Solid History of the Dallas Cowboys

51wvpftrt1l__sx327_bo1204203200_This is a nicely comprehensive history of the Dallas Cowboys.  The only caveat I have is much of the history is already known.  But I enjoyed the book nonetheless.

The first section of the book up to the 1960’s is a bit of a bore and was more about the history of Dallas and building up to the creation of the Cowboys in 1960 and the cultural backdrop of “everything is bigger in Texas.”  It does a decent job of that, and was thankfully short.

The next section covering the 1960’s was reasonably well done as well, but since much of that covers the showdown between Clint Murchison, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL, and Lamar Hunt, the owner of the upstart AFL Dallas team, the Dallas Texans, is more thoroughly done elsewhere.  Nonetheless this is a critical part of the team’s history and was well written.  The best part of this section was on the field issues and the story behind Don Meredith, a very solid quarterback who just didn’t quite get Dallas over the hump.  But it’s also the story of Bobby Hayes who had his best years in the mid-to-late 1960s but eventually declined due to cocaine abuse.

Had it not been for the dominant Pittsburgh Steelers, the 1970’s Dallas Cowboys might have had more than two Super Bowl wins.  But this was a great decade for Dallas and well chronicled here.  This was the also the decade of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach and it was refreshing to see a solid, grounded individual not prone to the decadence and excesses we see in players in future years.  The book also does a good job of chronicling the story of Danny White who took over as quarterback when Staubach retired.  He was also a good quarterback but the Cowboys were in decline and he never was able to bring them back to a path of glory.  He simply took over the reins at the wrong time.

The 1980’s saw the Cowboys as a mediocre team at best slogging through the decade toward a rebuilding era in the 1990’s.  This section starts to get into the impending sale of the Cowboys and the ultimate complete turnover we see under Jerry Jones in the 1990’s.

And of course the 1990’s was the decade of the Cowboys, Jerry Jones, Jimmy Johnson, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin, with a host of stars on the offensive line and in the defense as well.  This decade is well chronicled as well, especially the furor over the firing of Tom Landry, and then the shenanigans and bad blood that developed between Jones and Johnson, leading to the firing (or mutual parting of the ways) of these two egomaniacs.  This episode in Dallas’s history was soap opera material and has been very well told in the press, but here we get it in one big sour lump.  Dallas won three Super Bowls in four years, but afterwards saw, again, a precipitous decline as Jerry Jones insisted on being the owner and general manager of the team.

The book goes through 2011 with the Cowboys still struggling to be a relevant team again.

Overall I thought the book was well done but so much of the history I already knew, I at times got a little bored with it.  Nonetheless, this is a must read for Cowboys fans, and a book pro football fans will fine enjoyable.

The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America

The Story Behind the Wild but Winning 1990’s Dallas Cowboys

I sat down one Saturday to read Boys Will Be Boys, about the 1990 Dallas Cowboys, and couldn’t put it down.  This book chronicles the hard partying team that won three Super Bowls in four years and is definitively the team of the 1990’s.

Given the drinking, drugs, women, and super hard partying this team engaged in during their run in the 1990’s it is simply amazing that they were able to win championships.  I’m not sure if it is a testament to just what phenomenal athletes these men were, or their dedication to football and winning despite their debauched lifestyle off the field.  According to this book it seems nearly the entire team, with the exception of a few like stars like Troy Aikman, were engaged in a wild years long party off the field, while racking up wins and championships off of it.

Michael Irvin, the Hall of Fame wide receiver and guard Nate Newton appear to be the ringleaders of this band of imbibers.  Of course Irvin has been busted enough times with drugs and women that it comes as no surprise.  What is surprising is just how pervasive the lifestyle was.  Certainly we all know there are a handful of players on every team that lead pretty wild lifestyles, but how a team that seemed to be immersed so deeply in drinking and womanizing (and presumably other illicit activities as well) could be so successful is really amazing.

Another completely bizarre character is defensive end Charles Haley.  Basically run out of San Francisco by his teammates for his horrible behavior, he nearly fit right in with the Dallas Cowboys.  This nasty fellow was known for exposing himself to his teammates and constantly harassing them and stirring up trouble.  Only professional athletes could ever get by with the horrendous behavior and bizarre antics of Haley.

There is also plenty of other inside information about the 1990 Cowboys.  We learn more about Troy Aikman and his leadership on the field.  And of course there is great detail about coach Jimmy Johnson who turned a blind eye to off field behaviors as long as the team kept winning.  We follow how he turned a losing team into a powerhouse with adroit drafting, his arrogant yet winning ways, and his falling out with owner Jerry Jones, when two Texas sized egos found they could not coexist.  We also get a view of the inevitable decline after the inept blowhard Barry Switzer took over as head coach.

