Friday, November 29, 2013

Decade of Futility - Cundiff's Thanksgiving Day Shank Leads To Loss, Collapse For 2005 Cowboys

More Thanksgiving memories: Four days after successfully connecting on a 56-yard field goal against the Detroit Lions, Cowboys place-kicker Billy Cundiff missed a 34-yard fourth quarter trey that would have beaten AFC West-leading Denver on Thanksgiving. Instead, the game went into overtime, and the Broncos escaped with the victory following a lengthy scamper from tailback Ron Dayne that reached the Dallas 6-yard line.
The loss was the first of three in the final five weeks for the Cowboys, as they lost their grip on the NFC East, and missed out on the playoffs yet again.
You can read more about this late-season crash in my new book Decade of Futility.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Excerpt From Ryan Bush's Book "Decade of Futility" - Why Bill Parcells Chose Vinny Testaverde Over Drew Henson

(Author's Note: Until Tony Romo was inserted into the Dallas Cowboys' starting lineup in October of 2006, the name Drew Henson was one of constant musing for the Cowboy Faithful.  Why wasn't Henson given a fair chance to quarterback America's Team?  Why didn't Bill Parcells bench Vinny Testaverde and let Henson play the final handful of games during the long and arduous 2004 season?
In my new book "Decade of Futility" I tackled these concerns head-on.  Below you will read an excerpt from Chapter 12 that  will not only reveal what direction Bill Parcells was ultimately forced to go during Henson's rookie campaign, but why Henson didn't fit into Parcells' immediate plans.)

From Pages 101-103 of Decade of Futility:

How to employ his team for the remaining eight games became Parcells' primary concern.  Without a sign of initiative from the players to take a step forward during a rough 3-5 start, planning for the future was really all Parcells was left to do for the next two months.
How to go about this was where it became sticky, because stuck in the middle of this situation was rookie quarterback Drew Henson, a player Dallas picked up in a trade with Houston in March for the worth of a third-round draft pick in 2005.  Like Chad Hutchinson, Henson played college football at a top-tier university (Michigan) but wound-up heading for a big payday on the baseball diamond when his collegiate career ended.  Less than four years into his contract with the Yankees, Henson decided he'd had enough and threw down his glove for one last chance at captaining an NFL huddle.

As the losses continued to pile up at an alarming rate, the cries for Henson to be given a chance became increasingly louder and more demanding.  What good is going to be accomplished with a quarterback who will turn 41 in November when in a lost season?  We need a quarterback, so why not see what the kid's got?
Upon further review, Parcells realized his team stood farther behind the eight-ball than the absence of a franchise quarterback.  Much farther.  So much so that he decided to chunk the 4-3 defensive scheme that they had used during their previous season when they finished ranked No. 1 in yards allowed, for the 3-4 scheme that he used in New England and New York.  Having Testaverde remain at quarterback promised to aid in the process, while also giving him a clearer read on who to keep around on the offensive side of the ball.

Now that Terry Glenn was lodging on the portico of the injured reserve and Antonio Bryant was getting chewed up in Cleveland, rookie wide-outs Terrance Copper and Patrick Crayton, along with Randal Williams, stood to see extensive playing time for the remainder of the season.  Parcells needed to know who, if anyone, he should hang onto.  Properly gauging their improvements promised to be worse than looking into a rusty mirror with a rookie quarterback directing passes toward them.  A rookie would also allow defenses to lock-in on an already demoralized rushing attack that promised to receive a shot in the arm when Julius Jones returned from injury.
Too many circumstances against Henson compelled Parcells to stick with Testaverde in the face of critics and hecklers.  Though fans and columnists couldn't see it, Parcells envisioned this decision as a quicker route to complete the massive roster overhaul that he began on day-one and get the team back on the competitive track.  This broken record was more than just about the quarterback, so why complicate matters in seasons to come by making it all about him?
In today's NFL, a requirement for a defense to get off the field on third-down is to have three reliable cornerbacks on the roster.  At this juncture, the name of Terence Newman remained the only one to qualify.
Darren Woodson's back injury meant safety Roy Williams was joined in the defensive backfield by Tony Dixon, a royal pass-coverage liability, leaving another gaping hole in Dallas' once-strong pass defense.  And up-front, the three veteran linemen of Marcellus Wiley, La'Roi Glover and Greg Ellis looked incapable of forcing the quarterback out of the pocket.
The linebackers composed the true backbone of the defense.  Eack of Dexter Coakley, Dat Nguyen and Al Singleton were considered undersized by some, but used their quickness and uncanny instincts  to nose out the ball-carrier.  Coakley was a three-time Pro Bowler since being drafted by Dallas in 1997 out of Appalachian State, and Singleton joined the Cowboys after helping Tampa's No. 1 ranked defense swallow the Raiders whole in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Nguyen, the middle-linebacker, was the smallest of them all, but forced his way into the starting lineup in 2001 for his knack of making plays.  Parcells once referred to Nguyen as his "football-playin' dude," and anyone who ever saw Nguyen play in Dalas or down at College Station with the Aggies of Texas A&M can relate with the head coach.

