Thursday, January 22, 2009

Slings & Arrows

IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME since being a Dallas Cowboys fan has been this embarrassing, if recent reports of widespread dysfunction, bad morale and lack of discipline are to be believed. Seems like everyone and their proverbial mama has the inside dope on why, or at least a plausible theory on how it's all devolved since that 12-1 start just a season removed. The problem here for the Cowboy fan is what to believe: separating fact from fiction, sensationalism from reality, and long-time biased Cowboy haters from objective, reputable sources.

This morning the first thing I hear out of my trusty old Westclox is ESPN's Mike & Mike discussing the state of the Cowboys, specifically an article that morning in the Dallas Morning News that excoriated Jerry Jones for his mismanagement and lambasted Tony Romo for his play down the stretch. Actually, Greenberg and Golic went on to stick up for Tony Romo, who got his share of the blame for the Cowboys' late season collapse.

Greenberg said, "If you're giving up on Romo, you're out of your mind. He can still be great." Then they kind of went around the league and concluded that only 8 other teams really had better "quarterback situations" than Dallas.

But if Cowboy bashing is the cottage industry that it seems to be, then oh what a week it's been for untold legions of Cowboy haters across this great nation. No matter where you turned, there was another report of Team Turmoil's sorry state, more chronicles of their impending demise, free advice on how to right the ship, or plane as it were, and of course the low blows and cheap shots. It was about as pretty as a lengthy Joan Rivers closeup. Here's a sampling:

From Calvin Watkins in Tuesday's Dallas Morning News:

"Multiple sources close to the team paint a picture of turmoil inside the locker room far greater than originally thought, and the organization is determined to solve the problems. Sources say there were many issues this season that call into question team discipline, commitment and accountability.

The team charter left late for road games five times this season because players were late to the airport according to three sources. The total represented more than half of the eight regular season away games. Sources declined to name the late players. The Philadelphia trip was delayed by more than an hour.

Compounding those disciplinary issues was a growing problem of relationships between players and coaches. Sources said players lost respect for defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, who came across more as a player than a coach and made what they termed questionable play-calling. According to five sources, several offensive players lost respect for Garrett for his failure to corral quarterback Tony Romo in practice.

Romo, sources said, often forced throws in practice and often did not treat practice work consistently. The quarterback's practice habits were so bad, sources said, that they affected the way he played in games and could have factored into the offense's problems."

From Jean-Jacques Taylor's in Wednesday's Dallas Morning News:

"Your Cowboys are the NFL's laughingstock these days. Folks chuckle at the notion of the team plane regularly leaving late for games because players were tardy – no matter how desperately the Cowboys try to spin it by blaming weather or mechanical issues. They laugh at the absurdity of players who earn eight-digit signing bonuses being fined $100 for being late to meetings or missing treatment sessions. Ridiculous.

These days, the owner is a joke. So is the coach. We all know the team is a joke, after its annual December collapse culminated with a pathetic performance in a 44-6 loss to Philadelphia. It doesn't have to be this way forever. Obviously, the Cowboys could make some stunning off-season moves to create a change in culture that will ultimately lead to success.

After six seasons of winning football games at a .565 clip and making three playoff appearances – no wins, though – and capturing one NFC East title, your Cowboys are a joke again. Now, they won't like that characterization. They'll fume. So be it. Occasionally, the truth hurts. But if Jerry is mad, then he should be angry at himself for putting this collection of ill-fitting, underachieving parts together. Or for allowing Tony Sparano to leave for South Beach without recognizing his talent as a head coach. Or for a group of faux stars who led the league in penalties and ranked near the top in turnovers.

The franchise is in shambles. It lacks discipline and leadership. The players do as they please. Accountability is a dirty word. Leadership in the front office and locker room is non-existent. And Jerry wonders why we consider these Cowboys a joke."

Troy Aikman checked in on Tony Romo's practice habits:
"Somewhere in there somebody doesn't think that (Romo) is doing what it is he is supposed to be doing, which I find hard to believe only because I've had the opportunity on a number of opportunities to visit with him. I've talked to him before a number of games in production meetings. He is a real historian when it comes to the game. It's important to him. He wants to be good. And I think that he's got skills that are very unique.

I think maybe things happened so quickly for Tony in terms of obscurity to all of a sudden national spotlight that he hasn't fully grasped what being the Cowboys quarterback is all about. And you don't go to Cabo the week before a playoff game. You just don't do it...To say 'I don't worry about perception,' you better worry about perception because it is a big part of making it through some very difficult times...I just thought you never wanted to give...anyone reason to think you didn't play well other than you just didn't play well."

From Albert Breer (Sporting News):
"The Dallas Cowboys’ 13-3 season of 2007 was seen as a jumping-off point to a new era of glory. It explains why the Cowboys spent $200 million to sign a handful of veteran players in the offseason. It shows why team officials thought the risk of acquiring Adam “Pacman” Jones was worth it. It’s the reasoning for burning two high picks, one in the middle of the first round, to get wideout Roy Williams in midseason. That 13-3 season? It looks like it could be the high point in a tumble down a steep slope.

But that’s hardly the beginning or end of problems involving the team. Sources have indicated that a divide between the offense and defense grew as the defense rose to the top of NFL rankings, and the offense was splintered by burgeoning controversy involving quarterback Tony Romo, receiver Terrell Owens and tight end Jason Witten late in the season. And in the same way, once the air of accountability that Bill Parcells demanded wore off, after Parcells had been gone for about a year, it wasn’t coming back.

I am very aware that we have the visibility that we have,” Jerry Jones told the Dallas media on Tuesday. “With all of that goes a lot of criticism.” Sometimes, it’s deserved. And yes, sometimes America’s Team is victim to its own high profile. But this isn’t one of those times. The equity built on a 13-3 season has circled the drain."

