by Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff
October 8, 2009
Another year, another fiasco in Dallas? I know, it’s only the onset of Week 5. But things are already looking bleak for ahem, America’s Team despite the opening of the world’s largest, most expensive indoor carnival that also sometimes doubles as a football stadium.
The Cowboys are 2-2 after dropping a 17-10 decision to the red hot Broncos last week, a game in which they had four chances to tie the game from inside the 10 in the final minute but couldn’t do so. That record puts them two games behind the Giants (actually, more like two and a half since they’ve already lost to Eli Manning and his crew) already. They are still an enigma even though they a) have supposed defensive wizard/head coach Wade Phillips calling the signals on D and b) smartly jettisoned the league’s No. 1 team-killer T.O. in the off-season. They have still not won a playoff game since 1996, the year after their last Super Bowl win, when Aikman, Smith and Irvin still roamed the Texas Stadium turf. So what’s the problem?
Allow me to award myself the Captain Obvious Award for a moment. It’s the owner.
Jerry Jones, the ultimate NFL ringmaster, still can’t get out of his own way. He’s tried almost everything, whether it’s bringing in hard-ass coaches (Bill Parcells) or total softies/puppets like Phillips. He’s stockpiled former top 10 picks and big names. He’s decided to go with a hard-working, undrafted former nobody at the most important position. He’s even cut down on the amount of facelifts and botox treatments he gets during the regular season. But still, nothing’s worked. The hard-ass coach wore on his players, who couldn’t stand to be held accountable. His softie/puppet choice is overmatched and doesn’t have the balls to instill any discipline. His no-name quarterback, Tony Romo, was anointed a star simply because he plays for Dallas and dated a Hollywood celebrity in spite of the fact that he’s not remotely a great player. And his cavalcade of big names haven’t displayed too much heart, as clearly evidenced by last year’s season finale in which the Cowboys needed a win to even make the playoffs and promptly lost to the Eagles, 44-6, in a game that wasn’t that close.
So what now? Maybe Jones should take a cue from his friend Bob Kraft, and back off. I understand that it’s not in his personality, that he’s addicted to attention, that he wants to be as high-profile as the players on the field. But after all this time and all of these failed attempts at getting back to the place he and his team owned in the mid-90s, could it really hurt to try? I was highly amused last week to read that Jones was telling anyone in the press that would listen that injured running back Marion Barber would play against Denver after missing the previous week. Can you imagine Kraft talking to the media about injuries or when certain players who had been hurt would be back? It just doesn’t fly. The best owners in sports, with maybe a small handful of exceptions, are the ones who stay behind the scenes, write checks, make a few public appearances and keep their mouths shut. Jones seems to want to win very much. But he also wants to be the center of attention at all times, as his new playground with its 4,735 foot wide TV screen will attest. You just can’t have it both ways. And if anyone has proven that over the past 10-12 years, it’s Jerry Jones.
This Week’s Five Best Teams
1. New York Giants: All the Giants keep doing is winning games they are supposed to win and doing it handily. But their stranglehold on the top spot is weakening thanks to the stellar play of the Saints and Colts. And if Eli Manning’s foot problems require more than just a few trips to the podiatrist, there could be some serious problems.
2. New Orleans: The Saints, 24-10 winners, beat the Jets at their own game, namely with swarming, opportunistic defense. The New Orleans D rolled up four sacks, caused four turnovers and scored two touchdowns in Drew Brees’ second straight normal-esque outing.
3. Indianapolis: This one is kind of hard to believe but Peyton Manning has now passed for 300+ yards in four straight games for the first time in his career. It still sort of pains me to say this but at the risk of sounding a bit too much like a suckass, I’ll keep it brief – the guy is fucking awesome.
4. Minnesota: Never mind about Brett Favre’s performance against Green Bay; it was in a fairly routine, early season game that was all about him and not the Super Bowl, despite what ESPN tried to make us all believe. When the games get bigger and the weather gets lousier, his true colors will come through. The reason why I have the 4-0 Vikes up this high is their defense. After Jared Allen scored 4.5 of his teams eight sacks (including a safety), I’m sold.
5. Denver: A lot has been made about how the Broncos have allowed just 26 points in their four straight wins, as well it should. But how about Kyle Orton? The guy gets next to Josh McDaniels and becomes a good quarterback, as his 906 yards, 7.7 yards per attempt, five TDs and exactly zero picks will attest.
This Week’s Five Worst Teams
1. St. Louis: Examining the Rams offensive exploits the last two years reminds me of some high school teams. Over the course of their 14-game losing streak, they’ve been outscored by an average of 27-6.
2. Oakland: Now it comes out that JaMarcus Russell is way overweight, routinely skips meetings and generally doesn’t give a shit, stuff that looks beautiful next to his 39.8 completion percentage and 42.4 quarterback rating. Boy, those Raiders sure know what they’re doing, eh?
