Saturday, December 22, 2012

How the Eagles lost their wings

Not a soul can pinpoint exactly when or how it happened.  Did it happen after the Eagles gave the Cowboys their first playoff win in umpteen years and in doing so being the first time the Reid-McNabb regime went one-and-done in the playoffs?  Did it happen upon trading Donovan McNabb?  Keep in mind that McNabb is still the last Eagle quarterback to win a playoff game.  Did it happen after inking Michael Vick to a rather substantial contract?  What about that "dream team" blather being uttered by back-up QB, Vince Young?  I believe it was a combination of all of these events and then some.

The End of an Era

I to this day believe there has been no quarterback who has received more undeserved criticism than Donovan McNabb.  From the day he was drafted he was booed which would eerily foreshadow what was to come.  I get it, the guy didn't get it done.  He didn't bring a Super Bowl to the City of Brotherly Love, but there is no doubt McNabb had a positive impact (much more positive than negative) on that franchise.  You talk about a man who was the subject of an abundance of criticism throughout his career that one could think that he was a criminal.

The 1-4 record in NFC Championship games are well-documented.  The throwing up in the Super Bowl is well-documented.  He didn't get it done.  It's simple and I get that, but at the end of the day, the man was responsible for a gargantuan amount of regular season success.  Sporting a 98-62-1 regular season record, won nine playoff games (9-7), won four NFC East crowns (not including 2006 led by Jeff Garcia), and he did it all with respectable numbers.  There is no telling what the Eagles could have done if he didn't have multiple seasons derailed by injuries.  He also made the Pro Bowl six times.  This was by no means a scrub.

The guy could play professional football yet at the end of the day, it was never enough.  He couldn't get it done and was eventually ran out of town after a defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys.  It wasn't just that the Eagles lost, it was the fact that they were blown out by a team who hadn't sniffed a playoff win in over a decade and at the same time was the first time ever Reid and McNabb went one-and-done together.  The marriage was over and they would trade him to Washington Redskins.  In hindsight, it appears as if the Eagles made the right decision seeing as how McNabb's career would end, but I don't believe Washington and Minnesota were good fits for him.  I believe McNabb had another good two years left in him had he spent them with Philly.  However, Philly seemed to believe that Kevin Kolb was their savior so they turned to him.  Which I believe was one of many mistakes and contributed to the fall of the Eagles.

The Return of Mike Vick

Vick literally bailed out the Eagles in 2010 and it started in Week 1 after Kolb was injured against the Packers and Vick would engineer a near-comeback win.   A season mired by injury, Kevin Kolb would be relieved by Mike Vick who would go on to go 8-3 as the Eagles starter.  He would have by far the best season of his career.  Leading them to an NFC East crown.  Finishing with a 21:6 TD:Int ratio with over 3000 yards passing, over 600 yards rushing with 9 rushing TDs, and a 100.2 QB rating.  Although it wouldn't end well seeing as they lost to those same Packers again in the Wildcard.  The Packers would go on to win the Super Bowl and Eagle fans were left wondering 'what could have been' once again.  It would lead to an offseason that would once again end up being a huge mistake.

Trying to Buy a Championship

Over the years it's been proven that you just can't buy championships.  The Washington Redskins have proven that and so have the Dallas Cowboys.  Building through the draft (or undrafted free agents) has always been the blueprint to building a championship team.  The Eagles would add themselves to that exclusive list of trying to buy a championship and failing.  Not only did they give Mike Vick a huge payday, but they would give a huge contract to Nnamdi Asomugha.  They also handed out contracts to Cullen Jenkins, Vince Young, Ronnie Brown, and Jason Babin.  It seemed as if every time you looked up, the Eagles landed a coveted free agent.  In hindsight, it has proven to be a mistake just as it happened with previous teams.  Trying to buy a title can lead to chemistry issues and guys being handed starting jobs without truly working hard for it.  Competition within camp is always the best way to build an organization and when you are bringing in high-priced free agents, it's hard to achieve that.

As it also happens, Mike Vick came down to earth from his 2010 season.  In 2011, he looked nothing like the Vick from the previous season and he couldn't stay healthy either.  The wheels had already fallen off after 2011.  Vick's downward spiral would continue into the 2012 season, and now he's lost his job because he was predictably injured again and even when he was healthy, he was turning the ball over way too much.


What ran rampant in the preseason of 2011 was a certain dream team remark by Vince Young.  As a diehard Cowboy fan, I know all about entitlement.  You think you have a team good enough to win a Super Bowl so you become entitled and think you deserve it.  Completely disregarding the fact that you have to go out there and win football games.  That's been the Dallas Cowboys for years.  Thinking that just because they are America's Team and have a storied history, that teams will just lay down and the championships will just continue to pile up.  The Eagles thought because they had one of the most talented teams in the NFL and were due for a Super Bowl run, meant that they should become some sort of a dynasty.  This is the NFL and the other teams just happen to be professional too.  This isn't a watered-down sport and it's any given Sunday.  It may not have been Young's intentions, but he put a huge target on the Eagles back and put unrealistic expectations on the shoulders of men who weren't ready for it.  Not only that, but Vick's comments regarding a dynasty was over the top as well and it illustrated once again that this team had a sense of entitlement.


Through it all, I believe the fall of the Eagles happened mainly because of trading McNabb, trying to buy a championship, and their sense of entitlement.  Not only that, Andy Reid's firing has been long overdue.  It's not that Andy Reid isn't a great coach because he is.  Only God knows where the Eagles would be had he not signed on to be the head coach in 1999.  The bottom line is you just can't keep a job in this league as long as Andy Reid has without getting it done on the big stage.  It's just the way it is.  I'll be the first one to tell you that I'm not a big fan of coaches being fired, but it's time for a change in Philly.  The Eagles have lost their wings in the way the Cowboys did after Jimmy Johnson.  Making bad personnel decisions, having bad drafts, giving out bad contracts, and walking around with an undeserved sense of entitlement.  But at least with the Cowboys, they won Super Bowl rings before they fell off a cliff.  The Eagles didn't win a single Super Bowl after winning the division six times since 2001, going to four straight NFC titles games (2001-2004) and a Super Bowl berth (2004), not to mention another NFC title appearance in 2008.  It's just a damn shame, and now the Eagles will fly off to irrelevance for an extended period of time.  Fly, fly, fly, fly.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Orlando sends a huge message to the Lakers

It wasn't just that the Lakers lost to Orlando, it was in the manner that they lost.  Dwight hilariously misses 12 free throws.  Kobe tries his best to carry the Lakers to a victory and fails yet again(And by the way, his defense is absolutely atrocious now).  The Lakers get a 40 spot hung on them in the 4th quarter.  A quarter where a team that aspires to win an NBA championship, should absolutely out-execute a lottery team.  What makes this loss so alarming is this is the Orlando Magic.  Yeah, that team who sent a flustered Dwight Howard in a 4-team trade to the Lakers while getting almost nobody of substance in return.  On this night, it seems as if they made the right decision.  Ironically, Arron Afflalo(you know one of the main pieces they got in return) absolutely destroyed the Lakers.  The Lakers tonight got a nice dose of karma if you ask me. 

That game couldn't have possibly played out any more perfectly if you are a Magic fan.  The Magic use the Hack-a-Howard strategy that was successful late in the game.  Howard misses his FTs and the Magic follows that up by making 3s on the other end.  Through it all, Pau Gasol was watching from the sidelines down the stretch in which I believe was an absolutely horrible coaching move.  Love D'Antoni, but there is no way you can justify to me that Antawn Jamison is superior to Pau Gasol.  He just can't.  Even more shocking considering they were intentionally fouling Dwight down the stretch.  Pau is one of their best players.  I don't care how bad he's playing, there's no excuse for playing the career-loser Antawn Jamison over him.

This is easily the worst loss of the season for the Lakers and easily Orlando's best win.  The game perfectly illustrated what I've been saying about the Lakers all along:  Kobe is too old to carry this team as evidence of the Lakers being 1-6 in games where he scores at least 30 points this season.  Dwight's maturity is in question and he can't knock down free throws to save a child's life.  There was no defense in sight once again.  You can thank D'Antoni for that.  Nash will not fix this team.  He will only assuage the problem by helping them win more regular season games, but it won't translate to playoff success.

The Lakers are in huge trouble and the fact that they lost to this team of all teams sent a huge message.  Christmas came early for Orlando and the nightmare season for the Lakers continues.  A loss that comes merely two days after having one of their best offensive performances of the season.  My head is telling me that they will turn their season around and win over 50 games, but what they can do in the playoffs is all that really matters in the grand scheme of things.  My opinion hasn't changed, this team is a second round exit at best and I'm seriously leaning towards a first round exit.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Dwight Howard must mature for the Lakers to be a title contender

Dwight finished with a 28-20 line against the Nuggets Friday.
Amid the Lakers shooting clinic against the Nuggets in Friday's night's late game, I noticed something:  Pau Gasol put up another yawn-worthy line and Kobe Bryant was almost a non-factor aside from passing.  A brilliant shooting performance from beyond the arc assuaged real problems that the Lakers have.  Pau Gasol's lack of production is a combination of aging and not fitting well in D'Antoni's offense, and Kobe won't be able to carry them night in and night out.  You could see Kobe was playing with dead legs despite the fact that he had multiple days off to shake the flu and get ready.  Granted, Kobe will try his best to carry them when they need him to and if he has the energy to do so, but I don't believe he will be able to when they need it most.  That was evident in the loss against the Indiana Pacers at home when he scored 40 points w/ 10 turnovers in a losing effort.  With all due respect, if Kobe is scoring 40 points, the Lakers have no business losing.  Not when you have Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard on the same squad.  So, they lost to a Granger-less Pacers squad with Kobe, Pau, and Dwight?  That is unacceptable.

