Archive for March, 2011

Dez, Dez, Dez…

I am now back from spring break and ready to pick things back up.  I forgot to mention that I would be gone in the first place, but I’m saying it now.  My apologies for that.  Anyway, on to the real story.

So by now, I imagine most have heard about Dez Bryant’s little incident at a Dallas shopping mall, in which he was told to leave the premises after he and some of his friends refused the request of some off-duty security officers to pull up their pants because their underwear was showing.  That in itself wasn’t the real problem.  It was how Bryant reacted to the request:  excessive profanity, of course.

This was reported last week, but I actually didn’t hear about it until yesterday, when I saw a more recent story relating Deion Sanders’ reaction to the event.  As has been said many times, Sanders had been a mentor to Bryant since his time at Oklahoma State, and it was circumstances related to their relationship that ultimately caused Bryant to lose his eligibility there.

Deion Sanders: Courtesy Scott Halleran/Getty Images

So, Sanders throws in his two cents about how Bryant is immature and needs help.  This isn’t anything that wasn’t said before last year’s draft.  All I remember hearing was that he was very talented, but he could have “character issues.”  Most of this stems from the lying incident in college.

Now there is a rift between Sanders and Bryant, one that Bryant doesn’t seem to understand, according to the ESPN story.  Apparently, Sanders operates a youth athletic program, and he doesn’t want Bryant around to potentially negatively influence the children he is trying to mentor.

“I have no desire to speak to the kid. In regards to me, I can forgive, but I can’t forget. You can’t tarnish the other things that I have going on and the other kids. It’s sort of like I can’t allow something to poison the fruit of many other kids. I can’t do it, so I cut off those ties a long time ago.”

I might be out of the loop, which I often am, but I really don’t know what Sanders is talking about.  If all of this comes from the fact that Bryant lied about having met with Sanders, that’s something I don’t quite understand.  Bryant was clearly scared and didn’t know what to tell the NCAA investigators.  He was afraid that having any contact with Sanders would lead to him becoming ineligible (ironic, isn’t it?).  I’m not making light of being dishonest, but he panicked and made a bad decision.

There is clearly more to all of this than what is being said.  For all I have read about this, everything Sanders is saying is pretty vague to me, and he really doesn’t say much.  It does mention that Sanders was upset that he was blamed for Bryant’s lie.  I don’t recall that being the case when all of that came to light, but I could be wrong.  At any rate, Bryant is either as clueless as I am, or he is just playing dumb for the media, because he seems pretty confused by it all.

Dez Bryant speaks at a press conference: Courtesy Vernon Bryant/Dallas Morning News/MCT

I hope this isn’t a sign of future problems for Bryant, for his sake and for the team’s.  So far, the incidents he has been involved in have been relatively minor, but it is still a concern that they are happening in the first place.  At least this is happening in the off-season.  It’s less of a distraction for the team, since no official activities are going on, and for the sake of my blog, I have something to write about.  Thanks for the material Dez, but I’d rather have more positive things going on.

Just as a closing note, I just want to say that I like Sanders and Bryant, and I’m not trying to bash either of them.  I loved watching Sanders play for the Cowboys, and I think he is a fun person to watch and listen to.  I like Bryant, and I think he can be a key contributer for the team for many years.  I much prefer discussing his on field performance any day, and I hope there won’t be any more incidents to take away from what he has done so far and what he is capable of doing in the future.


Season Recap: Game Nine

Week 10 of the 2010 season may not have pitted two more diametrically opposed teams than the Cowboys and the Giants.  Coming into this game, the Giants had won five straight, including a 41-7 victory the week before against the Seahawks, and were sitting at 6-2 overall.  The Cowboys, losers of five in a row, were ushering in Jason Garrett as interim coach following a 45-7 setback against the Packers and were 1-7 on the year.

The first meeting a few weeks prior was a thriller that New York pulled out in Dallas, 41-35.  Not much could have been expected of Dallas in this game, played at New Meadowlands Stadium.  As much as the team had been through in the first half of the season, how could anyone expect a good performance in this one.  Two straight blowout losses and a campaign already down the drain doesn’t tend to instill confidence in players, coaches, or fans.

