A 3-Course Dinner

Today I serve up a three-course dinner of Cowboys controversies...

One is a fluffy appetizer. Then comes a thin soup. But finally, the piece d' resistance: a very juicy slab of Oxnard-grown beef.

THE FLUFFY APPETIZER: Dallas coach Bill Parcells was asked on Wednesday to elaborate on some of the concerns that presently prevent him from predicting this club's future. Tucked somewhere inside his extensive laundry list: A desire for better play at quarterback. ... and you should've heard the media yardbirds, chirping and pecking and flapping.

"It means he doesn't like Bledsoe!'' they clucked.

Parcells tried to calm the chicken yard by insisting it wasn't meant as anything more than it was: A non-incendiary statement of fact. He does indeed need better play at quarterback. From the starter on down. Nevertheless, reporters -- after almost three weeks in Oxnard starving for a worm to be pulled from the ground -- were so incited by the comment that two reporters actually engaged in a good-natured duel over who should get to ask the follow-up question. And, um, the two reporters happen to work for the same paper!

(Sidebar issue: Why exactly do reporters think their voice -- not another person asking the same exact question, but THEIR voice -- need be heard?)

Anyway, last I heard, Parcells has no plans to demote Drew Bledsoe and replace him with Tony Romo.

THE THIN SOUP: This one it a bit more nourishing.

Last week, Parcells addressed the battle for the third-receiver job by saying he was "rooting for the kid'' -- the kid being Patrick Crayton. This week, Parcells said Clayton has taken a slight lead over Quincy Morgan in the race for the job.

Reporters this week relayed Parcells' comments to Morgan. And as near as I can tell, Morgan's "well,-if-he's-rooting-for-somebody-else-then-I-guess-I'm-on-the-wrong-team'' sort of response was delivered with a hint of bitterness.

Easy, Q. It's impossible to interpret Parcells second-hand -- and especially so if you don't speak fluent Parcellese. Parcells may be saying Crayton is "slightly ahead'' of Morgan as a ploy to get Morgan to push back. And the "rooting for'' thing? Kids, he's rooting for all of you. What, you think Big Bill is "rooting AGAINST'' Morgan? Or Drew Henson or Torrin Tucker or Keith Davis? That he WANTS them to fail?

"Parcellese.'' We all ought to be required to study a semester of it.

THE MAIN COURSE: And finally, tantalizingly, the main course: Jacob Rogers is the p-word.

Now, this isn't me talking. I learned a long time ago to try to avoid calling pro athletes "dogs'' and "pigs'' and "mutts'' and "loafters'' and "wimps'' and such. They're using their bodies to survive down there in the Texas Stadium brick oven, while I'm sitting upstairs in the air-conditioned press box, asking one of the Texettes for a third oversized chocolate-chip cookie. So I try not to judge.

No, with Rogers -- who as recently as a week ago almost had the right-tackle job sewn up -- the negative characterization comes from elsewhere. You can hear it when you listen between Parcells' lines. You can read it when the phrase "injury-prone'' pops up so often. (Again, a charge I'm hesistant to ever make; guy blows out a knee, how does that make him a softy?)

But now I offer you this horrible indictment of Jacob Rogers, this worse-thing-you-can-say-about-a-player thing, as it comes from the most damaging source: Another jock. A teammate of Rogers'. A well-respected one, too.

There won't be a fourth course, obviously, because I think I just spoiled your appetite.

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