The 49ers got to celebrate the 30th anniversary of “The [@#%$&!!!] Catch” on January 10 this year. I don’t need to remind anyone, but one dynasty began that day while the Cowboys fell into mediocrity in a few short seasons.
I’ve always thought the entire defense was to blame for the entire drive. However, I have also thought that Walls had Clark in man coverage. The Wikipedia entry for Walls notes, without attribution, that Walls thinks The Catch “tarnished his otherwise outstanding pro career.”
Others disagree that the play was actually Walls’ fault, and that may very well be the case. Safety Michael Downs was playing in the middle of the field, and it appears that Walls briefly released Clark to Downs on the play. Here is the replay:
Still, in a recent interview, Walls does not provide much insight about who is to blame, and we might just need to leave good enough (or bad enough) alone.
Here is the interview:
This is another update to the greatest Dallas Cowboys by their jersey numbers. This entry focuses on numbers 26 through 30.
Cornerback Kevin Smith was the greatest player to wear #26 according to the 2008 poll. Nobody has come along to take that title from him.
Abram Elam changed from #24 to #26 before the start of last season. He had also worn #37 during his first stop in Dallas in 2006.
Ron Fellows remains the greatest to wear #27. Cornerback Cletis Gordon wore the number when he played in one game in 2009. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah wore #27 when he played in 2010. He played briefly for Jacksonville before returning to Dallas in 2011 and wore #11. He is listed as #26 for 2012, assuming he makes the team.
In just one season, DeMarco Murray became the toast of the town by rushing for 897 yards. Kenneth Gant received the most votes in 2008, but Murray could overtake Gant with another solid performance in 2012.
The only player to wear #30 since 2008 was backup running back Chauncey Washington. He will not overtake Dan Reeves for this jersey number.
Here is another update to the greatest Dallas Cowboys by their jersey numbers. This entry focuses on numbers 21 through 25.
Nobody is going to overtake Deion Sanders as the greatest player to wear #21. Since 2008, both Pacman Jones and Mike Jenkins have worn the number. Jenkins made the Pro Bowl in 2009 but has been disappointing since then. Pacman lasted one season in Dallas before moving on.
It’s highly unlikely that any player wears #22 again for the Cowboys. Two Hall-of -Famers is enough.
The Cowboys took Tashard Choice in the fourth round of the 2008 draft. He rushed for 1,139 yards in four seasons with the Cowboys, but the team let him go after six games in 2011. He played briefly for the Redskins before signing with the Bills. His playing days may be over.
It is possible that Choice is the greatest player to wear #23, given that the top player in 2008 was former defensive back Robert Williams. Thoughts?
Marion Barber played for Dallas from 2005 to 2010 and gained 4,358 rushing yards. Dallas released him, and he played one more season in Chicago before retiring.
Two players wore #24 in 2011. Abram Elam started with the number but then changed to #26. Fullback Tony Fiammetta later wore the number when he played in 10 games for the team.
It turns out I missed Elam when I summarized #37 in 2008. He wore that number when he played for Dallas in 2006.
Pat Watkins wore #25 from 2006 through 2009. Cornerback Frank Walker wore it in 2011.
Below is a complete list of players who have worn numbers 21 through 25.
Many fans would think that these moves, as well as free agent signings, would mean that things are looking up for the Cowboys in the near future. However, a recent article on ESPN ranked the Cowboys at #14 in terms of the team’s outlook for 2015.
Dallas has just the third highest ranking in the NFC East and ninth overall ranking in the NFC. The team trails both the Eagles and the Giants and even comes in behind the Panthers and Falcons.
The article broke down the rankings into five categories, including roster, quarterback, draft, front office, and coaching. Here is a complete description of the ranking.
Dallas wasn’t bad in terms of QB or coaching, but the team took a hit for its front office and draft. The summary is as follows:
Roster: Age is a concern. And unless they do a good job in free agency and the draft, the talent level will drop off in the next couple of years. They should remain fairly young at WR and RB, and they seem to be rebuilding their offensive line. Defensively, they are not very young and their best playmaker of the future will be rookie CB Morris Claiborne, but a lot of replacements are needed.
Quarterback: Tony Romo is perhaps the NFL’s most underrated QB. Given protection, he’ll put up big numbers, period. Romo can play hurt, but adding Kyle Orton to the roster gives Dallas one of the NFL’s best QB situations.
Draft: The Jerry Jones-led war room has an unpredictable streak, but the Cowboys’ great need picks — in T Tyron Smith and Claiborne in back-to-back years — tells me they may have toned it down. The 2009 draft was bad, but they’ve had good results since.
Front office: Jones may be the most involved owner in the NFL, in terms of player personnel, and every decision goes through him. Although his son, Stephen, continues to take a bigger role in day to day operations. Scouting director Tom Ciskowski is a blue-collar, well-respected guy. They will do whatever it takes to attract players in free agency and aggressively upgrade their roster.
