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Dallas Cowboys Move from Dead Money Disaster to Salary Cap Hell

At the end of this tunnel in hell is Doug Free's contract.

At the end of this tunnel in hell is Doug Free’s contract.

In November, National Football Post had an article describing dead money disasters. And wouldn’t you know it, our underachieving Dallas Cowboys were among those disasters. The bit about the Cowboys:

The Cowboys are paying for contract mistakes made several years ago. Most notably are the contracts that were signed by Roy Williams and Marion Barber.

At least Marion Barber (above) produced while he was with the Cowboys. That’s more than you can say about Roy Williams.

Williams signed a six-year, $54 million contract extension (with $19.5 million guaranteed) in 2008 after being acquired from the Detroit Lions for 2009 first, third and sixth round picks. Williams never came close to duplicating his 2006 Pro Bowl season with Detroit (82 catches, 1,310 receiving yards) while with the Cowboys. In fact, Williams only had 12 more receptions and 10 more receiving yards than his 2006 season during his almost three seasons in Dallas.

Barber received a seven-year, $45 million contract (with $16 million guaranteed) in 2008 as a restricted free agent without having a 1,000-yard rushing season or being an every-down running back. Even though Williams and Barber haven’t played for the Cowboys since the 2010 season, they are currently counting $8.75 million and $4 million, respectively, towards Dallas’ cap. The same holds true for Leonard Davis ($4,166,670) and Marc Colombo ($4.05 million), who was also part of the 2011 roster purge once the lockout ended.

The Cowboys were still able to be a major player in the first wave of free agency despite 22.6% of their adjusted cap being devoted to dead money and their penalty for violating the spirit of unwritten spending rules during the uncapped 2010 season. Brandon Carr received a five-year, $50.1 million deal (including $26.5 million in guarantees). His $3.2 million first year cap number is low for such a lucrative deal. Carr’s cap number jumps to $16.3 million next year which makes him a prime candidate to restructure his contract since the Cowboys will have a $6.5 million cap deficit because of those penalties and approximately $134 million committed towards next year’s cap with only 43 players under contract.

In 2013, the situation is different but by no means better. The Cowboys reportedly only have $194,440 in dead money, yet the team is still $20 million over the salary cap. The Cowboys have a total commitment of $143,073,082 in 2013, and only the Jets and the Saints face a worse salary cap situation.

The cause? $103,257,533 in base salaries. Only the Eagles franchise has a higher figure of base salaries. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the Cowboys or Eagles made the playoffs last year. Or the year before. Or (in the case of the Cowboys) the year before that.

You know who makes the playoffs every year? The Patriots, who have the sixth lowest salary number in the league with a total commitment of $106,497,111. That’s $36.5 million less than the 8-8 Cowboys.

And who won the Super Bowl last year? The Ravens, with a total commitment of $107,482,179.

This is even more disheartening: the two teams with the lowest salary cap numbers are the Bengals (total commitment of $75,584,664) and Colts (total commitment of $77,510,714). I seem to remember them competing in the playoffs last year.

The Cowboys, of course, weren’t.

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A Look Back (1963): Dallas Texans Leave for Kansas City

The 1962 Dallas Texans finished the regular season at 11-3 and won the AFL championship. The Dallas Cowboys of the NFL finished the same season at 5-8-1 and would not reach the playoffs for another four years.

Nevertheless, the Cowboys were the ones who remained in Dallas after the Texans lost money in each of the years they were in Dallas. By the week of February 10, 1963 (or 50 years ago this week), word was that the Texans were on their way to Kansas City.

Here was a cartoon that appeared in the February 10 issue of the Dallas Morning News:

1963

As of February, though, the move wasn’t final. The top article in the sport section of the February 10 issue stated:

Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Texans, threatened Saturday to move his American Football League franchise to Dallas if Kansas City doesn’t buy 25,000 season tickets.

What this meant was that the move to Kansas City was not yet complete, which meant the former Dallas Texans, who were briefly known as the Kansas City Texans, would return to become the Dallas Texans once again. Got it?

Of course, the Texans became the Chiefs. It only took the Kansas City community eight weeks to sell the required number of seats, and Dallas has been a one-pro-team town since then.

Several stories indicated that Dallas leaders thought the move by the Texans would be good in the long run because Dallas could not support two franchises.

Another article noted that many in the Dallas area often confused the two teams, noting when asked that they would miss “Coach Schramm and his boys.” (!!!)

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2013 Update: Dallas Cowboys’ Record vs. Eventual Super Bowl Champions

Super-Bowl-Trophy-Size

The Cowboys were once known for winning this trophy. Now the team just has an odd knack for playing teams that win this trophy.