All in all this was a wildly informative book about a wild but winning team.

Boys Will be Boys

2009 NFL Season: Week 12 Thanksgiving Day Special

INTRODUCTION

After the New York Giants went 5-0 many pundits had them ranked as the best team in the NFL in their power rankings. I said then that they were at best a mediocre team. I may not always be right, but I was right about that.

The traditional football games on Thanksgiving Day featured two matchups that really were not that compelling to the average football fan. The still lowly Detroit Lions hosted the solid but struggling Green Bay Packers, while the Dallas Cowboys hosted the usually pathetic Oakland Raiders. Most thought the games would be blowouts and they certainly lived up to the tripe. Green Bay had no trouble rolling over Detroit, and Oakland proved to be no match for Dallas.

Many have wondered if the Detroit Lions should no longer be hosting a nationally televised game on Thanksgiving given their long standing lack of quality teams. A Thanksgiving Day matchup should be a marquee game between two quality teams, right?

I disagree though. The Detroit Lions have been hosting a Thanksgiving Day game since 1934. That’s 75 years of tradition for the Lions, sometimes a good team, lately not, hosting a game on this holiday. The National Football League is built on tradition and after 75 years I don’t see a reason to break that tradition now. Despite not being a great team now, presumably the Lions will be relevant again. And for me, watching any professional football game is enjoyable. And I always know I’ll see the Lions host somebody on this day and I look forward to it every year.

GAMES I WATCHED

Green Bay Packers over Detroit Lions, 34-12

As expected this game was not even close. After Green Bay fumbled the opening kickoff leading to a quick Detroit touchdown, the game was basically over. Detroit’s offense never did much else, while Matthew Stafford threw four picks.

Green Bay played an all around solid game, with Donald Driver catching seven passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. This included a 68 yard grab in the first quarter to set up Green Bay’s first touchdown. Cornerback Charles Woodson had his second sterling game with two interceptions, one that he returned for a touchdown in garbage time.

I’m not sure why the Lions started rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford who played with a separated left shoulder. I think he has the potential to be the franchise quarterback for the Lions and it just doesn’t seem worth risking further damage to his shoulder at this point in the season.

This game turned out pretty much as expected. It was a good game for Green Bay to get back to winning and try to jumpstart an attempt to make the playoffs as Wild Card team. They have a long way to go for that.

MVP: Donald Driver, WR


Dallas Cowboys over Oakland Raiders, 24-7

The NFC East used to be considered the toughest conference in the NFL. Not anymore. Right now the storied franchise of the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Philadelphia Eagles are middle of the road teams, at best. The Washington Redskins are abysmal and shouldn’t even be in the conversation.

The race for the NFC East is going down the stretch and Dallas needs to keep winning with the Giants and Eagles right in the mix. Pundits have even taken to calling Tony Romo not just an average quarterback, but a bad one. And he deserves it given the way he has played this year.

In this game Dallas had no trouble putting the Raiders away. Romo had a very good outing and wide receiver Miles Austin was again fantastic. He had seven catches for 145 yards and touchdown to lead the Dallas Cowboys offense.

On the other side of the ball, the Raiders started fourth year quarterback Bruce Gradkowski over the bust of a number one overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell. Gradkowski, frankly, is never going to be a particularly good NFL quarterback, but he is gutsy and had didn’t play that badly against the Cowboys. The Raiders were just simply overmatched talent wise on the field.

Dallas, like Green Bay, really needed an easy win and to get their offense rolling after a very pedestrian performance against the Redskins last week, a game they should have lost but didn’t.

MVP: Miles Austin, WR


Denver Broncos over New York Giants, 26-6

This was the marquee matchup of the day which most thought we be a closely contested ball game. Both teams have been struggling a great deal the past month, with the Broncos losing four straight games and the Giants losing the last five out of six. Too bad it was on the NFL Network. Many football fans, as a result, didn’t have access to the game. Well, it was an interesting game but not much was missed.

I actually thought the Giants would win this game but they never bothered to show up. They were pathetic.

The Giants, on their second offensive snap of the game, had to call a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty. They followed this up with a minus two yard run by Brandon Jacobs. That basically set the tone for the game as the Giants offense seemed to have stayed in New York.

I watched Brandon Jacobs very closely in this game because he has been struggling of late. What I noticed was disturbing. Even when he got into a good hole he didn’t have the same burst of speed and power to make a good gain like he has in the past. I don’t know if it’s because he has been injured a bit or some other ailment, but he definitely is not the same runner he has been in the past. There were holes that he got to that a Chris Johnson or an Adrian Peterson, or last years Brandon Jacobs for that matter, would have turned into a long gain. Something is missing or gone awry there.

