Maybe the biggest one was simply sitting 2 rows behind Bill Parcells on the way back to Dallas thinking about the life of a coach after a gutting and disappointing end to another season when it is clear that he didn't have many years left. I had no idea that I was riding on the final team flight of Parcells' decorated coaching career. He hardly said a word and just looked sad. It was a very quiet flight, but with a new QB going through growing pains that somewhat discolored an otherwise dynamite first season, I expected renewed optimism for Parcells heading into a 2007 where it appeared the team was ready to win with the big boys.
We will never know what would have been different if the hold of Romo would have been true. Or even after the botched snap, if Romo had just a little help from his kicker Martin Gramatica, he could have reached the end zone rather than being tackled from behind by Jordan Babineaux. Would the Cowboys have gone on the next week to give the Chicago Bears trouble? Would Parcells have led the Cowboys to better results in 2007? Wade Phillips guided them to 13-3, but the fizzle in late December and January discolors that season for many. We will never know.
It just makes you wonder. And that is the beauty of this game of NFL football. It is so sudden and vital for every moment of every game. History changes in the blink of an eye, and in the playoffs it is not about being the best team over 2 weeks like in the other sports. This is about being the best team over a 3 hour period. And many times, that is not a large enough sample size to prove who in fact is the better team.
Meanwhile, the impact of this game on Sunday surely does not have the historical meaning, but for the 2012 Cowboys, let's not mistake the importance of this. Everyone knows the incredibly difficult stretch of games that follow the bye week starting October 14th. 4 out of 5 on the road takes you to Baltimore, Carolina, home to the Giants, and then back on the road for Atlanta and Philadelphia. If the Cowboys can somehow be sitting on 6 wins when they return home on November 11th, they might be home free in the division - with 5 of the final 7 games at home. Even 5-4 through 9 gives them a chance to stay in the playoff mix. Anything less will require a huge late-season scramble.
But, the Cowboys found a win in New York that most expected to not be available, and now we see if they ate the cheese of success or do they understand that going into Seattle will not be any free result for the visitor. Seattle is a very young team with seemingly an entire roster filled with draft picks from the last 3 drafts. With Russell Wilson starting, something you could have had tremendous odds on one year ago, the Cowboys will face a young QB who is still trying to figure out the NFL game on the fly. It would seem to be the recipe for Rob Ryan to turn into the great deceiver as Wilson tries to get presnap reads on what the Cowboys are throwing at him.
Seattle has a powerful running back in Marshawn Lynch that will give the Cowboys fits, but beyond that, the name of the game should be to keep Wilson in the pocket. Again, week after week, we will say that this will be a fine test for Sean Lee and Bruce Carter to patrol the shallow middle as both QB spies and defenders who can get in space to the man who catches any sort of short routes.
On defense, the Seahawks have a deceiving ability to bring pressure. Chris Clemons, since the start of the 2010 season, has more sacks than Trent Cole, Jason Pierre Paul, or Julius Peppers. Almost nobody would know that because he is a player that has always been under-appreciated as he has bounced from team to team before finding a home in Seattle. He is joined by 1st round pick Bruce Irvin, the edge rushing LB from West Virginia and Jason Jones the former Titan who had a big day against the Cowboys OL in 2010 to apply pressure to the Cowboys line. It is not the most famous group of pass rushers the Cowboys will face this year, but with the crowd noise and the concentration on pre-snap penalties, we should not assume Tony Romo will have all day to throw the ball.
The Seahawks have kids all over their defense, with Bobby Wagner starting at LB. Wagner is most famous locally for being the player that Jerry Jones claimed the Cowboys would have taken in the 2nd round had they not done the Claiborne trade. Since that weekend, sources have told me that this claim was merely a smoke screen and that Wagner was a 3rd Round grade on the Cowboys board and actually graded behind Tyrone Crawford. Nevertheless, he is still a very promising rookie who Seattle is happy to have and joins LeRoy Hill at linebacker.
Then, the secondary which is just flat-out big. Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman were both great finds on draft day for this Seattle side as 5th rounders in 2010 and 2011. Earl Thomas was a safety everyone wanted and is the type of playmaker all over the field that you simply hope to find someday. He is as good as any Texas draft prospect has been in quite some time.
I expect this will be a great test for the offensive line, because Seattle is pretty stout against the run with Red Bryant and Brandon MeBane plugging things up and the quick linebackers behind them. If the OL can hold up and get DeMarco Murray going, the team will be ok. But, if it turns into the dreaded shotgun offense exclusively, this could be a difficult afternoon.
I have the Cowboys winning, 24-17.
Is the failure of McGee at QB an indictment of drafting/scouting or player development? - Bart
Bart, this is a great question. And taking a 4th round QB prospect is not exactly the type of investment that is a total failure if you miss, but you don't want it to happen very often. McGee was a local product that actually puzzled many to hear that the Cowboys had interest in 2009. He just never looked the part on the field at Texas A&M of a big-time passing prospect. But, Dallas liked his workouts enough to grab him with the 1st pick on Day 2 of the draft when they had plenty of other needs.
