Category: Cowboys (Page 1 of 41)

Next Window, Please

It’s been a typical couple of weeks for the Dallas Cowboys – it would take more than two sex scandals and the release of three starters to seem out of the ordinary for this club. Let’s put aside Rich Dalrymple’s cell phone video and Jerry Wayne’s new daughter and look just at the on-field product.

The window has closed.

Starting receiver Amari Cooper was traded to the Browns for a fifth round pick. The Cowboys say they let Cooper go to save $16-million against the salary cap. The Browns have already restructured Cooper’s contract to save $15-million. CeeDee Lamb is the most explosive of the Dallas receivers, but Cooper was the most reliable. The Cowboys have given Cooper’s money now to Michael Gallup, who will miss a third of this next season with his knee injury. As a  group, the Cowboys receivers are not nearly as good as they were last year.

Starting offensive tackle La’el Collins has left Dallas via free agency for Cincinnati where he will anchor a rebuilt front five to better protect Super Bowl quarterback Joe Burrow. Throughout his seven year career, Collins has been consistently ranked among the best offensive linemen in the NFL. Like he did with Cooper, Jerry released Collins to save $10-million against the cap. As a group, the Cowboys offensive line is less than it was last year.

The Cowboys have also lost explosive linebacker Randy Gregory to the Broncos. He signed the exact same contract in Denver that Jerry had offered him to stay in Dallas. It’s not clear, really, how the Cowboys messed this up. But Gregory claims Jerry and Stephen acted in bad faith during their negotiations. The Cowboys linebackers are not as strong as they were last year.

Ezekiel Elliott is another year older and another step slower – maybe Jerry could get a fourth or fifth round pick from the Jets for him. Dak is seven years into his career now. Who’s playing tight end this next season?

The Cowboys’ best shot at doing anything was last year! Their best chance at ending the 25-year drought without a divisional playoff win was last season. Arguably the best receiving corps in the league. The Defensive Rookie of the Year in Micah Parsons. Trevon Diggs at corner. Both Gregory and Lawrence on the front seven. La’el Collins protecting Dak’s blindside. A $40-million a year quarterback. They went 12-5, won the division, and lost a weird Wild Card game to the 49ers.

This is the season to go all in. Do whatever it takes to keep your current roster intact, add a few players through free agency and the draft to fill some immediate needs, and go for it. Instead, the Cowboys are “restructuring” their salary cap. Get this from Stephen Jones last week: “We could obviously do some things that would allow us to keep most of our guys if we wanted to push it all out, but then we’d have a much bigger problem next year and the year after that.”

Thank you. That’s what happens when the GM and assistant GM know they can never be fired. No urgency. No mandate to compete for a championship. Keep the salaries manageable and the gift shop stocked. That’s the Cowboys.

They won’t be 12-5 next year. And they won’t win a divisional playoff game. That window is closed.

Peace,

Allan

And Then There Were Five

After Cincinnati’s thrilling win over the Titans, there are now five teams in the NFL that have not won a divisional playoff game in at least 26 years. Five teams middling in mediocrity. Five teams that don’t know what they’re doing. Five teams that for more than a quarter century have been irrelevant patsies on those rare occasions they do qualify for the playoffs. Five teams consistently at the bottom of the mix.

Browns. Dolphins. Lions. Deadskins. Cowboys.

That’s some mighty fine company there.

Peace,

Allan

One and Done

Scattershooting while basking in the glow of one of the more delicious Cowboys playoff losses in quite some time.

Back on September 9, I wrote in this space: After the Cowboys last loss of the year, “Jerry Jones will say this is the most disappointed he’s ever been in his professional life.”

On October 20, I wrote in this space: “The powers that be are right now devising the most excruciating, gut-punch way for the Cowboys to get humiliated in January. Again.”

On December 12, I wrote in this space: “The Cowboys have won the NFC East and will host a Wild Card playoff game. But it doesn’t matter. Dallas is not even in the same universe as the other playoff teams.”

When it happens every year for a quarter century, this stuff just writes itself.