This is becoming rather peculiar. For the seventh consecutive year, the Dallas Cowboys have faced the team that eventually won the Super Bowl.

This year, Dallas lost to the Baltimore Ravens 31-29 on October 14. Baltimore, of course, beat San Francisco to win Super Bowl XLVII.

The Cowboys have now faced the team that eventually won the Super Bowl a total of 39 times. Dallas has a record of 9-32 in those games.

Pre-Super Bowl

1960– vs. Philadelphia, L 25-27
1964– vs. Cleveland, L 16-20
1965– vs. Green Bay, L 3-13

Regular Season

1973– vs. Miami, L 7-14
1979– vs. Pittsburgh, L 3-14
1980– vs. Oakland, W 19-13
1981– vs. San Francisco, L 14-45
1982– vs. Washington, W 24-10
1983– vs. L.A. Raiders, L 38-40
1985– vs. Chicago, L 0-44
1986– vs. N.Y. Giants, W 31-28
1986– vs. N.Y. Giants, L 14-17
1987– vs. Washington, L 7-13
1987– vs. Washington, L 20-24
1989– vs. San Francisco, L 14-31
1990– vs. N.Y. Giants, L 7-28
1990– vs. N.Y. Giants, L 17-31
1991– vs. Washington, L 31-33
1991– vs. Washington, W 24-21
1994– vs. San Francisco, L 14-21
1996– vs. Green Bay, W 21-6
1998– vs. Denver, L 23-42
2000– vs. Baltimore Ravens, L 0-27
2003– vs. New England, L 0-12
2006– vs. Indianapolis, W 21-14
2007- vs. N.Y. Giants, W 45-35
2007- vs. N.Y. Giants, W 31-20
2008- vs. Pittsburgh, L 13-20
2009- vs. New Orleans, W 24-17
2010- vs. Green Bay, L 7-45
2011- vs. N.Y. Giants, L 34-37
2011- vs. N.Y. Giants, L 14-31
2012- vs. Baltimore, L 29-31

Playoffs

1966– vs. Green Bay (NFL Championship), L 27-34
1967– vs. Green Bay (NFL Championship), L 17-21
1970– vs. Baltimore Colts (Super Bowl V), L 13-16
1975– vs. Pittsburgh (Super Bowl X), L 17-21
1978– vs. Pittsburgh (SuperBowl XIII), L 31-35
1981– vs. San Francisco (NFC Championship), L 27-28
1982– vs. Washington (NFC Championship), L 17-31
1994– vs. San Francisco (NFC Championship), L 28-38
2007- vs. N.Y. Giants (Divisional Round), L 21-17

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Dallas Cowboys Trivia: Name the Guards Drafted in the First Round

Drafting a guard in the first round is unglamorous.

Drafting a guard in the first round is unglamorous.

The Dallas Cowboys have not taken many guards early in previous NFL drafts. When the team has gone in that direction, it has been a hit-or-miss effort.

Hits, for example: Larry Allen (2nd round, 46th overall, 1994); Andre Gurode (2nd round, 37th overall, 2002).

Of course, Gurode had much greater success as a center.

Misses, for example: Stephen Peterman (3rd round, 83rd overall, 2004); Solomon Page (2nd round, 55th overall, 1999); Scott Scifres (3rd round, 83rd overall, 1997); Shane Hannah (2nd round, 63rd overall, 1995).

Here’s a trivia question: Which two guards have the Cowboys taken in the first round?

These players may be joined by a guard in the 2013 draft. Mel Kiper predicts that the Cowboys could take North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper, and several others have predicted guards as well.

* * *

Here’s another trivial matter.

Did you know that the first guard the Cowboys ever selected in a draft wound up in the Hall of Fame?

In 1961, the Cowboys selected Georgia Tech guard Billy Shaw in the 14th round (184th overall). The AFL’s Buffalo Bills took Shaw in the second round of the AFL Draft, and he signed with the Bills. He played nine years in the NFL and made eight trips to the Pro Bowl and earned All-Pro honors five times.

The other guard the Cowboys selected in 1961 was Lynn Hoyem of Long Beach State. He played two years in Dallas before moving on to Philadelphia.

 

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Trivia: Who Were the Last Defensive Linemen Drafted When Dallas Ran the 4-3?

The Cowboys last used the 4-3 defense in 2004.

The Cowboys last used the 4-3 defense in 2004.

The Dallas Cowboys ran different versions of the 4-3 between 1960 and 2004. In fact, Tom Landry developed the 4-3 that became prevalent throughout the league.