It is interesting to note that the deeper reaches of the 2009 draft had almost no QB success. Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, and Josh Freeman were 1st Round picks. After that, Pat White, McGee, Rhett Bomar, Tom Brandstater, Keith Null, Nate Davis, and Curtis Painter make up one of the most anonymous QB classes ever. That doesn't excuse picking a QB who couldn't replace Jon Kitna after 3 years of mentorship as the backup, but it does say that the Cowboys didn't miss on something better at the position.
Player development is an issue I do bang the drum on quite a bit, but the Cowboys are doing better in that regard as time goes on. And finding DeMarco Murray in the 3rd Round has a chance to give them a pretty good bragging point moving forward. But, the McGee era never got off the ground. He looked like a guy who was scared to make a mistake. And that is not the type of confidence NFL QBs need to have. At some point, they have to throw the ball in a tight window.
Now that the Cowboys have locked up Sean Lissemore, what role do you think he eventually emerges into long-term? Does the team view him as a "successor" to a starter like Jay Ratliff at NT or Kenyon Coleman at DE, or is he viewed as versatile depth talent that can move across the line? Young DL players on the rise like Sean can get expensive in a hurry, so I think it was wise of the team to sew up that contract; now, I'm wondering if there's a clear picture for his future among one of the deeper units on the team.
Thanks (and Gig 'em!),
College Station, TX
This was very exciting news this week when we found out the Cowboys put a 3-year extension in front of Lissemore for $6 million through 2016 and he signed it. This looks like the exact same 3/$6m deal that Jason Hatcher grabbed last summer and that looks like a nice bargain now that Hatcher appears to be a regular at DE. I sense Lissemore is knocking on the door for a similar role, and he grabbed the security of the money now to buy out some free agent years. Is he ever a star in this league? I would be more comfortable saying he is a solid part of their defensive line rotation. But, this move should not be ignored. I love it. And I think Lissemore can give me the type of energy and effort that any DL needs. He makes things happen inside and he fights his tail off. Great move.
What are the chances Bruce Carter plays all season like he did against the Giants? If he does, does this linebacker group have the chance to be one of the best in the league?
TIme will tell, of course, but here is another spot where the Cowboys ignored conventional thinking on draft day and took a player that they knew might not pay any dividends in 2011. It was vital for the process though that he did not get passed by when they signed Dan Conner. Maybe, they signed Conner to simply push and challenge Carter, but whatever the reason, in week 1, we saw Carter make plays and we saw Conner almost exclusively on special teams. Carter played 30 plays, Conner played 4. Carter looks the part of a solid inside linebacker with great wheels.
Let's just say that he has been pretty anonymous in training camp and preseason games. But, to see his big night in New York will only give him confidence that he belongs. He has a long way to go, but perception about that deal has already adjusted some.
Are you comfortable with David Arkin as backup center and right guard? - Jeremy
No. I am not. I have very little confidence in Arkin in any capacity right now other than a player being allowed to continue to develop behind closed doors. However, with Phil Costa unavailable, he is there only player who can snap the ball on the bench because Ryan Cook will get the start in Seattle. I anticipate that Cook has the starting job until further notice, but if something should happen to Cook, what will the Cowboys do? Will they move Mackenzy Bernadeau to center and put Derrick Dockery in at guard or will Arkin move in to the game? We hope to never find out. I imagine since the Cook trade that Arkin is hanging on the roster by a thread, but he seems to keep benefiting from injuries. The Bill Nagy injury kept him here, as did the Kevin Kowalski injury, and now the Phil Costa injury. But, these will give him a chance as my optimism about Costa ever being fully healthy this season seems to be wishful thinking. Arkin still has a chance to develop and prove his worth. So far, I am not optimistic as he just doesn't look strong enough to play in the NFL right now.
Do you see the Cowboys trading Felix Jones this year? I think we should get whatever we can for him NOW a’la Tashard Choice and bring up Phillip Tanner and/or Lance Dunbar they at least run hard.
-Mike in Duncanville
It is pretty dangerous to trade a player who is an insurance policy at a position that has the most injuries and the least depth. I don't share your optimism at this point that if DeMarco was injured again that Tanner or Dunbar would save the day.
Felix is frustrating and disappointing. I don't see how he is brought back in 2013 on a new deal. But, like Mike Jenkins, that doesn't mean I am willing to just take any offer to let him go. We have to ask what happens when injuries hit. And injuries hit every year in the NFL. You might not need him - and I would continue to minimize his role on returns and in the offense unless he shows even the slightest hint that he has a play in him - but if somebody goes down, he might be that "next man up".
Choice was never valuable in the trade market and the Cowboys ended up waiving him. But, I just don't think Felix has much to offer right now in trade. And if there is no substantial profit (and why would there be) then he is more valuable to you as a veteran who knows the offense and a policy that you hold against DeMarco's health. I think it is a worthwhile idea at this point.