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The Cowboys are sloppy. This team was the most penalized outfit in the NFL this season. No team has ever committed more penalties in a playoff game than the Cowboys committed yesterday: 14 penalties total, half of them of the pre-snap variety. No discipline. No focus. The penalties nullified big plays by the Cowboys and kept drives alive for the 49ers. This is not a new problem for Dallas. It’s been an issue all year and going back for several years. In my view, it’s a reflection of ownership and coaching. Since Jerry fired Jimmy and brought in Barry, there’s been an “anything goes” culture in the locker room, on the practice field, and during games. Players are not accountable to their coaches, they are accountable only to Jerry. They know it and the coaches know it. And it manifests in a lack of preparation and concentration on Sunday afternoons.

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The Cowboys have a loser mentality. They blame the refs for all their losses. They’ve been doing it all year. They did it again last night. The coaches and players do not take responsibility for their own mistakes, blaming outside forces for their errors in judgment and focus. That umpire who bumped into Dak after the final play? He was doing his best to HELP Prescott and the Cowboys! If Dak had spiked the ball before the umpire spotted it, it wouldn’t have counted. It would have been an offensive penalty and the game would have ended. The umpire was attempting to help cover Dak’s mental lapse in a critical moment. He ran through Dak and the offensive line because it  was the quickest way to do it. He was trying to save it for Dak, trying to get Dak the last play he wanted. Blaming the umpire in that situation, which is what both McCarthy and Dak did after the game, is a loser response.

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The delicious thing is that Dallas always loses in a way you never expect. It’s always something crazy and controversial, something you’ve never seen before, something that will be shown a million times and dissected and analyzed for months. When Dak took off on that quarterback sneak with 14-seconds left and no timeouts, you thought it was insane. I know you did. Every football fan in every living room and bar in America knew it was the wrong call, everybody knew it wasn’t going to work. Watching Dak run up the middle of the field while watching the clock run out was a truly surreal thing. Add the umpire bumping Dak while trying to officially spot the ball for the next play that wasn’t coming – I’ve never seen anything like it. And you haven’t either. Cowboys fans today are blaming the umpire and claiming that had Dak been given the opportunity to “clock it,” he would have thrown a 25-yard touchdown pass and Dallas would have won. Really? Yes, I know. And Dez caught it, too. Running the ball up the middle in that situation is an indefensible and absurd call.

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Mike McCarthy is not a good coach. His clock management and other in-game decisions are seemingly always a factor with this guy. Another glaring example yesterday was his decision to kick a field goal with twelve minutes left, changing it from a two score game to a two score game. The Cowboys went from needing two touchdowns to, after the field goal, still needing two touchdowns. Brilliant! Only the Cowboys can pull off a successful fake punt and get called for delay of game on the next play. Only the Cowboys would call a quarterback sneak with fourteen seconds left and no timeouts. If Dan Quinn and Kellen Moore both leave the Cowboys to take head coaching jobs elsewhere in the league, Dallas will be stuck with just McCarthy. My bet is that Jerry Wayne will keep Moore in Dallas by inking him to a contract that pays him more than McCarthy. Then, halfway through next season, Jerry will fire McCarthy and make Kellen the head coach and just Jason Garrett the Cowboys and their fans to death for the next decade.

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AT&T Stadium is the only football stadium in the history of football – junior high, high school, college, pro, the vibrating electric field you played with as a kid on the dining room table – that is situated east-west instead of north-south. It’s the only football stadium – ever! – that purposefully puts the late afternoon sun directly in the line of vision of the football players on the field. The west end zone is made entirely of  glass and Jerry Wayne refuses to admit his gargantuan error and cover it with large curtains or something that would fix the problem. Every year there are three or four games in which that ridiculous stadium configuration is a factor. Yesterday it was a wide open Cedric Wilson on third down, actually ducking his head when a perfectly thrown Prescott pass came his way because he couldn’t see anything. Jerry’s personal obstinance in this matter is one more example of why things aren’t going to change.

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Nothing’s going to change. The Cowboys went 6-0 against the NFC East, the worst division in football. They went 6-6 against the rest of the league. They lost a playoff game to a wild card team that did not win its own division. At home! They have the second highest paid quarterback in the NFL, the third highest paid running back, and the fourth highest paid receiver. They had the NFL’s top scoring offense and number one offense in yards. They’ve got the NFL defensive rookie of the year in Trevon Diggs and an MVP candidate in Micah Parsons. All that, and they’re not even close. The Cowboys were 13-3 in 2016 and lost the Wild Card game. They were 12-4 in 2014 and lost the Wild Card game. This is pretty much the story of the Cowboys for the past 26 years. What do you see that’s going to change the narrative?

