1990’s San Francisco 49ers v. Dallas Cowboys: Cowboys Perspective

Back on January 10, 1982, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship in what came to be known as “The Catch”. Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, and Michael Irvin were 12, 15, & 15 yrs of age respectively at the time. Over the next decade, a football generation came to know the 49ers as the dominant team in pro football. Yet here they were in January 1993, as men, having conquered the 49ers in the ’92 NFC Championship 30-20 in a true changing of the guard.

Passing of the torch after the 1992 NFC Championship Game.

Passing of the torch after the 1992 NFC Championship Game.

Joe Montana, an iconic symbol of the old guard, was shaking hands congratulating the young Cowboys. They had vanquished not only the team with the NFC’s best record, 14-2, they topped the team that epitomized conference excellence over the last decade. Now they were navigating uncharted waters and off to Super Bowl XXVII to take on the Buffalo Bills. By the time they made it to Pasadena to take on the Bills, they’re confidence was at an all time high.However beating Buffalo was anticlimactic to what had taken place in soggy San Francisco 2 weeks before.

 

Troy Aikman came of age in the 1992 NFC Championship Game.

Troy Aikman fulfilled the promise of being drafted #1 overall with his 1992 NFC Championship Game performance.

They had come through the gauntlet which was the NFC at the time. A conference that had won the last 8 straight Super Bowls and would ultimately win 13 in a row. The physical nature of the conference was one thing, but they had to beat the mystique of the best organization in San Francisco.

Once the 49ers unseated the Cowboys back in the ’81 NFC Championship Game, they became the gold standard of NFL franchises. Every veteran wanted to play for Eddie Debartolo’s organization. Once Jerry Jones purchased the team in 1989, he traveled to San Francisco to study how the league’s model front office operated.

By the time Jimmy Johnson (the [[_]]) had rebuilt “America’s Team” in a few short years, they were ready to take on a 49er team that was prepared to rule the 1990’s just as they had the 80’s. They were built with a different breed of player. Fast, aggressive and an in your face bravado reminiscent of the Miami Hurricane teams Johnson coached in college. The most indelible image from that ’92 Championship was in the locker room when he boasted “How ’bout them Cowboys!??!” loud enough you could nearly hear it in the 49er locker room.

Terry Bradshaw once said “Once you win a Super Bowl the regular season is boring. All you care about is getting back to the playoffs where it can be fun again.”

Jimmy Johnson on gameday.

Jimmy Johnson on gameday.

Well the boredom Dallas had to endure was losing Defensive Coordinator Dave Wannstedt, Emmitt Smith’s holdout, and the advent of free agency. In time free agency would prove to be the bigger foe, but when the Cowboys started 0-2 without Smith’s services, it was clear what priority one was.

The reality set in these were the two best teams in football. Steve Young had won the last two passing titles but Aikman was thought of as the better quarterback. Troy entered ’93 as a Super Bowl winning QB, something Young had yet to do. Michael Irvin (78 rec. 1,396 yds 7 TDs) was beginning to challenge Jerry Rice (84 rec. 1,201 yds 10 TDs) as to who was the best receiver in the game.

In every way these two team were eyeing each other for another postseason date but first had to get through a regular season affair that offered some answers.

The 26-17 win over the 49ers gave the Cowboys the inside track to Super Bowl XXVIII. In fact when they won homefield advantage for the ’93 playoffs, the only question was the status of Emmitt Smith’s separated shoulder suffered in the clinching finale against the New York Giants. Smith was one of 11 Pro Bowlers that included QB Troy Aikman, FB Darryl Johnston, WR Michael Irvin, linemen Mark Stepnoski, Nate Newton, and Eric Williams. By the time you include TE Jay Novacek, they were 3 starters away from sending every player to the Pro Bowl.

The defense, which ranked 10th in the league sent LB Ken Norton Jr, DT Russell Maryland, and FS Thomas Everett to Honolulu. A far cry from the year before when they ranked #1 defensively and sent 0 players to the Pro Bowl. We’ll talk about the importance of Everett later but this team was riding high after the emotional win vs. New York. They kept their eye out west on the 49ers as they blew out the wildcard Giants 44-3 in the divisional round. Dallas beat Green Bay 27-17 to set up the NFC Championship rematch in Texas Stadium.

As pundits lauded the 49ers lopsided win in Candlestick, it belied the fact they had actually struggled down the stretch losing 3 of their last 4. Sure their defense had put it together in taking down the 1 dimensional Giants, but that is after they had the huge battle in the season finale at Dallas and a hard fought wildcard against the Vikings.