Meanwhile a lot has been said of the struggles of the Giants offensive line. They played reasonably well at all times, more so on running plays. The announcers kept saying they were getting beat physically but they most looked confused by the Broncos tricky defensive alignments than physically dominated.

But the Broncos defense played extremely well. Elvis Dumervil had two sacks and a forced fumble, safety Brian Dawkins was a menace all over the field, and the Denver secondary, led by Champ Bailey, blanketed the Giants’ receivers. In fact the quarterback pressures could often be attributed to superior defensive back play more so than the defensive line dominating the line of scrimmage. But it was a very well played game by the Denver defense all around.

The Giants defense didn’t play terribly but again, they weren’t beaten physically as much as the Broncos just outplayed them. Case in point, if you watched Giants’ defense end Osi Umenyiora against the Bronco’s left tackle, Ryan Clady, he often got good penetration and sometimes pressure on Kyle Orton. But he was completely shut out of the game.

Meanwhile Denver’s rookie running back Knowshon Moreno played very well with a shifty, slithery style of running that netted yards when most backs would have been shut down. I have seen Denver play several times this year and I have not seen these moves by Moreno before. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t watching him at his best or that he has been injured, but now I see why people are so excited about this guy. He has a unique running style that avoids big contact and can make the most out of small openings. And of course wide receiver Brandon Marshall was making some sick one handed catches.

But frankly, at the end of the day I am not sure whether Denver looked so good because the Giants were just plain awful, or if they have come out of their funk. They certainly looked much better than they have the past few times I’ve seen them. I do know one thing, however, the Giants appear to be on the way down an out. See ya!

The MVP could really go to Dumervil, Dawkins, or Bailey. I am going with Champ Bailey because I thought it was the Denver pass coverage that was the key to their success on defense.

MVP: Champ Bailey, CB

2009 NFL Football Season: Week 10

OBSERVATIONS

I turned on the NFL Channel when I got home from work and they were getting ready to show New England’s 35-34 loss to the Indianapolis Colts as an “instant classic.” I wanted to puke. Does that mean I am going to be subjected to highlights of this game the rest of the season, and possibly in perpetuity, like I am Super Bowl XLII highlights?

So the NFL wants to extend the regular season to 18 games? Just off the top of my head I can name several marquee players this week that were injured: Cedric Benson, Brian Westbrook, Troy Polamalu, Kyle Orton, Terrell Suggs, Joshua Cribbs, Michael Turner, and Ronnie Brown. I may be forgetting a few, but you get the picture.

Last week I said was that a crash I was hearing, the Denver Broncos coming down to earth? This week I really did hear a crash as they lost to the Washington Redskins. Granted Washington probably played its best game of the season, but Denver has lost three in a row. Meanwhile San Diego is on the rise. Their game this weekend will be an important one for both teams.

While Denver is looking like pretenders, the Cincinnati Bengals look like contenders. They have swept Pittsburgh and control the AFC North.

Speaking of Cincinnati, doesn’t it just figure they would sign Larry Johnson? He fits right in.

Finally, what is up with the Dallas Cowboys? The entire NFC East is a mess. They were horrible against the Packers.

And Aaron Rodgers, who I like a lot, needs to get rid of the ball faster. He is taking a beating but against the Cowboys he could have avoided some of the hits.

Brady Quinn looks like a bust. Alex Smith already was one.

Finally I am crushed that Ronnie Brown is out for the season with a foot injury. I don’t like the Dolphins and would just as soon see them go 0-16 but I love great football players and what Brown was doing this year running the Wildcat formation was phenomenal. Now the AFC East has lost two great running backs in Leon Washington and Ronnie Brown, both who I have a great deal of admiration for. No, I’m not like the Jets fans who cheered over Brady’s injury last year and crowed that they were the new team in the AFC East. I have more class than that.

GAMES I WATCHED

Indianapolis Colts over New England Patriots, 35-34

I wrote my comments on this already, you can see it here:  https://cdbaker.wordpress.com/2009/11/17/bill-belichick-is-afraid-of-peyton-manning/

The synopsis, the Patriots have a lot of positives to take away from the game. They basically gave the game away, and I’m not just talking about Bill Belichick’s no infamous call on 4th and 2 from their own 28 at the end of the game. I just hope they can rebound and beat the New York Jets this weekend. I don’t want to go into a tailspin. I think they will beat the Jets, and can beat the Saints.