Coaching: Not always a real patient organization under Jones, the Cowboys’ expectations are so high that if success isn’t immediate there can be turnover. However, because this is such a high-profile team with a chance to win every year, they also attract the top coaches in the business and you get the feeling that things have stabilized now that coach Jason Garrett is more comfortable and he has two big-time coordinators, Bill Callahan (offense) and Rob Ryan (defense). The group in Dallas may stay together for a while … if they succeed in the present.
Most of these are fair assessments. Two good drafts do not erase several bad drafts, so the team will have to continue to improve in that area. It would be nice if Jerry would get out of the way, but nobody really believes that will happen.
One gripe about this piece is the suggestion that the roster is old. The Cowboys had three starters over the age of 30 in 2012 (Romo, Kyle Kosier, and Montrae Holland). Two of those three (both guards) are gone. Jason Witten has turned 30, but the other players are also quite young.
On defense, the best players are DeMarcus Ware (turns 30 in July), Jay Ratliff (turns 31 in August), and Sean Lee (25). Terence Newman and Abram Elam are gone, and the team will have entire secondary of players who are under 30. The team will need to replace its safeties and some of its defensive linemen, but that is because those positions require upgrades and not so much because of age.
By 2015, there will be concerns about some of these ages, but the future of the team will likely hinge on the development of Lee, Dez Bryant, Mo Claiborne, and so forth.
When a team talks about a window of opportunity, it is usually in the context of a team that has fallen short in the playoffs. For instance, the Baltimore Ravens might talk about their window of opportunity after reaching the AFC title game in two of the last four seasons and coming within a dropped pass of going to the Super Bowl last year.
When a team has done what the Cowboys have done, there isn’t much of a basis to say that a window has been open, let alone to say that it has begun to close.
Let’s put it this way: would anyone dare say that the Cincinnati Bengals have recently had a window of opportunity to win a title? No. What have the Bengals done recently? They have had two winning seasons in the last three years, and two playoff appearances in the past seven.
The Cowboys? They have won one more game than the Bengals in the past two years and have not had a winning record since 2009. Dallas has been to the playoffs three times in the past eight years.
Well, my window is getting shorter. Time goes by. I do feel real pressure because we do have players not only in Tony Romo, but Jason Witten (and) DeMarcus Ware, to leave out several that are (also) in the prime of their career. And we need to strike and strike soon with those guys.
(Coach) Jason Garrett feels exactly the same way about it and understands how urgent it is. Candidly, you’re wearing Chemion and looking through rose-colored glasses if we all don’t realize that now is the time to compete on the field.
This is a team that has taken steps in the right direction. It has become younger overall and has some exciting young talent. That is reason for optimism.
But this is also a team with a bunch of holes, including question marks on the offensive line, wide receiver, and safety. And as good as Romo, Witten, and Ware have been, they have not helped this team win more than a single playoff game, let alone three or four in a row in the same season. Realistically, this team looks like it could be a solid contender as early as 2013, but there are too many question marks to expect too much in 2012.
Fox’s Matt Mosley wrote:
Other than Wade Phillips’ 2007 campaign with a lot of Bill Parcells carryovers, it’s been years since the Cowboys could reasonably expect to make noise in the playoffs. Now, Jones is forced to roll out the tired rally cry of how the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants were able to win Super Bowls after 9-7 records in the regular season. Of course, those teams actually built momentum down the stretch and remained hot in the postseason. The Cowboys seem to peak in October and then slump when the stakes become higher.
Exactly. And my point here is not that this team doesn’t have potential or even that I am unhappy with the moves made this offseason. However, “moving in the right direction” and “urgently need to win right now” don’t seem to be very comparable.
As for Jerry, this seems to be just more proof that he is a bigger part of the problem than he is a key to any solution.
More updates to the series on greatest Dallas Cowboys by their jersey numbers. This entry focuses on numbers 16 through 20.
There is only one player who has worn the number since that time: wide receiver Jesse Holley. He won Michael Irvin‘s reality show, 4th and Long, which gave Holley the chance to make the Cowboys roster. In two seasons, he has seven receptions, including an important catch in overtime in the Cowboys’ win over the San Francisco 49ers in 2011.
Dallas spent a draft pick on kicker David Buehler in 2009. Wearing #18, he was a very good kickoff specialist as a rookie. However, when he became the full-time kicker in 2010, his kickoff suffered. When the league moved kickoffs back to the 35, his value sank. Dallas released him after the 2011 season.
At the time of the original series, Miles Austin had not yet emerged, and Lance Rentzel was the greatest #19 in team history. Austin had a breakout season in 2009, though, recording 1,320 receiving yards with 11 touchdowns. He also gained 1,000 yards in 2010 but struggled in 2011 due to injuries.
