Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dallas Roundtable

I don't know if y'all want an intro or anything (assume Robert's handling that) so I'm just hitting the questions....

1. Bob Hayes is the lone Dallas Cowboy of this year's 17 Hall of Fame finalists. Do you believe that he belongs in the Hall, and if so, should he be inducted this year?

Yes and yes. Remember, I'm no fan of the Dallas Cowboys. They are—without a doubt—my least favorite team in the National Football League. But Bullet Bob deserves the NFL's highest honor and it seems looooong overdue.

As with any hall of fame, the selection criteria are vague—a bunch of stuff that usually amounts to an outstanding contribution to whatever sport. The wording may be different, but the bottom-line is that the player must have been very good and in a unique or spectacular way.

So let's see....

Bullet Bob entered the 1964 NFL Draft fresh off Olympic gold in the '64 Games (incidentally, I'd vote for him because of this clip alone). The 'pokes took a flier on him in the seventh round and he proceeded to become the first Dallas player to ever surpass 1000 receiving yards. Hayes did it in his rookie year.

In his 11-year career, the man amassed 371 receptions for 7414 yards and 71 touchdowns. That's no typo, Hayes averaged 20.0 yards per catch for his career. He wasn't a bad return man either—23 kickoff returns for 581 yards and 104 punts for 1158 yards (and three TDs). In 1968, he was actually the best punt returner in the NFL with a 20.8 yard per return average and two touchdowns, including a 90-yarder.

Bullet Bob enjoyed great individual and team success. He garnered three Pro Bowls (something I don't put much stock in) and four All-Pro team inclusions (something I put a great deal of stock in). His Dallas teams won five National Football Conference East titles, two NFC crowns, and the first Super Bowl in franchise history.

Still not unique and/or spectacular enough for you?

OK, how about this: many respected historians of the game credit Bob Hayes with the invention of the zone defense.

The Bullet was so fast that defenses were forced to abandon the traditional man coverage because no single individual could keep up with him. He revolutionized the game and, in the process, opened the field for the rest of his teammates. As the defense was perfected on the fly, teams (focused on Hayes' every move) were vulnerable to the other receivers and rushing attack.

Bob Hayes is the only NFL player to have a Super Bowl ring and Olympic gold. He put up dazzling numbers until the entire League adapted to stop him (and future echos of him) and still finished with some impressive totals. Hayes made his teams better and helped them reach great heights.

His list of personal accolades is long and should get one longer with enshrinement this year.

2. The Cowboys enter the offseason after finishing one of the most, if not the most, disappointing seasons in franchise history. It would probably be naive to think that there is one sole reason for their failures this past season, but if you had to identify the Cowboys' biggest problem-area, what would you say that is?

Easy, it's the locker-room.

There's no way there's anything wrong with the talent or effort. I don't believe either of those can get much better. Sure, the offensive line under-performed and there were other frailties that came to light on the field. But I just don't buy that it was a problem with the talent side of personnel.

Maybe I'm naive, but I truly believe that talent—even supreme talent—cannot get the job done in a team sport when brought to bear in an individual way i.e. because it's your job and you want to do it well for your own pride.

Since football is the ultimate team sport, it stands to reason that this statement is truest in football.

And I think there was so much nonsense going on that the only way guys could show up for work was to put their heads down and just do their jobs. That's fine except your opposition is coming to work as if it's showing up for battle—all for one and one for all (or at least much closer to that than Dallas).

I'm not advocating the removal of Terrell Owens from the picture (as much as I'd like to). What I am advocating is the removal of all the cheaper imitations of Owens i.e. Pacman Jones (check), Tank Johnson (check), and Jerry Jones (just kidding). I'm also suggesting that Tony Romo needs to take Troy Aikman's suprisingly profound words to heart.

I'm paraphrasing, but he said that perception doesn't matter except when you need to rely on it to get through the hard times that are sure to come in Dallas. That was amazingly concise and eloquent for a guy who made a career out of blunt force head trauma.

The Cabo trip was a perfect example—of course it wasn't the reason Dallas lost the subsequent game, but it did lose and Romo was in Mexico with his sexpot. That's a rough time and Tony couldn't rely on the perception that he did everything he needed to to.

