Friday, January 18, 2008

Time to move on.

So, I’m finally ready to start posting to this blog again after the Cowboys’ playoff exit on Sunday, but I have my sunglasses on, just in case I get a little emotional.

I won’t speak very much about that game, because frankly, what happened shouldn’t have, and I’ll leave it at that.

Now that the season is over, albeit a little earlier than any Cowboys fan wanted it to be, it’s time to look ahead, because dwelling doesn‘t help anyone.

Tony Sparano leaving was expected from the word go; Dallas’ loss just sped up the whole process and allowed Parcells and Co. to get the deal done a lot sooner.

Thankfully, Jason Garrett used both his head and his heart and decided to stay in Dallas, which works out great for everyone.

While that little raise he got is certainly a nice perk, Garrett gets to continue to ready himself for being a head coach, and frankly, getting to work with one of the league’s best offenses and be a part of big success for the foreseeable future sounds a lot more appealing than going to Atlanta (unless he likes the thought of going out to dinner and a show with Pacman Jones) or Baltimore.

A less secure man would probably get a little uneasy about all of the love that Garrett’s getting, but if you’re Wade Phillips, you have nothing to worry about, and not just because you’re still raking in more $$, even with Garrett’s hefty raise.

He knows he’ll be leaving the franchise in capable hands when he decides to retire, and besides that, after the success that Dallas had in ’07, having to install a new offensive gameplan likely wasn’t on Phillips’ list of things to do in 2008.

And, if you’re Jerry Jones, you now don’t have to worry about potentially making other plans for the future.

Now, provided that the Cowboys don’t lose anymore assistant coaches in the off-season, it’s time to think about the on-field personnel.

Marion Barber needs to be tied up soon, with a nice new long-term contract for the new starter. With all apologies to Julius Jones, but if it‘s a decision between giving one a new contract and letting the other one go, Barber‘s the choice, hands down.

Jones’ touches and effectiveness went down in the latter part of the season, and it was a pretty telling sign that Barber was the starter against the Giants after Jones had still held onto the starting job despite Barber getting more carries.

And, instead of giving Julius a hefty new contract, Jerry should just use the draft to get someone that will complement Barber’s physicality and add an extra dimension to an already high-powered offense (where it wouldn’t be strange to see both backs in the game at the same time), and allow Jones to pursue a fresh opportunity as a starter elsewhere.

Those two guys aren’t the only free agents the Cowboys have to make decisions on, but I‘ll address that and the draft in an upcoming post, along with a quick preview of next season, which promises to be another (and hopefully more) successful season, unless Tony Romo decides to give up his promising football career to become a movie star. And Tony, Dukes of Hazzard 2, no matter how nice Jessica might make it sound, would not be a good career move.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ellis wins Comeback Player of the Year award.

Five months ago, no one, not even Greg Ellis, knew when, or if, he was going to step on a football field this season, or ever again.

When the Cowboys defense takes the field on Sunday afternoon against the Giants, Ellis will be out there, starting at outside linebacker, as the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year.

Ellis beat out New England’s Randy Moss, who rose like a phoenix to have a record-setting year for the Patriots.

Moss’ numbers are great, but if you base the award on how far the winner had to come back to succeed, Ellis should have won it in a runaway (he got 12 votes to Moss’ 10).

After Ellis tore his Achilles’ tendon last season, in the midst of what could have been a career year for him, when he would return to the field was up in the air.

Then the Cowboys drafted Anthony Spencer in April. Then, Ellis aggravated the injury early in training camp, and as he waited, waited, and waited for the nagging pain to subside, he sulked openly, both about his uncertain future, and about his contract situation.

For a little while, it was easy to wonder if he was going to get on the field again, may it be in Dallas, or at all.

The season started, Spencer started in his position, and Ellis waited some more.

Finally, he got back on the field in Week 4 against the Rams, and when he did, it looked like he’d never left, as he had a sack and a half that day.

With a two-sack night in the 37-27 win over Green Bay on November 29, Ellis had a new career high of 10.5 sacks in only nine games, one higher than the nine that he had in 16 games in 2004.