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Jerry’s actual quote from the tunnel after yesterday’s loss: “I am extraordinarily disappointed. Very disappointed. I can’t remember being more disappointed by a loss.”

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There are six teams in the NFL that have not a won a divisional playoff game in 26 years. They are the Browns, Bengals, Deadskins, Dolphins, Lions, and Cowboys. Dallas is not just one player or one coach or one lucky break away from the Super Bowl. They are the Lions and Browns.

Peace,

Allan

After “The Catch”

How many times have you seen it this week? “The Catch.” They started showing it the minute the Forty Niners beat the Rams last Sunday to secure their trip to JerryWorld to play the Cowboys this weekend in the opening round of the playoffs. By “they” I mean every local, regional, and national sportscaster and commentator and highlights show. And they have shown it constantly.

Third down from the Dallas six-yard-line. Joe Montana rolling right. Too Tall Jones  and D.D. Lewis in pursuit, chasing Montana back and to the sideline. Montana looking downfield and raring back. Jones and Lewis stretching out their arms and jumping to deflect the desperation heave. Everson Walls’ bad angle as Dwight Clark cuts across the back of the end zone. Montana’s pass is too high to catch. Clark miraculously grabs it from outer space as Walls and Michael Downs helplessly watch. Clark comes down in bounds and scores the touchdown that defeats Dallas and sends the Forty Niners to Super Bowl XVI.

How many times have you seen it this week? How many times have you thrown up?

“The Catch” famously changed the fortunes of both football franchises. The Forty Niners went on to win four Super Bowls in the ’80s while the Cowboys went on to win their division only once in the next seven years, leading to the sale of the team and the firing of Tom Landry. Entire documentaries have been produced around “The Catch.” It’s been analyzed to death. Was Montana attempting to throw it away and live for fourth down? If Too Tall hadn’t left his feet, would he have sacked Montana? If Benny Barnes were playing Clark instead of Walls, would the veteran have taken a better angle?

It didn’t help that Monday was the 40th anniversary of “The Catch,” another excuse to show it in slow motion HD from all three angles for the zillionth time.

My 15-year-old self was as depressed and dejected over “The Catch” that afternoon as Michael Downs looks in the original footage. And every single time I’ve seen it since then, during these 40 years, my stomach sinks into my socks.

But I’d rather watch “The Catch” again than what happened during the last 51-seconds of the game.

See, most people have gone through the past 40 years assuming “The Catch” was the last play of the game. The way we’ve minimized that game down to that one play has left us  with a collective amnesia. That Sports Illustrated cover has become the whole story.

“The Catch” gave San Francisco a one-point lead, but there were still 51-seconds left and Dallas had two timeouts and a really good kicker in Rafael Septien. Do you remember what happened?

Can you handle it? What did you have for lunch?

Timmy Newsome returned the bouncing kickoff to the 25-yard line and, on first down, Danny White zinged an absolutely beautiful precision pass across the middle to Drew Pearson for 31-yards to the San Francisco 44-yard line. Butch Johnson called timeout. And Candlestick Stadium was stunned. Dallas was back in control. They needed only ten more yards to kick the game-winning field goal and they had 38-seconds and a timeout to spare. Septien was warming up on the sideline. Landry appeared confident. So did Randy White and Bob Breunig on the Dallas sideline.

First and ten at the San Francisco 44 yard line. White drops back to pass, standing in the middle of the 49ers logo at the 50. Dorsett runs a safety route to the left flat while Ron Springs stays in to block. Six Cowboys are blocking four San Francisco pass rushers. And they sack White. The pocket collapses, White goes down. This is bad. The ball pops out. This is a disaster. It’s a fumble. Jim Stuckey recovers for San Francisco and the game is over.

Go Youtube that and find out how nauseated you can really get.

It’s sickening. It’s another in a long line of “almosts” for the Cowboys and their fans. If the Cowboys had won the Ice Bowl, the Super Bowl trophy would be named after Landry, not Lombardi. If Jim O’Brien hadn’t made that field goal with 13-seconds left in Super Bowl V. If Jackie Smith hadn’t dropped that third down pass in Super Bowl XIII. If Lynn Swann had been called for offensive pass interference. If it hadn’t been so cold in Philadelphia in 1980. If Tony Romo hadn’t fumbled the snap against Seattle. If the referees had ruled Dez Bryant’s catch a completion. As Dandy Don used to say, “If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ was candy and nuts…” That’s the story of the Cowboys.

