The Winds of Change

The profession from the season-ending loss to Philadelphia podium was "Change Is Needed."

The Owner/President/General Manager indicated such, and the Head Coach basically cried it after the "Come to GM" meeting the following day. In what appeared the ultimate display of "Fall Guy," Wade Phillips was instructed to tell the masses he, personally, is a reclamation project. 40 plus years in the League, and he's going to magically change his style, approach and ways. Really? Ladies and gentlemen, this simply isn't going to happen. For if it does, the players accountable to him will see right through the makeshift façade. If there was any trust and respect in the player / coach relationship, you can virtually kiss that good-bye. Fake does not cut it in the NFL or most employment circles. Wade is simply a scapegoat in the season of high expectations gone astray.

With what appears another year employment coming his way, Jerry Jones has basically set the table for the imminent departure of Wade Phillips after the 2009 season. Wade is now in a no-win situation. He can't change, and if he doesn't win, then his inability to change is going to be the cause for termination. This is lamer than any Lame Duck in sports history. The big question now is "who" will be running the show in 2009? Without putting it in print, due to the torture it takes just to admit it, I believe everyone knows where the shots will reign and come from. Cowboys' fans, many of them come from the same place now, and additional ammunition is one scary proposition. The only hope is there's something currently brewing behind closed doors and lips out at Valley Ranch.

This is not to say or intimate that there is, but Jerry Jones has been strangely quiet since the few days following the Philadelphia game that dashed all hopes of a possible playoff appearance. You cannot possibly read the Cowboys website these days without detecting both nonsense and rose-colored glasses. The lead writer and mainstay is allowing himself to show the Cowboys' Nation how two additional wins could have easily been found, but somehow, fate, not team unity and chemistry was to blame. Corporate propaganda at its finest. As easy as those two additional wins could be found, two of the wins could be turned into probable and potential losses. The Cowboys had no business winning the second game of the season against Philly or the Cincinnati game at home. See, this game, like statistics, can be shaped and played anyway you want it to shake out.

This team does not exhibit unity or chemistry. Whatever is going on off-the-field is having a direct impact on preparation and desire. Look at the four teams that remain standing in the quest for the Lombardi trophy. I'll personally remove Arizona from the equation, but the remaining three are "teams." True teams. Teams that play, fight and scrap together, no matter the circumstances. They are vastly different from the Dallas Cowboys and their intestinal fortitude Richter scale. The Cowboys are a hair above flat-lining, and that fact cannot be denied.

To date, the professed changes are the releasing of Bruce Read, Adam Jones and Brian Stewart. Do any of these three departures spell "huge impact" in anyone's eyes? I would certainly hope not. All are marginal, yet needed personnel changes. The big clamor at the moment surrounds Terrell Owens. When isn't the big clamor involving the Cowboys lightning rod receiver? While I understand it, the Cowboys would be making a huge mistake releasing Owens prior to the 2009 season.

Fans, media and the like feel like they would be ridding themselves of the king pin in the cancer chain. Really? His unconventional ways and actions lead many to believe he is undermining with every step and word. I profess Terrell Owens hasn't done anything remotely close to necessitating chemo treatments at Valley Ranch. His past allows you to gravitate that way and make natural assumptions, but I contend Terrell Owens wants to win a Super Bowl, donning the Blue Star, more than most can imagine. He has played that scenario out in his head many, many times, and it kills him internally not to be able to either taste the victory or hoist the hardware. Yes, this may lead to perceived selfishness and grandstanding. I see a will to win.

For the moment, let's go the way of those manning the he-must-go gallows. Once his over-inflated ego and head fall into the basket, and the crowd cheers endlessly, who do you turn to replace him? Trust me; I understand the economics of an Owens' release. Peanuts in the NFL coffers. Is there anyone in their right mind willing to turn the #1 reins over to Roy Williams? Come on people, you cannot be serious! Based on what? What did you possibly see in 10 games that would instill confidence for you to make the switch? Let's be blatantly honest here. This, without question, was the biggest personnel disappointment in 2008 from my vantage point. Oh sure, I've heard it all; he was hurt, he didn't have enough time to decipher the playbook or get on the same page with Tony Romo. Horse manure. Something better drastically change in the off-season and heading into the 2009 season, or the Cowboys are going down as being hood-winked like no other.

10 games people, and less than 200 yards receiving. That's not only pathetic, it's criminal. Call it harsh, but the proper tag is either stupidity or laziness; your choice. I coach a 9-year-old team, and I know for a fact my fourth-graders run crisper routes than what I saw on display from the former UT superstar. Brutal doesn't do justice to the efforts displayed down the stretch. There were always rumors that talent alone got him to the stratosphere while wearing the burnt orange for Mack Brown's Longhorns, and sheer laziness and moodiness appeared to be the Williams' M.O. in Motor City (this has to be completely sourced and storied), and you're willing to turn your #1 duties over to this sloth slug? No thanks.