From Randy Galloway's Thursday Star-Telegram column:

"For the last 20 years, or four U.S. American head coaches later, King Jerry of Cowboy Kingdom has experimented with all forms of government leadership. He had given his country the soft-softer-softest head coach method, and King Jerry also has gone with a couple of iron-fisted dictators. You don’t have to be a Commie to know that democracy based on pacifist leadership has seriously failed in Cowboy Nation. The only success (Jimster), and the only progress (Big Bill) came with leaders who made Castro seem like Howdy Doody. Speaking of puppets, Jerry certainly likes to appoint wooden heads.

The blame, of course, goes to the King. It’s not news that Jerry is a football idiot. But at the moment, Cowboys Parkway in Irving is the Wall Street of the NFL, where a combination of greed and stupidity has reached a crisis point. This is the worst moment of King Jerry’s 20-year reign, even with a roster that is moderately rich in talent, at least on paper.

...Tony Romo should and would be ranked as the No. 1 team concern. The game is about the quarterback. There is no worry in the NFL like quarterback worries, and Romo is now a huge worry. But despite needing a lube job on his brain and his game, Tony currently sinks to third — I said third — on the Cowboy Kingdom list of biggest headaches.

No. 1, by far, is the toxic chemical disaster that spilled across the locker room in December, and shows absolutely no sign of being resolved.Then there’s the No. 2 biggest headache for the Cowboys — lack of locker-room leadership — which directly connects with No. 1, and even No. 3.

Over many years, going back to Tom Landry, we’ve seen some bad teams at Valley Ranch, most of them void of adequate talent. But only in about ’96 or ’97 (as the demise of the Dynasty Days began), can I remember anything remotely close to this mess, and at least to me, this is worse than that."

And finally, from Tim Cowlishaw in Thursday's Dallas Morning News:

"Mike Shanahan has replaced Wade Phillips as a head coach before. Clearly, it's time for him to do it again. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones can put to bed all these tales of woe at Valley Ranch with one easy hiring. All the talk of loose discipline, of in-fighting between teammates, between players and coaches, all the stuff that sounds so crazy and in some cases so irrelevant can be shoved aside.

Here's why the Cowboys can't continue with the Wade Phillips era. Thirteen years and 13 NFC teams. That's what the NFC championship, once a regular playground for your Cowboys, now represents. It has been 13 seasons since the Cowboys played in an NFC title game. That's the longest streak in club history. The previous longest was nine years – Tom Landry's last six seasons and Jimmy Johnson's first three. Now, it has been 13 seasons under five head coaches, which immediately tells you the problem has more to do with Jones than the coaches themselves.

Unless Jones truly believes that "all publicity is good publicity" and he thinks the stories coming out of Valley Ranch for two months now are helping him sell tickets to his new stadium, then Jones knows it's time for major fundamental change at the top.

Or at least as close to the top as Jones will allow any coach to get. All Jones has to do is make that splash during Super Bowl week that he so dearly loves."

THEN TONY ROMO himself weighed in, assuring fans that not making the playoffs was just as devastating to him as it was to them. This became a big issue after Romo seemed to shake off the 44-6 season-ending loss to the Eagles too easily, saying that he was disappointed but that winning a championship wasn't a matter of life and death to him ("If this is the worst thing that ever happens to me, then I'll have lived a pretty good life").

Romo told the Dallas Morning News' Todd Archer that he

"might have tried to find a silver lining to talk myself into feeling OK. But I'm still not OK with it." After that game, Romo collapsed in the shower because of rib cartilage injury. He missed three games with a fractured pinkie, suffered a 13-stitch gash on his chin in the first game and injured his back later in the season, while going through other maladies.

"I think this was definitely the most trying physical year I've had in my athletic career," Romo said. "Sometimes you have to go through that, and if you do go through something like that, you can be stronger."

Romo did not want to talk about his relationship with Terrell Owens, joking, "Haven't we been through that already?" or his practice performance, which sources questioned late in the season.

However, Romo has said he treats practices like games in order to be ready for any situation that might arise when things are for real, and his coaches have never questioned his work in practice.

"I promise you," Romo said, "this football team is going to be a good football team next year."


For a guy whose career record is 27-12 as a starting QB, it sometimes seems like Michael Vick gets better press than Tony Romo lately.

A look at the numbers shows his 81 TDs versus 46 INTs is good enough for a lifetime 94.7 QB rating. However, Romo has become way too cavalier with the football, adding unnecessary fumbles to the risks he takes throwing passes downfield.

Somehow the story of the overachieving undrafted free agent who came from nowhere to become starting QB of the Dallas Cowboys has become overshadowed by the perception that Romo is a celebrity athlete who has become too full of himself.

And whereas once, during the height of Romomania, you would have needed a large fleet of Winnebagos to transport Tony Romo's bandwagon of glad-handers and well-wishers, now all you'd need are a few Little Red Wagons.

As Romo told Peter Jackal of his hometown paper, the Wisconsin Journal Times, in a January 18th column called "Romo's Healing Process Has Begun":

"Believe me, the NFL is such a reality show. Week to week, you’re the best player in the league to the worst player in the league. It all depends on what you’ve done for me lately. That’s part of the game and you understand that. It consumes a lot of your life, this game. I think I’m very lucky to do what I’m doing and have the people around me that I have. It keeps everything in perspective. But it’s also very difficult.”

Almost as difficult as being a Cowboy fan these days.


Anonymous said...

you forgot about the Michael Irvin reality show...

jimithegreek said...

It's been TEN years since the'boys won a friggin playoff game!! Jerry Jones is on his way to becoming Al Davis!!!

Wardens World said...

Actually it's 1996, so it's 12 years going on a lucky 13!