After listening to the experts all week, Jimmy Johnson had had enough and called in to a Dallas Radio show on Friday night and declared “We will win the game! You can put it in 3 inch headline!” There was no easing into it now….this was a street fight in the school yard. They called the laced up shirt and tie corporate 49ers out and how would they respond.

They beat down the 49ers 38-21 and were actually ahead 28-7 in the 2nd quarter. Texas Stadium for the first time ever was raucous. Even in the Tom Landry days crowds in Dallas responded like they were at a play or something. They cheered when it was time to but this felt different. It was boisterous and the tempo of the team and the audience fed off Jimmy Johnson’s bravado and echoed in kind. Who knew it was  going to be Johnson’s last game ever at Texas Stadium??

After beating The Chancellor of Football’s Buffalo Bills for the Super Bowl XXVIII championship, we had Johnson’s departure in the offseason. On March 29th was the press conference where there was a mutual parting of the ways. The shock wave could be felt through the NFL. The youngest team in the league that won back to back Super Bowls was going on without their vocal leader?? Jerry Jones erroneously stated there were 50 coaches who could coach the Dallas Cowboys and hired Barry Switzer to succeed him.

The Cowboys were that talented and headed into 1994 as the best team in football on paper. Or so they thought… the 49ers had retooled and fashioned much of their team and personality based on the bravado that left them whipped in Dallas the preceding January. The Niners had signed away Ken Norton Jr. and 6 defenders to bolster their defense including future Hall of Famers Ricky Jackson, Richard Dent, and Deion Sanders. All off the NFC Pro Bowl roster. Back then the team that lost the conference championship coached the Pro Bowl and San Francisco used this as a recruiting trip.

Free agency had robbed the Cowboys of Norton, DTs Tony Casillas & DT Jimmie Jones, and to the Chancellor the most valuable defender in FS Thomas Everett. Before Everett’s arrival in ’92, the 11-5 Cowboys struggled with Run & Shoot offenses especially, and at times was awful against the pass. Why do you think they drafted CB Kevin Smith, S Darren Woodson, and traded for Everett to start 1992??

Not Charles Haley...it was Thomas Everett that pushed the Cowboys over the top back in the early 1990s.

Not Charles Haley…it was Thomas Everett that pushed the Cowboys over the top back in the early 1990s.

Dallas had been 1-3 against Run & Shoot teams in 1991. They went 5-0 against those teams including the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII that finished as the top passing teams that year with Everett. It was this end zone interception in Super Bowl XXVII that started the 1990’s reign of the Dallas Cowboys. Otherwise the Bills take a 17-14 lead and the Bills take control of the game. In big games he starred….in each NFC Championship Game against the 49ers he picked off Steve Young. You cannot underscore his importance in gluing a young secondary together and teaching them to be pros by example.

Yet 1994 saw this team try to move on without this defensive firepower and they did go 12-4. DE Charles Haley was healthy and made the Pro Bowl with 12.5 sacks, S Darren Woodson, and Leon Lett came into their own making their first Pro Bowl trips. The offense was as potent as ever with Smith’s 1,461 yards and 21 TDs. Although he battled leg injuries the 2nd half of the season. Did they have enough in the gas tank to get to win a 3rd straight Super Bowl and make it into NFL lore?? All they had to do was take a trip out to beat the 49ers for the right to go to Super Bowl XXIX.

So Dallas had to watch the 49ers go on to win Super Bowl XXIX 49-26 over San Diego. They did return the following year to beat Pittsburgh 27-17 to win their 3rd Super Bowl in 4 years yet the rivalry came to an end for this era. Both teams kept raising the bar on each other and pushed themselves to a height no other team could reach. In each of these seasons they were the best teams in football and won all 4 Super Bowls… yet lingering questions are still being debated to this day…

  • How many Super Bowls would Dallas have won if Johnson coaches the whole decade??
  • Would they have won 3 in a row if Johnson coached them in ’94??
  • Would the 49ers have won in 1994 if they hadn’t built a defense from the ’93 Pro Bowl roster??
  • How would the 1990’s play out for Dallas if there had not been free agency??
  • Why isn’t Jimmy Johnson in the Pro Football Hall of Fame??
  • Would the Cowboys have won in 1994 if T Erik Williams doesn’t get in that car accident??

However one of the indelible moments from the 1994 NFC Championship Game was the near pass interference call in the 4th quarter between Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin. Instead of a 1st and goal where the 49er lead could have been trimmed to 3, an irate Barry Switzer bumps an official in protest incurring a 15 yard penalty. Dallas was forced to punt and never threatened again. In 1995, in a quiet Texas Stadium Courthouse the two Hall of Famers had a hearing to discuss a disputed play which altered the course of football history.d_sanders_950115_640

LMAO “Panicked state of mind!” Thanks for reading and please share the article.