Tonight's hot shooting performance will certainly calm down some antsy Laker fans and it gave a glimpse as to what this offense has the potential to be under D'Antoni but make no mistake about it, this is not a championship caliber team. When you bring in Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to go with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, you are supposed to be poised for a title run.  The Lakers clearly aren't ready for a title run.  Hell, they aren't ready to make it past the 2nd round.

Certainly, the jury is still out on what this team could do because Steve Nash has yet to lace em up since D'Antoni took over, but you can clearly see the flaws they have.  Tonight was a lot of theatricality and deception, masking the deficiencies that this team has.  Deficiencies that were exposed in the aforementioned battle against the Indiana Pacers.  The lights-out shooting with an abundance of three-point attempts are something we have all grown accustomed to with a D'Antoni offense, but what has his scheme ever led to in the grand scheme of things?

They can't guard the paint even with a dominant defensive presence like Dwight.  Point guards are breaking down their defense way too easily, Kobe is not the defensive player he once was, Metta World Peace is gambling for steals too much, and Pau Gasol almost looks as if he's playing goalie defense waiting for the ball to come to him instead of going to it and contesting the shot.  So when you bring back Nash, who can't guard a door, things could get much worse.  No-defense basketball doesn't win in the playoffs and D'Antoni has proven that and with Nash leading the way.  I don't care if Nash comes back and averages 10 assists a game, Kobe scores his 27 a game, Dwight gets his 20 and 10, Pau gets his 15 and 10, Peace gets his 12-15 points, Jamison gets his 12-15 points, and they average over 120 points a game, it still won't translate in the playoffs.

And just in case you didn't notice, the players I just named off excluding Dwight are only 38, 34, 32, 33, and 36 years-old.  (No kidding).  You think those guys can run at this pace for a full season and still have enough gas in the tank for the playoffs?  This must be some kind of sick joke, right?  Absolutely not.  Anyone with an IQ above room temperature can see this Laker team is not going far in the playoffs with the way this roster is assembled.  They can compete in the West and with luck could win the West, but they are not beating the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.  No way no how unless something drastically happens.

The drastic I'm talking about is Dwight Howard maturing.  Not only physically, but mentally.  If you watched tonight's game, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  He looked as if he was having a little too much fun out there.  Acting like a goofball, shooting a 3 at the end of the game, and generally just behaving like a little kid on the court.  That's Dwight for you.  Yes, he had an outstanding game, but Dwight always has those big games.  This is nothing new.  Those games are nice, but we saw from tonight is not what the Lakers need. 

The Lakers need Dwight to be a bully.  They need him to be mean.  To play with some seriousness.  To play with a chip on his shoulder.  To play like someone who just hates the world.  To play like he hates everybody.  To play like he thinks everybody is after him and trying to impede him from getting where he wants to go.  That's what the Lakers need from him.   Being nice is cute, but that doesn't win championships.  You are in LaLa land now big guy.  The time for playing is over.  They expect championships down there.  You are a long way from Orlando.  If he thought the media storm in Orlando was something, he hasn't seen anything yet.  It wouldn't hurt if he would make some free throws either.  The guy has been flat out atrocious from the line this season.  If your free throw percentage is lower than your field goal percentage, it's time to have a Come-To-Jesus-Meeting.  Also, he needs to eliminate the careless turnovers, and they need him to become a consistent passer out of the post instead of a blackhole.

These same things have been said about Dwight for years so unfortunately for the Lakers, this probably will never be who Dwight is.  Dwight just wants everybody to love him.  He's a fun-loving guy who's a big kid at heart.  Nothing is wrong with that, but he needs killer instinct if he wants to win a title with this team.  Think back to Shaq's early days.  He was the same way.  Having too much fun, being immature, tearing down basketball goals during games and just trying to dunk over everybody.  When Shaq started winning championships, he mostly cut out the immaturity.  Yes, he would still play and joke around off the court, but on the court, he became a bully.  He would foul people hard intentionally, and he would use his big frame to get away with fouls that no player should get away with.  He would even take shots at teams like the Sacramento Kings by coining the "Queens" phrase.  Shaq became a mean player, an adept passer, and most importantly, he knocked down his free throws when he needed to.

That's what the Lakers need from Dwight, because Kobe at the age of 34 on bad knees with a boatload of playoff games on his legs isn't carrying this team to a title.  Pau is declining and the offense doesn't even suit him to begin with.  Jamison doesn't know what it takes to win considering he's always been on losing teams.  Metta World Peace is a walking ticking time bomb.  Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake will only give them so much.  Nash plays no defense whatsoever and he's already experiencing injuries since leaving the Suns, who famously have one of the best medical staffs in the league.  He has missed 14 games for the Lakers.  That's noteworthy considering he missed only 37 games from the time he joined the Phoenix Suns in 2004 and left last season.  By the time Nash comes back, he will have missed nearly 20 games.  Which means he would have already missed nearly half the amount of games for the Lakers than he did his entire time as a Phoenix Sun.  Certainly, age is a contributing factor, but also not having that outstanding medical staff is making a difference as well.

The Lakers have a lot of things going against them:  Age, chemistry, maturity, and a coach with no emphasis on defense whatsoever.  It's hard to see this Laker team making it past the second round.  Wouldn't be at all shocked if they were a first round exit.  The only way the Lakers can go far is if Dwight matures and becomes a meaner and smarter basketball player.  There is nothing wrong with everybody hating you.  That is something Dwight needs to understand.  If nobody is hating you, then you aren't doing something right.  Make them hate you to the point where they have no choice but to love you.  That's what Michael Jordan did.  That's what Magic and Bird did.  That's especially what Bill Russell did at a time where civil rights was in question.  Russell made the city of Boston love him despite his skin color, and he did it by winning.  If he can do it during a time like that, then why can't Dwight do it now?  Just win, Dwight, just win and they'll love you forever.  No matter what it takes.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Be thankful that the Dallas Cowboys are showing heart

I've enjoyed a long Thanksgiving break although on the day we give thanks, the Dallas Cowboys nearly ruined my vacation with a gut-wrenching loss to a bitter rival.  The soar of boos could be heard from miles away as the Cowboys went into halftime down 28-3 after just giving up 28 points in the 2nd quarter.

As a diehard fan, I have to be honest, I never had high hopes going into this game against RG3 especially when Jay Ratliff was ruled out.  Add the fact that they needed OT just to beat the Browns just four days prior.  The Redskins were practically coasting past the Eagles while the Cowboys were in a dogfight just four days before the two teams would meet.  Frankly, the Cowboys just had too many injuries on the defensive front to generate the type of pressure needed to force RG3 into mistakes and didn't have the proper safety play or ILB play to cover the middle of the field.  And I was right once that second quarter hit.  Big play after big play, and the offense didn't do the defense any favors by failing to score TDs earlier in the ball game when they could have ceased control of the game or Romo's interception that contributed to the 2nd quarter surge.

Those injuries were just too tough to overcome.  Injuries are certainly not a good enough excuse because every team has them this time of year.  It's all about surviving and persevering at this point in the season and many teams have done that.  Teams like the Falcons, Giants, Pats, Bears, Texans, and Packers have had their share of injuries but they took care of business when they needed to.  A slow start against the Giants in Cowboys Stadium and a failure to come away with a win in Baltimore despite completely dominating that game is coming back to haunt the Cowboys at this point.  Win those two games, and they are 7-4 at this point instead of 5-6 meanwhile the Giants are a game back for the division lead while already losing twice to Dallas; so essentially a two-game lead.  Yes, the Cowboys spotted the Giants a 23-0 lead and it's hard to say the Cowboys deserved that win, but the fact of the matter is, they ceased control of the game and came all the way back.  And by all means should have won the game.  Dez Bryant just has to make sure his hand isn't out of bounds.  Inexcusable.

But it's the same ole same ole with these Cowboys.  Always good, but not good enough.  If there is a silver lining you can take from that Giants' game, it's the fact that they didn't give up.  That's been a common trend in every game since the Chicago nightmare on Monday Night Football.  You probably wouldn't believe me, but the Cowboys are among the top 5 in the NFL in points scored in the 4th quarter.  They average 9.0 points per game in the 4th quarter which is 4th in the league behind only the Pats, Broncos, and Lions.  It's evident these Cowboys just don't quit

The fact that they dug a 28-3 hole and actually came back to make it 35-28 was a feat within itself.  And there was plenty of time to make a stop and actually tie it, but they just couldn't do it, and came up short.  But don't let that get you down.  Yes these Cowboys are 5-6, yes the Giants made a mockery of one of the NFC's best last night, and yes the Cowboys would need an improbable run to make the playoffs this season, but I'm saying don't give up just yet, because they certainly haven't.