It must have just been the Cowboys’ day.  It’s been too long since anyone could utter those words sincerely.  I don’t know if the team felt inspired by new leadership or what, but they got it done, 33-20.

It’s highlight time!

Here is a recap from Bleacher Report.  I thought this kind of wrapped it up nicely:

“Garrett got the Cowboys to play with effort and conviction, something that Wade Phillips was practically begging for when still in Dallas. The Cowboys ran the ball, they created turnovers, they had big pass plays and they kept their penalties down, and even when it seemed like the Giants were making a push to comeback, the Cowboys put their heads down and kept fighting instead of saying, ‘Here we go again.'”

Bryan McCann (37) returns an interception for a touchdown against the Giants.

Probably the biggest stat from this game was turnovers.  Dallas forced three and only committed one.  More importantly, it was when they took place that made the bigger difference.  One of them, an Eli Manning interception, was returned 101 yards for a touchdown by Bryan McCann.  At the time, the Cowboys lead 9-3 in the second quarter, and New York had the ball at the two yard line.  A touchdown there would have given the Giants the lead and the momentum to go with it.

A sequence of plays in the fourth quarter greatly impacted the game.  First, a 48-yard Manning touchdown pass was wiped out by a holding penalty.  Dallas was ahead 33-20 at the time, with under eight minutes to play.  The next play, a bad snap led to a turnover, and the Cowboys were in business.  They missed a field goal a few plays later, but the damage had been done.  Then, with under three minutes to go, Eli Manning threw another red-zone interception, and that was all she wrote.

There were a lot of positives to take away from this game, aside from the fact it was a victory.  The running game was better, if not spectacular.  As a unit, the running backs gained 100 yards rushing, although the 3.6 yards per carry is a bit anemic.  Felix Jones contributed in the passing game as well, taking a screen pass 71 yards to paydirt.

Dez Bryant (88) makes an acrobatic touchdown grab against the Giants.

Dez Bryant again played very well, gaining 104 yards on three catches, with one score, which was an acrobatic play he made around the goal line.  Not to forget anyone, Jon Kitna had a good game, with 300+ yards and three touchdowns and only one interception.  He also averaged almost 15 yards per attempt, compared to fewer than eight per attempt for Manning.  For the defense, a couple of unheralded defensive backs made big plays with the aforementioned interceptions.

The only real negative was the play of kicker David Buehler, who missed an extra point and a field goal, but still managed nine points.

It was as good a start as Jason Garrett could have hoped for, and a better one than most Cowboys fans probably expected.

Record to this point:  2-7

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (left) and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith

It takes a real man to admit when he’s wrong.  Today, I will be a real man.  In my last post, I was optimistic (sort of) in thinking that, although far apart, the NFL and the NFLPA were taking baby steps toward a hopefully happy medium.  To quote myself:

“Here’s hoping for brighter days ahead in this process.  For now, they only have until Friday to get it done, unless another extension is put into place.  The chances of that happening can’t be good, so I imagine we’ll see another extension announced in the next couple of days.”

Nothing earth-shattering, but wrong is wrong.  My expected deadline extension did not come to pass, but rather, the players’ union decertified, and now this mess is headed to court.  Basically, the union no longer officially represents the interests of the players.  This article does a good job of explaining why the union chose to decertify and how it impacts this whole process.  The long and short of it is that decertifying the union allows individual players to file antitrust lawsuits against the NFL, as well as file an injunction, thereby requiring the NFL to continue operating in the current manner.  If the union did not decertify, players would have to wait six months after the CBA expired (which was this past Friday) before they could file a lawsuit.  By then, it would be September, and any hopes for a 2011 season would likely be gone.

Like I’ve been saying, I didn’t expect it to go this far.  Perhaps I should have, but I guess I’m just the eternal optimist.

Nobody wants to see empty stadiums this fall.

The next big event on the NFL calendar is the draft.  The NFLPA has apparently been in contact with some of the top prospects to encourage them not to attend the draft.  Typically, the best 15-20 or so prospects are at the draft, and once their names are called, they walk across the stage and hold up jerseys for their new teams.  So now, if this boycott goes through, when the Carolina Panthers draft Nick Fairley or whoever 1st overall, he won’t be in attendance.  I can’t see any real reason for this other than spite, which is oftentimes a good enough reason to do anything.

