Is Charles Haley a Cowboy or a 49er?

Hall of famers as a general matter are associated with a single franchise, even when they have bounced around the league.

The Hall of Fame’s Board of Selectors will decide tomorrow whether former Dallas coach Bill Parcells and former defensive end Charles Haley will make the Hall of Fame.

Should Parcells make it, Giants fans will celebrate more loudly than Dallas fans. He spent 11 years with the Giants, winning 7 7 of 127 regular-season games and two Super Bowl titles. With the Cowboys, he was barely over .500 with a 34-30 record and no playoff wins.

Haley’s situation is different. By the time he arrived in Dallas in 1992, he had been selected to the Pro Bowl three times and named All Pro once. He also owned two Super Bowl rings.

With Dallas, he was very important in the team’s three Super Bowl titles between 1992 and 1995. After playing only five games in 1996, he retired. However, when he returned to the league in 1998, he rejoined the 49ers.

Hall of famers as a general matter are associated with a single franchise, even when they have bounced around the league.

George Blanda played for four teams over a 26-year career, but most associate him with the Raiders.

Nick Buoniconti played seven seasons in Boston and seven with Miami. Most associate him with the Dolphins rather than the Patriots.

There are plenty of other examples. The point here is that if Haley becomes a member of the Hall, should he be associated with the 49ers or Cowboys?

I would say that he would be more associated with San Francisco, but consider a few things:

San Francisco fans have focused more on Eddie DeBartolo Jr.’s possible selection than Haley’s (see here and here, for example).

Likewise, one of the better 49ers blogs, 49ersnews.com, doesn’t even discuss the possible Hall-of-Fame selections.

This isn’t to say that 49er fans wouldn’t claim Haley as one of their own, but it appears that Dallas fans have focused more on his induction.

What do you think?

Is Charles Haley a Cowboy or a 49er?

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Cowboys Look to Retain Special Teams Coach Joe DeCamillis

The significant news today was that the Cowboys refused to allow the Oakland Raiders to interview special-teams coach Joe DeCamillis, who has been with the team since 2009.

Dallas didn’t have some of the special teams gaffes compared with last year, when the coverage units often struggled. The Cowboys ranked 5th in average yards allowed per kickoff return (21.4 yds/return on 52 kickoffs) and 14th on average yards allowed per punt (9.3 yds./return on 30 punt returns). The team did not give up a return touchdown on special teams.

However, the return units didn’t provide much of a benefit.

The Cowboys tied with three other teams for 20th in average return yards per return with 23.3 yards (the Giants and Rams were the other two teams). Dallas was worse on punt returns, averaging only 7.1 yards per return, which tied for 27th in 2011.

Dallas was among 12 teams that did not record either a kickoff return or a punt return for a touchdown. The Cowboys had three punt returns for touchdowns in 2010 but have not returned a kickoff for a touchdown since Felix Jones returned one against the Eagles during week 2 of the 2008 season.

Mat McBriar Quiz

The Cowboys are reportedly hopeful that Mat McBriar will not only recover from knee surgery, but also that he will remain with the team.

He has played 102 games with the Cowboys between 2004 and 2011, which ranks third among punters in team history behind Danny White (145 games as a punter) and Mike Saxon (124 games). McBriar’s career average of 45.3 yards per kick is the highest in franchise history.

Below is a quiz with five questions about McBriar.


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Sixteen Long Years Ago: Dallas vs. Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XXX

Saturday marked the 16th anniversary of the Cowboys’ 27-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX.

For personal reasons, I find it amazing that it has been 16 years. I moved to Texas just five days before that game and can still remember watching that game very vividly.

Here is a clip of that game’s highlights:

The fact that it has been 16 years is significant for another reason. Never before have Cowboys fans had to wait so long for a world championship.

Consider the time spans between titles in the team’s history:

1. 1960-1971 (11 years): Dallas formed as an expansion team in 1960 and won a title 11 years later by beating Miami in Super Bowl VI.

2. 1971-1977 (6 years): Dallas fans had to wait six more seasons before they had a second title after the Cowboys beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XII.

3. 1977-1992 (15 years): Dallas fans endured a loss in Super Bowl XIII and three consecutive losses in the NFC Championship Game before the franchise fell on dark times. That ended in 1992 when Dallas won the first of three titles in four seasons.

4. 1992-1993 (1 year): The Cowboys defended their title in Super Bowl XXVIII.