Think back all the way until the Baltimore game after the bye week.  They gave Baltimore all they could handle and came up short.  But remember the two 4th down conversions late in the game by Romo and Witten.  Remember how they refused to give up.  Remember the onside kick being successful and the Cowboys surprisingly almost having a chance to win that game only needing a 51-yard field goal from Dan Bailey.

Remember the very next week as it seemed the Carolina Panthers, coming off a bye, had the Cowboys on the ropes yet the Cowboys fought back to steal the game.  As I mentioned, remember how they battled all the way back from a 23-0 deficit against the Giants.  How about in Atlanta when they refused to give up even though it was clear Atlanta was superior?  And the next week at Philly when it seemed as if  Foles would lead the Eagles to a win after putting them up 14-10.  Romo had an amazing drive that tied the game at 17-17, and then they would proceed to score 21 points in the 4th quarter from defensive and Special Teams TDs.  How about against Cleveland, when they were completely outplayed trailing 13-0 at half and rattled off 17 points in the 4th quarter, and continued to battle back even when it looked as if Cleveland grasped full control of the game?  And of course, we can't forget the way they battled back against the Redskins on Thanksgiving.  For good measure, the Cowboys scored 18 points in the 4th quarter of that one.  So in the last three games combined, the Cowboys have scored 56 points.  For you math wizards, that's almost 19 points a game in just the 4th quarter.

You can say what you want about the Cowboys and their perceived "chokes," but the fact of the matter is, this team hasn't choked this year.  At least not compared to last season where they blew five 4th quarter leads.  If anything, they've risen to the occasion more than they've fallen flat on their faces in the 4th quarter this season.  The problem with the Cowboys this year has been starting games, not finishing them.  Maybe if the Cowboys weren't almost dead last in 1st half scoring on the season, they'd be in position to win the NFC East instead of two games back.  The Cowboys need to figure out a way to start games from here on out if they want to make a miraculous run to the playoffs.

But at the end of the day, I say the Cowboys have dug too deep of a hole to make the playoffs, ironically like they've been doing in football games.  But if there is one good thing that can come out of all this, it's the fact that the Cowboys haven't given up and are showing heart.  In past seasons, the Cowboys certainly would have lost on Thanksgiving by at least four TDs instead of making it respectable.  They certainly would have laid down and quit against the New York Football Giants after falling down 23-0.  Also don't forget they are seemingly losing a starter every single week.  This squad is as depleted as it gets and now Bruce Carter is done for the year.  They've showed a lot of heart in moments when they could have laid down and tapped out.  Even when they lost Sean Lee in Carolina they fought back and still held on to win.  This team isn't quitting any time soon despite what is up against them.  It makes you believe that maybe this team sometime in the near future can become a Super Bowl contender if cornerstone players like Murray, Lee, and Carter can stay healthy.  Heart is something all Super Bowl contenders possess.  The Cowboys have that and now all they need is the talent and depth to go with it.  That is something we as Cowboy fans can be thankful for.

Monday, November 12, 2012

What to make of the Dallas Cowboys win over the Eagles

I'm not quite sure if that was the Chicago Bears or the Dallas Cowboys.  Are you kidding me?  Not one, but two defensive touchdowns?  A Special Teams touchdown?  You mean to tell me that a side of the ball other than the offense managed to put up three touchdowns in the final quarter of a game?  I'd be willing to bet that that has rarely, RARELY happened in Dallas Cowboys history.

Boy does it feel good for the balls to bounce in the Cowboys favor every once in the while.  It only took nine freaking games for the Cowboys to manage a defensive touchdown, and they did it twice in the same game.  I've always felt like my Cowboys just weren't good enough to beat the best teams in the NFL in the last decade or so, but at the same time I felt like they rarely got the breaks as well. 

Yesterday was shaping up as yet another game where they would lose.  A breakdown in coverage saw them trail 14-10 with momentum being heavily in Philly's favor.  They were seemingly making mistakes at the worst times with numerous penalties on 3rd down resulting in 1st downs as Nick Foles was gaining more and more confidence with each drawback.  This had the makings of another one of those close ball games that the Cowboys would lose.

Knowing the season was on the line, Romo did what he always does and doesn't get enough credit for, he kept the Cowboys close and tied the ball game 17-17 with arguably his three best plays of the season.  Dodging a convoy of would be tacklers to convert a pivotal 3rd down was just the beginning.  Then he would cap off the drive with a beautiful throw to Dez Bryant to tie the game.  Whether or not you think it was a catch is up to you.  This is nothing new for Romo.  I criticize Romo a lot, but I do believe he comes through more often than the pundits say he does.  The problem has always been he doesn't get the help necessary needed to finish the game.

That wouldn't be the case yesterday.  After tying the game, Romo wouldn't get the ball back until they were up two scores.  You can count on your finger the number of times Romo had a 14 point lead in the 4th quarter of a game when the last time he had possession, the game was tied.  What transpired in the 4th quarter of yesterday's game was just odd indeed.  I'm sure Cowboy fans were in shock with the way things played out.  We haven't seen anything like that in a long time

But what should we all make of this performance?  Was it just a mirage?  Was it more illustration of a sign of things to come for the Cowboys or does it highlight the serious problems in Philadelphia?  I didn't have the Cowboys winning yesterday and I'm glad to say I was wrong, but what should we really take away from this win?  The Cowboys far exceeded themselves in that 4th quarter.  In a game that looked like it was coming down to the wire, the defense and Special Teams made some big plays to help mask another anemic offensive performance.

The Cowboys D frankly has just been too good to be so unlucky for this long.  They were due for a game like that.  You have to also keep in mind Anthony Spencer had an interception negated by a penalty by Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick dropped two interceptions in which one of them could have went to the house. 

Imagine that, the Cowboys D played aggressive and forced some turnovers and could have easily forced even more than the two they did if not for penalties and drops.  You could see that Rob Ryan's D became a lot more aggressive when Nick Foles entered the game.  It makes you wonder why they haven't always been this aggressive throughout the season.  You see, the Cowboys just haven't been a Jason Garrett problem, it's been a Rob Ryan problem too. This hasn't just been about Romo, Dez, or Garrett.  This is an organizational problem. 

Do I think the Cowboys will pull it off and make a big push towards the playoffs this year and maybe even win the division?  Absolutely not.  Do I think they are capable?  Of course, but things have to go their way.  They need a lot of what happened in the 4th quarter yesterday to beat the likes of Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and even Cincinnati.  Shoot, Washington(2x), Cleveland, and Philly(again) at home won't be a picnic by any means.

Let's face it, this offense is still putrid.  They are horrible at converting 3rd downs, horrible in the redzone, and they don't make enough big plays down the field.  Maybe DeMarco Murray can come back and assuage the situation, but this team still has a lot of issues.  Safety play is still a concern, turnovers are just too hard to come by, MoClaibo will have his bumps in the road, and they still don't have Sean Lee.  Asking the Cowboys to win 10 games is a tall tall order.  Especially for a team that isn't that deep in the first place. 

Enough of this talented crap I keep hearing from the media.  Yes, they may have a talented starting 22, but this sport is all about all three phases and all 53 men.  When someone says to me that the Cowboys underachieve, I honestly don't believe that individual has any clue about this sport.  The best 53-man rosters win Super Bowls.  22 people have never won a SB in this sport.  The Cowboys don't have one of the best 53-man roster in the L and that's why they aren't a Super Bowl contender.

Despite yesterday's win, my opinion hasn't changed of the Cowboys.  Just for once they got some breaks and capitalized, but doesn't mean their season has been turned around.  Yesterday wasn't the team I've come to know for many many years.  That was a different football team that made plays in all phases and didn't beat themselves with stupid turnovers.  I suspect the real Cowboys will show up sooner rather than later.  I still believe they lack the necessary talent and depth to make a playoff push.  I still believe the in-game adjustments from the coaching staff are a huge problem.  I still believe they are far too penalty-prone as they showed even in the win yesterday.  I still believe Romo will make critical mistakes and won't do enough to overcome this team's flaws.  I still believe this pass rush is slightly above-average and the defense as a whole is soft.  I believe the inevitable was only delayed a few weeks.  This is the New York Giants' division to lose.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles

If you read my last article, you would know how livid I am about the Dallas Cowboys and their organization and have basically conceded that they are just an average franchise until proven otherwise.  I'm still holding firm to that opinion, but they do have a chance to keep their season alive with a win tomorrow.

They will be heading into a hostile Philadelphia and will face themselves, literally.  They seem to have their own sitcom down there in Philly as well.  Both of these teams are so eerily similar that it's scary.  Both find ways to lose ball games they should win.  Both turn the ball over at just an astonishing rate.  Both offenses have just been laughable and have trouble scoring touchdowns, settling for field goals.  Both find ways to lose in such a hilarious way.