Epilogue: When it came to Jimmy Johnson’s success in Dallas, it was bitter sweet being a Buffalo Bill fan. We lost those two Super Bowls but I was a fan of his back to Herschel Walker and when he first coached the Cowboys. Nope not Dallas…we’re talking the Oklahoma St Cowboys. I first read about Jimmy Johnson during the ’82 season when his running back Earnest “Sparkplug” Anderson became the 5th back to run for 1,000 yards in just the 5th game of the season.

Herschel walker won the Heisman but I kept screaming it was “Sparkplug” Anderson that led college football in rushing! Alas…no blog back in ’82. Yet remember following Johnson and as a tradition would watch the Bluebonnet Bowl played on New Year’s Eve and watched Oklahoma St win that game. When it was announced he was coming to my favorite college team at The [[_]] of Miami, talk about excited… I knew Schnellenberger’s replacement and the rest is history.

I did get to meet Johnson and the Dallas Cowboy coaching staff at Houlihan’s on St Patrick’s Day in 1993 just after the first Super Bowl with Buffalo. I remember having him sign my Golden Nugget /Mirage jacket from Vegas and talked a little football. If only cell phones with cameras, Instagram & Facebook existed then…

Dedicated to the memories of Mark Tuinei, Godfrey Myles, and Joe Avezzano

Next Up: 1990’s San Francisco 49ers v. Dallas Cowboys: 49ers Perspective

 

 

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The Chancellor Weighs In On Jerry Jones Comments on Cowboys Super Bowl Window Closing

Earlier this week there were musings from both Jerry Jones and his son Stephen as to the window closing on the Dallas Cowboys.  I thought “window to reach the Super Bowl?” What planet have these two been living on?? Don’t they know that more than half of Cowboy fans everywhere want to string up Tony Romo?? We’ll deal with Romo being the scapegoat in a minute but this team isn’t good enough to heap this type of pressure on it. Now of course every NFL owner has aspirations of his team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year but why add pressure to an already combustible mix??

First off your head coach is an unproven commodity.  Jason Garrett comes from a long line of coaches yet has shown he’ll mismanage ball games from time to time. Last year he inexplicably iced his own kicker in a mind numbing loss at mid-season. This would be more forgivable had it been the first game of the season, but systems should be well oiled at that point. Well it’s true that the NFL is more of a passing league now yet when you look at Garrett’s offense, all of his running plays are based on trickery. Draws and screens for the most part from pass formation looks. This emphasizes not only what they practice most, it shows the type of RBs they have acquired in the last 4 years. Tashard Choice, DeMarco Murray, and Felix Jones are all 3rd down type backs. Not one of these guys can break a tackle and go down at first contact.

Think back to the loss to the Detroit Lions last year. This team had a 17 point lead in the second half when the Lions began to roar back. Once the Lions closed to 30-24 with 9 minutes to go in the game, they punted and pinned the Cowboys to their own 3 yard line. It was at this exact same point in the 1995 NFC Championship Game that Emmitt Smith burst through a hole and arm tackle from George Koonce, and ran 35 yards to get the team breathing room. This finished with a game clinching 7 minute scoring drive. Yet in this game, with Romo having thrown 2 interceptions for touchdowns in the 3rd quarter, couldn’t turn to his running game to bail him out. All that could be mustered??http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201110020dal.htm  Two anemic runs for 2 yards, one each by Jones and Choice, then an incomplete pass and the rest is history. In both attempts these two went down at first contact.

The Dallas Cowboys can’t run the football and it stems from not getting their pad level low on the offensive line and making holes. They don’t practice it and they can’t push their way out of a bad smelling bathroom evidenced by only rushing for 5 touchdowns all season. Are you serious?? What Super Bowl quality rushing attack are the Jones’ talking about?? I know….some Cowboy zealot will bring up DeMarco Murray’s season and let’s take a look at it shall we?? He rushed 164 times for 897 yards and 2 touchdowns and a 5.5 yard average. Not bad until you take a closer look at the numbers. Take out his 25 carries for 253 yards and a 91 yard touchdown performance against the 31st ranked against the run St. Louis Rams and what do you have?? A modest 644 yards on 139 carries and only 1 touchdown. Not only does this team not have a running back to close ball games, Garrett’s play calling and practice habits lend to this team not being able to run for vital first downs or goal line touchdowns. Hence Romo is forced to throw in obvious running situations down near the goal line which leads to many field goals.

What is also left out of the equation is you fielded a defense that ranked 14th overall and a paltry 23rd against the pass. This was with All World LB DeMarcus Ware who had 19.5 sacks, which ranked second in the NFL. What would have happened had Ware not been this productive?? Did you also know that along with last year’s Minnesota Vikings, this is the only time in NFL history that a defense fielding a defender with 19 or more sacks played on a team ranked 20th or below in pass defense for that year?? In other words where are your other defenders?? Your safety position is still in disarray and 1st round draft pick CB Morris Claiborne had better hit the ground running. Especially with Terrence Newman having departed via free agency.

