Running on Empty

With roughly a month to go before training camp convenes, it's time to take a look back and say a prayer for the road ahead.

Just for the record, I like Vinny Testeverde.

Always have and always will.

The world needs more athletes of his ilk and demeanor. Dedicated, battle-hardened and professional. I know I reside in the minority amongst the Cowboys' Nation, but I applaud the Testeverdian contributions in 2004. No doubt those are snickers, hisses and jeers I hear. Surely I jest, right? Oh, contraire.

The plan was sound. It wasn't rocket science; just Insurance 101. As Bernie Kosar and Wade Wilson before, Vinny was here to provide peace of mind and veteran stability. It was the back up (Romo and Henson) and peripheral impact plans which were severely flawed.

A brief refresher will denote Vinny Testeverde arrived in the Metroplex as the bonefide, veteran back up. Someone who could climb into the saddle should one more Quincy pull-down and scramble turn into a Ray Lewis omelet.

The writing was on the wall. If the legs didn't do in Jerry's "chosen one," the "crippler" would. Guess which demon flexed its muscle?

You know the story. An early Oxnard exit and suddenly Vinny is "The man." Not bad, but it was Dallas, 2004, not Coral Gables, 1986.

Knowledge of Carter's rank and GPA within the NFL's Substance Abuse Program was management negligence of the highest order, and it never received the scrutiny it justly deserved. Was there organizational short sidedness when it came to assessing the QB ranks?

Slightly, but the bigger gaffe was not foreseeing the potential spillover effect to the most valuable of skill positions. If the quality of your field general diminishes, where does a football team turn?

Say what you will about the defense and the presence of the injury Gods, the 2004 shortcomings of the Dallas Cowboys were squarely on the shoulders of the running back stable.

Or, in this case, glue factory.

The Cowboys, with the precision of a Vegas craps shooter, placed the entire lot of extra large, grade "A" eggs right in the proverbial Julius Jones basket. Parcells was going to show the world the diamond he unearthed from the Cowboys Golf Club rough. How dare you call him crazy for passes taken on Stephen Jackson and Kevin Jones (Tatum Bell, too, but who's counting?). He'll show us.

Backside pursuit (where was this in previous years?) from Ebenezer Ekuban put Jones' clavicle on the shelf, the remaining slate in jeopardy, and the rock squarely in the hands of, gulp, Eddie George.

And herein lay the dilemma.

My good friend, Mike Fisher, was recently here appropriately exclaiming, "Finish what you start." Amen, Brother. However, those prayers could never be answered with rock-toting duties being handled by a gentleman whose better days in Music City had passed like a Merle Haggard ballad.

You can't protect a lead when Vinny Testeverde is three-quarters of your offense and you're perfecting the three-and-out.

Poor Mike Zimmer. His defense never had a chance, faded into oblivion, and Vinny was literally hung out to dry.

All due to pilot error. The organization was banking on a rookie and Grandpa Eddie.

Can you say recipe for disaster? Hindsight says 6-10 was pretty darn remarkable…..considering.

"E" for execution. "A" for recognition. They appear to have learned their lesson and steadfastly refuse to let a "roll of the bones" do them in again. A walk through the 2005 paddock reveals a different type of horse. Hopeful stallions with nameplates of Jones, Thomas, Barber III, and Bickerstaff. There's an ol' adage out there about it taking defense and a QB to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, but if you can't run the ball in today's NFL, might as well regroup and ante up for next year.

Oh, that smiling soldier at Valley Ranch, you ask? That's Drew Bledsoe. The same hombre who clearly understands the merits of a Willis McGahee and Travis Henry.

Vinny, you deserved better. Done in by a selfish substance abuser and a gambling brain trust. You were the scapegoat, and there aren't enough thanks for highlighting the "weak link" which broke the 2004 chain.

Let's pray Drew is the beneficiary of a running back stable which could give the league a run for its money.

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