I give the Cowboys a pass for their woes because I know what they are.  The Eagles have been one of the best ran organizations under the Andy Reid Administration or ARA like I like to call it.  I have been highly critical of the ARA in the past, but it's been highly successful when you look at the resume.  No, they haven't won any Super Bowls, but they've won a lot of playoff games, divisional titles, one Super Bowl appearance, and five NFC Championship Game appearances.

Which brings me to the point that the fact that the Eagles are standing 3-5 right now and almost last place in the division with the ARA still intact, is stunning.  The offensive line has been decimated this year but that is no excuse for the Eagles being 3-5.  They are too deep and talented to have such a poor record.  I expect  this with the Cowboys.  When they lose a key player, they don't have the proper depth to be as successful without that key player.  The Eagles on the other hand are usually pretty deep and have great drafts year in and year out.

Philly heads into gameday knowing they are in the same boat as the Cowboys:  You lose, your season is on life support and if you win, there's still an outside chance you can make the playoffs.  And who knows, maybe the Giants don't pull away and 9-7 wins the division again. 

I don't have a great feeling about the Cowboys chances especially given what happened last week.  I really love the way the Cowboys match up with the New York Giants as they showed in both games against them.  Winning one of them and nearly winning another after trailing 23-0 and had two outstanding defensive efforts in the process.  I'm not so sure they have the same advantage against the Eagles.  Not that the Eagles have better weapons than the Giants, but the way they attack you is in a way that Dallas might have trouble with.

As evidenced last week against the 8-0 Atlanta Falcons, the Cowboys had a tough time covering the middle of the field.  I commend He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named for signing Brandon Carr and trading up for Morris Claiborne, but not bringing in an impact safety is hurting this team.  Regardless of how great Carr and Claibo have been, the secondary still has poor safety play and Scandrick is not a good corner.  Then you add not having Sean Lee for the rest of the season and the middle of the field is ripe for the picking.  Oh, and they have a guy named LeSean McCoy by the way.  He'll be a load to handle.

Last season the Eagles shredded the Cowboys defense in the middle of the field in Lincoln Financial last season as they blew out the Cowboys 34-7.  McCoy also did his thing rushing for nearly 200 yards.  I highly doubt the outcome of this one will be similar, but I think the Eagles will have some success in the middle of the field the way the Falcons did.  Especially if the they can't pressure Vick and keep him from beating them with his feet.  They could also wear down as they did in ATL if the offense doesn't do anything.  That could lead to some huge runs for McCoy late.

I expect a great effort from the Cowboys but it just won't be enough.  I like the Eagles in this one because they are at home and just as desperate as the Cowboys.  If you can recall, the Eagles defeated Baltimore and the defending champion New York Giants at home.  So it is a little surprising that the Cowboys are a one-point favorite in this game.  This is a game that if the Cowboys don't get off to a fast start, it could get ugly really fast.  I think Andy and Vick's jobs will be safe for another week as they win 20-10.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Dallas Cowboys are who they are: An average organization

You are who you are.  That is something that I have always believed in.  Everyone at some point in their lives aspires to be something they are not.  That is not the way you want to go about life.  If you aspire to be something, at least be good at it.  What you hope to be in life should be something that is within your range and not beyond your ken.  You know, they tell you when you are younger that you can be anything you want to be when you grow up.  I've grown up and have learned that that is a bunch of baloney.  You can't be anything you want to be.  You can try, but you will likely fail at most things.  When I was a kid, I wanted to be one of the best professional basketball players the game has ever seen, but by the time I graduated from high school, I stood at 5'11 with no athleticism to speak of.  Yeah, so much for that.  No, I'm not saying that children shouldn't be told when they are young that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up; I'm saying that it's a big crock and when you get older, you'll realize just how full of crap that castle-in-the-sky thinking was.  They tell you a lot of things when you are younger that you find out are full of it when you get older.  That's the facts of life for ya.

Whatever it is you decide to be, it's usually something that you are talented in or good maybe even great at.  At the end of the day, you are who you are.  If you have the talent, athleticism, and size to be an NBA, MLB, or NFL player, then that's what you shoot for.  If you have the skills to be a doctor, then that is what you should be.  If your soul is on the market and you'll do whatever to sell it, maybe you should become a lawyer.  If you are great at being a drug dealer, then that's probably what you should do.  You know, a lot of people in this world are good at being bad; just the way it is.  You are who you are but it just sometimes takes you a while before you figure it out.  Which oddly brings me to these Dallas Cowboys.  They haven't figured it out yet.

There are many criticisms or perceptions about the Dallas Cowboys.  They can't finish games.  They are an accident waiting to happen.  The head coach can't coach.  The QB is a choker.  Those perceptions may be true, but I say it's time for people to accept the Cowboys for who they are:  An average NFL organization who gets press only because they have an owner who is a marketing guru.  We are many years removed from the glory days.  The days of living up to the America's Team pseudonym.  The days of making the playoffs seemingly every year.  The days of winning Super Bowls and building dynasties.  Those days are long over.

This organization began a rapid decline after Troy Aikman was forced into retirement.  A decline that originally began to come into fruition after a bitter feud between He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named and Jimmy Johnson.  A short-lived marriage ended and would be the beginning of the end for a once-great organization.  After years and years of success and jubilation, the Cowboy faithful is now subjected to a laughable, abominable product on the field.  One playoff win in the last 16 seasons says all.  No need to delve into the poor regular season record since 1996, the December woes in the last decade, or the constant shortcomings in big games.  Winning big games was a problem before Tony Romo came into the fray.  The Cowboys just frankly don't know how to win anymore.  It's almost hard to comprehend when they made it look so easy in the 90s.  Times have definitely changed and have taken a turn for the worse.

Yet it's almost as if the Cowboys are still a great organization when you consider they are the subject of much gossip in the media year after year.  But that can be largely attributed to a delusional, braggadocio owner.  An owner who believes this current team is capable of winning a Super Bowl.  A team that doesn't have a single player on it that has won a Super Bowl.  Heck, this team doesn't have a player that has won more than one playoff game on the roster.

That's a lot of talk for an owner who has seen his product produce just one playoff win in the last decade and a half.  One measly playoff win, yet you think the team you have now is capable of coming out of nowhere and winning the three or four playoff wins required to win a Super Bowl?  And here I thought my aspirations of being a professional basketball player was delusional.

The Cowboys will be this way for the foreseeable future as long as this owner is running ship.  Drafts will continue to be porous year after year.  They will never be able to get anything right no matter how hard they try.  Even when they hit on guys like Sean Lee or DeMarco Murray, it's guys who can't stay on the field or had proved to be injury-prone in the past.  The Dez Bryant pick is looking worse by the day.  The negatives greatly outweigh the positive.  They have yet to recover from the forgettable 2009 draft that saw 12 valuable picks go to absolute waste.  Not a single player from that draft is on the current 53-man roster.  I'll never let go of the 2008 draft where they took Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins in the first round when there were better backs such as Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, and Ray Rice who would go later.  I could go a step further with guys like Jordy Nelson, Brandon Flowers, DeSean Jackson, and Jamaal Charles in that same draft.  In a draft that was loaded with talent, the Cowboys could only manage Felix Jones, Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick, and Martellus Bennett out of it.  Hindsight is always 20/20, but missing way more often than they hit has been a common trend for the Cowboys for a decade running.  But this is what I've come to expect from this organization these days.

This will be a team that always comes up short when it matters most.  They will usually collapse late in the season or will find it hard to overcome significant injuries because of the lack of depth due to poor drafts.  They'll tease you and make you think they have what it takes, just as they did in Week 1 against the Giants, but when it's all said and done, they'll show you that they have no guts, no honor, or no heart.  They'll fold like a lawn chair at the first sign of adversity.  This is a mediocre organization who could be on the verge of becoming the new Detroit Lions.  The only thing that the Cowboys do have at this point is entitlement and that's not a good thing.

This may be a little harsh but I believe in my heart of hearts that it's the truth even as a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan for over 20 years.  Cowboy fans will just have to accept the mediocrity.  No matter how much the media shoves them down our throat.  No matter how delusional their owner perceives them to be.  Enough Super Bowl talk.  We should only hope for a playoff berth and playoff advancement.  We can talk Super Bowl when or if we ever become a Super Bowl contender again.  But for now, the fact of the matter is the Cowboys are yesterday's news, not relevant, and will soon become obsolete as long as this owner is running this organization.  Maybe at some point this owner will realize what he isn't, but he is who he ain't so till death do us part.  We as Cowboy fans just need to accept it.  I don't see the culture in Valley Ranch changing any time soon.  This is a country club, not a football organization.  This team has become a laughingstock.  The Cowboys are who they are.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The perception about Cowboys Stadium

Cowboys Stadium a paradise for opponents
There are many perceptions about the polarizing Dallas Cowboys.  They don't get it done when it countsThey are an accident waiting to happenThey always collapse down the stretch.  These perceptions may be true, but all perceptions about this franchise aren't true.  The one I want to bring to light is this perception that the Dallas Cowboys don't have a home field advantage.  As if it's the fault of the fans.  As if it's because Dallas is filled with so many fairweather and entitled fans that they don't have a home field advantage.