With only Owens as a distraction and Romo playing the good general, the Cowboys are just fine.

3. What are your thoughts on the Cowboys draft? What is their biggest need, and will they need a first round pick in order to get it? If so, what should they be willing to give up for the first round pick?

Since baseball is my area of expertise (in my opinion), I'll go there for this one. The Dallas Cowboys are like the New York Yankees: the draft is really just a bonus since they can go out an buy whatever they want anyway.

With that in mind, I'd say Dallas should always be drafting for highest immediate upside regardless of how slim it is or more offensive linemen since those are like pitchers—you can never have too many good ones because they always go down to injury.

Of course, I have a non-sexual-male-crush on Brad Davis from Ball State. If I were Dallas (depending on who were available when my pick came), I'd snag Davis as a two-year project in case Romo's case of big-game jitters doesn't clear up (as I expect it to).

My ultimate answer—the best offensive lineman available, then the best athlete available, and I'd take Brad Davis a little early (within reason).

4. In the early weeks of the Cowboys' offseason, we have seen both Bruce Reed and Brian Stewart collect their pink-slips. Many experts and fans alike still maintain that the Cowboys will not get any better until Wade Phillips, Jason Garrett, or even both are shown the door. What are your thoughts on the Cowboys' coaching staff?

This goes back to the locker-room being the biggest problem. Personally, I don't see how Garret goes from illuminati one year to a moron the next. I put the offensive problems on the players so this question boils down to Wade Phillips, should he stay or should he go?

I say he's gotta go unless you can bring in a player (a la Ray Lewis) would can take over the team and move it in a positive direction (i.e. the anti-TO). I don't see Lewis coming to Dallas and I don't see Romo becoming that guy so I say Phillips must walk the plank.

Too bad since he seems like a good dude, but a tiger's not gonna change his stripes this late in the day.

5. The Cowboys have made the news again this week. It has been announced that the Cowboys will have their own reality show similar to American Idol, hosted by none other than ex-Cowboy, Michael Irvin. In this show, six defensive backs and six wide receivers will compete for a roster spot in the Cowboys' training camp this summer. Does this move help or hurt the Cowboys?

This is ridiculous. Absolutely freakin' ridiculous.

And it makes me thing that the core problem in Dallas is Jerry Jones and his ego. I'm honestly beginning to think the man lusts after attention and publicity more so that victory (which he's already had).

Seriously, the consensus around the NFL is that your team had more talent than just about anyone else and yet you missed the playoffs because of all the off-field bullsh*t. So what do you do? Pledge not to change coaches, cut a little of the distraction, and then sign up for what could turn into an even bigger one than Dallas ever saw in 2008.

You'll have a reality show where the winner actually gets to try-out for Dallas. Hmmm. Think that'll drum up interest in Dallas Cowboy training camp? Think that's gonna make it feel like getting down to basics or an episode of whatever that tripe on HBO is called?

Bring in the clowns and prop up the tent. Jerry Jones is bringing the circus back to town. Idiot.

6. Plain and simple: How will the Cowboys do next year?

Why bother? This is the most unpredictable team in the entire League. I was convinced they would make the playoffs until the very last day. I thought the talent would finally get the wakeup call in time to face the Philadelphia Eagles. Guess not.

I'd say they'll compete for the NFC East crown since they figure to at least run in place while the other East teams are taking on water. That puts them in the playoffs and, from there, I'd figure the talent has to show up. I say they finally win their first playoff game next year with an inspired Tony Romo putting the kibosh on Owens' attempt to dereail yet another Super Bowl contender.

No Super Bowl title though; I say they bow out in the NFC Championship game. Gotta walk before you run.

Of course, I wouldn't mind seeing them miss the postseason again ;-)

7. Super Bowl Prediction?

Hmmm, my head says Pittsburgh Steelers and that defense finally puts the clamps on the Arizona Cardinals. But I'm going with my heart and gut, which lie in the NFC. I say Kurt Warner gets another shot of divine insiration and keeps throwing it up to Larry Fitzgerald, who nobody can stop.

If a secondary were going to blanket Leapin' Larry, it would've been Philly's.

Arizona Cardinals 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 24

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