You all saw the collapse. Don Banks called it one of the five worst days in Dallas Cowboys history. There really is no other way to look at it. The team was flat, and no one seemed interested in making an effort to win what had essentially become a playoff game, since the winner was guaranteed the NFC's sixth seed. The Philadelphia Eagles came out and played like a real team is supposed to play, with poise, desire and determination, and they deserved to win. The only thing that could have made it worse for Dallas is if the game would have been played in Dallas.
So the Eagles move on and the Cowboys go home. Speculation abounds on what needs to be done, some of it obvious (fire Wade Phillips, cut T.O., T.P. Jerry Jones' house) and some not so clear-cut.
Here are my top-5 suggestions for the Cowboys if they want to have a realistic shot at competing next season and beyond. No, they don't include the NFL intervening and firing Jerry Jones. Sadly, they would have to intervene and fire Al Davis and William Clay Ford first.
- 1. CUT TERRELL OWENS- Yes, he's talented. Yes, he's scored a bazillion touchdowns in his career. He's also killed three teams' locker rooms. To put it mildly, Owens is a cancer. He is perhaps the most selfish player in NFL history, point blank. He's like a wild animal raised in captivity. He'll let you stroke him for awhile, and then he'll turn on you.
He's also 34 years old, and doesn't have much left. The team is also hamstrung because it spent first and third-round picks acquiring Roy Williams from Detroit. After declining to use him at all, no team is going to give us anything for him, especially now that he's got a new $45 million contract.
So, cut T.O., take the cap hit and build your receiving corps around Williams as your lead and Patrick Crayton as your No.3. Sign a low-cost veteran in free agency to be the No.2 that won't mind only catching 40 balls for 550 yards. Draft a developmental receiver with your extra third-rounder so he can be ready to take over No.2 duties by 2011.
- 2. FIRE WADE PHILLIPS- This won't take nearly as long. Wade is a great defensive mind, no one questions that. But he's not a head coach. In honor of Owner Jones, I say that 500 coaches could have led the Cowboys to a 9-7 record this year.
- 3. BRING IN A REAL COACH- Enough of this puppet crap, Jerry. You want to win Super Bowls? Bring in someone who knows how. Yes, Bill Parcells failed to get you back to the promised land, but he did build that contender that you're trying very hard through your football stupidity to tear down. Bill Cowher, Mike Holmgren, and now Mike Shanahan are out there. Get one and stop pretending you know what you're doing.
- 4. BRING IN A TEAM OF REAL TALENT EVALUATORS- How many players has Dallas truly developed into stars since Jimmy Johnson left? DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Jason Witten and maybe Terence Newman. I don't count Marion Barber because he has yet to have a 1,000 yard season. On the other hand, how many stars have we brought in from other organizations, only to watch them stink it up in our system? Too many to list. We don't know how to use players according to their talents. If we're not going to tweak our system to maximize their talent, then we need people who can identify players who will excel in our system.
- 5. GROW OUR OWN PLAYERS- We need to rebuild the fabric of our team. That's what Parcells was good at, and since much of his work is still here, it won't be totally from the ground up. Jettison players who only care about impending free agency (Tank Johnson) or doing what they want to do (T.O., Pacman Jones). Draft players from winning programs so they can bring the right mindset here. Sign low-cost young veterans with upside but who haven't gotten too big to learn (see Dallas Mavericks success with Brandon Bass). Build a team, Jerry, don't buy it.
HOW A COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF CAN WORK
This is not nearly so complicated as you might think. Proponents of a playoff argue that a true national champion can only be decided on the field, while opponents argue that a playoff would destroy the bowl system in college football and over-extend the season.
First, how many teams are we talking about in a playoff? Eight, 16? Eight teams would allow for three rounds of play. The solution is simple.
- 1. Eliminate the 12th regular season game that was put in a few years ago. Go back to 11 regular-season games.
- 2. Keep the number of bowls the same, but return to four BCS bowls. Keep the rules on getting into a BCS bowl the same (conference championship), as well as room for two at-large teams. Some people might complain that the Big 12's number two team is more deserving than the ACC's number one team, but it's no different than the San Diego Chargers being in the NFL playoffs this year at 8-8 while the New England Patriots at 11-5 sit home. If you can't win your division (conference), you shouldn't be playing for the championship. Besides, that's what the two at-large bids would be for.
- 3. Let the four BCS bowl winners make up the playoff. It would lead to two new bowls being created (The BCS Championship game being the final), would decide the championship on the field (which is what all fans want), provide more money (and thus, motivation to win) for the schools involved, and only extend the entire season one week, thanks to eliminating the 12th regular-season game. Even more important, the regular season would still be meaningful, which is what most opponents of the playoff fear.
What we cannot have any longer is conference chairmen who refuse to even consider a playoff, in some form, against the overwhelming sentiment of the fans who pay to watch the games in the first place.