Loose chinking surrounding this threesome significantly affected their effectiveness and made even these defensive standouts subject to Parcells' trial by fire that was to come.  While Parcells' first year was largely spent hammering his mentality down the players' throats, now was the time to instill the system, not to mention a bit more talent, to match.
Starting with the next game against division-leading Philadelphia, the Cowboys had a package that used the 3-4 and many of its gap-control techniques installed into the weekly game-plan to begin this evolutionary changeover.  It did little to confuse the Eagles, as they whipped the Cowboys on a Monday night in Texas Stadium by a 49-21 mark.  Baltimore's offensively-challenged unit made it look just as easy the next week, winning 30-10 in a game that Testaverde suffered a second-half rib injury and was forced to give way to Henson.
With Testaverde still ailing from his injury four days earlier, it was Henson who started on Thanksgiving Day against Chicago for the 3-7 Cowboys.  By halftime he was on the bench, and Testaverde was back out on the field helping Dallas pull away at the end and win 21-7.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Decade of Futility - 2002 Cowboys Bunch Imploded After Thanksgiving Day Win Over Redskins

Rookie quarterback Chad Hutchinson won his second consecutive start on Thanksgiving Day 2002 in a 27-20 conquering of the Redskins, leading to talk of a playoff push for the 5-7 Cowboys.
Ten days later, Hutchinson tried to make it three in a row against the streaking 49ers at Texas Stadium, but was relegated to bystander status as the team around him imploded in the fourth quarter. That early-December loss spelled a disgraceful end to a Dave Campo regime built on hot-air and surreal expectations. Read about it in Chapter 8 of Decade of Futility.

Bill Parcells' Draft-Day Acumen Key Reason For Dallas Cowboys' Turnaround

While his Hall of Fame bust strongly suggests Bill Parcells knew his X's & O's, the Tuna also had a keen eye for raw talent. This knack for finding young playmakers was a vital part in his turnaround of a defunct Dallas franchise.
In four years with the Cowboys, Parcells' combined draft day haul included a long list of Pro Bowlers, future Hall of Famers, and solid contributors that helped lead America's Team back to relevance.
Players on this list inlcude Terence Newman, Jason Witten, Bradie James, Julius Jones, Demarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Jay Ratlifff, Chris Canty, Kevin Burnett, Marion Barber and Jason Hatcher.
And that's without mentioning the rookie free-agent signing of Tony Romo in 2003, and the free-agent pickup of punter Mat McBriar in 2004.
Both Witten and Ware will likely be Hall of Fame shoo-ins when they hang up their cleats, and Romo is probably a Super Bowl away from Canton consideration. While the odds of Romo ever accomplishing such a feat seem more unlikely with each passing day, no radio talk show host will be blaming Parcells if he doesn't. They'll be blaming Jerry.
Oh, well. At least we all know Jerry will be listening when they do.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

But Who Motivates Jerry Jones The Most?

While the remaining 31 NFL General Managers are watching film, or poring over rosters, or meeting with the head coach, Jerry Jones wants everyone to know he's busy motivating himself...by listening to sports-talk radio.
It's just me, but, I'm wondering why nobody of the press bothered to ask him where Randy Galloway ranks on his list of favorite hosts?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Jerry Jones Promises Jason Garrett Another Year. But Does He Mean It?

Jerry Jones promised every one yesterday that Jason Garrett would return as head coach next season. He promised as much for Chan Gailey in 1999, only to boot Gailey out the door after a quick playoff exit.
Does Jerry actually mean what he says this time around?

Expectations For Dallas Cowboys WR Reggie Swinton Misfounded

Reporters simply relay what they have been told, and that’s all that Chip Brown was doing when, during the 2001 preseason, he wrote of Cowboys wideout Reggie Swinton, “The 6-foot Swinton fits the big-receiver profile the Cowboys are looking for.”
In no way is this an indictment of the former Dallas Morning News staff writer. Rather it shows the delusion that the Cowboys' front-office was living under, depicting Swinton as a “big” receiver that could complement the sideline skills of Joey Galloway and Raghib Ismail by going across the middle for catches, ala Keyshawn Johnson.
Even while competing against the likes of Darrin Chiaverini, Wane McGarity and Damon Hodge, Swinton never managed to make it as a receiver with the Cowboys. Nor did he make it as one anywhere else.
His lanky frame and superior vision enabled him to enjoy a 7-year career as a return specialist with Dallas, Green Bay, Detroit and Arizona, but was little more than an afterthought within any offensive game plan.