Monday, February 12, 2007

New Ball Coach

After a comprehensive, leave-no-stone-unturned search for the 7th head coach in Cowboys history, owner Jerry Jones selected San Diego Chargers' defensive coordinator and former Bills & Broncos head man Wade Phillips (45-35 record as head coach). An expert in the 3-4 defensive alignment, Phillips was ultimately deemed a better fit than Norv Turner, considered by many to be a front-runner for the job. With Jason Garrett pegged to run the offense and mentor Tony Romo along with last year's play-caller, Tony Sporano, that leaves Phillips free rein to install his more aggressive version of the 3-4, which after all his daddy Bum invented in Houston over 30 years ago when he lined up defensive tackle Curly Culp over the center and a new defensive system was born. Wade was on his father's staff back in 1976 when this strange new front seven formation was born.

Of course, knowledge-challenged Gary Myers of the New York Daily News wrote a Friday column blasting the hire and taking his typical cheap shots at Jones, the Cowboys and Phillips, saying that the choice was uninspiring and lacked imagination and was right out of the "recycled bin" of NFL coaches and that Phillips should fit right in with the Cowboys given his playoff record as a head coach is 0-3 and the Cowboys haven't won a post-season contest in over a decade. Who would Myers have picked? We don't know, because he offered no alternative choice to Phillips. That's not surprising, because Myers has no mind of his own and instead plays to the anti-Cowboy bias in New York. When the Patriots hired Bill Belichick many writers said he was a failure following his mediocre stint in Cleveland. Everyone loved the Redskins hiring Steve Spurrier out of the college ranks, everyone praised the Dolphins when they plucked Lou Saban out of LSU. Seemed like great moves at the time but later proved to be disastrous. The fact is that no one knows how it will turn out; it's all a big crap shoot. But to blast the move beforehand is unfair to Phillips––a Texas-born football lifer who has reached the pinnacle of his profession after paying his dues for 30 years. Only a piece of human crapola like sorry-ass Myers would think to rain on the guy's parade. Myers doesn't even have the pulse of a team in his own city, the Giants, and is said to be detested in their locker room.

Myers was dead wrong four years ago on the Bill Parcells hire like most of his brethren; all the sheep in the media were sure the Jones-Parcells marriage wouldn't last a year when of course it lasted four full years––four years of drafts and free agent signings that greatly bolstered the Cowboys talent level to the point where they will be perennial contenders for years to come.

If the Giants had fired Tom Coughlin as they were on the verge of doing following their disappointing season and hired Phillips, you can bet that Myers wouldn't have had the cojones to write anything negative. Sure you can disagree with the move, but for a team that's poised to win now, hiring a coach with 30 years experience in the NFL––one who's loved by former players like Luis Castillo and was the leading candidate to replace Marty Schottenheimer following the 2007 season––is the right move. After all, no less an expert than Peter King of Sports Illustrated put his seal of approval on the move, as did most NFL insiders. Like most rational people, I'll take King's opinion over Myers' any day of the week, as well as a host of other NFL writers, hardly Cowboy lovers, who managed to objectively see the move for what it was: a smart, solid hire ... Here's another positive take on the move by another SI scribe, Mike McAllister.

It's my opinion that at this stage of his career, Parcells was a better evaluator of talent than actual in-game manager––meaning he's better at shopping for the groceries than doing the actual cooking ... There's no shame in that. The same can be said of some of the best coaches in NFL history. Ex-Cowboys coa
ch Jimmy Johnson also falls into that category. That means Jerry Jones, in his role as team GM, will now take less of a back seat when it comes to future personnel matters.