When Jimmy Johnson became head coach in 1989, he retained the 4-3 but discarded the flex defense that Landry had used for many years. Johnson’s defense relied on speed more than size. The Cowboys continued to use a version of this 4-3 until the third year of Bill Parcells‘ tenure.

Since 2005, Dallas has run the 3-4, which features larger linemen and larger linebackers. The Cowboys have spent a number of draft picks trying to find inside and outside linebackers as well as defensive linemen to fit the system.

Trivia question for the day: who were the last defensive linemen drafted when the Cowboys still used the 4-3?

Here’s a hint: The Cowboys did not draft a single defensive lineman between 2002 and 2004.

Check out the Facebook page for the answer.

* * *

More about the Cowboys’ use of the 4-3:

In 2004, the Cowboys’ starters along the defensive line included DE Greg Ellis, DE Marcellus Wiley, DT Leonardo Carson, and DT La’Roi Glover. Glover moved to nose tackle in 2005, while Ellis remained at end. Ellis then moved to outside linebacker in 2006.

 

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By the Numbers: Monte Kiffin vs. Rob Ryan

MonteKiffin at the VOL Walk

Monte Kiffin will return to the NFL in 2013 as the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator.

It has been four days since the Dallas Cowboys officially hired Monte Kiffin to take over as defensive coordinator.

If you respect Larry Lacewell’s opinion—and a certain owner obviously does—you have reason for optimism. The former scouting director has told several reporters that Kiffin will have no trouble making his mark in Dallas.

Meanwhile, Rob Ryan will reportedly become defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams. One of several reasons cited for the change in Dallas was that the defense under Ryan simply lacked discipline.

There will be plenty of time to debate the pros and cons of this move, but here are a few numbers to consider.

Age at the Beginning of the 2013 Season

Kiffin: 73

Ryan: 50

Experience as NFL Defensive Coordinator

Kiffin: 15 years

Ryan: 9 years

Defensive Philosophy

Kiffin: 4-3 in a relatively simple system known as the Tampa-2

Ryan: 3-4 with a relatively complex system of blitzes and coverages

Number of Teams Coached (Before Dallas)

Kiffin: 3

Ryan: 3

Number of Playoff Seasons While Defensive Coordinator

Kiffin: 8

Ryan: 0

Number of Seasons with Winning Records While Defensive Coordinator

Kiffin: 7

Ryan: 0

Number of Times Defenses Finished in the Top 5 in Yards Allowed

Kiffin: 8

Ryan: 1

Number of Times Defenses Finished in the Top 5 in Points Allowed

Kiffin: 6

Ryan: 0

 

No, these numbers don’t mean everything, but there is a good chance fans won’t have to put up with so much hype that surrounded Ryan.

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Nearly All of the Cowboys’ Gambles Backfired

Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

Jerry says changes are coming. No, he won’t replace himself, Jason Garrett, or Tony Romo. But changes are coming. Involving someone. Or something.

The potential “big” news this offseason is Jerry Jones’ statement that he will consider making some significant changes. Involving someone. Or something.

Rick Gosselin says that Jerry needs to make dramatic changes.

We know what changes Jerry won’t make, though, so it’s hard to take this talk seriously at this point.

Think about this—the Cowboys’ current playoff drought is as long as the period when Dave Campo coached the team. Yes, the current team has done better than the five-win teams of 2000, 2001, and 2002, but has it really been better as a fan?

Well, not while we watch the playoffs without the Cowboys yet again.

Three teams that played on Sunday—Indianapolis, Washington, and Seattle—took major gambles this year, and each team had fantastic years given initial expectations.

Jerry keeps calling his team a Super Bowl team (tough without making the playoffs), but his gambles in 2012 (and 2011 for that matter) failed quite miserably.

A review:

1. Receiving Corps

Gamble: Hoping someone would emerge as a third receiver.

Backfire: Kevin Ogletree had one good game early in the season. After catching eight passes in the season opener against the Giants, he averaged less than two receptions per game for the rest of the year.  Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley showed some promise, but the Cowboys stuck with Ogletree for much of the year.

2. Loading Up on Corners

Gamble: Loading up on cornerbacks but not picking up a quality strong safety.

Backfire: Barry Church looked like a decent starter but missed the final 13 games with an Achilles injury. That left the Cowboys with plenty of corners and Danny McCray at safety. At one point, Dallas used $50 million cornerback Brandon Carr as a free safety on passing downs. Other safeties included household names like Charlie Peprah and Eric Frampton.

Speaking of those corners, they combined for a total of four interceptions.

