michael Vick was a unique talent in a totally different way. If the proving ground is whether he ever wins a Super Bowl, then odds are that he won't get it. I just don't want them to try to change him into Brady, Manning, or Aikman. He isn't them. And, they can't do what he did on that play on Sunday.

But as is always the case, there are shades of gray, and degrees of "letting him play". In the end, Favre needed Holmgren to coach him hard, and bring out the best in him. I wish I was confident that the Cowboys had that brain on their staff.



This definitely falls into the nitpick category, but …

The national media seems to think Miles Austin is one of those undersized scat receivers like Ted Ginn, DeSean Jackson or Percy Harvin. Peter King even called him a “mighty mite” in today’s MMQ. The guy is 6’ 3” and 215 lbs., which is far from might mite. He just happens to be very fast and elusive, which may be why they think he’s smaller. But it still seems like sloppy work by guys who get paid a lot to comment and write solely about professional football. Maybe not Emmitt Smith “Travis Henry is best rookie” sloppy, but still pretty lazy.

Dave in Tulsa

Yes, he is shockingly large. And impossible to tackle these days. I agree with your point.

It's my belief that what put Miles Austin above the other receivers is his ability to break tackles. Is it possible that Wade missed this hidden talent because they don't tackle during practice? Sure he seems to be a faster then Williams and Crayton but after Miles makes the catch he gets yards when he breaks tackles. Williams and Crayton my run better routes and have better timing in practice, But we're talking about a game where they do tackle. Is this another argument for tackling during practice?

Just wanted your thoughs.


Wow. That is the best original thought email I have received all week. I am not sure if I totally buy it, but in this world of recycled ideas, this one is a fresh one. Well done!



Couple of things.

1. Wade Phillips same as Bill Parcells same as every coach in the league worth their salt knows you praise players to the media, and you criticize behind closed doors. Parcells never in his career called out individual players to the media. You should not have such a problem with his Monday press conference because every game every player who saw time gets a personal scout/stat sheet highlighting everything they did well and everything they did not in Wade's team meetings and film
sessions. What do you exactly hope it would accomplish for Wade to express disappointment in individual players. Find one good coach in the NFL who takes this approach. The first rule in motivating people or winning respect or commanding any organization is that you never under any circumstance criticize in public.

2. Give some credit where credit is due. No one talks about Kyle Kosier on this team. He is the forgotten lineman. I contend that he is our most complete and most valuable lineman, perhps player except for Demarcus Ware Review the film as you do and pay attention to him if you haven't already. He is outstanding and rarely makes mistakes, or misses blocks. Likewise it was after he went down last year that
the cowboys offense got exposed and that film shows that if anything was exposed it wasn't play calling it was that we had a huge weak spot in the abscence of Kosier. We couldn't run and therefore couldn't set up the pass. Thoughts?

Best Regards,

Your lowly p1

Bill McCullough

Thanks, Bill-

1) - You are high on this one. Parcells never called guys out in the media? Did you ever hear him? Take Romo alone. Romo could have thrown 4 TDs and 300 yards, and the media would ask him to look at how his QB played. Parcells would answer by telling everyone what he did wrong and not to anoint this kid yet. He has a lot to learn. Mike Singletary spent time telling us in this memorable press conference telling us he can't win with Vernon Davis. If you don't think that is calling out a player in public, then I don't know what is. Many coaches use the media and public humiliation as a source of motivation. Wade doesn't. I disagree with how he does it, and you don't. That is fine, but let's not act like he is joined by all of his colleagues.

2) - You are not high on this one. I am stunned at how great Kosier has been this year. If you go back and look at my Football 301 series (runs every Tuesday) you will see that he has been wonderful. Especially in running situations where they love to pull him out in space. Also, in Denver, he ran some great screens with Kosier out front. He is exceptional and exceptionally under-rated. great observation there.

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