Expanding Reality

"On any given Sunday," so the bromide, as old and worn as that ancient football hidden in your closet, goes. Teams meet and no matter which is the best, even the underdog has a shot at victory. One has to wonder if that rule applies to the Monday and Thursday night games, with the occasional Saturday play-off game.

This rule did not apply when the Houston Texans met the Dallas Cowboys on national television opening night of the 2002 season. The better team clearly won. The Houston 19-10 victory over the Cowboys was not indicative of what really transpired. Had the Texans hung on to the football the score would have reached the 30's for the newest team in the NFL. Dallas was that outmatched.

Putting my finger to the pulse of the fan base this evening I hear the same song from the last several seasons. The fault lies at the feet of the offensive coordinator.

I have oft marveled at how a coordinator is to blame when the play fails. Never is there a thought that the players on the field maybe at fault. Yet any review of the debacle in Houston should indicate the players were the reason the team lost.

The running game, where all offense starts, was pitiful. There were no holes for the running back to take advantage of. Emmitt Smith was hogtied by the Texans defense, which played 7 men near the line of scrimmage most of the night.

Too many times over the last few years have we seen the starters not play heavy minutes in preseason games and then fall on their faces when the real blood letting starts. This should be no surprise to anyone who's watched the team since 1995. And our normal bill of fare was served up as the Cowboys starting offensive line was inept at best.

Some of the blame must go to the coaching staff that allows this mistake to continue season after season. But at some point the players have to be held responsible for their play. And that play was horrible Sunday night.

There is a seed of a notion that is rattling around in my head and it has a dark cloud above it. The years when Emmitt Smith would make a single tackler miss are over. The times when Emmitt would run over a defensive back and fall forward for an extra yard have come to an end. There is no joy in Mudville because the mighty Emmitt hasn't got it anymore.

When Michael Wiley got the opportunity to find a gaping hole he took the ball over 40 yards to the endzone. On a pitch to Emmitt, he ran for a terrific gain. But was stopped by a single tackler. A single tackler, which in 1992 would have grabbed air and watched Emmitt score.

Another play that begs scrutiny is the touchdown by Houston on a deep ball that Darren Woodson missed. He was in coverage that required him to give over the top help. When Hawthorne didn't match strides with the receiver, Woodson should have picked him up and prevented a catch. Yet Woody slapped at a ball that was clearly within reach. The season will seem endless if he doesn't make that play on a regular basis.

But where the failure to execute was at it's utmost was at the quarterback position for Dallas. Quincy Carter threw the ball at the feet of the receivers and made poor decisions all night. His inability to find an open receiver caused him to force the ball to Antonio Bryant who was ably covered by Aaron Glenn.

Where were the passes to the tight ends? Why weren't the Texans challenged deep? Where was the moves Carter has shown in preseason to avoid the rush?

One has to remember that Quincy is still a rookie of sorts. He will have the highs and lows that all young quarterbacks show when learning the league. This game was a vivid reminder of his tender experience. How he builds on this may show more about where he is headed than anything else.

But to say this all lies at the feet of the players ignores some glaring errors by the coaching staff as well. David Carr was the first time starter in the NFL at quarterback on the field this evening. Mike Zimmer, the defensive coordinator of the Cowboys, held back on blitzing Carr into errors. Something Dom Capers did with Quincy Carter to a rousing success.

Allowing the young gun to stand in the pocket and throw with the laser accuracy that caused him to be the first pick in the draft was a huge mistake. Introducing Mr. Carr to the turf at the end of every play would have rattled his cage and perhaps caused some of the rookie mistakes we saw from the Dallas quarterback.

Joe Avezzano's special teams have been pitiful over the last several seasons. One would suspect Coach Joe hasn't lost his knack for teaching, but his results have been less than stellar. Field position was a major problem for the team and Avezzano should be held responsible.

But this all ends up at the doorstep of Dave Campo. His team was undisciplined and out of position. Perhaps the most embarrassing loss the franchise has ever suffered came in Reliant Field Sunday. Campo is the leader that sets the pace for a team that allowed the first opening day win by any expansion franchise since the Vikings in 1961.

Jones learned to cap a duster when he was in the oil business. Determine the end results and act accordingly. Take the loss and move on to the next hole in the ground.

The players lost this game but Campo is paid to insure that doesn't happen. Somewhere in this hard knocks preseason Jerry made mention he will evaluate Campo by the season he produces. This tragedy in Sweat City will be remembered. And unless Dave can turn things around quickly, one wonders if any results will be enough to guarantee his curtain call next season.

Campo has his saddle on a 33-year old starting running back and a quarterback with less than a year's experience. Marry that with what appears to be mostly a rookie wide receiver corps and a make shift offensive line. If Campo can eke out a .500 season with this hand he's been dealt, he will deserve to stay. And perhaps earn Coach of the Year honors.

But if this game is any indication of what tomorrow may bring for the Dallas Cowboys, the reality of Campo's future is in serious doubt.

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