I couldn't disagree with that more.  If you are a diehard Cowboy fan like I am, you love this team and you cheer them on no matter what.  Even at the lowest of lows.  I mean, if you've been a fan in just the last 15 years like I have, you know this franchise is at its lowest.  Which makes it harder to cheer for them, yet we do so anyway.  The problem I have with it all is this false misconception about home field advantage and the fans are somehow at fault.  Troy Aikman had some interested comments about this:
Comparing the old stadium with road games in the NFC East, he said, “When we would play in Philadelphia, New York, and walk out of the tunnel, I would have to be yelling at the top of my lungs for the guys to hear me. …
“There was no way you could go down there near the goal line and use a hard count in an opposing stadium. And yet in Texas Stadium, teams did it all the time.”
Now I love Troy Aikman, and completely respect anything he says, but I completely disagree with the point he's trying to make.  He does bring up some intriguing points and a strong argument.  He certainly knows more about the home fans than I do and he was actually on the field and should know what it was like.  Here's my problem with those comments:  The fans cheered loudly when the Cowboys needed it in those days.  In regular season games and mostly in playoff games, they could get crazy.  I went to multiple Cowboy games as a kid in the 90s when they were successful, and I left with hurt eardrums.  Remember the reception the Eagles got the next time they played in Texas Stadium after Philly's notorious cheering of Michael Irvin's injury?  The Cowboys won that game convincingly 20-10.  They could get crazy when needed.

I don't simply buy that Cowboy fans were that bad when I've witnessed some great showings myself back in the good ole days when they were a winning franchise.  From what I've seen over the years, when the Cowboys give the fans a reason to cheer loudly, they cheer.  Since the unveiling of Cowboys Stadium, how many good memories have they been left with?  Okay, one playoff win, and other than that, nothing but bad memories.  Hell, there are still lasting awful memories from the twilight years of Texas Stadium let alone Cowboys Stadium.  How could Aikman have the audacity to defend the Cowboys when they embarrassed him, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin when they were all inducted to the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor on Monday Night Football?  Remember that game?  Dallas led practically all game and then choked a double digit lead in dramatic fashion late in the 4th quarter.  Aikman is defending this team?  He of all people should understand why the fans don't provide them with a fearful home field advantage.  How about the way they lost so hilariously to the Baltimore Ravens to close Texas Stadium when they gave up two long rushing TDs on back-to-back possessions when they were trying to make a comeback?  No, this wasn't freaking Ray Rice bursting away for two 75+ yard TD runs, this was slow and burly, La'Ron McClain, and Willis McGahee doing it.  Fans are supposed to be giddy about that?  Very hard to cheer for a team when you know they are an accident waiting to happen.  Hard to cheer for a team when you see them give the opposing team interceptions for TDs or make other key mistakes that have a negative effect on them.

Chicago Bears players say it felt like a home game to them.  Let me see, Romo threw five interceptions largely aided by wide receiver mistakes, and two of those were returned for touchdowns.  Also, Bears fans have been known to travel well.  So when you add all that up, gee no wonder it felt like a home game to them.  The Cowboys essentially handed them the game on a silver platter and the only fans in the stadium who had a reason to cheer were Bear fans.

Like that Bears game, Cowboy fans just haven't had a reason to cheer for much.  The fans may not have been always all that and a bag of chips in Aikman's day even when they were dominating the league, but it's a different time now.  Who knows how great the home field advantage could have been in this millennium if the Cowboys were putting out a winning product year in and year out like the Pats, the Steelers, the Ravens, and so forth.  The fact of the matter is the Cowboys have put out an atrocious product for the last 16 years.  One playoff win in that span says it all.  Since that playpen paradise was opened, the Cowboys are 14-13 in that billion dollar garbage.

I'm guessing that this new stadium can hold something like 90K people.  If the Cowboys would simply play better at home, you would see a better home field advantage.  Maybe it's just me, but it's hard to get excited and cheer raucously for a team that constantly gets down early in ball games.  I've endured this entire one playoff win in 16 years as a fan and in those years, I've felt like Dallas gets down early in almost every home game.  Maybe an exaggeration to a degree, but what I'm saying does hold some sort of weight.  Just this season in three games, they've gotten down early in all of them.  Against Tampa Bay, down 7-0 right off the bat after an interception on the first possession by Romo.  Down 3-0 to Chicago, and then 10-0 after a pick six just before half.  Yesterday, starts off the game and gives up a 56-yard play to set up a FG.  Down 3-0 right after the first possession of the game.  We know what would later happen as they would dig a 23-0 hole.

So again I say, this team gives the fans nothing to cheer for.  The Cowboys have all these stupid false start penalties that have absolutely no business happening in home games. The worst of all is these back-breaking turnovers that put them in deep holes or in last year's game against the Detroit Lions, brings the opponent all the way back into the game.  When you are at home, you are supposed to feel comfortable.  Everything is supposed to go right because you know you have the crowd behind you.  You should be a lot more relaxed and feel as if nothing can go wrong in your residence.

With these Cowboys, it's completely different.  They don't play relaxed, they have stupid penalties, they don't relish in the fact that they are playing at home.  They play way too tense as if they are on the road.  They make key mistakes that you just shouldn't make at home.  You are supposed to let the other team make mistakes in your building, not you.  That's what has been wrong with the Cowboys in Cowboys Stadium and in Texas Stadium the past 16 years.  The poor home field advantage has been the fault of the team, not the fans.  You can't blame these fans for not being intimidating when they are just waiting for an accident to happen almost every single time they take the field.

Be honest, when they came all the way back to take the lead yesterday, did you expect them to win the game?  I sure as hell didn't.  Especially when the Giants took the lead back.  I knew when they took the lead back, no way would Dallas find a way to win that game.  And when it looked like they just might complete the dramatic comeback, Dez's TD catch was overturned and that was it.  A couple of more plays of not doing anything, and it was a wrap.  No doubt were the Cowboys losing that game.  Absolutely none.  What you see is what you get with these Cowboys.  Nothing has changed.

Just ask yourself, do you expect fans to give a home field advantage to a team that doesn't deserve it?  Sure, you want the fans cheering for them every week, and they do that before kickoff.  But seriously, what is there to cheer for these days when shortly after kickoff they get down early in seemingly every game, have game-changing turnovers in spectacular and laughable fashion, and lose almost every big game?  I wouldn't.  Before you criticize the fan base for the lack of noise, criticize the team for the way they come out flat and play like a mid-major college football team.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Reaction to the James Harden trade

James Harden
Good lord was I shocked to find out that the Oklahoma City Thunder had traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets.  Completely unexpected and caught me off guard.  What a way to get the juices flowing before the NBA season kicks off Tuesday down there in South Beach.  What a heck of a way to end a wild day where I saw my Hogs lose yet again, the Florida Gators lose to their rivals the Georgia Bulldogs, Marcus Lattimore suffers one of the most eyebrow-raising injuries(Not Safe For Eyes) I've ever seen, and Notre Dame goes into Boomer Sooner land and defeats them without leaving any doubt whatsoever of who was the better team. 

This day would end in a bang with news of this blockbuster trade.  I'm still trying to wrap my head around this trade.  I'm not sure who even wins the trade in the long run.  So the Rockets get James Harden and fillers for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks, and a second-round pick?  That seems like a lot for a bench player.  I'm fully aware that Harden is a starting caliber player in the NBA, but he was a bench player for the Thunder.  I think the Lakers gave up less for Dwight Howard, the best center in basketball.

Conversely, the Thunder lose James Harden, a dynamic player off the bench who helped them get to the Finals.  A deal like this basically ends any chance for a return trip to the Finals.  Why you say?  Because Kevin Martin is not James Harden.  James Harden is a good defender, a great playmaker, and an efficient scorer who can get to the rim and draw fouls.  On the other hand, Kevin Martin is an atrocious defender, horrible passer, and has some of the worst shot selection.  Kevin Martin can put the ball in the hoop make no mistake about it, but his all-around game is much more limited than Harden's.  There is a reason why KMart is always on losing teams.  He's part of the problem.  At least the Thunder did receive valuable picks in return and Lamb also, so they can be still a title contender in the future, but not in the short-term.  Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kevin Martin just won't cut it in the West.

I've come to the conclusion that both sides lose this trade.  The Thunder lose it because they are no longer a threat in the West.  I was already leaning toward the Los Angeles Lakers coming out of the West before the trade, and after it, it's basically a done deal.  They can't beat this Laker team by replacing Harden with Kevin Martin.  They just can't.  For the Rockets, they do get the best player in the deal, but at what cost?  They paid a big price.  They lose valuable first-round picks, a player with huge potential in Jeremy Lamb, and Kevin Martin.  They are also about to give James Harden a ridiculous contract that he doesn't deserve.  It seems like a splash trade to me for both sides.  Nobody wins.

Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants II

A Giant victory could be on the horizon.
I just have to say, it flat out made me sick to my stomach when Sean Lee was placed on the IR.  I couldn't believe it.  I still can't believe it.  I'm pretty darn pissed off about it.  Too add insult to injury(pun intended), DeMarco Murray won't play this week either.  I'm on the verge of a breakdown.  Somebody needs to hug me before I do something crazy.