3. Tampa Bay: Signs of life from the Bucs against the awful Redskins. They led 10-0 into the third quarter, actually looked semi-competent on offense behind no-name Josh Johnson and put forth a defensive effort (three sacks, four turnovers) reminiscent of their golden years. All worthy of moving up from second worst team in the league to third worst.
4. Cleveland: Speaking of signs of life, how about those never-say-die Browns, who took the Bengals all the way to the final seconds of overtime before falling. Obviously starting Derek Anderson over Brady Quinn and letting the now traded Braylon Edwards worry more about beating up LeBron James’ 130-pound friends than making any catches was key to their being competitive.
5. Kansas City: The Chiefs got manhandled by yet again by still another team with whom they have no business being on the same field in the Giants. Hard to imagine being a KC fan and going from the incompetence and insanity of Herm Edwards to a rebuilding project that right now looks like it will take forever.
Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers: One week after getting benched for not knowing his assignments on offense, the second-year runner bounces back to the tune of 165 yards and two TDs on 29 carries in a 38-28 win over San Diego. Filling in for the injured Willie Parker, Mendenhall punished the weak Chargers defense all night and was the biggest key to the Pittsburgh offense running as smoothly as it did.
The 49ers Defense: It’s not hard to shut out the Rams, who’ve scored about 37 points over the course of their year-long losing streak. But the Niners took it to new levels on Sunday, holding their guests to 177 total yards, running up five sacks, recovering two fumbles intercepting a pass and scoring three touchdowns (one of which was on a special teams fumble recovery). Led by the monstrous Patrick Willis, who had 2.5 sacks, the pick and one of the scores, this group is taking on the personality coach Mike Singletary had as a player more and more every week.
Aqib Talib, Buccaneers: Someone had to make his presence felt on such a lousy team and Talib, the second-year corner from Kansas was the man, snaring three picks in Sunday’s near miss against the Redskins.
The Titans D: People are calling for quarterback Kerry Collins’ head but really, is it his fault the defense is this bad? Last season, Tennessee gave up 24+ points once all year. It’s already happened three times this season, most recently to Jacksonville and David Garrard, who looked like Peyton Manning in carving up the Titans secondary with a 27-for-37, 323 yard, three TD day in a 37-17 drubbing.
Darren McFadden, Raiders: It would help Oakland immensely if they had any semblance of a running game thanks to their quarterback being such a bum. But no one relayed that message to last season’s No. 5 pick McFadden, who had six carries for -3 yards against Houston, has now rushed for a grand total of 644 yards in 17 career games and will now miss 2-4 weeks with a knee injury. Say it with me now, everyone – boy, those Raiders sure know what they’re doing, eh?
Shawne Merriman’s haircut: My God, is it hideous. In other news, Merriman has three tackles and no sacks in four games (which has thankfully spared us that idiotic, “Lights Out” dance). Has he done anything but be hurt or completely ineffective since he was busted for steroids a couple years ago?
I swear, I’m going to try really hard to be more positive as this season and as these columns go on. I mean it. But when I was doing some reading a little while ago about that amazing, one-game baseball playoff between the Tigers and Twins because I couldn’t watch it, I temporarily blacked out and clicked on a column by Gene Wojciechowski that I think was supposed to be about the game. I say I think because I didn’t get further than the fifth or sixth sentence. The reason why is because Wojciechowski, a notorious shill for Favre, made mention of the Monday night game between the Vikings and Packers and how Favre made him hard while covering it in sentence No. 2. The baseball game, only the actual (supposed) subject of the column, was first brought up in sentence No. 4.
I can barely take it any more. ESPN is the biggest sports entity on the planet. If you have even the most casual of interest in sports, you must access at least one of its 652 platforms. It is impossible to avoid. That being said, as pretty much everyone with a pulse knows, this mega-power has thrown all of its weight behind turning Favre into a God that exists on a higher plane than any other living thing. So with that, I put forth a request. No, not a request, a plea, in the most howlingly, beggar-like way I possibly can. And that plea is: Please ESPN. Please spare us just for a few days. Maybe a week. Please just pretend Brett Favre is what he actually is, which is a living, breathing human being who used to be great at a sport and is now just average at it. Treat him like Tom Brady or Drew Brees or Peyton Manning, all of whom are miles better than Favre but get a fraction of the attention. Just for a few days. See how it makes you feel, Maybe it will open your eyes to the fact that your coverage of him is so over the top that it is borderline insulting to any actual football fan with an intelligence quotient above 80.
Look, I understand that it’s all about stars and that you have to make a way bigger deal of some folks over most others because that’s what pays the bills. But still, would it hurt so much to put us out of our misery? Just for a few days? Please? Because I don’t think I can another week of this, let alone four more months of it. It would be a great service to your constituency, I guarantee it.