Autopsy Of A Football Franchise

Just like so many operating rooms around the world where the patient takes his last breath, so to the Dallas Cowboys gasp once then expired Sunday. The RCA Dome should have a chalk outline on the artificial turf that resembles the Cowboy's mascot Rowdy.

D.O.A now stands for Dead On Artificial turf. The season is over.

If this is coming as late breaking news then you must have recently awoken from your coma. Let me get you up to speed. The Cowboys were the best franchise in football and maybe ever in the early 90's. They posted three championships and will place at least 5 players in the Hall of Fame from that era. But since 1995 the team of the 90's has been relegated to also-ran. Are you glad you woke up?

Sunday's game had its share of suspense. Mostly when the Colts would decide to report to work and put away the sinking ship from Dallas. The high-powered offense of Indy picnicked on the sidelines and sang Kumbaya for most of the day as they allowed Dallas to dictate the pace. In the end, the sleeping Giant rose from a nap and posted 14 points in the 4th quarter, just in the nick to get to the links for Twilight time.

What passes for ineptitude on the part of Dallas is really years of poor drafting and worse coaching coming to the fore. Whether it was character issues or no real grasp on talent, the team just didn't acquire enough via the draft in the last part of the 90's to form a foundation for the team in the early 2000's. And the head coaching of the current team has lost its hold on the players and has become an empty headset on the sidelines.

Sunday's game came down to several key reasons the team lost. Arguably it can be laid at the feet of Jones. But he doesn't suit up as yet. Although with reports drifting in of both Page and Gurode facing M.R.I's on Monday, he might fill in on the line for a few series.

Where the team drops the ball, both figuratively and literally, is on offense. The Keystone Cops have nothing on this crew straight from Gilligan's Island.

Chad Hutchinson made his third start as a pro and showed both tons of promise and the reason why rookies aren't trusted. He went 11/23 for the day with no interceptions. He can thank his receiving corps and runningbacks for at least 5 drops that stalled drives or put Hutch in late and long all day. Yet he stood tall and rocketed balls to the dropsy clan when he was allowed to stand upright. However, that caused issues when Chad was blindsided once and sacked another time from straight on which created fumbles late in the game.

The running game posted a whopping 69 yards from actual runningbacks. Of course the longest run of the day came from Antonio Bryant on a reverse that caught the Colts by surprise. Both Emmitt Smith and Troy Hambrick had several nice gains of over 8 yards each only to find the impenetrable wall of the Colts too formidable to crash through.

Looking at the play-by-play the reoccurring theme of the 2002 season sits up and begs to be recognized. The offensive line cannot protect nor can they consistently open holes for the runningbacks. Flozell Adams and Solomon Page gave performances that suggest neither will return next season. And that might be a blessing in disguise.

Dallas posted one first down on ten attempts when facing third down. The reasons mount as dropped passes, sacks, incompletes, and failed running plays all added up to the team not being able to convert. The lack of playmaking is spread over the entire team and not just one player. The entire offense is struggling and until there is some consistency in the line, there will be many days just like Sunday.

Mike Zimmer's defense held the Colts to 6 points for three quarters. They played heads-up and held the trio of Manning, James, and Harrison out of the endzone. Manning was forced into several time-outs as Dallas shifted ad made adjustments on the fly, forcing his hand. While the team didn't exert a great deal of pressure, they did stop James and contain Harrison and Manning. The latter two were a group the Eagles couldn't corral the week before.

There were positives. Roy Williams had 8 solo tackles and his first NFL interception. Dat Nguyen's return allowed the defense to be more aggressive in their play calling. This resulted in an almost shut out for three quarters of football. Derek Ross gave ground but hung tough with the best receiver in the game, so the stats say. But all the positive results were on one side of the ball.

Words have meaning. Conscious thought moves over the highway of words and links us all as humans. Some words have significance more than others. It depends on the circumsta

nce that dictates the weight each word has. To fans playoffs and Superbowl are very important words. They are positive and can be construed in only one way. Yet to those same fans the words rebuild and evaluation are as vile as the dialogue in a Tarantino movie. They become curse words that indicate losing.

The team needs to realize this season is history. They need to set aside old heroes and watch the youngsters play. Evaluate what the players have that causes excitement by the coaching staff. Then when the draft rolls around there will be a valid assessment of what fruit hangs on the vine. And what has dropped to the ground to spoil.

The team is finished for the 2002 season. The patient has expired and is merely waiting the last rights by Jerry Jones and his coaching staff. Those rights could be invaluable if the management were to take this time to grade.

Then from the funeral pyre; the ashes of the deceased 2002, we might see the team rise once again in 2003. A year where hope springs eternal.

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