Be Careful What You Wish For

IRVING, TX. - Something about Giants 36, Cowboys 22 felt like a cheesy TV gameshow. The bells. The whistles. The celebrity cameos. A big winner. A big loser.

Somebody get Wink Martindale and a studio audience less prone to booing than were Monday night's 65,000 observers at Texas Stadium, and let's call it "Be Careful What You Wish For!''

We wanted an above-the-marquee coach who wouldn't get rag-dolled by the owner. We got it! But (cue Wink) "Be Careful What You Wish For!'' because what we've also got in Bill Parcells is a coach of a 3-3 team, a coach whose four-year mark in Dallas is a definition-of-mediocre 28-26, a coach whose willingness to allow NFL Films to mike him up for the last three decades seemed like a cuter trick when he was actually winning the games for which he was miked up.

We wanted a risk-reward superstar receiver who makes all the huge plays but sometimes skips over the little ones. We got it! But (cue Wink) "Be Careful What You Wish For!'' because what we've also got in Terrell Owens is a photogenic magnet, a receiver who ordered the Cowboys to feed him the ball, a receiver who posted mostly meaningless numbers (six catches for 98 yards and a TD) while dropping an earlier fourth-and-1 gimme that might've made a difference.

And most of all, you (not me, this one is yours) wanted somebody other than Drew Bledsoe at quarterback. You wanted "Drew II,'' Tony Romo, the painfully unproven four-year vet admired by the coaching staff as a "Drew Brees type.'' You got it! But (cue Wink again) "Be Careful What You Wish For!'' because what you've also got in Tony Romo is a pipedream, a player Parcells figured might sprinkle a little magic fairy dust on a 12-7 halftime deficit -- and who instead joined the rest of the Cowboys in spraying fertilizer product all over that new fake turf.

"They outplayed us, they out-coached us, they out-everythinged us, they out-did everything,'' Parcells summarized. "I am ashamed to put a team out there that plays like that.''

The Giants now have three straight wins and at 4-2 -- with a pair of divisional road victories -- are perched alone atop the NFC East. They are the defending division champs, and they suddenly look like it. The Cowboys under Parcells have been essentially a .500 team with promise -- and that's about the best one can say about them at this moment.

How much of it was Bledsoe's fault? Don't pin the four first-half sacks all on him. (In fact, a critical sack of Bledsoe that resulted in a New York safety goes right on Parcells and the coaching staff; the play's design didn't offer enough pass protection, given the situation.) But saddle him for one disastrous play, for certain. Dallas was down five points and was at the 4-yard line with moments left in the first half when it was poised to enter intermission with momentum. But Bledsoe appeared to make up his mind before the throw to force the ball left to Terry Glenn. Sam Madison easily jumped the route, ending the possession, the momentum, and, Bledsoe's night.

Parcells was befuddled by Bledsoe's throw on a play that was designed to go the other way, to T.O. You can imagine what T.O. thought. And Bledsoe thought the worst choice was made by the coach. "A bad decision,'' Bledsoe said of his benching.

Cowboys people aren't saying whether the halftime decision to hand the keys to the car to Romo is a permanent one.

If it is, the decision certainly will not be based on the backup QB's second-half performance, which confirmed what I've argued all along: That if you believe the kid is superior to Bledsoe at this point in their careers, you sir, are a Tony Romoron.

Romo is more mobile, yes. And he tossed a pair of TD passes to go with his 14-of-25 for 227-yards effort. But he was sacked twice. And intercepted three times, once on his very first throw to open the half (that's right: Dallas closed the first half with a pick and opened the second half with another, meaning interceptions on two straight plays by the same team and no, you don't see that very often) and once again late, when Giants rookie Kevin Dockery took it 96 yards the wrong way for a clinching touchdown.

Romo's lack of stature ("stature''? ... paging Kim Etheredge!) is bothersome. To me, yeah, but to him, too. There were times in the pocket when he appeared to be a Washington Generals point guard leading a 1-on-5 fastbreak against the Harlem Globetrotters.

If Romo is to be a part of Dallas' immediate future, he'll need help. Lots of it. From an offensive line that was overmatched; it is fair to say that the Giants' pass rush is in a groove, with 13 sacks in two weeks, and it is fair to say, from a layman's view, that Dallas' blocking was so horrid that even Jason Witten will earn an awful grade. From a defense that had been No. 1 against the run but that allowed Tiki Barber 114 yards and issued its biggest hit on a referee who found himself in Roy Williams' path on Plaxico Burress' game-starting scoring bomb.

But mostly from the other two "Be Careful What You Ask For!'' guys. I know this is a recurring theme for me, but trust me when I say I'm simply laying the groundwork for the inevitable. If the Cowboys forge a glorious 2006 season, Parcells and Owens will be the two fellas carried off on teammates' shoulders. If the Cowboys fall short of that -- continuing the see-sawing trend of a loss then a win, a win then a loss, a win then a loss -- then Parcells and Owens should fall.

"Be Careful What You Wish For. ...'' (cue Wink one last time) "Because You Might Just Get It.''

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