Of course the Dallas media has their share of Cowboys haters who trot out the same old tired arguments against Jerry Jones whenever possible.
Gil LeBreton is one such hack but is hardly alone. Negativity always sells more papers. Those of you in New York probably wouldn't believe the avalanche of anti-Bill Parcells commentary following his departure, or maybe it was obvious given the love-hate relationship Parcells has always fostered with sportswriters; it seems nobody is neutral when it comes to The Tuna. ****************************************************************
Football On Hiatus Till August
To some it's just a bunch of grown men in funny get-ups running into each other. To me and lots of others it's become a way of life and stands as one of the greatest things ever invented or concocted. Nothing brings out the best and consequently worst in people like the gut-check spectacle of modern pro football––excepting maybe politics, warfare & 8th grade dodgeball games. You always hear baseball weenies counting down days till pitchers & catchers report to spring training, but all I know is that it's less than 6 months until chinstraps are buckled and footballs start spiraling through the hot summer air again and the preseason begins in earnest. But of course there is really no offseason in football.

Cowboys fans are eagerly awaiting the completion of the coaching staff. Holdover Todd Bowles, the well-respected secondary coach under Mike Zimmer for the last two years and a players' favorite, is a leading candidate to be named defensive coordinator later this week. That will give us two bright young coordinators and, looking down the road, possible future head coaching candidates. The free agency period begins in earnest on March 1. Of course the draft is in late April. Mini-camps in May. And then NFL training camps begin in late July.
The Pro Bowl, won by the AFC 31-28, was actually a pretty good game. While some look at it as a paid vacation to Hawaii, others take it a lot more seriously. Put Redskins' safety Sean Taylor in the latter category. One of the hardest hitters of the last decade, no one told him it's only an exhibition game, as his bone-jarring hit on Buffalo P Brian Moorman could be heard all the way back to the mainland! Who would even call for a fake punt in a Pro Bowl? That would be mad genius Bill Belichick, coach of the AFC. That's probably be the last fake punt Moorman tries for a good, long while ... Dallas's own Tony Romo, one of seven Cowboys players in uniform for the game, came thisclose to being named MOP (Most Outstanding Player), leading the NFC squad from 14 points down to tie the game late in regulation before a cheap pass interference call gave the AFC the win and Bengals' QB Carson Palmer the award ... The positive is that Romo got a chance to wash away the bad vibes from the playoff loss to Seattle and have fun again on the football field, as well as hold flawlessly on FGs and PATs ... By the way, not only did NFC Coach Sean Payton lose his starting QB Drew Brees to injury following a borderline dirty hit by the Ravens' Terrell Suggs, but stupidly called for a 2-point conversion following the Romo to Anquan Boldin TD that made it 28-20. I know it's not a "real" game, but give your team a chance to win the game. The NFC did convert the 2-pointer following their next TD to tie it, but still...

Romo finish
ed 11-19 for 156 yards, one TD and one INT; Palmer was 8-17 for 190 and 2 TDs ... If you missed the game you missed one incredible 63-yard punt return by, who else, the Bears' Devin Hester ... Joining Romo on the NFC squad were six other Cowboys: DE DeMarcus Ware, TE Jason Witten, C Andre Gurode, P Mat McBriar, T Flozell Adams & S Roy Williams; not all were voted in, of course, but were next in line after the usual injury no-shows ... Romo did win the QB skills challenge, which entailed trying to hit a fixed target about 20 yards away and then one about 40 yards away ... Most importantly for Cowboys fans, Romo was seen enjoying himself. For anyone who saw the kid with head in hand following the botched snap in the Seahawks game, that was a welcome sight. ***********************************************************************
Can't Blame This One On T.O. Dept. It appears Eagles' coach Andy Reid is taking a temporary leave of absence from his duties following the sordid legal problems of two of his sons. It seems one, 23-year-old Garrett, was busted for heroin possession after a traffic accident, while 21-year-old Britt was arrested on weapons charges following an incident of road rage. Maybe Cowboys fans should be as classless as Eagles fans usually are and prepare to greet Reid with a barrage of homemade signs chronicling his personal misfortune next time the Eagles visit Texas Stadium, as they did when T.O. returned to Philly last year. Just a thought ... Remember, for all his on-field histrionics, in his whole career T.O. has never fun afoul of the law off the field.

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