He finished the season with 12.5 sacks, which tied him for sixth in the NFL.

From doubts about his career to a career year.

Congratulations Greg, and hopefully you still have plenty of sacking and QB harassing left in you.

Monday, January 7, 2008

'Undisclosed source' strikes again.

Everyone’s favorite rumor monger, this time speaking to the New Haven Register in New Haven, Connecticut, said that Cowboys offensive line/assistant head coach Tony Sparano had not only been offered the Dolphins head coaching job but had accepted it as well.

However, Todd Archer got the skinny straight from the horse’s mouth here -

If Sparano had been offered the job, it would have been in violation of the Rooney Rule, which specifies that at least one minority coach must be interviewed before any hirings are done. The Dolphins are interviewing Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier today, so any offer can made after that.

Sparano has been the favorite even before Cam Cameron was fired, and it would seem like the job would be his for the taking in the end, but it’s good to see where his focus lies right now, while he’s still got a job to do with his current team.

And, as Albert Breer points out on the DMN’s blog, it’s far from a done deal, much like the Steelers‘ coaching search last season, when two Pittsburgh assistants looked to be the favorites, then Tomlin went in there and snared the job. It could turn out that his successor as Vikings’ D-coordinator does the same with Parcells and Ireland.

It could end up that Sparano, along with Jason Garrett, could end up staying in Dallas. The haste or patience the Dolphins, Ravens, and Falcons have in terms of their coaching search, how far the Cowboys go in the playoffs, and how well the other candidates do could be the difference in the two coveted coaches going or staying.

No telling what’s going on Garrett’s mind, but you’d have to hope that he’s as focused as Sparano is. These guys know that they have a job to do, and that they have to do that one before they can put serious thought to another one.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

NFC playoffs update.

For the third time this season, the Cowboys and Giants will tangle, as New York’s 24-14 win at Tampa Bay means that Dallas will be hosting their NFC East rivals in the divisional round next Sunday afternoon.

The Giants have been one of the league’s best road teams this season, and that was the case again today. Eli Manning was efficient, going 20 of 27 for 185 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions, and the Giants forced three turnovers in erasing some bad memories against Jeff Garcia, who previously beat New York in the postseason with the 49ers and Eagles.

The last time Eli and Co. came to Dallas was in the first week of the season, when he and Tony Romo had an aerial tit-for-tat, as both threw for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns, but it was the Cowboys that came out on top in the highest-scoring game in the two teams’ rivalry, a 45-35 Dallas victory.

Here’s hoping that the third time isn’t the charm for the G-Men, and that the Cowboys can bookend the Giants’ season with defeats at Texas Stadium.

In the other NFC divisional round game, it’ll be Seattle going to Green Bay, after the Seahawks ended the Redskins’ ride with a 35-14 victory. It was quite a fight for Washington though, as they battled back from a 13-0 deficit to take a 14-13 lead with 12:38 to go.

It looked like destiny was going to shine on the ‘Skins again, when they recovered the ensuing kickoff at the Seahawks 14. But, former Cowboy Shaun Suisham missed a 30-yard field goal. Still, things looked good after Matt Hasselbeck was picked off on the next drive.

However, a short punt gave the Seahawks great field position, and they would take the lead with six minutes to go.

From there, it quickly unraveled for Washington, as an illegal block nullified a long kick return, and on the next play, Todd Collins was picked off, and Marcus Trufant returned it 78 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-14.

The game was sealed when Jordan Babineaux (remember him?) returned a second Collins pick 57 yards for a score with a half a minute to go.

Even though the Redskins went down, you’ve got to give them a lot of credit for how they fought this season, especially after all the ups and downs.

And, as for Seattle, or more specifically for Matt Hasselbeck - 1) Please don’t grow that hideous sorta-stache back, even if it may seem to be lucky, and 2) if this one goes to overtime, let someone else handle the coin toss, and if you do, don’t guarantee a win, because the last time you did it at Lambeau, Al Harris picked you off and sent you home.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Assistant coaches' update.

The Dallas Morning News’ website confirmed what we knew was going to happen already, that Cowboys offensive line/assistant head coach Tony Sparano will have an interview with the Miami Dolphins about their head coaching vacancy.