No but seriously, this sucks.  How can I get excited about the game this week against the defending Super Bowl champs in a stadium they have never beat said team in and will have to do it without arguably their best defensive player and their top running back?  That's a tall order.  The Cowboys winning this week just might be too much to ask, but it would certainly make me feel better.  If recent history has told me anything, the Giants will come into Cowboys Stadium and leave it with a W.  And of course you know Tony Romo will get all the blame.  Although a loss couldn't possibly anger me any more than I was after hearing about Sean Lee's injury.  The season almost feels like a lost cause already. 

Deep down I can't help but feel like the Giants seem to catch the most breaks against the Cowboys.  Last season, DeMarco Murray essentially missed both games against them after fracturing his ankle in the first quarter of the first meeting between the two teams in Cowboys Stadium.  In the winner-take-all finale they were facing Tony Romo with a swollen-hand while the offensive line was depleted, Felix Jones was playing with one shoulder, and the secondary still had guys like Terence Newman healthy and functioning horribly.  I can't help but laugh at the Romo injury because it was a fluke injury that happened in a game that ended up being meaningless anyway.  I do realize that the Cowboys won in Giants stadium earlier this season and caught some breaks, but let's be real here, that was the first game of the season.  You can't really consider that a "big game" so early in the season.  This Sunday is a "big game" and their season is almost on life support with a loss. These are the type of games that the Cowboys lose, especially when they are facing the Giants.

The Giants just frankly have the Cowboys' number these days, and I expect Sunday to be no different.  I see no reason to pinpoint the key players, keys to the game for each team, and all that other baloney.  This is a game that I just simply don't feel like fooling with all that nonsense because I'm too depressed and the end result will just be a Giant victory.

Literally everything is set up for this Sunday to be a massacre and I'm hoping like hell for the contrary, but I know the massacre is coming.  Losing Sean Lee will be evident right away as Eli Manning picks apart the middle of the field against this defense.  The Cowboys make some plays through the air offensively, but they will make too many mistakes on offense and have breakdowns in coverage defensively that Eli and Victor Cruz will exploit.  The Giants win this one in a Texas shootout 41-27.

I will feel really sorry for Tony Romo and the onslaught that will ensue regardless if he plays well or horribly in the loss(assuming they lose).  It's really not this guy's fault(Yeah I'm already making excuses for him).  You win as a team and you lose as a team, but the Cowboys faithful won't be pleased and many will call for his head.  I have a gut feeling that Romo's time in Valley Ranch is coming near an end.  I have to reiterate--from a previous article-- how much I agree with Skip Bayless' article on Romo.  He will never win a Super Bowl with this team.  This Sean Lee injury just goes to show how he has some of the worst luck and something bad always seems to happen no matter what.  Just when it looks like Romo will have an elite defense behind him for the first time in his career, they lose the heart-and-soul of the defense and its leader.  It's been the epitome of the Romo-era Cowboys.  Death smiles at us all, and all a man can do is smile back.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dallas Cowboys: The formula for winning

In the first six games of the season, I've came away with some interesting but simple numbers.  17, 10, and 14.  Those numbers represent the points the Cowboys gave up in their three wins.  27, 34, and 31.  Obviously, those numbers represent the amount of points the Cowboys gave up in their losses.

In those losses, they had eight turnovers, with five of them coming against Chicago.  They gave up a kick return for a TD against Baltimore.  They gave up a blocked punt for a TD against Seattle while also fumbling the opening kickoff.  The defense forced one turnover.

In those three wins, they had five turnovers with three of them coming against Tampa Bay.  On the other hand, they forced five turnovers as well.

Obviously the strength in teams is noteworthy in those wins and losses, but the fact remains that if the Cowboys have a reasonable turnover differential while not giving up more than two TDs or having backbreaking Special Teams miscues, they'll most likely win the ballgame.

Who knows how different the Seattle game is had the Cowboys not spotted them 10 points to open the game.  Had they just not fumbled the opening kickoff.  Had they just not have a punt blocked for a TD.  The game could be much different and maybe the defense doesn't wear down in the 2nd half.

Who knows how the Bears game plays out had Romo and Dez not badly misread each other on Chris Tillman's pick six when the score was only 3-0.  Or if Romo didn't throw four more interceptions after that including another pick six.  The Bears are certainly a better team than the Cowboys, but if not for those five turnovers, the Cowboys are in better position to win that game.

The Baltimore game is probably the worst loss of the three.  It's a game that they would have won if not for the interception deep in Baltimore's territory, the 108-yard kickoff return for a TD, or a Bailey's 51-yard miss as time expired that was certainly capable of being made.

I could sit here and make excuses through the entire article, but fortunately for you, I won't.  The Cowboys' problems are easily correctable.  It's not open-heart surgery.  They have a great QB who can make big throws when they need it.  They have an improving offensive line.  They have a good defense.  They have good receivers who plays well to their strengths if used properly.  Garrett knows this as well, and I loved the game he called yesterday.  It was one of his best called games.  I loved the fact that despite rushing for only 2.7 yards per carry, they still ran it 28 times and Romo threw it 34 times.  This was despite not having their best running back, DeMarco Murray.  That's balance I would take every single week.  There's nothing wrong with going conservative when you know you have a good defense, and you know your offense can make plays whenever time calls for them to be aggressive.

If you look at the blueprint of the Harbaugh-led 49ers, it's quite simple.  Play physical defense, and don't make mistakes on offense and special teams.  That sounds really simple when I say it, but the Cowboys make it seem really hard.  The 49ers seem to know how to play this way, and that would explain an 18-5 record since the beginning of last season.  If the Cowboys ever adopted that blueprint and executed it, they could possibly be better than the 49ers because they do have a QB who can win them games unlike the aforementioned.

Formula for winning:

  • Stay committed to the running game- Don't be afraid to run the football to protect Romo and make things easier for him.  You have a lead back in Murray who is dangerous.  You have a homerun threat in Felix Jones as a change of pace back.  You have a bruiser in Phillip Tanner.  Use that to your advantage.
  • Limit turnovers-  Missing open receivers is tolerable.  Dropping TDs is a little tolerable.  They just happen sometimes, but turnovers are unacceptable.  This should be the number one thing the Cowboys should try not to do.  Even if they come off too conservatively in doing so.  Do whatever it takes not to turn it over.  The 49ers weren't just 13-3 because they forced 38 turnovers.  No, they were 13-3 because they only had 10 turnovers all season.  When you don't make mistakes, you give yourself a chance to win almost every ball game.
  • No Special Teams mistakes- You may give up some good field position from time to time, but at least try to avoid giving up punts or kick returns for TD.  Try not to get your punts blocked too.  These little things have cost the Cowboys two games already this season.
  • Getting takeaways-  You need to limit turnovers, but you also need to force them.  When you play six of your first nine games on the road, if you want to be over .500 in that stretch, you better force turnovers.  A simple turnover probably is enough to beat Baltimore and they are 4-2 instead of 3-3.
  • Limit the other team to no more than two TDs- You see the Cowboys are 3-0 when they don't give up more than two TDs in a game.  Hmmm.....I could be onto something here.  But I could say this for just about any team besides the Kansas City Chiefs.
This formula seems pretty simple and really isn't that innovative, but these ideas would win the Cowboys a lot of games.  Especially when you are in the NFC East where just about every team is prone to turnovers.  Contrary to popular belief, the Cowboys simply aren't as talented as many make them out to be.  They aren't more talented than the Giants, and they aren't more talented than the Eagles.  They aren't more talented than many teams in the NFC, but the 49ers aren't either.  That is why playing mistake-free football with sound defense and Special Teams is pivotal for these Cowboys.  That is how the 49ers win ballgames.  The Cowboys can't simply make a lot of mistakes and win ballgames like the Giants or Eagles can.  Eli can throw three picks in one half and still lead his team to a win, because he's that good, and so is the talent around him.  Vick may not be as great as Eli but the Eagles can get by with his mistakes too.  Not as often as Eli, but Vick does have the talent around him to make up for mistakes.  The Cowboys aren't that talented, so they need to be playing mistake-free football at all times.  They beat the Giants largely because they didn't make any backbreaking mistakes, and the one mistake they made, was covered by a great goal-line-stand by the defense.

Critical mistakes in Special Teams and turnovers offensively contributed largely to all three losses.  Simply adopting a more conservative approach with more emphasis on protecting the football would do them some good.  What I've seen the past two weeks gives me a little hope.  Despite the loss to Baltimore, I felt like the offense was doing all it could to protect the football.  Romo's interception was a little phantom considering Ogletree was interfered with and it was not called.  Without the Special Teams TD, they probably win that game.  For the past two weeks they've run the football a lot and have kept Romo grounded.  That's a recipe for success.