But we forget about Danny White fumbling in San Francisco at the 49ers 44 yard line on first down with 38-seconds to play. The focus has always been on “The Catch.” Between now and this Sunday, when the Cowboys and Niners renew their great playoff rivalry, you’re going to see it another 73 times.

And it’s just as well. The alternative is so much worse.

Peace,

Allan

Triple Shot Sunday

Three observations from a jam-packed Lord’s Day in Midland, Texas.

We are attempting to move our communion time at GCR in a direction that makes the Lord’s Meal more communal and less individualistic, more participatory and less observance, more sharing and less partaking. While the trays for the bread were being passed yesterday, we asked our church family to talk with one another in their seats about their favorite parts of the Christmas season. That seemed innocent enough. Non-threatening. Then when we passed the trays with the cups, we asked everyone to tie their favorite parts of Christmas to Jesus. How do those favorite things connect to Christ? How do those favorite things remind us of Jesus or honor Jesus or point to Jesus? That seemed a little more difficult.

Our youngest daughter, Carley, mentioned right out of the gate that her favorite parts of Christmas are family and food. When it came to connecting those things to Christ, I offered that Jesus came here to bring all people into his family, to create a holy family connected to one another in him. As for food? Carley didn’t hesitate to say, “The feast. Eating and drinking with Jesus as his table. Jesus ate with everybody. And so do we.”

Oh, that made my heart feel so good.

It was good to overhear Eddie and Carol having a similar conversation with their grandchildren in the pew behind us. It was encouraging to watch these conversations taking place all over the worship center. We’re trying to make the Lord’s Supper more of a true communion at GCR. Connecting our everyday lives and events – and the seasonal events, too – to Christ is another way to obey the command to eat and drink together in remembrance of him. And it’s more communal.

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After yesterday’s win over WFT, the Cowboys have a three-game lead in the NFL’s worst division with four to play – a playoff berth is now a done deal. But how good do you feel about it?

Something’s wrong with Dak. Still. He threw two picks yesterday and Washington dropped at least two others. Prescott’s inexcusable pick six late in the game almost derailed the entire afternoon. He’s not reading zone coverages, he’s miscommunicating with his wide receivers, and he’s sailing balls over everybody’s heads.

Elliot ran for a grand total of 45 yards. The Cowboys offense only scored one touchdown, and that was a 41-yard drive after a turnover. Four Dallas drives ended with super short field goals of 35, 28, 37, and 29 yards. We call that playing between the 20s, bogging down in scoring territory.

This was against a six-win WFT that was completely decimated on both sides of the ball with injuries. This was after shipping their own sideline benches to FedEx Field to make sure the heated seats worked. This was after Mike McCarthy made a weird “guarantee” of victory to the media.

The Cowboys are going to win the NFC East and host a Wild Card playoff game. But does it matter? The way the team is playing right now, the way they’ve been playing for the past seven weeks, they can’t beat Arizona, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, or the Rams. They’re not even in that same universe. I guarantee it.

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Last night, my new friend Gary and I took in 66.667% of ZZ Top at the Wagner-Noel here in Midland. Obviously, it’s not the same without Dusty Hill – we knew that going in. But, good night, it’s still pretty stinkin’ good.

We had great seats at this tiny, intimate venue – it only seats 1,800 – sixth row dead center. Longtime ZZ Top guitar tech Elwood Francis played bass and attempted some vocals and mostly stayed in the background while drummer Frank Beard and ZZ Top founder and front man Billy Gibbons did the heavy lifting. And, for all intents and purposes, it was a standard ZZ Top concert, very much like the seven or eight I’ve attended before.

They played all the hits, everything you would expect from a ZZ Top show, except maybe “Cheap Sunglasses.” They ran through everything from “Waitin’ for the Bus” and “La Grange” to “Gimme All Your Lovin'” and “Sharp Dressed Man” and all points in between. They went deep, way deep, with a B side from their very first album called “Brown Sugar.” They brought out the fuzzy guitars for “Legs.” They changed the words in “Head’s in Mississippi” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago” to reflect our locale in Midland. They covered “Sixteen Tons.” They engaged in their signature choreography, minor steps and subtle hand motions that Gibbons describes as “low energy, high impact.” They played for an hour-and-a-half with nothing but a three-minute break in the middle. In other words, they delivered.

