Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Dallas Cowboys Offseason Purge: Are There Any Breaks On This Damn Thing?

You know it's a slow day in sports when I'm surfing ESPN's website for some sort of intriguing news.

Well, that's the predicament I found myself in this evening. The National Basketball Association hasn't kicked it into high gear yet, the same could be said about college basketball, Major League Baseball is still a ways away, college football is over, and the National Football League playoffs are down to four teams.

There's just so much dissection of the Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Ravens, and Pittsburgh Steelers I can take.

So I found myself wandering between stories of the Gaza War and the latest MLB free agent whisperings.

Then, I ran across the latest rumblings come out of Camp Werder...I mean Dallas. It's an interesting piece about the possible release of Terrell Owens from yet another anonymous source inside the Cowboy clubhouse. I say interesting although the ending was a little confusing—at the end, it says Ed Werder covers the NFL for ESPN.

So does that mean ESPN considers Dallas the entirety of the NFL? Or does that mean only Dallas is relevant to the NFL? Or does it mean that, as go the Cowboys, so goes the NFL? Whatever.

More importantly, is there anything as reliable as overreaction coming out of Big D?

Look, I'm not always innocent in this regard, but it is hilarious to see the total lack of perspective regarding all things Cowboy on such a frequent and consistent basis. The Cowboys collect a couple talented pieces and immediately become Super Bowl favorites. Then—when they throw a couple rods, sputter down the stretch, and miss the playoffs—it's time to blow the whole thing up.

I may very well be one of Terrell Owens' harshest critics, but I honestly thought Robert Allred's excellent piece on the very subject was a total hypothetical. Not for one second did I think it was an actual course of action being considered by the organization.

Jerry Jones can't really be that stupid, so beholden to public perception and "expert" analysis. Can he?

Like I said, I'm no fan of TO. I haven't been ever since he started rumbling in San Francisco and submarining my 49ers. My antipathy grew when he did the same exact thing to the Iggles in Philly. On both squads, he was a cancer that did more bad than good by the time he was vomited out of town.

There's the rub though.

As much as I dislike Terrell Owens and as tired as I have become of his act, it hasn't resurfaced in Dallas. Yet. Maybe he's making more noise behind closed doors. That doesn't seem likely with Ed Werder lurking in every shadow with his cutting edge surveillance technology.

Not to mention all those deeply embedded and courageous sources whose only defense against vicious reprisal is their cloak of anonymity.

It's a sad statement, but the subtle snipings at Jason Garrett, Tony Romo, and Jason Witten don't come close to the sideshow that got him flushed out of the City and Philadelphia. Furthermore, his production is still elite as is his reputation.

Perhaps both are dropping off, but he'll still be one of the most valuable wide-outs for at least a year or two. Werder's story mentions the Cowboys' concern with the influence Owens has on guys like Marion Barber, Patrick Crayton, and Roy Williams (the wide receiver). I don't believe for a second that a grimy, lunch-pail guy like Barber will listen to a word Owens' is running.

As for Crayton and Williams? The locker-room and off-field influence of TO might not be great, but what about that on-field one? How does Dallas envision those fellas getting open without Terrell drawing the primary defensive eye?

There is no denying that Owens is about as much of an asset to the clubhouse as Barry Bonds was. There's also no denying that Owens has an immeasurable positive impact on the field of (sports) battle. Finally, there's no denying that the 2008 Dallas Cowboys roster needed a strong dose of Drano.

However, that's what makes this "news" from Werder all the more perplexing.

Pacman Jones? Gone.

Tank Johnson? Gone.

That leaves Terrell Owens as the lone offender.

See, the mistake Jerry Jones made was putting so many bad character and/or reputation guys in one closed environment. The three nefarious threads intertwined and created a theme that destroyed the fabric of the squad. But there's only one left.

Plenty of teams exist, even thrive, with one bad apple drawing the media attention while the other sturdy veterans work on the peripherals of the spotlight.

My Niners did it with Deion Sanders. They did it with Ricky Watters. They did it with Bill Romanowski. And they had a good deal of success with Terrell Owens 1.0.

Dallas did it with Michael Irvin.

The Chicago Bears did it with Jim McMahon.

And the list goes on and on. This is football after all. It's a violent game and not all the men who play it are angels. You just can't put too many demons together in one place.

The Cowboys found that out last year. Now, they seem intent on proving just how well they learned it.

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