It won't hurt if they can get a little healthier too with DeMarco Murray next week.  Their running game is simply better when he's in the line up.  If there is anything we learned from Anthony Spencer's absence is that that side of the ball is tons better when he's in the line up.  As long as he stays healthy, the Cowboys defense should continue to sport one of the top defenses.  If they force more turnovers, the offense doesn't make mistakes, and the Special Teams plays sound, they will win more games than they lose.  But we all know the Cowboys never make it this easy.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers

Romo will look to snap a two-game losing streak in Carolina.
I'm personally still recovering from last week's defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.  It's a game I feel like they should have won.  Eerily similar to last year's loss to the Pats coming off the bye week.  The Cowboys certainly didn't deserve to beat the Ravens because at the end of day it's about putting more points on the board than the other team, not racking up more yards than them.  The Ravens scored a lot of points with little time of possession and they deserve credit for it.  It says a lot to me that the Ravens can play mediocre for three straight games and come out on top.  Not only that, but the Cowboys couldn't have possibly played better than they played in Baltimore last week.

A win in Baltimore could have possibly made me think differently about this team's chances of competing for a playoff spot and maybe making a deep playoff run.  It's one of those measuring-stick type of games where you see how a playoff-hopeful team stacks up against a Super Bowl-contender that they normally don't play.  Yet I'm left feeling the exact same way as I did after the loss in Foxboro last season.  Makes me feel that this season will be just more of the same:  Good, but not good enough.  But let He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named tell it, the Cowboys can be a Super Bowl team despite this loss.  I'm not so certain.

I echo Skip Bayless' sentiments regarding Tony Romo and these Romo-era Cowboys.  I don't think I could have said it any better than Skip said it.  Something will always go wrong no matter how much good they do.  They may beat the Tampa Bays of the world, and maybe even the Carolinas, but what does it matter if they can't win the big ones like last week?


And speaking of Carolina, they are coming fresh off of a bye week after a disappointing 1-4 start to the season.  Yet, they are not last place in the NFC South division like these 2-3 Dallas Cowboys thanks to their lone win being against the 1-4 New Orleans Saints.

On the surface, it looks like one of those games the Cowboys should win yet they could lose.  The Cowboys know they can't afford to lose this game or their season is pretty much on life support.  The Panthers already know their season is pretty much over with the Falcons being so far ahead of the pack in the division as they are 6-0 heading into their bye week.  So every game from this point forward is playing for pride.  They'll look to put the Cowboys in the same boat as them at 2-4.  Cam Newton has a tendency to make such god-awful atrocious throws, but the Cowboys have a tendency of not forcing turnover-prone QBs into mistakes or "takeovers."  Hell, they don't force turnovers period.  Nearly dead last in the NFL in takeaways with only four in five games.  Something's got to give this week.

Keys to a Cowboy victory:

  • Get "takeovers."
  • The offense needs to show up like it did last week.  
  • Kill the Panthers will and the crowd early by scoring TDs and making stops defensively.
  • Don't make any stupid mistakes.
  • Get Romo going early.
  • Keep Cam Newton in the pocket.

Keys to a Panther victory:

  • Establish running game early.
  • Force multiple turnovers.
  • Cam must be a dual-threat to keep the Cowboys defense off balance.
  • Steve Smith must have a big game.
  • Win the Special Teams battle.

Key players for the Cowboys:

  • Anthony Spencer- Not sure if he's playing, but if he is, that's great news for the Cowboys' defense.  They will need his ability to stop the run and spy Newton in this one.
  • Sean Lee- He must keep an eye on Greg Olsen at all times.
  • Bruce Carter- He must make sure Cam Newton doesn't kill them with his feet.
  • Miles Austin- I feel like this is a week where Austin could have a field day against this secondary.

Key players for the Panthers:

  • Cam Newton- Pretty obvious, but Newton must play nearly flawless for the Panthers to win this game.  
  • Luke Kuechly- I'm curious to see how Luke does against a hot Cowboys rushing attack.  If he has a big game, he can help make the Cowboys one-dimensional.
  • Jordan Gross- How he plays against Ware will be critical in protecting Newton.  If he can keep Ware in check, Newton will have plenty of time to survey the field and possibly take off running for big yardage.  The Cowboys don't get much pressure from anyone outside of Ware.
  • DeAngelo Williams- The Panthers need the old DeAngelo to show up tomorrow.  The one who could take it to the house at any moment.  If they get DeAngelo going, the Cowboys could have a tough time stopping this offense.


This will be the first time the Cowboys face Cam Newton, so it won't be easy.  At this point, I wouldn't be surprised either way.  The Cowboys could blow the Panthers out or they could lose in a close one.  The day in the life of a Dallas Cowboys fan.   I say this game is nail-biting close with the Cowboys edging the Panthers 23-20.  I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The owner of the Dallas Cowboys talks Super Bowl, laughable

He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is never at a loss for words.  After falling to the depleted Baltimore Ravens 31-29 last Sunday, he has the guts, the nerve, the audacity to suggest that this Dallas Cowboy team can win the Super Bowl.  The dark lord's recent comments about the Cowboys chances in hoisting that Lombardi trophy is the talk of Valley Ranch once again.  This is absolutely ridiculous.  This is absurd, ludicrous, and unbelievable.  There aren't enough words to describe this.  Is he serious?  Is he really serious?  Really?  I mean really?
"We've got to have some wins to make sure we're in the hunt. But we are fresh off, I keep pointing it out, a world champion that won nine of 16 ballgames last year.  We know that you want your team as healthy and as in sync as it can be as we get on in to the end of the season. We know that we've played one division game and won it. We've got those guys, the Giants, coming back in here. We know that's going to be a big game for us.  All of those things give us a chance to take a team that is evolving into -- if you look at the pluses against the Ravens -- evolving into a team that can be a team that can compete for the championship. Not next year, this year.  I'm not into everybody getting better, learning for years to come," Jones said. "It's this year."
What does it matter how many games the Giants won in the regular season last year?  They were a good football team who had a brutal schedule.  That contributed somewhat to their 9-win season.  The Giants have in place everything that it takes to win a SB, so regardless of record, they were a dangerous team if they could get in.  They had a QB who already won one SB and is absolutely unconscious in the clutch.  One of the best front 7s in all of football.  Arguably having the deepest defensive line in the game.  A head coach who's won a SB before.  Not as some back-up QB, but as a head coach.  A franchise that's won multiple playoff games in the last decade and a half.  A GM who is actually great at what he does.  They don't have some owner who masquerades as a GM.  The Giants back up their talk.  Those were the New York Football Giants, not the Detroit Lions.  The Giants know how to win.  That wasn't just some ordinary 9-win team.

Frankly, the Cowboys just don't know how to win.  It's not just because the quarterback can't win big games or makes bad decisions at the worst times.  It's not just that the head coach can't coach because he's trying to do too many things at once.  It's not just because the defense gives up big plays and rarely makes any in big moments.  It's because of the owner.  It starts at the top.  You wanna know why this team walks around with this sense of entitlement?  It's because of the owner.  The arrogance to make such comments is baffling to me.  The complete disregard for the fact that the other teams are professional too. 

There is nothing wrong with him being confident in his team, but you have to crawl before you walk.  He talks about winning the Super Bowl when his team has one playoff win since the beginning of Bill Clinton's second term as POTUS.  Try to make the NFC Championship game first.  Let a young, brilliant, savvy businessman take over GM duties.  Stop meddling with the players and the coaches.  Let the head coach give injury updates, not you.  I want to hear from the players and coaches more than I want to hear from the owner.

He thinks this team can win a Super Bowl when they can't properly execute at the end of ball games.  The Cowboys need to learn how to win football games first before they start talking about Super Bowl.  And not just any games, playoff games.  A team that is 2-3 with two blowout losses is not ready to win a Super Bowl.  Super Bowl teams usually don't have quarterbacks who throw 5 interceptions in a nationally televised game.  They typically don't have the third worst turnover differential in the L.  They probably don't give up 108-yard kick returns for TDs, fumble opening kickoffs, or have punts blocked in pivotal road games.  They are better at clock management in late-game situations.  They have receivers who make big plays in key moments, not dropping 2-point conversions with the game on the line.  So I have to ask, how is this a Super Bowl team?

That win in New York to open the season is a distant memory; as if that win really mattered anyway in the grand scheme of things.  Winning divisional games isn't everything.  I remember a certain Oakland Raiders team going 6-0 in the division yet missing the playoffs because they finished 2-8 against opponents outside of the division.  Rare indeed, but the dark lord shouldn't be hanging his hat on that division win in New York well over a month ago.  The bottom line is the Cowboys aren't as good as the Giants.  Heck, the Cowboys aren't even good, they are mediocre.  Contrary to popular belief, the Cowboys are not all that talented.  They definitely aren't as talented as the Giants.  They aren't as mentally tough as the Giants.  Their franchise isn't run as well as the Giants.