Sparano will have the interview tomorrow in Dallas with new Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland, following his interview with Baltimore Ravens execs about the same job.

Sparano and Jason Garrett were scheduled to have their interviews with Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank today. Whether or not Garrett will be interviewing with the Ravens on Saturday hasn’t been confirmed yet.

According to the report by the site, Sparano is one of several candidates, with former Dallas assistants Todd Haley and Maurice Carthon (both now with Arizona) in the mix, along with Minnesota’s Leslie Frazier, Jacksonville assistant and former Vikings coach Mike Tice, and Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan.

Late-night news and notes.

It’s not new news by now, but Roy Williams was named as Sean Taylor’s replacement on the NFC Pro Bowl team on Thursday.

Even though that officially makes Williams the starter now, I wonder if the NFC is going to send only ten men out on the field on their first defensive play of the game, much like the Redskins did when they took the field against Buffalo, their first game after Taylor passed away.

Williams’ addition gives the Cowboys a dozen Pro Bowlers, adding to their league-high total.

There’s also another bit of Williams news, as he’ll be changing his number from 31 to 38 next season, going back to the number that he wore when he was at Oklahoma. He’d worn 31 since his rookie year, when Duane Hawthorne, and then Lynn Scott had the number, and now, after it’s been available for a couple of seasons, he’s finally going back to it. According to the Cowboys’ official site, nice guy Roy didn’t make the change until now for several reasons, one being that he didn’t want Jerry Jones to lose any money from all of the #31 jerseys in circulation. So, if you haven’t gotten one by now, get one before they go off the shelves.

The former Sooner star could have come in handy for his old team on Wednesday night in their Fiesta Bowl loss to West Virginia.

Speaking of the BCS, the Cowboys have several players who played in BCS bowls during their collegiate careers, with Williams (2000 season with OU), Marcus Spears (2003 season with LSU), and Bobby Carpenter (2002 season with Ohio State) all being part of national championship teams.

With LSU and Ohio State set to face off for the national championship on Monday night, could there be a friendly wager between Spears and fellow LSU alum Bradie James and Ohio State alums Carpenter and Terry Glenn?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Can we just fast-forward to next weekend already?

The tornado that is Bill Parcells' rebuilding project continues to roll through what used to be the Miami Dolphins, as head coach Cam Cameron was fired today after a 1-15 season, his only one on the job.

This isn’t a surprise, considering that we all know Parcells wants to bring in his own guy, someone he knows, someone he trusts.

Cameron didn’t inherit that great of a team from Nick Saban, and the injuries upon injuries that they had this year ruined any chances for even a slightly respectable season.

There are some people who are better coordinators than head coaches, and Cameron may be one of those guys.

Given how fast things have moved in Miami this week, in the next 24 hours, we should know who’ll be interviewing for the job.

Sparano looks like the favorite, and secondary coach Todd Bowles has also been mentioned in some reports, along with, as expected, Jason Garrett.

Sparano and Garrett are already scheduled to interview with the Falcons tomorrow, so it looks to be a busy few days for those guys, as Grizz over at Blogging the Boys reports that the Ravens have requested permission to talk to a few NFL assistants, with Sparano and Garrett among the names mentioned.

So, it looks like we’ve got three teams fighting it out for two guys. From the looks of it, the Dolphins job is Sparano’s for the taking, with Garrett the hot name in Baltimore.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Garrett to interview with Falcons tomorrow, Ireland takes Dolphins GM job.

According to the Cowboys’ official site, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is expected to interview with the Falcons on Friday about their head coaching vacancy.

Garrett joins O-line/assistant head coach Tony Sparano as targets for Arthur Blank.

As for one move that’s already finalized, Cowboys scouting director Jeff Ireland is joining Bill Parcells’ rebuilding project in Miami as the Dolphins’ new GM. Ireland interviewed for the position on Tuesday, a day after Parcells fired Randy Mueller.

Ireland’s got a great eye for talent (DeMarcus Ware, Marion Barber, to name a couple), which is what Miami severely needs right now, so he’s a good get for the Dolphins.