Rentzel only gained 35% of the vote and barely beat Keyshawn Johnson and Lance Alworth. Here is a new poll that features Austin:
Lastly, Alan Ball continues to wear #20. He moved from corner to safety in 2010 but bombed miserably. He returned to play corner in 2011.
Update (6/3/2012): Ball has reportedly signed with the Houston Texans, where he will be reunited with former Dallas head coach Wade Phillips.
Here is a list of all the players to wear numbers between 16 and 20:
In this update to the series on greatest Dallas Cowboys by their jersey numbers, we focus on numbers 11 through 15.
The most noteworthy update involves #11, worn by wide receiver Roy Williams from 2008 to 2010. The Cowboys gave up a first-round pick in 2009 to acquire Williams, who was supposed to complement Terrell Owens. However, Williams simply could not hold on to the ball consistently and was quickly labeled as a bust.
Danny White received 96% of the votes as the greatest player to wear #11, and Williams did nothing to garner any votes.
(Defensive back Akwasi Owusu-Ansah also wore #11 during the 2011 season, but he played a few more games in 2010 wearing #27.)
#14: Receiver Dwayne Harris joined the Cowboys in 2011 and played in seven games wearing #14. He was used primarily as a returner.
#15: Manual Johnson saw action in two games in 2010, catching one pass for two yards in the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Here is a complete list of players who have worn numbers 11 through 15:
- Dallas Cowboys History in Quotes: The 1989 Season (knowyourdallascowboys.com)
It’s hard to believe, but it has been five years since the Cowboys opened their 2007 season against the Giants at Texas Stadium. Dallas was coming off a playoff season after going 9-7, while the Giants had finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Dallas came into the game favored by as many as six points.
In one of the great opening games in franchise history, Dallas continued to find ways to score points and came away with a 45-35 win. Led by new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, Dallas amassed 478 yards of total offense, including 345 passing yards on just 15 completions.
Here is a summary provided by CBS:
Dallas picked up another win over the Giants later in 2007 and finished the regular season with a 13-3 record. The Cowboys were 7.5-point favorites when Dallas hosted the Giants in the playoffs. As most know, though, the Cowboys lost 21-17, and the Giants went on to win Super Bowl XLII.
* * *
Incidentally, news about the Cowboys is hard to come by these days. One of the leading Cowboys stories is about former coach Jimmy Johnson peddling medically ineffective penis pills. Ahem.
Offseason personnel moves seem to have helped the Cowboys as far as their odds for winning Super Bowl XLVII. Odds-makers have the Cowboys as 20/1 favorites to win it all in 2012. That ranks about 11th among the NFL teams.
The Packers are the favorites at this point at 13/2, while the Patriots are at 8/1.
Here is a list:
Green Bay – 13/2
New England – 8/1
San Francisco 49ers – 10/1
Denver Broncos – 12/1
Houston Texans – 12/1
Philadelphia Eagles – 14/1
Baltimore Ravens – 16/1
New Orleans Saints – 16/1
New York Giants – 16/1
Chicago Bears – 20/1
Dallas Cowboys – 20/1
Pittsburgh Steelers – 20/1
Dallas is already an underdog for week 1 according to Betfirms.com, which currently lists the Cowboys as a 3.5-point underdog when Dallas faces the New York Giants on September 1.
I am going to criticize Jason Witten in this short post, and some may not forgive me for it. However, I think that Jerry Jones‘ nonsense has rubbed off on his veteran tight end, and I just want to point this out.
The analysts at NFL.com debated whether time was running out on the Cowboys’ playoff window, with the story headline “Now or never.” The story itself mentions that there is a closing window for the Cowboys to win it all. Here is Witten’s quote that appears as part of that story:
You try not to think about the window. But obviously, we’re realists. We understand where it’s at. I feel great and we’re playing great. But it’s about now. I think that’s how this whole organization thinks, from owner to head coach to veteran players.
Here’s my problem: How do you use the term “realists” followed two sentences later with “we’re playing great?”
This is a team that has gone 6-10 and 8-8 in two seasons. Witten has only played in five playoff games during ten years. The last time the Cowboys were in a solid position to do anything in the playoffs was 2007, and the team blew it against the Giants at home.
The point that the analysts addressed was whether the window is closing for veteran Cowboys. That would include Witten and Tony Romo. The rest of the team’s core is rather young, though, so it is tough to say who else is watching the window shut.
When the season starts, DeMarcus Ware will be 30 and Jay Ratliff will be 31. It’s hard to believe they don’t have at least four more years left in them. Miles Austin will be 28, and all of the running backs along with Dez Bryant are younger than that.
On defense, things are looking better with younger players like Sean Lee and the revamped secondary.
It looks more like a window could start opening if the team could get more solid play from its 32-year-old quarterback. Using great to describe anything about this franchise, though, is just pushing it.