3. Younger Guards 

Gamble: The Cowboys tried to get younger by moving on from Kyle Kosier (34) and Montrae Holland (32) and signing Nate Livings (30) and Mackenzy Bernadeau (26).

Backfire: Although the middle of the line seemed to get better by the end of the season, Romo often faced pressure up the middle. Moreover, the team was abysmal running the ball, averaging less than 80 yards per game.

4. Swapping Tackles

Gamble: The Cowboys moved Doug Free to right tackle and Tyron Smith to left tackle. Both players would therefore return to their natural positions.

Backfire: Free was a disaster. By year’s end, the team often substituted Jermey Parnell at right tackle, ostensibly to give Free a “break.” Smith was better, but not much better.

5. Injury-Prone Young Stars

Gamble: In the past few drafts, the team found some budding stars in Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, and DeMarco Murray. However, all three came to the team with injury problems.

Backfire: All three  have shown great promise but all three have missed significant time because of injuries. The team relied heavily on Lee as a playmaker, and his absence in the final 10 games hurt. Carter seemed to fill Lee’s shoes, but he missed the last five games. The result was that the Cowboys had to turn to Dan Connor and Ernie Sims late in the season, and it was no coincidence that the team could not slow down the Redskins in the season finale.

Murray looks like a lead running back, but he missed five games in 2012 along with the final three in 2011. And with Felix Jones showing next to nothing for most of the year, the team needed Murray for more than 11 games.

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Washington 28, Dallas 18: Cowboys’ Season Ends with Another Thud

 

Tony Romo's third interception against the Redskins cost the Cowboys a chance to win the game and reach the playoffs.

Tony Romo’s third interception against the Redskins cost the Cowboys a chance to win the game and reach the playoffs.

Roger Staubach led the Cowboys to two Super Bowls. He capped off his great career by leading the Cowboys to a win over Washington after trailing 34-21 in the fourth quarter in a regular-season finale with the NFC East on the line.

 

Tony Romo has led the Cowboys to one playoff win. He is well-remembered for dropping a snap on an easy field goal that might have given the Cowboys a win over the Seahawks in the playoffs. He also led the Cowboys to a 44-6 loss to the Eagles to end the 2008 season; a 34-3 loss to the Vikings in the 2009 playoffs; and 31-14 loss to the Giants when the NFC East title was on the line in the season finale in 2011.

We may not remember Romo for those failures, though, thanks to his final interception of the 2012 season.

Dallas trailed 21-10 with less than 7 minutes remaining. Dallas finally forced a Washington punt, and Dwayne Harris returned the ball to the Washington 31. A facemask penalty moved the ball to the 16.

Three plays later, Romo hit Kevin Ogletree for a touchdown. A two-point conversion cut the Washington lead to 21-18.

The defense forced another stop. Dallas got the ball back with 3:33 remaining. Romo moved the ball to the Dallas 29 on a pass to Jason Witten.

And then he threw another pass. He lofted a ball in the left flat towards DeMarco Murray, and the ball seemingly hung in the air like a short punt. Murray didn’t catch it. Redskins’ linebacker Rob Jackson did.

We fondly remember Staubach hitting the likes of Tony Hill, Butch Johnson, Ron Springs, and Preston Pearson in that 1979 finale against the Redskins. We may spend years remember Romo lofting a ball to the flat and into the waiting arms of a Washington linebacker.

Another 8-8 season. No playoffs.

Dallas barely stopped Alfred Morris all night, and Morris ran six times on the ensuing drive. Dallas might have forced a field goal attempt, but Jason Hatcher hit Robert Griffin III‘s helmet on a third-down play and drew a penalty.

Romo finished the night with three interceptions, having thrown two in the first quarter. He redeemed himself with a touchdown pass to Jason Witten to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead in the first half, but the Cowboys gave up a touchdown run by Morris later in the quarter.

When Griffin scored in the third quarter, Washington took a 14-7 lead. That meant the Cowboys trailed in every single game this season. Moreover, the Cowboys held halftime leads in only 3 games. No wonder the team finished 8-8.

The makeshift defense gave up 200 rushing yards to Morris, who eventually scored three times. Murray finished with 76 yards.

Dez Bryant and Miles Austin both left the game early with injuries, forcing the Cowboys to play Ogletree, Harris, and Cole Beasley. Those were the receivers in the game when the Cowboys started their drive that ended with Romo’s last interception.

So, we have about 116 days until the NFL Draft. The Cowboys will pick 18th. I’m not the least bit excited about anything.

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A Short History of Season Finales Between Dallas and Washington

Tony Hill came up huge in 1979 when the Cowboys came from behind to beat Washington and win the NFC East.

