Thursday, September 07, 2006

Big Bill, Little Bill, Bouncing B

WITH ANOTHER NFL SEASON set to kick off tonight, I thought I would throw my two centavos out there. Would it surprise anyone if I told them I had the Dallas Cowboys going to their 9th Super Bowl and winning a record 6th Lombardi Trophy? I didn't think so.

Not only am I in good company, with Sports Illustrated's Peter King and ESPN' s Mike Greenberg joining me in crowning the Boys champs, but I have very solid reasons for thinking the Cowboys can improve on last year's 9-7 record. The beauty of this season is that Big Bill Parcells, the modern era's third best coach of all time behind Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi, has assembled a team full of young studs that is gonna be good for years to come, in the process bumming out legions of Cowboys haters for the foreseeable future. I have the Cowboys going 12-4, winning the ridiculously tough NFC East division title, and besting Little Bill Belichick's New England Patriots in the Ultimate Game. The Sports Illustrated preview issue had every team in the NFC East going 9-7, with the Redskins and Giants going to the playoffs, but has the Carolina Panthers winning it all.

The Cowboys remind me of the New York Mets in a lot of ways. Like the Cowboys, the Mets have used the draft to upgrade their farm system as well as free agency to bolster their roster, running away with the National League East and becoming odds-on favorites to at least reach the World Series. The Cowboys have used the draft to assemble some great young talent, sprinkling in some choice free agent signings of their own. Since the Tuna took over, the Cowboys have drafted keepers like TE Jason Witten, CB Terence Newman, RB Julius Jones, LB DeMarcus Ware, DE Marcus Spears and LB Bradie James, while signing or trading for NT Jason Ferguson, WR Terrell Owens, QB Drew Bledsoe, WR Terry Glenn, G Marco Rivera, K Mike Vanderjagt and CB Anthony Henry.

I would make direct parallels between the Mets' David Wright and Cowboys' Jason Witten, two homegrown fan favorites and matinee idol types; Jose Reyes and Julius Jones, two speedy players who have shown flashes of brilliance in the past while battling nagging injuries but are now both poised to garner league-wide notice; Carlos Delgado and Terrell Owens, two controversial signings that some fans were deadset against (36 home runs later, no one is bringing up the fact that Delgado once refused to stand for God Bless America in protest against the Iraq War); Billy Wagner and Mike Vanderjagt, two "closers" who may blow a save here or there or miss a field goal once in a while but in the end are two of the most successful at their respective positions in history (Wagners 98 MPH fastballs and 319 career saves correlate to Vanderjagt's booming leg and incredible percentage of made FGs, best in NFL history, 23-25 made last year); Carlos Beltran and Jason Ferguson, two strong up the middle horses who had supbar first seasons as heralded free agents due to not being fully healthy but whose talent would not be denied in year two; Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca and Cowboys LB Akin Ayodole were both brought over as missing-piece-of-the-puzzle types who add to the overall toughness and confidence of a team; and Mets pitchers Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine compare favorably to Drew Bledsoe and Marco Rivera, solid veteran additions that bring stability and leadership to the table.

Again, we have such a young team for the most part that we don't have to win it all this year, like the Mets. But I will consider it a successful season if we make the playoffs and win at least one game. I'm sure the Mets will want to at least win the pennant. But as long as the teams I hate don't win it, I won't be totally bent out of shape. That group would include the Giants, Redskins, Eagles, Steelers, Dolphins, Colts, and Panthers; on the other hand I would have no problem with a team like the Chargers winning the Super Bowl, or even someone like the Chiefs, Buccaneers, Falcons... But why not us? It's been 11 years since our last Super Bowl, and 10 years since that ill-fated 1996 trip to Texas Stadium with Tom where we got ripped off in our hotel room, missed flights left and right, and never made it to Dealey Plaza or the Texas School Book Depository, but at least we beat the Falcons on a last minute TD pass from Troy Aikman to Kelvin Martin! I would make another pilgrimmage if we could somehow score playoff tickets to a home game. Let the games begin!

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