Cowboys’ D: Trampled Under Foot

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Posted December 31, 2012 by ANTHONY MARIANI in Blogs
Dallas

Yes, boneheaded plays and mistakes are killers. Missed game-winning field goals, unconscionably dumb penalties in crucial situations, interceptions –– they’re all horrible but do not exist in vacuums. You could even say they’re symptomatic of deeper, underlying issues. Or a deeper, underlying issue (singular).

Nope, not talking about Jerry Jones, who isn’t going anywhere, though you could argue that his cancerous leadership is the deepest of deep problems that lead to dumbass plays and mistakes –– he’s hiring guys who are either physically inadequate or are mental midgets, not smart enough to follow either the playbook or the got-dang rules. I don’t think I’m saying anything new by establishing (re-establishing) the fact that I despise the Cowboys –– I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and the ’burgh will always be my hometown –– but I’ve managed to root for a Cowboy here and there. Jason Witten: one of the all-time greats, also manages to stay out of trouble. Leon Lett: a true mental midget, but one of the greatest, most unblockable defensive linemen of all time. And, in a weird way, I root for Tony Romo, whom the media are blaming solely for his team’s decisive 28-18 loss last night to the Washington Redskins, dashing all silver-and-blue playoff hopes.

But you’ve got to be on crack if you think he is/was the only problem.

Not many people, Cowboys fans included, really appreciate Mr. Miss Missouri. What I’ve always liked about him is his willingness and ability to pick himself up after every boneheaded play or mistake he’s made and go right back to work. You’ve got to have a lot of confidence in your physical toolkit to get your head chomped off by the dragon and then one minute later look that dragon in the face again. And sometimes even jam a football down his fiery throat. As I’ve said a bunch of times before, there are at least 20 teams in the 32-team NFL whose owners would give up their Ferraris and trophy wives for Tony Romo. He’s consistently one of the best quarterbacks in the league, especially –– if perhaps only –– on paper. And clichés be damned, one player, even the QB, the guy who touches the ball the most, cannot be blamed entirely for a dreadful loss, no matter how piss-poor his performance is.

You’d think that after covering sports for 143 years Randy Galloway would know that teams, not players, win and lose ballgames, but in his Star-T column this morning he places the blame squarely on Tony Romo’s tiny shoulders and calls for the poor guy’s head (“Romo, Cowboys do what they do best: fail,” Mon., Dec. 31). Worse, one of Randy’s partners at the Star-T actually goes as far as saying that the Cowboys’ defense played “good enough” to win.

Haha. What?! That’s actually what he says!

As a reader and a sports fan, you’ve got to question the mental stability –– and overall trustworthiness –– of a sports columnist who witnesses a defense whose players get run over, simply trampled, to the tune of 274 yards (200 of which by a rookie running back who’s slower than Nate Newton) and whose starting left defensive tackle thinks that punching the opposing team’s quarterback in the facemask is a good idea in the red zone with a game on the line. Let me reiterate: The Cowboys’ defense got embarrassed.

And all 11-plus guys and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan can join Tony Romo in Randy’s scapegoat pen.

Well, you say, the ’skins have the best rushing team in the NFL, and the ’boys’ front seven comprised mostly backups. Big deal. Every single damn defense in the league has been battling injuries all year. Simply put, the Cowboys don’t have a defensive system, which brings us back to GM Jerruh. Because of his personnel decisions over the years, the Cowboys’ defense has neither an identity nor an ideology. Take my beloved Steelers as your paradigm of identity: Though they did not make the playoffs this year –– for only the fourth time since 2001 –– the boys in black and yellow boasted the No. 1 overall defense. Again. The Steelers have fielded the No. 1 overall defense in the NFL over the past 10-plus years, full of run-stoppers and creative blitzes. What has that amounted to? Oh, you know, just two Super Bowls, three conference championships, eight playoff appearances, and six divisional championships. The Cowboys, since 1996, have won zero Super Bowls, have made seven playoff appearances (winning all of two games), and have won four divisional championships. You could easily argue that that pitiful output is due to a lack of a defensive identity (though the Cowboys, admittedly, aren’t the only defensively generic team in the league).

Last night in D.C., Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett had actually grown so weary of watching his defenders crumble beneath the Redskins’ monstrous O-line and sensational rookie running-back Alfred Morris that instead of attempting a 51-yard field goal with 40-some seconds left in the first half, the boys in silver and blue punted. Garrett simply did not want to give the ’skins and Morris a short field. With less than a minute to play. Embarrassing.

So blame Tony Romo all you want for the Cowboys’ soul-shattering loss last night. But if you don’t see the deeper, underlying issues, you’re not well in the head. Or are on crack.


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