Even with a draft, teams can’t sign any of the rookies, nor can new players participate in any activities with their new teams.  It’s a lose/lose all around.  The rookies are still broke, unless their agents can tie them over for the time being, and worse, they aren’t getting acclimated to the NFL.  If a deal is reached, say, this July or August, what time will there be for them?  By that point, training camps are getting started and the preseason is around the corner.  It will really put rookies at a disadvantage if they can’t be involved with their teams before that point.

I’ll be blunt:  It sucks writing about all of this.  I wish there were better things going on right now, but such is the world we live in.  It’s happening, whether any of us likes it or not.  Until next time, I’ll just keep hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

More Laboring Talks

In what continues to be a saga filled with more twists and turns than a daytime soap opera, the NFL’s current collective bargaining negotiations with the NFL Players Association took a step in the right direction today, although it may have been a relatively small one in the grand scheme of things.

"Hey, must be the money!"

Both sides have reportedly agreed to a restructuring of rookie salaries.  So far, apparently, details of this agreement have not been released, but it looks to be potentially drastic.  According to Yahoo Sports, “the league’s first proposal called for the top pick in the draft to get a maximum five-year, $19 million deal. Only $6 million of that would have been guaranteed. The deal would have included no bonuses for play time or achievement, such as making the Pro Bowl.”  Compare that to Sam Bradford’s contract as the 2010 first overall pick:  5 years, $72 million, with $50 million guaranteed.  Now that’s a payday.  Not surprisingly, this initial offer by the owners was nixed by the union.

This is an aspect of the negotiations where I, in my limited to nonexistent knowledge of this whole process, would expect both sides to be (basically) on the same page.  To wit, it is clear the rookie salaries were out of control.  Now the players’ union is obviously going to fight for everything it can get for players, but in this case, what’s best for the rookies is not what’s best for the whole group.  Maintaining a high pay scale for rookies doesn’t benefit veterans in any way; in fact, it takes away from a pool of money that could be going to them.  Moreover, the owners don’t want to pay rookies any more than they have to, which is quite obvious when you look at the NFL’s initial offer to cut the salaries down to size.

Another interesting development is the struggle over just how big this pot of gold that must be divvied up will end up being.  The NFL is a $9 billion a year business, but not all of this gets split.  Under the old CBA, $1 billion of this was knocked off the top before the rest was to be shared.  The top, of course, went to the owners.  Now they want more to be taken off the top…$1 billion more.  That was the initial offer, which didn’t fly with the players.  It has been lowered, but nothing has been agreed on yet.  Also, the leader of the union is saying the NFL has not provided enough of the pertinent financial information necessary for meaningful negotiations to be made.  Included in this is the desire to increase the season from 16 to 18 games, which affects the amount of money the players (rightly, IMO) feel they deserve.

So, while nothing earthshaking has happened yet, some baby steps have been taken, which is at least encouraging.  These discussions have a lot of factors at play, and neither side wants to give up what it feels it can get.  Such is the nature of business, and when it’s all said and done, that’s all the NFL is.  It’s not about having fun or entertaining people.  It’s about money, and a lot of it.  Here’s hoping for brighter days ahead in this process.  For now, they only have until Friday to get it done, unless another extension is put into place.  The chances of that happening can’t be good, so I imagine we’ll see another extension announced in the next couple of days.

This game represents the end of one era and the beginning of another for the 2010 Dallas Cowboys.  In a nationally televised primetime game, Dallas got housed by the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers 45-7.  The fact that the Packers did win the Super Bowl makes me feel not quite as bad about this loss?  Yes, I really am asking that, not saying it.

Clay Matthews scores on a pick six.

Like any fan, I try to cover for my team when they lose and have a poor showing in the process.  I try to make excuses and say it wasn’t as bad as the score would make you think, blah, blah, blah.  I have no such argument for this game, though.  I’ll admit, I didn’t actually get to see this game, but I certainly wasn’t upset about it after the fact.