See, T.O. the receiver drives me crazy. His incredible statistics and possible HOF credentials are 85-90% directly attributable to physical ability, athleticism and uncanny speed for someone his size. He has not done it on the mechanics, attributes and disciplines commanded of a professional receiver. His routes are suspect and his hands are marginal, at best. A man that size has trouble getting off the line of scrimmage, and the effort shown to go get a ball in double coverage is highly-questionable. He is no Larry Fitzgerald.

Could the Cowboys' find a better all-around receiver than Terrell Owens? Without a doubt. They litter the NFL landscape. But when the alternative is the Roy Williams we saw on display in 2008, you cannot afford to let go of Owens. Another receiver, especially of younger ilk, will cost a fortune; a sum the Cowboys have already sacrificed on Williams. Ladies and gentlemen, why do you think the Detroit Lions continued to draft wide receiver after wide receiver in the first round of the NFL Draft? Until Calvin Johnson landed in town, they were trying to undo the Roy Williams mistake.

So, if the Head Coach remains (continue to watch Jerry on this), the controversial WR is here for another year, basically the entire starting line-up is locked up long-term, and the General Manager won't change until the polar ice caps have completely melted, what other changes can possibly occur?

Here are a couple of subtle but sound suggestions for the Cowboys' brass. Start with reclamation projects. As in, no more!! Checkered pasts? No thanks. No doubt Calvin Hill and his group have worked miracles, but he can only do so much. If questionable behavior and backgrounds have surfaced and been done away with by other organizations, take a pass. We don't need to hang hopes on the likes of Tank Johnson and Adam Jones. This may appear cold and possibly short-sided, but the number of leopards changing spots these days hasn't changed much from the Renaissance Days. Steer clear of the off-the-field deviants. Jerry, just say "no."

Stop with the experiments. Kordell Stewart may have been the worst thing to hit this League. Forgive me, I have nothing against Kordell Stewart or what the brought to the field of play. He had game. He produced. But he also gave hope to every General Manager and Head Coach that collegiate players could switch positions with the ease of a Tiger Woods 4-iron. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. The same Cowboys' website mainstay was touting the brilliance and enormous future of Isaiah Stanback from Day One. How has that experiment worked out? A fourth round draft choice burned on a quarterback projected Jerry Rice. Can we dispense with this kind of silliness and crystal-balling from here on out? Cut this loss and move on. And before Patrick Crayton is surfaced in rebuttal, how many Pro Bowls don his resume?

Start drafting offensive and defensive linemen like they were going out of style or stock. From Pop Warner to the Pros, how do you build a winning football team? From the inside out, and don't let anyone tell you differently. If anyone understood this, it was Bill Parcells and all his disciples. Yes, there were certainly misses in the Parcells tenure, but that's just the law of odds and numbers that is the NFL Draft. Keep drafting the big uglies and fortify both these interior lines. In case anyone hasn't noticed, one Anthony Romo is not Andre the Giant. Controlling the line of scrimmage is how you win football games on any level.

Speed kills, but it also prevails and wins. If there are questions or refutes to this proclamation, let's bring in Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt and Butch Davis for a little commentary and classroom teaching. It brought National Championships on the collegiate level and it corralled three Super Bowls on the biggest stage. Draft for wheels and find guys who can flat out run, mainly sideline to sideline. Draft for speed at every position, especially and to include the big uglies! Find guys with motors.

Tapes do not lie. If the guy is a football player, it will show in his play. Put on the game tapes, watch and assess. Find the guys who were born to play the game. Track the progress. Guys who walk on or show up on the scene miraculously two years into college are the ladies who never pull a dollar from their purses or hand bags during a 6-hour stint in the nightclub. Teases. Big teases. You don't go home with them and you don't win with them. Put your coin and lust on the proven commodity. No, they may not look as good, but you darn well better believe they will run through a brick wall just to win. Find those guys.

Say what you will about these Cowboys, but Jerry has already made the biggest mistake he could have made rolling into the off-season. Absent a change at the Head Coach, they would be wise to adhere to some of these simple suggestions. See, they don't have a ton of wiggle room as it pertains to personnel, so they need to get back to the basics of football. Throwing money at big names just doesn't get it done. You cannot buy championships. It cannot be done. Not over the long haul and on a consistent basis. You have to pair super star talent with pure grinders. You have to work for everything you have. You have to want it. You must possess heart and leave the egos and personal agendas in the parking lots. This team and organization needs leadership at every level. You can't teach it and you can't buy it. You either have it or you don't. It's time to roll up the sleeves and get back to fundamentals. This organization has swayed so far from it, and they would be wise to tune in on Sunday. It may not be the prettiest ball on the planet, but it's effective, and it's genuine. It's high time the Cowboys stopped looking the part and actually played the damn part.

Its football, not the Miss "America's Team" Pageant.

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