5. 1993-1995 (2 years): Dallas returned to the top two years later by beating the Steelers.

6. 1995-present (16 years and counting): The Cowboys have won two playoff games since Super Bowl XXX.

 

Jason Witten Left Off the All-Any-Era Team

The Dallas Cowboys have a tight end who can block better than many tight ends in NFL history. This same tight end ranks 38th in league history in receptions with 696.

You might also recall that Jason Witten gained 53 yards on a play during which he lost his helmet. Here is that particular play:

Well, neither Witten’s old-school toughness nor his modern-era productivity was enough to put him on ESPN’s All-Any-Era list. Witten didn’t even garner honorable mention, while RB Chris Johnson did. Sorry, but that’s just nonsense.

The Steelers wound up with four players on the 20-man list, including Hines Ward because of his toughness. Please see the video above re: toughness.

Tim Tebow made this list as well. That’s Tim Tebow and his 14 career NFL starts. During this time, he has won eight games while completing 47.3% of his passes.

Wasn’t this list about players who would excel in any era?

Again, this is just nonsense.

* * *

The Cowboys had another player show up on a similar list. Thomas Neumann listed 10 Anti-All-Era Team to coincide with the main ESPN deal.

Coming in at #6 was QB Eddie LeBaron. He was a starter in Washington before joining the expansion Cowboys in 1960.

According to Neumann, LeBaron would not excel in any era because of his height.

At 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds, LeBaron defied the odds to reach the NFL. He was tough — a former Marine who served in the Korean War — and went on to play 11 seasons at quarterback with the Redskins and Cowboys and another 11 in the CFL, from 1952 to 1963. He was the Cowboys’ starter in the team’s first two years of existence.

 Unfortunately, in today’s supersized game, LeBaron might find himself stuffed into a locker on a daily basis — by the kicking specialists.

 On the bright side, the pint-sized signal-caller was presumably the inspiration for the Chrysler LeBaron, the epic luxury sedan that seduced America with power and luxury.

By the way, LeBaron only played one year in the CFL (with Calgary in 1954), not 11 as this quote says.

* * *

Oh, there is another one-time Cowboy on Neumann’s list. He ranks Bill and Martin Gramatica at #3. Martin was the Cowboys kicker late in 2006 and was the one who would have kicked the go-ahead field goal against Seattle had Tony Romo been able to get the snap down.

DeMarcus Ware Makes the All-Any-Era Team

Know Your Dallas CowboysHard to believe that Jason Witten won’t show up on this list.

ESPN is running a poll featuring players who would excel during any NFL era. The Cowboys weren’t left out.

Coming in at #12 is OLB DeMarcus Ware. He joins James Harrison, Patrick Willis, and Brian Urlacher as the other linebackers announced so far.

ESPN will announce the final four players on Friday.

The story about Ware included quotes from former stars Darrell Green, John Randle, and James Lofton. Here is Randle’s quote:

There are some guys, linebackers and defensive ends, in today’s game who can run, but they can’t dip their shoulder or maneuver around those corners using their hands, but DeMarcus is a great linebacker, but he’s also a great pass-rusher. And he’s a great defensive lineman because he has the speed and the ability to take on blocks and to take on double teams.

It’s hard to believe that TE Jason Witten won’t show up on this list. We’ll find out tomorrow.

Immediate Future of the Cowboys: Dallas Morning News vs. ESPN Dallas

If you picked up the Dallas Morning News today, you might have ended up feeling a bit better about our Dallas Cowboys.

Rick Gosselin’s take is that nobody expected more than an 8-8 record from the Cowboys, so we shouldn’t consider them to be underachievers.

Know Your Dallas CowboysFor the optimists with a subscription to the DMN, here is Rick Gosselin’s take. “Garrett took an average team into the season, and despite that horrific finish — four losses in the last five games — there are arrows pointing up for 2012.”

Here’s his point:

[T]he Cowboys didn’t overachieve. Nor did they underachieve. Philadelphia underachieved given the expectations. So did San Diego and Tampa Bay. But not the Cowboys.

Garrett took an average team into the season, and despite that horrific finish — four losses in the last five games — there are arrows pointing up for 2012.

First off, the Cowboys needed to get younger. And they did. With an average age of 26.21, this was the youngest roster the Cowboys fielded since 2007 and the youngest starting lineup (26.90) since the mid-1990s. In a salary-cap world, youth is a good thing.