I did, unfortunately, watch these highlights:

This wasn’t one of those blowout losses that hits full force from the opening kickoff.  No, this one was close for almost a full half before it started to get ugly.  There’s not much sense in going into detail about stats.  Just pick one, and it’s very likely Green Bay dominated.  This article suggests that Jones was looking for any reason to keep Phillips for at least the rest of this season, but the blowout in Green Bay left him with little choice.  A lot of factors contributed to this loss.  By this point in the year, the Cowboys were playing such sloppy football every week, that it was certainly a collective effort.  When a team loses by 38, one guy can’t take all the flak.

Dez Bryant scores a touchdown against the Packers.

About the only positive thing to take away from this game, besides getting a new coach out of the deal, which itself is still debatable, was the performance of Dez Bryant, who had nine catches, 86 yards, and the lone score for the ‘Boys.

Leading up to this game, in spite of all of the losses and bad play, Jerry Jones stood by Wade Phillips publicly.  Up to this year, the Cowboys had never made a coaching change during the season, but Jones finally bit the bullet and did what he thought was in the best interest of team.  Normally, I don’t go for firing a coach midseason, but from the perspective of allowing Jason Garrett to have an eight game tryout, it made sense.  The season was over, and what was the sense in delaying the inevitable?  It’s amazing to me how quickly things spun out of control for Phillips, who went from the hero who finally led Dallas to a playoff win for the first time in over a decade to being out of a job less than a year later.

As the Cowboys headed into the second half of the year, I didn’t really expect much.  With a new coach, who may or may not get promoted at some point, nothing was certain.  Really, nothing still is.  Who knows how Garrett will do as a head coach?  How much time will Jones give him?  A lot remains to be seen in Big D.  Going back to an article I cited earlier, Matt Mosley says about Jerry Jones what many Cowboys fans think already:  “As long as he’s in charge of football decisions, it really doesn’t matter who’s serving as head coach. Jones will inevitably do something to undermine the process.”  As for me, I like Jerry Jones for some reason that I can’t really explain.  I know he is too hands on, and some would say he meddles, but I still like him and want to see him put together a winner again.  Perhaps, though, it would be best to hire a general manager.  Maybe he needs to realize that just because he is the owner, it doesn’t mean he has to be in charge of everything.  This game apparently opened up his eyes about Wade Phillips.  Hopefully, he’ll become disillusioned about himself as well.

Record to this point:  1-7

NFL Labor Talks

Aside from the actual games themselves, the big thing that has been discussed ad nauseum during the 2010 season and since its conclusion has been the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.

This article is over a month old, but given the way things are happening so far, it still feels relevant.  Basically, it says the NFL representatives feel the players got too much in the last deal, and they will do what is necessary to make sure it doesn’t happen again.   A few issues that I find interesting:

A rookie salary cap:  The owners want it, and so do I.  Without it, costs continue to skyrocket for unproven commodities.  It makes no sense from a business standpoint to invest so much in something that inherently has a lot of uncertainty.

18 game regular season:  Again, this is something owners want, for obvious reasons.  I don’t want it, though.  16 games just feels right.  I feel that the other three major sports have seasons that are way too long, and I think the NFL is the only one that has it right where it should be.  Besides that, it will almost ensure that many of the single season records in existence now will be broken.

Health insurance:  The players want health insurance benefits extended from five to 10 years for retired players.  I agree with this one.  For all the punishment the players take over a career, it’s only right to take care of them after they are done playing.

Dear NFL: Please don't let this happen

In the last couple of days, two important things have happened in this whole ordeal.  First, the current CBA was set to expire on Thursday night at midnight.  After several meetings over the past week plus, and without any real progress being made, the two sides were at least able to agree to a 24-hour extension to the CBA to facilitate more talks today.  The second important action taken was to again extend the CBA, this time by a full seven days.  This was carried out earlier today.  However, according to the article, the two sides are still miles apart in their negotiations.

Several weeks ago, well before any talks were going to occur, I didn’t have any real concern about the possibility of a lockout.  After all, the NFL is enjoying its highest television ratings, and it is the most popular sport in America.  Why would the owners or the players slaughter such a large cash cow?  The way things are right now, I’m cautiously optimistic that a new labor deal will be enacted in the near future and the NFL’s operations will not be (for the most part) affected this calendar year.