If the Cowboys want to be anything like the Giants of last season and 2007, they can start by running ship like the Giants.  Hire a real offensive coordinator so the head coach can be a full-time head coach.  Hire a real GM so they can consistently draft well as those New York Giants do.  Build an elite front 7 that can make life hell for the opposing quarterback.  Control the quarterback's school-yard play mentality.  Most importantly, the dark lord needs to take a backseat and stop setting unrealistic expectations for such a mediocre team.  Sign paychecks and stay hidden..  The braggadocio act only works if your team is actually good and winning playoff games.  It doesn't work when all of America is laughing at you, your team's ineptitude, your team's tendency to lose games in embarrassing fashion, your self-aggrandizing, your laughable home record in your billion dollar stadium, and this sense of entitlement.  Instead of worrying about being like the Giants, you need to be like the Texans first.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rob Ryan's defense hasn't been all that creative

Rob Ryan has been all bark and no bite.
Coming into this season, all the talk was about how these mercurial Dallas Cowboys needed to address the secondary to give Rob Ryan the tools necessary to improve a laughable defense into something possibly great.  For the most part, the pass defense has been drastically improved.  However, there is one problem, Rob Ryan's defense still hasn't been as creative as we all thought it would be.

You look at the Cowboys stats so far this season, and they are sitting pretty at 4th in the league in total defense, and 2nd in pass defense.  Only there are a few problems with these misleading stats; they are giving up nearly 24 points per game and they have exactly four turnovers in five games.  That is putrid.  In a way, it completely negates the fact that they have a top 5 overall defense.  Sure, you can blame it on Carr seeing as he has zero interceptions.  Claiborne has zero interceptions.  As a matter of fact, nobody in the secondary has a single interception.  Only Sean Lee has an interception for this defense in five games, and that was only because of a dropped pass by D.J. Ware that popped up in the air right into Lee.  So in other words, this defense hasn't legitimately gotten one interception all season.

If you are going to point fingers, why not start at the head of the snake?  Let's talk about the great Rob Ryan, son of Buddy Ryan, and brother of headstrong Rex Ryan.  All Cowboy fans have heard about Rob since his hiring was that he was a creative defensive mastermind that has never had as much talent anywhere as he does in Dallas.  He made his presence felt immediately by taking a jab at the "dream team."  Exemplifying what Rob Ryan's D has been all about.  All talk and not much to show for it.

The Cowboys would proceed to get absolutely destroyed by the Eagles in Philadelphia, and then the Eagles would complete the sweep in Dallas just before the Week 17 showdown in MetLife Stadium for the divisional crown against the eventual SB champion New York Giants.  A lot of talking and a lot of doing nothing.

Many wouldn't hold him accountable for contributing to last season's five 4th-quarter-collapses because he didn't have the right players.  Maybe that's true to a degree, but we are at the point now where there is no more excuses.  Here we are in 2012 and Dallas has forced all of just four turnovers in five games.  In-game adjustments by Ryan have been questionable in almost every game.  Not blitzing Russell Wilson or adjusting to what Seattle was doing in the 2nd half.  The blown assignments in the 2nd half against the Bears.  Letting Baltimore get whatever they wanted when they needed it. Where is this defensive mastermind that I've heard so much about?  He's got the guys that he needs.  They spent 50 million dollars to bring in Carr.  They traded up to the 6th pick in the draft to get an elite cornerback prospect in Morris Claiborne.  They cut aging Terence Newman, Bradie James, and Keith Brooking while Bruce Carter is paired with Sean Lee.   Yet here we are and the defense has yet to force any type of big plays.

As much flack as Jason Garrett has received for not being creative with his playcalling, getting too cute, and being highly predictable, Rob Ryan has gotten a pass for the same thing.  Nobody is being fooled by his defensive looks.  Eli Manning wasn't fooled.  Russell Wilson wasn't fooled, Freeman wasn't fooled, Jay Cutler wasn't fooled, Flacco wasn't fooled.  One of those guys is a 2x Super Bowl champion and one of them is a rookie, but the other three are very turnover prone quarterbacks.  Yet Ryan's looks forced one single interception against them.

Yards per game for and against are meaningless in this league if you hardly do anything with it.  That was evident today in the loss at Baltimore.  The Cowboys gained nearly 500 yards of total offense and 40 minutes of time possession while Baltimore barely eclipsed 300 total yards and just under 20 minutes of time possession.  Oh by the way, no team rushed for more yards against the Ravens in their franchise history than the Cowboys did today.  To Garrett's credit, the offense did its job but you can't say the same for Ryan.  All it took was one big defensive play and Dallas likely would have won that game.

Today's game was a microcosm of Rob Ryan's defense playing it safe, getting too cute, and not making big plays.  Think back to the 3rd and long just before the half a few plays after Romo's interception.  Joe Flacco converts a 3rd and 14 to Boldin simply because Rob Ryan dropped 8 men back in coverage and Flacco had ample time to sit back in the pocket and pick them apart.  Somehow, Bruce Carter got stuck on Anquan Boldin.  Showing how Ryan just likes to get too cute.  It's 3rd and long.  How about a blitz to force the ball out of Flacco's hands quickly?  How about making sure that a great WR like Boldin doesn't end up on a linebacker?  3rd and 14 is not that insurmountable in today's pass-happy league so playing it safe can do more harm than good.  The Ravens would eventually go on to score a TD just before half, which was the worst possible thing that could have happened.

Ryan likes to get too cute in confusing the opposing quarterback.  He loves to rotate as many guys as he can.  He loves to show all types of pretty-looking formations, but it's translating into nothing.  Say what you want about Romo, Garrett, the receivers, and all the other problems they have offensively, but Rob's unit is not getting it done.  The yards are nice and I'm certain many will point to where the Cowboys are ranked defensively, but it's meaningless if they aren't forcing turnovers and making big plays to give Romo and this offense a little push.  Where is this creative pressure I'm supposed to be seeing?  I'm not seeing anything special.  I'm seeing a bunch of presnap movement, but only satisfactory results.  I'm not seeing any type of special blitzes.  I'm not seeing disguised coverages that fool QBs.  I'm not seeing anybody outside of Ware getting to the quarterback.  I thought improved secondary play was supposed to improve the pass rush because this defensive guru would dial up his mastermind blitzes because he finally had the cover corners necessary to do so?

All I'm seeing is a team who can get some stops on 3rd down, but can't make any game-changing plays and are giving up too many points at the worst times.  The Ravens had the ball for all of 19 minutes yet carved out 24 points from it.  Partly because of a collapse at the end of the first half where the Ravens marched 80 yards down the field in under two minutes to go up 17-10, and another drive that resulted in a touchdown in the 4th quarter where they marched the ball 73 yards down the field in under four minutes when the score was 23-24.  Characteristics of the same things we saw a year ago in those comical 4th quarter collapses.

And who knows just what the Cowboys record could be had Victor Cruz not dropped critical passes, had the replacement refs noticed Scandrick holding Cruz in the endzone, or if Romo and Ogletree hadn't connected on the 3rd and long to seal the game.  Was there any indication that the defense would have stopped the Giants had Romo and Ogletree not converted the 3rd down?  The Cowboys led 24-10 and the Giants marched right down the field to make it 24-17.  Had they gotten the ball back, there is a good chance that the game is sent into OT, and all the good that Dallas had did within the game would be erased. 

Why the Giants marched right down the field was because Rob Ryan played it safe instead of bringing pressure.  Why he was doing that in the first place was questionable with over five minutes left in the ballgame.  Nobody could forget that debacle against these same Giants in Cowboys Stadium in the previous season where they squandered a 12 point lead with just over five minutes remaining. 

Who knows if they escape against Tampa Bay if not for Tampa's own suspect playcalling or a missed call that wiped away a Tampa Bay defensive TD.  And right on cue, when Tampa was desperate for points late in the game, they drove right down the field on Ryan's D and kicked a FG to make it a six point game.  By then it was a little too late, but it's yet another example of how Rob Ryan's D can look good for stretches of the game yet seemingly give up huge chunks of yardage to allow the opponent a fighting chance in the end of games or in last year's case, win the games.

Yards clearly don't tell the whole story with Ryan's D.  The Cowboys haven't been an elite defensive team this season, even though stats may suggest it.  The turnovers are few and far in between.  They give up too many points whenever the other team needs it most.  How can Carr or Claiborne make plays on the ball when Ryan's blitzes aren't hitting home?  Or how about the lack of blitzes?  It's clear that nobody is being fooled by these different looks that Ryan shows.  Maybe it's time to get back to the basics.  Maybe it's time to blitz more and more to allow this secondary to prove their worth.  Maybe it's time to take some chances and stop worrying about not giving up the big plays.  You should only play this super-conservatively when you are up by 3 TDs, not when you are in a dogfight.  They may give up big plays if they take more chances, but they will also make big plays.

Just maybe if this defense starts making some big plays and helping out this offense, you'll see the Cowboys win more games.  Maybe Cowboy fans will have a reason to get noisy in Cowboy Stadium if the defense can start making some plays.  Jason Garrett is taking all the heat and Ryan is getting off easy.  His defenses haven't been all that was advertised.  Ryan hasn't shown that he is capable of confusing the opposing quarterback on a game-to-game basis.  He has proven to not be all that creative with his scheme.  He hasn't really been any better than Wade Phillips.  His posturing fits perfectly with a franchise owned by He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.  He's just one problem of a long list of problems in Valley Ranch.  Ryan's D has done a lot of barking but no biting.  Not even a little nibbling.