Second, Cowboys director of college and pro scouting Tom Ciskowski was a finalist this off-season for the Indianapolis general manager position. As unappreciated as Ciskowski and his staff may be locally, there is respect around the league for what they have done lately in the area of player procurement.

In the last two drafts, the Cowboys have added Tyron Smith, DeMarco Murray , Sean Lee and Dez Bryant — four potential blue-chip pieces in a championship equation. The Jimmy Johnson Cowboys taught us in the early 1990s you win in this league with blue-chippers.

Ciskowski’s staff also culled the undrafted masses last April and discovered Bailey and center Kevin Kowalski, then this fall claimed fullback Tony Fiammetta off the waiver wire and signed wide receiver Laurent Robinson off the streets. All are keepers, and all will be a year older and a year better in 2012.

Third, the rebuilding started on offense last season. An aging, underachieving, overpaid blocking front that badly needed to be overhauled was. Smith will flip from right tackle to left this fall, and the Cowboys should be set at the blocking edge positions for the next five years.

On the same day, Jean-Jacques Taylor attacked some of the very same points that Gosselin made.

Know Your Dallas CowboysFor the pessimists, I present JJT’s take on the Cowboys. “The NFL conference title games showed us the Dallas Cowboys aren’t close to being a championship-caliber team.”

JJT isn’t always my favorite columnist, but when I feel like complaining, I more typically agree with him. Here is his main point:

The NFL conference title games showed us the Dallas Cowboys aren’t close to being a championship-caliber team.

Of course that wouldn’t be so bad if you had confidence the Cowboys could draft the right players, sign the proper free agents or properly evaluate their own talent, considering they signed Gerald Sensabaugh to a five-year deal in December.

All of this means you have no idea when the Cowboys’ era of mediocrity will end since we’re at 15 years and counting.

* * *

Meanwhile, another columnist that I don’t always like, Randy Galloway, wrote a piece that I found compelling. This one focuses on Jerry’s practice of revising history, at least according to Galloway.

Jerry repeatedly counters the critics by saying his same iron hand has been in place for 23 seasons, meaning he was calling the football shots as the Dynasty Days team was built and the Super Bowls followed.

This is not true. Any of us, media-wise, who have covered the Cowboys since 1989, know it was not true. So does anyone who worked for the Cowboys in those days.

There is a lengthy thread at CowboysZone covering Galloway’s piece.

Several Parallels Between Bill Belichick and Tom Landry, Including Super Bowl Appearances

Bill Belichick has led the New England Patriots to their fifth AFC title and fifth Super Bowl appearance. New England has a record of 3-1 in four previous visits.

Belichick is one of three coaches to lead the same team to the Super Bowl at least five times. The other two are Miami’s Don Shula and Dallas’ Tom Landry. Shula also made an appearance as the Colts’ head coach in Super Bowl III, giving him the record with six total appearances.

There are several parallels bewteen Belichick and Landry, several of which involve teams from Baltimore.

Both men earned their reputations as defensive coaches with the New York Giants.

Landry developed the 4-3 defense and helped the Giants to win the NFL title in 1956. New York also played for the title in 1958 and 1959, losing to the Baltimore Colts in both of those seasons. In 1960 at the age of 36, the Dallas Cowboys made him the coach of the expansion Cowboys.

Belichick coached one of the best linebacking corps in league history as the Giants won Super Bowl titles in 1986 and 1990. The Cleveland Browns hired him at the age of 39 to serve as head coach. Unlike Landry, Belichick’s coaching tenure came at the end (of sorts) of the franchise, as the Browns moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens after the 1995 season.

It took Landry 11 seasons to lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl appearance. Baltimore appears yet again in this story, as the Colts knocked off the Cowboys on a last-second field goal. Landry led the Cowboys to their five appearances over the course of nine seasons between 1970 and 1978, winning two of those games.

Belichick never led the Browns to a Super Bowl. After returning to serve as an assistant with Bill Parcells with the Patriots and Jets. The Patriots hired him in 2000, and after the following year—the 11th season after the Browns first hired him—Belichick led the Patriots to a Super Bowl title. Once the Patriots appear in Super Bowl XLVI in two weeks, Belichick will have led his team to the title game for the fifth time in eleven seasons.

In two of those seasons, the Patriots had to beat the Colts, now hailing from Indianapolis. And, fittingly, the Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens to give Belichick his fifth Super Bowl appearance.

 

Dallas Cowboys News: Jason Garrett’s Play-Calling Duties and Swapping Tackles

The Cowboys generated a few news items worth noting this week.