I think I get it, though.  When I was younger, I used to be like (I think) a lot of people are.  Many view the owners and players and all they see is greed.  Perhaps this is so, but if you stop to think about it, neither side is being all that unreasonable.

The players obviously want to get as much money out of this as possible, as do the owners.  This isn’t any different from any other business.  The numbers are higher, to be sure, and I think that tends to be the hangup for many people.  Who wouldn’t want to be earning $10 million per year?  But compared to the slice of pie the owners get, it’s easy to see why players want more.  After all, without them, the owners have no product to sell.  All they want is their fair share, which is really all anyone wants, no matter where he works.  And hey, as fans, if we’re willing to give up our firstborn to go to the games, what reason does anyone have to cut the fans a break?  High salaries and high profits are as much about the fans as anything else.

All that being said, I feel like a deal will be reached sooner, rather than later.  When push comes to shove, I imagine both sides would rather have football and make their money than waste time arguing and canceling the season.  Hockey went through a lockout a few years ago, and if there’s no football, I don’t know what I’ll do with myself come this fall.  Don’t be like hockey, NFL.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are certainly no powerhouse in the NFL.  On this day at Cowboys Stadium, Dallas did all it could to change that perspective.  People ask me all the time (they don’t actually), “Don’t you get tired of writing game recaps when all the Cowboys do is lose?”  To this I say, “Hey, it pays the bills (no it doesn’t).”  It does, however, take a lot out of a man to have to revisit such a sad subject all the time.  The more I delve into this season, the more all of the depressing feelings of it all come flooding back.  At least the games have been competitive so far this season.  All of that was about to change on this terrifying Halloween afternoon.

This picture expresses far better than words how I felt about this season.

In the first full game since Tony Romo’s collarbone injury, the Cowboys came out flat and were never really in this one.  The score at halftime was 14-3, after Dallas screwed up a fourth and goal play in an attempt to get it to 14-10.  The third quarter is where it got bad, though, as the Jaguars tacked on two more scores to effectively put the game away.

I thought that some of these observations about the game were interesting and funny, but in a sad way.  Here’s a couple that I especially liked.

6. Jerry Jones said he was “ashamed” and “dumbfounded” and even went so far to apologize to Cowboys fans. For a guy who wants it so bad and is so invested financially and emotionally, I sorta feel sorry for him. You? Still, I don’t think it makes sense to fire Wade Phillips now.

It’s sad that Jones felt that he had to resort to an apology, but I like the fact that he was holding himself accountable.

3. Appearing on a Cowboys’ 2010 blooper reel in the very near future: Kitna colliding with Marion Barber on the failed 4th-and-1 just before the half, Garrard walking – literally – into the end zone on a fourth-quarter bootleg touchdown and Kitna’s pass bouncing off the star of wide-open Jason Witten’s helmet. Giggle. But somehow not funny.

There’s not much else to add to this.  It’s just sad.

2. Never heard irrationally positive Phillips sound so depressed and defeated. After the game he admitted to being “distraught,” “at a loss” and suggested the Cowboys have to “go back to the drawing board.” Dead Man Coaching, indeed.

This is a good point.  Phillips did seem to be optimistic even if it didn’t make sense, but when he felt at a loss, that should’ve been a clue about his imminent doom.

David Garrard faces little resistance from the Dallas defense on this touchdown run.

Jon Kitna had a big day passing, but was really outdone by David Garrard, who is considered to be an average quarterback by most.  Aside from throwing for 379 yards, Kitna had one touchdown pass and four interceptions.  Garrard played a near perfect game with four touchdowns and no interceptions.  He also rushed for a touchdown.  Turnovers and time of possession were the only real advantages Jacksonville had, but the Dallas defense didn’t put up much of a fight, which probably surprises no one.

To try to end on a happier note, Witten, Austin, and Bryant each had solid games.  They all approached or surpassed 100 yards receiving, and Witten caught Kitna’s only touchdown.

As they say, sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.  Next week it gets much worse.

Record to this point:  1-6