Indianapolis at 9-0 and a relatively easy schedule could run the table and go 16-0. But I don’t think they will.

MVP: Reggie Wayne, WR

San Francisco 49’ers over Chicago Bears, 10-6

Oh my, two bottom feeders rolling around in the muck. Jay Cutler looked awful with five interceptions. Granted some of them were partially the fault of his receivers but this was really a joke. Cutler, the big bad, I am going to be the leader of the team, I’m the next coming of John Elway, I am going to have input into the 53 man roster. I love seeing this whiny brat, wannabe John Elway get his comeuppance. He looks awful, his team looks awful, and the Bears got what they paid for.

San Francisco’s offensive didn’t look much better. Four interceptions (not counting the one late in the game) and you only score 10 points? Even a mediocre offense would have blow the Bears out of this game and made it a laugher. I’m sorry but Alex Smith just does not look like the quarterback of the future to me. The quarterback position on this team needs to be addressed.

What the 49’ers do have is heart, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, and a solid defense. I think Mike Singletary is taking this team in the right direction.

MVP: Frank Gore, RB

Cincinnati Bengals over Pittsburgh Steelers, 18-12

The Cincinnati Bengals have swept the Pittsburgh Steelers and have proven to be a real contender in the AFC. Their defense continues to play extremely well and I am very, very impressed with their offensive line. They have one of the best offensive lines in the league. And while the offensive did not score a lot of points, they did enough to win and they basically controlled this game for the most part.

Pittsburgh is a great team as well but they certainly are not the same team without Troy Polamalu in the lineup. While Pittsburgh is on my list of teams I least want to see win, I hope Polamalu recovers. I love watching this guy play.

Rookie running back and kick returner Bernard Scott had a superman game, running a kickoff for a touchdown and filling in for the injured Cedric Benson.

MVP: Bernard Scott, RB/KR

Green Bay Packers over Dallas Cowboys, 17-7

Dallas is a hard to team to figure out, as is Tony Romo. Sometimes they look like an upper echelon team and sometimes they look like the Cleveland Browns in a different uniform. This week they were atrocious and so was Tony Romo. A lot of that can be laid at the feet of an offensive line that looked overmatched by the Green Bay Packers.

Charles Woodson, Green Bay’s veteran cornerback had a career day with two forced fumbles, a sack, and an interception. He was all over the field. It helped that the Packers defensive line was able to get penetration into the Dallas backfield. A shout out should go to Packer defensive tackle Johnny Jolly who disrupted numerous plays.

Dallas lost their left tackle Mark Colombo during the game, which is scary given that they are weak at the tackle position. Flozell Adams is a joke. And that was part of Dallas’ problem.

Meanwhile I thought Green Bay’s offensive line played better than they usually do, but Rodgers was not helping them much by holding onto the ball too long and taking hits. He needs to get out of that habit, fast.

I love seeing Dallas lose so this was a fun game to watch.

MVP: Charles Woodson, CB

Baltimore Ravens over Cleveland Browns, 16-0

Cleveland looked pathetic and inept in this game. Eric Mangenius sure made this team look better this year, didn’t he? That was one of the worst displays of professional football I have seen since, well, the Tennessee Titans laid down against the Patriots earlier this year.

Brady Quinn is really starting to look like a bust. He played horribly, as did his receivers, and the entire offense.

But Baltimore had no business looking as awful as they did either. The score was 0-0 at halftime. Baltimore, despite having three good running backs, even and excellent one in Ray Rice, had no business looking this bad and out of sync. They played down to the level of competition.

As one of the announcers said, the best unit on this night was the Browns defensive line. The dominated the action. I feel back for not giving Shaun Rodgers a shout out on my Midseason Pro Bowl team. When he gets it going he is almost unblockable.

This game was badly marred by Brady Quinn’s low block on Terrell Suggs that will knock him out of action for an undetermined amount of time. And then Joshua Cribbs got jacked up and hospitalized on the last play of the game that certainly looked like a cheap shot by Suggs’ backup, Dwan Edwards.

Both teams say the cheap shots weren’t intentional. I guess I will take their word for it.

This was a forgettable game, otherwise.

MVP: Ray Rice, RB

PLAYERS OF THE GAME

Offensive Player: Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans (232 total yards rushing and receiving)

Defensive Player: Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay Packers

Offensive Lineman: Sebastian Vollmer, T, New England Patriots

Special Teams: Bernard Scott, KR/RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Rookie of the Week: Bernard Scott, KR/RB, Cincinnati

2009 NFL Football Season: Week 3

OBSERVATIONS

Chad Pennington: Chad Pennington is one of the classiest players in the NFL and I hated to hear that he has yet another shoulder injury. I strongly suspect we’ve seen the last of Pennington as a viable starter in the NFL, which is a shame because he is a real winner.