Tony Hill came up huge in 1979 when the Cowboys came from behind to beat Washington and win the NFC East.

On Sunday night, the Cowboys and Redskins will face off in a season finale for the sixth time in history. Here is a review of the previous five games.

1979—Dallas 35, Washington 34

Many fans remember the first time the teams met to end a regular season. Dallas and Washington were both 10-5 when they faced off at Texas Stadium on December 16, 1979. The winner would win the NFC East, while a Dallas loss would have sent the Cowboys to the wildcard game one week later to play the Eagles.

Washington took a 34-21 lead in the fourth quarter and had the ball with about four minutes left.

Nothing looked good for the Cowboys until a series of plays that allowed Roger Staubach to pull off one last miracle.

  • On a 3rd and 5 play with just under 4 minutes left, Clarence Harmon fumbled the ball, and Randy White recovered.
  • Staubach went to work right after the fumble, hitting Butch Johnson, Tony Hill, and Ron Springs on consecutive passes. The 26-yard pass to Springs for a touchdown cut the Washington lead to 34-28.
  • Washington faced a critical 3rd-and-2 with 2 minutes left. John Riggins tried to run outside, but Larry Cole burst through the hole and caught Riggins for a loss.
  • The Cowboys got the ball back with 1:46 at their own 25. Hill came up with another huge reception, picking up 20 yards on the first play of the drive.
  • On the next play, Staubach evaded the rush and hit Preston Pearson over the middle for another 23-yard gain.
  • Pearson’s second reception of the drive moved the ball to the Washington 8, which set up Staubach’s game-winning pass to Hill.

Here’s a video worth watching:

1996—Washington 37, Dallas 10

The Cowboys had nothing to gain when they faced the Redskins in the season finale in 1996. This was the last game ever played at RFK Stadium, and the Cowboys barely showed up in a 37-10 loss.

1998—Dallas 23, Washington 7

Two years later, the Cowboys hosted Washington with a chance to sweep the entire division. Dallas beat the Redskins but then turned around and lost to division rival Arizona one week later.

2002—Washington 20, Dallas 14

There was nothing on the line when the teams faced off in 2002. The game proved to be Emmitt Smith’s last with Dallas. He entered the game needing 38 yards to reach 1,000 for the 12th consecutive year. He managed just 13 yards on 18 carries.

2007—Washington 27, Dallas 6

Many thought the Cowboys needed momentum heading into the 2007 playoffs. Instead, the Redskins thumped Dallas, and two weeks later, Dallas lost to the Giants in the playoffs.

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New Orleans 34, Dallas 31 (OT): Another Comeback Falls Short

Dez Bryant

Dez Bryant had a career day, hauling in 224 receiving yards with 2 TDs in a 34-31 loss to New Orleans.

Tony Romo said during the week that if the Cowboys were down by 10 or 14 points in the fourth quarter, they would find a way to win the game.

Until lately, this was a laughable thought. The Dallas team was better known for blowing 10- to 14-point leads.

With just under 10 minutes remaining on Sunday, the Cowboys were down by 14 and had to punt. On the previous drive, the Saints had marched 98 yards on 10 plays to take the 2-touchdown lead.

New Orleans moved the ball to midfield but were unable to move further. The Saints punted the ball, and Dallas took over with just under 5 minutes left.

On a 2nd-and-2 play from the Dallas 28, Romo found Dez Bryant, who added to his monster game with a 41-yard reception. Three plays later, Romo hit Dwayne Harris for a touchdown to cut the lead to 31-24.

Dallas needed and got a stop, forcing another punt with less than two minutes left.

Romo drove the team back inside the red zone but faced a 4th and 10 from the New Orleans 19. Romo bought some time and lofted a pass to the right side of the end zone. Miles Austin was there and caught the pass, tying the game and forcing overtime.

From there, it was all Saints. Dallas received the kickoff but could not pick up a first down. The Saints took over after the Dallas punt at the Saint 26-yard line.

The first play was a 26-yarder to Jimmy Graham to move the ball into Dallas territory. Five plays later, Drew Brees hit Marques Colston, who fumbled. However, the ball rolled forward more than 20 yards, and Graham recovered. Referees upheld the play on review, and one play later, the Saints kicked a field goal to win the game.

The loss ruined a career day by Bryant, who finished with 224 yards on 9 receptions. Romo had four touchdowns along with 416 passing yards.

As it turns out, the Cowboys are still in the playoff hunt. The Giants lost to the Ravens, meaning that the winner of the Cowboys-Redskins game next week will win the NFC East. This is the fourth time since 2008 that the Cowboys have faced a division foe on the final week of the season with either the division title or a playoff berth on the line.

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