With the hiring of Bill Callahan as offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett suggested that he might delegate play-calling duties. However, he has waffled on this point, and nobody is sure what will happen.

In other news, the Cowboys returned to babysitting duties with Dez Bryant. When they weren’t doing that, they were considering whether to allow Doug Free to move back to right tackle and switch Tyron Smith to left tackle.

Here is the story line:

Cowboys Don’t Want Jason Garrett to Match Jeff Fisher’s Record with the Oilers and Titans

Nearly two years ago, I wrote a piece focusing on the comparisons between former Broncos/Bills/Cowboys coach Wade Phillips and former Bears/Redskins/Oilers coach Jack Pardee. Here was the introduction:

Pro-Football-Reference has a page that allows users to sort through coaching records, including playoff wins, champions, and so forth. According to this list, a total of 80 coaches have coached at least four playoff games during their career. Among those 80 coaches, Dallas coach Wade Phillips’ career record of 1-5 is tied for 78th in terms of winning percentage.

The other coach with a 1-5 playoff record? Um, that would be former Chicago, Washington, and Houston coach Jack Pardee. That doesn’t bode well for Wade.

In Pardee’s final season, the Oilers limped to a 1-9 start, which led to Pardee’s dismissal. Phillips’ head-coaching career in Dallas also didn’t last long enough for him to improve his 1-5 playoff record, as the Cowboys fired him after a 1-7 start in 2010.

The Pardee firing led immediately to the hiring of Jeff Fisher, who once served as a special-teams player and reserve defensive back for the Bears in the early 1980s. The Oilers didn’t improve in 1994 under Fisher, going 1-5 and finishing with a 2-14 record.

Plenty of changes occurred after that with the team drafting a franchise running back in Eddie George and a franchise quarterback in Steve McNair. The team also moved from Houston to Tennessee and became the Titans. Many remember that Fisher led the team to its only Super Bowl appearance and that he lasted 16 seasons with the Oilers/Titans after the team removed the interim label from his title. That record explains why several called for Jerry Jones to try to hire Fisher rather than Jason Garrett, the high-paid offensive coordinator who once served as a backup QB with the Cowboys and Giants.

There is a bit of irony that St. Louis ended up hiring Fisher. That was the same team that pursued Garrett in January of 2009 even after the Cowboys completely fell apart in a loss to the Eagles that ended the 2008 season. Garrett didn’t impress commentators in St. Louis at the time, with one noting that Garrett hadn’t shown much leadership in his role as offensive coordinator. Here’s a quote (and keep in mind that this was in 2009):

Garrett might well one day become a great head coach and a compelling leader, but he isn’t one now. Not even close. I see a young coach who has shown some very obvious and disturbing signs that he is unable to handle the rough stuff that a leader must cope with inside a locker room.

Because Garrett remained with the Cowboys, he is now in precisely the same position that Fisher was in after taking over for Pardee in 1994. We need to hope that the results are better, because I am not sure how many Dallas fans have the patience to wait four or five more seasons for the Cowboys to be constant winners.

Consider Fisher’s early records—

1995: 7-9

1996: 8-8

1997: 8-8

1998: 8-8

I know there is always a story behind a record, but there was nothing noteworthy about any of those teams other than that they were mediocre. The Titans remained in the playoff races during those 8-8 seasons until late in the year, but the team did not make enough of a late surge to finish with a winning record or a playoff berth in any of those seasons.

I think we all are fully aware of Garrett’s 8-8 record in his first full season with Dallas. That brings his overall mark to 13-11, which is better than Fisher’s 8-14 overall record after his first full season.

Fisher’s Titans improved to 13-3 in 1999 and reached the Super Bowl. Between 1999 and 2010, he had five seasons with at least 11 wins, and he compiled an overall playoff record of 5-6.

It’s certainly not bad, and it’s certainly better than what the Cowboys have done during the same time period. The problem is, however, that Cowboys fans not only can’t wait several more seasons before the team returns to the heights of a 13-3 record, but the fans probably wouldn’t settle for a coach who would fail to win a single Super Bowl during a 17-year period.

So I suppose that causes the dilemma—we want a coach who can turn around a franchise like Jeff Fisher did, and we want a coach who could have long-term success like Jeff Fisher eventually did. But we don’t want to wait for that success to occur, and we want the head coach to have even more success than Fisher actually had.

Sigh.

Have I mentioned that these offseasons are awfully long?