For most teams that did field expert pass rushers they had other defensive stalwarts to offset him. Whether it was Keith Millard 19 sacks to Chris Doleman’s 21 sacks in 1989 for the Vikings, Lamar Lathon’s 13.5 sacks to Kevin Greene’s 14 in 1996 in Carolina, Leonard Marshall’s 15.5 sacks to Lawrence Taylor’s 20.5 for New York in 1986, to Otis Wilson’s 10.5 sacks to Richard Dent’s 17 for the ’85 Bears, Ware needs help. Only one of those teams didn’t make it to the conference championship with two of them winning Super Bowls. Now Anthony Spencer played well in the second half of the season and came up with 6 sacks but aside from Ware there are no playmakers on defense. Sean Lee is showing flashes but not yet has he put it together for an entire season.  I’m definitely not seeing a Super Bowl caliber defense here…not until a true superstar emerges to help Ware.

Which leads us to Tony Romo. Now it’s been noted that I have said he is a good quarterback and statistics bear that out. However something is amiss with his fight or flight mechanism. In critical late game scenarios his decision making has cost the Cowboys several games. It’s been a systemic issue since the team can’t run out the clock which forces him to pass at times he shouldn’t be. Yet it’s a reciprocating issue. Last year, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson blasted Romo for throwing a late game interception to Darrelle Revis in the loss to the Jets on opening night. The argument went on for days on Facebook, yet I tried to point out the blocked punt for a touchdown the special teams gave up and the collapsing of the defense on a long drive. Both also came in the fourth quarter.

“Hollywood” was right he shouldn’t have thrown that pass but who get’s the blame?? The defense that gave up 335 yards passing to Mark Sanchez?? Head Coach Garrett who when leading just 24-23 on the road with 1:10 to go in the game, calls for a passing play in the first place which was the Romo interception?? Did Garrett make that decision based on the fact the Cowboys could only run for 64 yards in the first place?? This in microcosm epitomizes the Cowboys as a Super Bowl team. Add these up and you’ll come up with the conclusion that I have as The Chancellor of Football… The Cowboys are nowhere close to a Super Bowl window in terms of talent nor coaching and especially not in temprament. Jerry Jones is like many rich men with total control in their lives… often are delusional and think they can buy their way to what they want. Yet when it comes to football, that approach is just misappropriated spending. Just ask Daniel Snyder in Washington.

Thanks for reading and share the article….and quit quoting Jerry Jones media…please

Week 4 Regular Season: Tony Romo- Conundrum Personified

Tongue in Cheek Poster Placed on my facebook page due to Tony Romo's recent performances.

At some point an NFL team has to make a decision on it’s quarterback and it’s season. Are we going to win this year or are we building for next year?? Is this our quarterback for the future or do we look to draft someone new?? Well after four weeks, Dallas Cowboy fans are up in arms over the play of Tony Romo and the team is mired with a 2-2 start. The interesting thing is the Cowboys were well ahead in each of their four games and collapsed late punctuated by interceptions from Romo. Yesterday’s game squarely landed on Romo’s shoulders with 2 of the interceptions being returned for touchdowns. Yet this year Romo has had his moments. The win on Monday Night last week was one where he willed his team to win amidst injuries and having to play with second string players.

Yet what happened to a balanced attack?? Do you realize the 2011 Cowboys have run 40% of the time and passed 60%?? See for yourself: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/dal/2011.htm Show me when that was true during the Aikman era?? We looked already..so surprise us. So which is the player in Dallas wearing #9?? Is he the leader that emerged in weeks 2 & 3, or the one Hollywood Henderson labeled a choke artist for throwing straight to Darelle Revis to end game one? That’s before we get to yesterday’s outing.

To be frank, he’s both. He has come back from his injured season more of the leader brass envisioned when they let Terrell Owens go several years back. He has to be the man by virtue of the contract they presented him. It’s his team and his late interceptions cannot be excused. Everyone of those throws he’d want back. Yet at this time we have to take a step back and figure if he is the quarterback of the future for the Dallas Cowboys. Now when this season began we were critical of Romo’s attitude and leadership ability https://taylorblitztimes.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/2011-dallas-cowboys-preview/ and he’s grown in that realm. Now he has to work on not playing with nervous feet near the end of games. Is it all his fault?? He deserves alot of the blame.