The Wildcat: So far I have only seen the Miami Dolphins run the Wildcat offense successfully. I think the Wildcat is a passing fancy, although we continue to see it in certain situations. We’ve already had versions of this in the past with players like Kordell Stewart, so I limited situations this will continue. As a viable, oft used offensive set, I just don’t see it having legs in the long run.

Felix Jones: The Cowboys exciting, fast, play making running back, who injured his ACL last year, has yet another knee injury. This makes me wonder if he will ever stay healthy enough to have a consistent impact for the Cowboys.

New England Patriots over Atlanta Falcons, 26-10

New England’s offense is still a work in progress. Brady is clearly still rusty with his timing, rhythm, and accuracy, but I am confident this will improve throughout the year. We finally got our running game going. As I mentioned last week, we really need to utilize the backs on our roster and establish a successful running game to keep defenses from pinning their ears back and going after Brady. Look what happened to the Cardinals against the Colts!

The young defense is playing surprisingly well so far. It will be interesting to see how this unit progresses as the season unfolds.

We really, really needed this win given we have the Baltimore Ravens coming to town.

MVP: Fred Taylor, RB

GAMES I WATCHED

Detroit Lions over Washington Redskins, 19-14

I have to admit I loved watching the Redskins lose and the Lions finally win a game. Matthew Stafford did a great job in the pocket and appears to be a player, with improvements in accuracy and touch, who will be around for a long time. What was most impressive to me about the Lions is that they did not fold late in the game when the Redskins hit a big play to Santana Moss for a touchdown. Last year the team would have probably folded up the tent and lost but they did not panic and closed the show. This was a very impressive showing for the Lions.

The Redskins, on the other hand, continue to look lost on offense and are not generating big plays on defense. And even though Albert Haynesworth is not playing like a $100 million man, his loss to injury in first half hurt the defense.

Congratulations Detroit.

MVP: Matthew Stafford, QB

New Orleans Saints over Buffalo Bills, 27-7

The Saints may be the best team in the NFC but I was not quite as impressed with them in this game. As with most teams this year, it’s really the teams that run the ball effectively that have had the most success on offense, even if its’ a team that still ends up passing far more than running. It was really Pierre Thomas’s second half 126 yards rushing that salted away the game for the Saints.

The Bills are an enigma to me. On the offensive side of the ball they have the personnel to score more than they are. The Saints may have an improved defense but they are not stalwarts on that side of the ball. Their two best receivers, Terrell Owens and Lee Evans, were not even factors in the game. They have an effective running game but they have to get points. I think the Bills need new leadership and Dick Jauron should be out after this season if they don’t show some improvement.

MVP: Pierre Thomas, RB

Indianapolis Colts over Arizona Cardinals, 31-10

I know Arizona is a passing team but they did just the opposite of what you need to do to beat the Indianapolis Colts – run the ball. Granted, Tim Hightower and Chris Wells have fumbleitis but going into a shot gun formation and passing every down plays right into the hands of the Colts’ defense. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are not that great against the run (and therefore I do not consider either a premier defensive end) but they are outstanding pass rushers. By getting behind and not running the ball, they allowed Freeney to run free, and harass Kurt Warner. It was ugly. Wayne Gandy, the left tackle assigned to Freeney, is the goat of the game and was schooled. Why the Cardinals didn’t give him help when they realized Gandy was not going to be able to block Freeney is a real head scratcher. And to top it off the Cardinals turned the ball over twice in the red zone that the Colts turned into points for huge swings in momentum.

Peyton Manning was his usual brilliant self. He appears to be playing about as well as I have ever seen him play. The Colts offense took advantage of the Arizona turnovers and the defense took advantage of the Cardinal game plan with their excellent pass rushing ends. The Colts offense looks to be the best in the league at this juncture.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

Dallas Cowboys over Carolina Panthers, 21-7

This was really kind of sloppy looking game for the most part. The Panthers are not impressive on offense and gave up huge running plays on defense. The Cowboys won the game, but they too don’t look like the offensive juggernaut some expected them to be. Both Tony Romo and Jake Delhomme have had rough starts to their season. I don’t think we will see Romo benched but I won’t be surprised to see Delhomme benched in favor of Matt Moore, or even A.J. Feeley, before the season is out.

MVP: Tashard Choice, RB

 

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis

Defensive Player: Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis

Offensive Lineman: Carl Nicks, G, New Orleans Saints

Special Teams: Darren Sproles, KR, San Diego Chargers

Rookie of the Week: Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions