Tuesday, February 5, 2013

O.J. Santiago Trade Just Another Swing-and-Miss Moment At Tight End For Dallas Cowboys & Jerry Jones

O. J. Santiago

Tight ends had become a difficult position to get a handle on for the Dallas Cowboys in the wake of Jay Novacek’s retirement some three seasons before.  They became even more so when backup tight end Mike Lucky suffered a season-ending injury during the early portion of training camp 2000.

Lucky’s misfortune left management scrambling to fit two able bodies behind starter David LaFleur on the depth chart.  And after more than three weeks of searching and five tryouts, the Cowboys had managed to wrangle veteran Jackie Harris onto the team, but still needed more.  That’s when the Falcons phoned and shipped fourth-year player O.J. Santiago their way, allegedly solving all of the Cowboys’ problems.

Granted, it cost Dallas fourth and seventh round draft picks, but that was chump change for shoring up what had long been a weakness for the Dallas offense.  And remember, giving away draft selections had become somewhat of a fad around Valley Ranch in those days, the Cowboys only months removed from swapping two No. 1 choices with Seattle for speedy receiver Joey Galloway.

The Cowboys considered Santiago a dual threat on offense from the tight end position with a proficiency in both run-blocking – he helped Jamal Anderson lead the NFC in rushing two years before – and pass receiving, having hauled in a total of 42 passes over the previous two seasons.  New head coach Dave Campo envisioned pairing Santiago with LaFleur on early downs, and with Harris on passing downs, providing the Cowboys with a rare flexibility to threaten the middle of the field at any time. “I feel very comfortable he’ll be able to walk in and contribute immediately,” Campo said.

So it happened that a full week before the season was scheduled to begin, Santiago boarded a flight to Dallas, holding tight to a Cowboys playbook.  Rumor has it that his plane never landed.

Though active for the first eleven games, Santiago was released prior to Dallas’ Thanksgiving Day game versus Minnesota, having placed nary a scratch on a stat sheet.