Whatever happened to running  out the clock to end games?? Everyone is up in arms that he is no Troy Aikman, yet short sighted fans don’t remember that those 90’s teams weren’t throwing at that point of the game for Aikman to throw any late game interceptions! Case and point: Remember the famous drive in Super Bowl XXVIII when the Cowboys took the lead on the Buffalo Bills, and they ran 8 straight times and Aikman didn’t throw one pass?? You can still hear Brad Sham on the highlight film “Smith for 7, Smith for 3, Smith for 8, Smith for 9…etc”  Ask Jason Garrett because he was standing there signaling the calls in. Which brings us to the real issue…

Coach Garrett is the forgotten man when it comes to Cowboy losses. How much blame is his??

While it is true that a coach is to put his players in the best possible situation to be successful, it’s also his job to put you in a position to minimize your chance at making mistakes. What is the number one thing that Hall of Famer Bill Walsh was lauded for when it came to game plans?? He would pass the football early and run late on a tired defense. Not only did the 49ers base a dynasty off that premise, so too did the 80’s Redskins, 90’s Cowboys and 00’s Patriots with Corey Dillon. So that’s 14 Super Bowl wins by dynasties in the modern era. How about the 2000 Ravens who won with rushing the football and Trent Dilfer?? They threw vertical routes and hooks because Dilfer threw terrible down the middle and made poor decisions on out routes. So Brian Billick called plays that were his strengths and didn’t ask him to do what were known weaknesses.

Now let’s cycle this back to the present situation in Dallas. We warned you when the Cowboys drafted DeMarco Murray and were going to get rid of Marion Barber that they were going to be a true passing team only. https://taylorblitztimes.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/2011-dallas-cowboys-preview/ Did we not? Where was the heft to blow the Lions off the ball when the score was closed down to 30-27?? You remember when Dallas was pinned to their own 3 yard line with 5:00 to go in the game. Funny, our CEO remembers the 1995 NFC Championship when the Packers had the Cowboys pinned to their own 1 and Emmitt romped them out of there. Yesterday?? Two paltry attempts that couldn’t gain 1 yard from Felix Jones. Critical time in the game to run out the clock and that’s all the Cowboys could muster?? This illustrates why on previous drives Romo was still passing when the team clearly needed to be running. Had they been running out the clock the game would have been over in Dallas. Continued passing stops the clock and allowed Detroit the chance to get back in the game. Albeit off of terrible throws by Romo, but he shouldn’t have been passing that late in the game. This was the death knell to the Run n Shoot as an offense over a decade and a half before!! Systemic factors that leave blame squarely on the shoulders of Coach Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones.

The hiring of Jason Garrett was one for us that wasn’t the best decision and it’s showing in the game plans he’s presenting and not masking team deficiencies well enough. In the first game against the Jets, it had been noted and discussed, how many injuries the Cowboys had to their defensive backfield. The Cowboys kept throwing and didn’t milk the clock to protect their struggling with fatigue defense. Don’t you realize it’s those injuries and tiring defenders that make up the punt block team that allowed the punt to be blocked in the first place?? Coaches do!! Or should we say coaches are supposed to!! Romo and the team were in a panic by the time he threw his interception yet look at what set that up??

Its Garrett’s job to put his team in the best possible position to win and also to get word to player personnel (Jones) that he needs a running back to close games. He has to sell that to Cowboys brass just as he has to sell the gameplan to his players. What’s worse is he knows better. He was standing right there watching Emmitt Smith close all those games for the Dallas Cowboys. Many times during that era, Aikman wouldn’t even attempt a pass under 8:00 to go. So quit the Aikman / Romo comparisions because it shows a lack of football knowledge to all aspects of the game. Furthermore, as we watched the Cowboys offensive line not be able to create a hole or a push when they had the ball at their goal line illustrates something further. They aren’t even practicing true running plays enough. We keep using that sequence in our analysis because the team knew they needed to run and couldn’t do it. Moment of truth and they were knocked on their ass.

Tony Romo has to start throwing the ball away when the play isn't there.

As for Romo, he has played better and will flirt with 5,000 yards passing this season because the Cowboys UNDER GARRETT will not run. Not in the traditional sense. Just tricky draws and screens and not enough power plays to weaken an opponents defense. Hence the Lions defense was still breathing fire in the 4th quarter… yet I digress: Romo has to take a sack or throw the ball away when the throw isn’t there. He is taking some chances and making some throws that have put the Cowboys well in front. He’s maturing into a leader yet has to stop short circuiting in the 4th quarter and it’s up to his coach and game plans to aid that. Some blame needs to be placed there. Cowboy fans want to scapegoat all of the losses to Tony Romo but forget he was the central reason they won games 2 and 3. So without him where would the Cowboys be?? They’d be 0-4. Throwing in a rookie next year isn’t saving the Cowboys either. We watched the demise of the run and shoot for these exact same factors. It’s systemic. Know your history. Our blame is landing on Garrett’s shoulders more than it lands on Romo’s. How much?? How about the 60/40 pass ratio from before…Garrett gets the 60%

Thanks for reading, feel free to comment and share the article.

2011 Dallas Cowboys Preview

For the Dallas Cowboys, 2009 began with the optimistic view of becoming the first team in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl on their own home field. The reality was that their roster wasn’t dynamic enough to fulfill these expectations and they hadn’t adequately replaced Flozell Adams who had departed at Left Tackle.  Subsequently Tony Romo ran for his life until an injury finished his season. Although the Cowboys won 5 of 8 games to finish the season, it makes you wonder how close are they really?  Are they a few players away as Jerry Jones and company would like to make us think?  Was the improvement shown toward the end of the season a product of Jason Garrett’s coaching or from the fire lit under everyone’s ass when they learned they were all expendable??

Tony Romo

Quarterback: Going into his fifth season as the starter, the Cowboys have a good quarterback in Tony Romo.  So much is made of what he does off the field that many Cowboys fans don’t recognize he owns all the significant passing records in team history. He’s thrown for twice as many 300 yard passing games as Troy Aikman.  Get this: In 2009 he threw for 4,483 yards and 29 TDs, had he not thrown for 36TDs in 2007, those would have both been Cowboy records as well.  He has a good arm and can deliver the football from the pocket or on the run.  His dropback is fluid and he moves effortlessly when he escapes the pocket.  Also he needs to show more daring, when its 3rd and 10, throw to the second level and get the first down and not some 3 yard dump off that achieves nothing. Physically he has the tools to be a great quarterback.

Psychologically, Romo hasn’t shown to be the inspirational leader that the Cowboys hoped he’d be once they released Terrell Owens.  He hasn’t dropped his “aw shucks” persona and taken on that of a field general. The type of generalship that Jon “Cockroach” Kitna showed in those last 8 games. You saw him pleading, cajoling and getting in teammates faces, especially after dumb penalties, and played ball from his gut. Last year he completed 209 of 318 passes for 2,365 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Kitna’s 65.7% completion rating was the best of his 14 year career.  Project those numbers over a year and thats a Pro Bowl season. The best he’s ever played and a solid backup.

The best way to get to Romo is to come with delayed blitzes. When he senses the outside rush coming, he’s quick to step up through the gaps looking for space to run or throw. In self scouting you can see the Cowboys are aware of this and they run a lot of draws and delays to the running backs to make it all look the same.  Keep defensive ends from coming up the field too quick and opening those gaps between themselves and the inside rushers. Another thing is to keep putting hits on him, there are times Romo will look down at the rush if hit or sacked early. Its yet to be seen if his game changes any coming back from a broken clavicle. Will he be willing to take those hits??However, Dallas is very good at quarterback.

Offensive Backfield: Dallas has the best set of 3rd down backs in the league in Tashard Choice and Felix Jones. The problem is what to do on 1st and 2nd down. Early last year an astute Cowboy fan, Gary Bumgarner, suggested that Marion Barber had really slowed down.  The eyeball test didn’t lie. Amazingly over the last 3 years Barber has only averaged over 4.0 yards per rush (league avg.) in only one season. Last season he ran for a paltry 374 yards while scoring 4 TDs.  Surprisingly he has not run for more than 1,000 yards at any point of his career.  He has run hard, with heart and great determination, but he seems to be this generations Wilbert Montgomery and has beaten the ability from his body early.  Along with his high salary and the drafting of DeMarco Murray, we at Taylor Blitz Times think he will be cut before the season.

Felix Jones had his best season while taking over for Barber.  He rushed for 800 yards on 185 carries but only scored 1 touchdown.  His average per carry was good (4.3 yrd avg) but his touchdown total tells the story.  He and Choice are space players, neither have the heft to knuckle up and get that 3rd and 2 or power in from the two like Barber could.  Since Felix Jones is supposed to be a homerun hitter, he should have been able to break an arm tackle and take it the distance 4 or 5 times last year wouldn’t you think? Or at least in space, right? Well, out of the backfield Jones had 48 rec. for 450 yards and again only 1 TD.  Thats 233 touches of the football and only 2 TDs for a breakaway threat?

Choice seemed like the odd man out last year, carrying the ball only 66 times for 243 yards and 3 TDs. At 5’11 and 212 lbs, Choice should be the starter with Jones as the 3rd down back. Can Choice take the pounding? He did run for 100 yards in a week 13 win over the Colts in a 38-35 overtime thriller. Yet between Choice, Jones or 3rd round pick DeMarco Murray none seem to thrive running between the tackles. So if Marion “The Barbarian” gets released who is going to run the football in goal line and closing situations? Running back is below average for the Cowboys until someone emerges and the pick of Murray was a puzzling one for us.

Receivers: This is where the Cowboys are in the best shape of any unit. Once the Cowboys were out of contention they started to put Dez Bryant in different situations to see what he could do. Bryant came in as a rookie and played with fire and flair, who knew at 6’2 225lbs he would be a good kick returner? He averaged 24.4 yards on 12 kickoff returns and a whopping 14.3 on punt returns, taking 2 back for touchdowns on only 15 attempts. Do you realize projected over a complete season those would be NFL leading numbers in both categories? Throw in his 45 receptions for 561 yards and 6 touchdowns and what do you have? The bench for a certain Roy E. Williams. Look some players just have the it factor and this kid is it.  He plays like he wants it and if I were Jason Garrett I’d sick him on defenses 15 times per game. He’s tall, muscular, fast and can jump. The first of many Pro Bowls should come this year with his first 1,000 yard season. Don’t be surprised if he goes over 80 catches for 1,300 yards and 12-15TDs. Terrell Owens has finally been replaced.

How can we be so high on Bryant? Well the first part of that equation is his skill set and the second is he’s teamed with Pro Bowlers Jason Witten (94 rec. 1,002 yds 9 TDs), and Miles Austin (69 rec. 1,041 yds 7TDs). Yikes! This is not going to be easy for anybody to defend. Witten is the best tight end in football. A solid blocker who at TE has the heft to muscle safeties and the speed to get over back pedaling linebackers.  Thats two straight years with 94 receptions and with another season like that will have crossed 715 receptions in his career. Guess what? The all time reception record for tight ends is within reach. He was a Pro Bowler for the 7th time and was first team All Pro for the second.

Which brings us to little Miles Austin. Of course we’re kidding here but at 6’3, 215lbs. he is the smallest of the two receivers. So coming up and jamming these guys is going to be difficult. Austin didn’t have quite the year he had in his breakout 2009 campaign but he had to deal with teams really game planning and paying attention to him and had to work with backup Jon Kitna at quarterback. Still he crossed 1,000 yards and made the Pro Bowl a second time. Reminds me of Andre Reed the way he runs after the catch and unlike many receivers you can’t arm tackle him. With Austin, the hope is he keeps playing with that chip on his shoulder. The practice squad guy who finally made good and not fall into that celebrity dating nonsense to get his mind off of football.

What? Oh Roy Williams with an “E” could work out as a really good third receiver to help stretch for first downs.  Are you seeing what we’re seeing? This is shaping up to be one of the best receiving corps since the 2007 Patriots. We already told you the Cowboys have a good quarterback who owns the 2 highest touchdown marks passing in Cowboys history at 36 and 29. If Romo comes back healthy… Lets just say that at WR & TE, this is a Super Bowl caliber group.

Offensive Line: Where the Cowboys did their best work on draft day.  They brought in T Tyron Smith out of USC with their 1st round selection, then snagged G David Arkin of Missouri St. This offensive line did benefit early on with Tony Romo scrambling. That kept the sack totals down yet they did surrender 31 which was 11th best.  It was the 73 hits, 17th allowed, that is unacceptable and sidelined their quarterback for the year. Although they were 16th in rushing with a 1,786 yards in 2010, the Cowboys struggled to push when they needed to.  Critical 3rd and 2 power plays saw the marginal success of 59  1st downs up the middle and only 44 times to the strong side which ranked 23rd and 25th respectively. Terrible.  What is surprising is that C Andre Gurode was a Pro Bowl selection in 2010.

The Cowboys drafted Smith #1 for him to go into the lineup. They may have finally replaced Flozell Adams if he can beat out incumbent Doug Free at LT. Arkin or 7th round pick  C Bill Nagy should push to make both guard spots. Too much improvement is needed at the guard spot for at least one of these rookies to get into the starting lineup. Most likely would be Larkin.  By addressing their offensive line in the draft and watching the Packers win the Super Bowl with several young linemen, they should be influenced to go young and live with the consequences.  They worked their way up to average with a chance to be good on the offensive front.

Defensive Line: This team needs to pick up a few free agents to solidify themselves on the defensive front. Defensive ends Igor Olshansky, Marcus Spears, and Stephen Bowen combined for 1.5 sacks in 2010. Before you say ‘well they are there to tie up blockers and not give ground in the Cowboy 3-4’, they were 12th in the NFL against the run and gave up over 4.3 yards per rush, which ranked 17th.  Thank goodness Jay Ratliff had a Pro Bowl year by not giving up too much ground in the middle or this defense could have finished dead last in all of football. Seriously. Ratliff provided the only push from this unit recording 3.5 sacks where opposing lines could concentrate on him. He needs help. Not signing any defensive help yet, we have tho give the Cowboys a below average grade here.

