In-House Conflicts (Part II)

IRVING, TX. - In our last column, we acknowledged T.O.I.A.S. (That is, "Terrell Owens -- It's Always Something.'') And we conceded that Owens' conflict with passing-game coordinator Todd Haley could, conceivably, mushroom into something similar to what some in the media have made it out to be.

But we pledged that we'd offer proof of just how common such incidents -- coaches barking at players, players barking back -- are. Of course, little did we know that outside of Valley Ranch, other conflicted NFL teams would provide so much support of the thesis. The Cardinals and the Ravens dumped offensive coordinators on the same day! Arizona players marching out of meetings! Lions and Browns and Falcons and Giants and Raiders all in each others' faces!

It's an epidemic!

Actually, it's been this way for a long time. Now, back to Valley Ranch with, as promised, some top-of-my-head examples of "disrespectful'' Valley Ranch conflicts from my 17 years in Dallas, presented alphabetically:

* Alexander, Hubbard -- Failed to gain the respect of some receivers because during his time in Dallas, it was Michael Irvin, not "Ax,'' who actually ran the position meetings.

* Blake, John -- In the early '90's, was wildly berated by Jimmy Johnson -- in front of players and the media and God and everybody --- for flirting with MTV's Downtown Julie Brown. ... during practice!

* Blake, John -- In yet another chapter, Blake (who was like a son to head coach Barry Switzer) tried to befriend Deion Sanders and then used The Race Card to fuel a locker-room rift between Deion and his supporters and Troy Aikman and his supporters.

* Brodsky, Joe -- The avuncular running-backs coach was beloved by Emmitt Smith and the rest. But when the late Brodsky went public about Emmitt's aversion to the weight room, Emmitt went ballistic.

* Campo, Dave -- In the early '90's, "Camps'' hosted a team Christmas party at his home. In an incident that would have a carryover effect years later when Campo would be Dallas' head coach, Jimmy Johnson embarrassed him by reaching down and dismissively patting him on the head -- again, in front of other coaches and players.

* Davis, Butch -- When Butch was the defensive-line coach, he worked to make a name for his unit (and himself). So the heat was on in practice -- even when it wasn't supposed to be. Aikman in particular despised Davis' hassle-the-QB practice orders.

* Ford, Robert -- The likable Ford had played wide receiver in college. But as a tight-ends coach, his diminutive size and his huge eyeglasses made him a target of derision for players. Jay Novacek, Alfredo Roberts and Robert Awalt all said they ran their meetings "with'' Ford, not under him.

* Gailey, Chan -- The head coach in '98 and '99 took Dallas to two playoff appearances -- but was fired in part because Irvin and Aikman disliked him.

* Haley, Todd -- Yeah, him again. Wasn't it just last year that Parcells whacked Haley backwards on the sideline when the two of them were talking to a ref? Haley is the son of longtime NFL exec Dick Haley, a longtime friend of Parcells. The relationship survives.

* Shula, Dave -- After a night of training-camp drinking, Daryl Johnston and Aikman were confronted by offensive coordinator Shula, who tried to discipline them. Moose responded by taking a swing at Shula, his fist ending up plunging through a dormitory wall.

* Switzer, Barry -- Well, you know.

Some of those events did change the course of Cowboys history. Others are innocuous and not widely known. But they all happened, with the screaming and the yelling and even the punching.

Does this mean Owens' presence at Valley Ranch is "innocuous''? No, not yet. There are still 11 regular-season games yet to go, and heck, there are still 11 or more assistant coaches he hasn't yet conflicted with.

Does this incident represent one more straw loaded on the back of coach Bill Parcells, a straw that will lead to a break of said back (and, of course, to Parcells' departure)? Quite possibly. It's been said many times that Coach doesn't want to be a part of a circus. That is inaccurate; he LOVES being a part of a circus -- as long as he is the sole ringmaster.

So yes, the sideshows that are Jerry and T.O. might hasten Parcells' postseason retirement. ... though, wasn't that going to happen, anyway?

Still, none of that stuff means Terrell Owens crossing swords with Todd Haley, taken by itself, represents a cancerous presence. As Parcells knows, as Jones knows, as Cowboys fans know, crossing swords is sometimes unavoidable -- especially in the sport of football, where the willingness and ability to "cross swords'' is part of the job description.

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