And by “they,” I mean Billy Gibbons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Reverend Billy G is more than capable of carrying a show by himself. He is an icon of Texas music, a rock and roll ambassador for the Republic for more than 52 years. He’s a legendary Hall of Fame songwriter and guitar player. He plays a blistering electric guitar with incredible precision and dramatic flair. He has such fun doing it that everyone watching can’t help but have fun, too. He’s both traditionally conservative and wildly innovative at the same time. He puts on an amazing show. Every time.

But it’s not ZZ Top without Dusty Hill.

Gibbons paid appropriate tribute to Dusty at the beginning of the concert and he modified the lyrics to “Jesus Just Left Chicago” to include his partner’s name. But, man, it felt different. Dusty’s harmonies were gone. Elwood attempted to blend his voice with Gibbons’ during the songs from the Eliminator album and it was okay. But during most of the show, it was solo Gibbons. Which is fine. But it’s not ZZ Top. Hill’s harmonizing gave the group its depth. And Hill’s antics gave the group its energy. While Gibbons sings with a low gravely bass, Hill always sang with an excitable energy that was contagious. Much higher pitch. Almost frantic. I’ve always imagined it was Dusty who came up with their choreographed dance moves – it just seems like something he would do. ZZ Top has always been a two-man show, Dusty and Billy playing off each other, making each other better, singing together, laughing at each other, in perfect lockstep literally and figuratively for 52 years. Last night was a Billy Gibbons show with a backup band. Again, it wasn’t bad. In fact, it was really, really great. But it’s not ZZ Top.

I wondered how they were going to sing “Tush” without Dusty. It’s a signature ZZ Top song, one of their all-time biggest hits, and a concert staple. But it’s also one of the few on which Dusty sang the lead. How were they going to do this? Would they even try?

Turns out, the last song of the encore, the final number of the night, was a recording of Dusty’s voice as he sang “Tush” at his last ever concert last spring. They’ve singled out the vocals so they can play it alone, so Dusty can sing his favorite song with Billy’s guitar and Frank Beard’s drums. So we could all sing with Dusty Hill again just like we have for five decades.

At every show, Billy Gibbons always says ZZ Top is “the same three guys, same three chords.” Last night he said, “Three guys, three chords.” Close, yes. And good, of course. But not quite the same.

Peace,

Allan

Cowboys Rerun

We’ve seen this movie. Three weeks ago the Cowboys were 6-1 with a four game lead in the NFC East and, according to Cowboys fans, serious Super Bowl contenders. Today, after Sunday’s beatdown in Kansas City, Dallas is 7-3 and the division lead is down to two-and-a-half. It’s time for the November fade that precedes the December implosion. Same script.

The Cowboys have lost two of their past three games, going 116-minutes without a touchdown in those two losses. Dak Prescott was sacked five times by the Chiefs and forced into three turnovers. Ezekiel Elliot ran for a measly 32 yards, marking the fifth straight game he’s been held to under 70 yards rushing. And the Cowboys converted only five total third downs.

The Cowboys defense was clearly playing over its head in the early part of the season and, now that opposing offenses have enough tape to study, are being exposed for the middle-of-the-road unit they really are. As for the offense? Injuries to the receivers and along the offensive line aren’t helping, but Dak is not sharp and Elliot is running in quicksand. This offense is struggling against good defenses. And for the remaining seven games, the Cowboys will be facing only good defenses.

I don’t know what to expect on Thursday. The Raiders are a mess and the Cowboys are desperate. But the Saints have the number six defense in the NFL. The Cards have the number two defense in the league and a dynamite offense and the best record in the conference. The Giants defense allows fewer than 14 points per game when they’re not facing Tom Brady. And Washington and Philly both have defenses that are capable of shutting down a run game. The Cowboys still have four division games remaining, three of those on the road in the cold  northeast. The last game of the year is against the Eagles in Philly. Today, the Eagles are two-and-a-half games back. The last game of the year is in Philly. Oh, I already said that.

This only ends one of two ways. Either Dallas wins this awful division and backs into a first round playoff loss at home. Or they flop in five of these last seven games and lose the division on a tie-breaker to Philly and miss the playoffs altogether.

We’ve seen this movie, Cowboys fans. And it’s delicious!

Peace,

Allan

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