All Pro OLB DeMarcus Ware

Linebacker: This defense begins and ends with DeMarcus Ware, NFL sack champion for 2010.  His 15.5 sacks was the only consistent element on the defensive side of the football for the Cowboys. He’s simply a beast and its imperative that they get some pressure generated elsewhere and he may have a shot at the single season sack record.  However at times it seems that he can disappear in games yet its a misnomer. Teams game plan for him and are sometimes successful.  Imagine what he could do with a bookend to relieve him of some of the double and triple teams? With all this attention he still has been the All Pro (3 times) and Pro Bowl (5 times) performer out of Troy that Bill Parcells envisioned. He’s the best outside linebacker in the NFC.

Toward the end of the season Anthony Spencer started making some plays and was the most improved defender on the team. He amassed 63 total tackles, had 5 sacks and forced 2 fumbles. Bradie James and Keith Brooking  manned the inside linebacking spots. James led the Cowboys with 118 tackles, had 2 forced fumbles and 1 interception. A solid performance.  Brooking has proven to be the team’s inspirational leader and was second on the team with 97 tackles and had 1 interception. A player that made a splash in 2010 was linebacker Sean Lee, especially against the Colts and Peyton Manning.  He picked him off twice and had a pick six in that game while making several splash plays against the pass and the run.  He finished the season with 25 total tackles in a relief role and those 2 interceptions with 1 forced fumble.  If James or Brooking go down during the season this kid can fill in without a drop off. The linebacker play in Dallas is well above average.  They need the line to keep blockers off of them better.

Secondary: At first glance you want to lambast this secondary for the dismal 26th ranking against the pass yet this is a two fold issue. If the secondary was so bad why did they snatch 17 of the team’s 20 interceptions?? Sure there is some improvement needed at the corner position where Mike Jenkins has regressed from his play a few seasons back and tallied only1 interception. He has to improve, no make that he better improve http://bleacherreport.com/articles/686084-dallas-cowboys-2011-draft-report-card-grades-for-all-eight-draft-picks has high regard for 5th round draft pick Josh Thomas from the University of Buffalo. He will push both Jenkins and Newman (whom Cowboy fans have wanted replaced for 100 years now) for a starting spot.  We say that because its going to be hard to move Orlando Scandrick.  He was very effective as a blitzer and a nickel back.  He made 2.5 sacks, 45 total tackles with 8 passes defensed, nearly matching  Jenkins production of 55 tackles, 9 passes defensed with a single interception.

At safety Gerald Sensabaugh led the team with 5 interceptions, tied with Newman for the team lead.  He seems a little stiff in his backpedal but that is normally the case with most strong safeties.  Free safety is where we and other pundits feel the Cowboys can improve their secondary’s skill set.  Watch out for possibly a Darren Sharper signing to put more moxie into their secondary if he comes available.  Incumbent starter Alan Ball only defensed 4 passes and had just 1 interception.  He had plenty of opportunities while team’s racked up 3,894 yards passing last year.  A little more pass rush and this secondary would be decent.  Without it and we have to say slightly below average.  If Ball starts playing with instinct and can be more of a factor against the pass they can rate as good.  Right now have to stay with the present ranking.

Overall: Upon further review, the Cowboys don’t really want to run. Not in the traditional sense and the drafting of another space back is evidence of this.  They are going to throw the football and run off of draws and screens. What rugged NFC East?? With the New York Giants and definitely with the Philadelphia Eagles taking more to the air, Dallas is going to be throwing out of 3 receiver sets heavily.  Expect every passing record in team history to fall in Dallas this year. Romo should throw for nearly 40 TDs this year if they stay as they are with the running back personnel. The problem is: Did they do enough on defense to improve on their overall ranking of 17th??  Taylor Blitz Times doesn’t think so and Dallas is going to be involved in shootouts and will win most of them.  The best they can expect is a 10-6 season where they will be fighting for a wildcard playoff berth.  They are too deficient on the defensive line to improve dramatically against the run and in goal line. Garrett is going to take to the air and Jerry World will look like the Transworld Dome of the Rams in ’99. Ask yourself this one fundamental question… You are the defensive co-ordinator facing Dallas on a 3rd and 7. They come out with a three receiver set: an explosive Antonio Bryant, a Pro Bowl Miles Austin who excels after the catch, an All Pro TE in Witten, with a 6’4 Roy E. Williams next to him, and Choice in the backfield. Who are you going to gear toward??  Points will ring up in Dallas…count on it.  Playoffs?? Hmmmm??