Terrell Owens: Village Idiot or Village Scapegoat?

On this one, I’m going with scapegoat.  Here’s why:

He was not the principal cause of the Cowboys demise last season. He and the media have the sort of relationship that makes it difficult to discern where the problems really lie with the Cowboys. For me, it’s fairly simple.

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When the Cowboys lost last season… the defense allowed more than 100 yards on the ground. They were 0-5 when they allowed more than 100 yards rushing. In four of those games they surrendered more than 160 yards…in two of them, more than 200. That’s not championship defense.

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The Cowboys were 3-7 when they failed to run for 100 yards. They were 6-0 when they ran for 100 yards. Now, if your team has injuries to Marion Barber and Felix Jones — and you lose your quarterback allowing teams to stack the box vs. the run, you might have a tough time running as well. Exhibit A: Brad Johnson and the running game do nothing in a road loss at St. Louis.

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When the Cowboys lost last season, they turned the ball over. The offense had two 5 turnover games (vs. Philly, vs. Pitt) and two 4 turnover games (vs. St. Louis, vs. NYG). All four of those high turnover games were on the road.

polamalu-divesThe Cowboys lost to Arizona because AZ scored 2 touchdowns on special teams and defense.

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All in all, the Cowboys appeared to be a team that lacked focus.  And herein lies the rub.  Terrell Owens has been universally reviled as a distraction – someone who shifts the focus from winning to personal issues stemming from a bottomless insecurity.  Owens routinely loses his cool in big spots (sideline in Pittsburgh (pick a year)).  He drops passes he should catch.  Still, the fate of this team was decided long before the blow up in Pittsburgh and Tony Romo’s radar lock on Jason Witten led to Deshea Townsend’s game ending touchdown.  I have not had the privilege of placing Mr. Owens on “the couch” for a probing look inside, but I know he is not alone when it comes to distractions.

There is no doubt that this all stems from the top.

  • Jerry Jones’ principal focus is not on winning games. A significant portion of his attention is on keeping the Dallas Cowboys relevant as a media/marketing entity.  The Dallas Cowboys have not won a playoff game since 1996, and they remain at the top of the 24-hour news cycle because of high profile signings, soap opera-style drama, and their history of winning.  The Cowboys will be opening a new stadium next year and football remains a business.  Jerry Jones’ principal focus is on the business of football.  When it comes to winning games, Jerry Jones is as preoccupied with being perceived as a genius as anything else.  He is still fighting the ghost of Jimmy Johnson and as he punches air, he begins to look more and more like Don Quixote every day.

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  • Wade Phillips  has been looking over his shoulder for a replacement ever since he was hired.  During last season, Phillips was compelled (or chose, depending on your perspective) to throw his defensive coordinator under the bus after the St. Louis Rams gained 190 yards on the ground in a shocking win.  The next week, Phillips made the defensive calls and the Cowboys won a hard fought defensive struggle (with a little help from the officials) over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Two weeks later, the Cowboys were mauled to the tune of 200 yards by the rampaging New York Giants.   The Cowboys defense was clearly running on fumes.  The thumb injury to Tony Romo resulted in decreased offensive production, more “3-and-outs,” more turnovers, less time of possession, and more opportunities for the opposition to score.  The bye week came just in time.  The defense wouldn’t surrender 100 yards again — until it really mattered — in Week 16 and 17 with a playoff  berth on the line.  The one-dimensional Baltimore Ravens gutted the ‘Boys for 265 yards on the ground.  The Eagles followed up with 137 – and the season was over.  At season’s end, Denver fired Mike Shanahan and speculation began anew about the future of Wade Phillips in Dallas.  He’s distracted – and rightfully so.  He could be gone before the next setting sun.

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Shanahan Shows Wade the Way.  Wade Doesn’t Want to Go!

  • Jason Garrett – the Cowboys offensive coordinator has been looking for work as a head coach in the NFL for at least the past two seasons.  Garrett likely believes that his best opportunity to have his own shop was lost following the Cowboys 13-3 march through the 2007 season.  Contrary to “news” reports from ESPN and other unreliable entertainment sources, Garrett has been deeply involved in a number of things that constitute distractions: conspiring to unseat head coach Wade Phillips; failing to develop innovative game plans against elite competition rather than relying on past performances; shielding a QB whose work ethic undermines the overall effectiveness of the team; contributing false information to isolate and castigate team members.  It’s a long list.  That Garrett has escaped media scrutiny is as revealing as the fact that he has not made the climb to the next level.  His search for more, better employment has been a distraction.

Jason Garrett and Tony Romo during loss to SteelersJason Garrett and Tony Romo during loss to Steelers.

  • Tony Romo’s myriad distractions have been identified by the media, current and former players and fans since his infamous trip south of the border during playoff time.  Perhaps more importantly, Romo is a quarterback who has copped to not working hard enough to master his craft.  Confession is good for the soul, but not for the franchise. Tony Romo has admitted he simply does not WORK HARD to be the best he can be.  “Practice?!  We’re talking about PRACTICE!!!”  That’s never been said of Terrell Owens.  In order for the Dallas Cowboys to snap their 13 year string of playoff ineptitude, Romo will have to make sacrifices he has yet to make.  Perhaps the stardom has come too fast and too furious.  Perhaps that fumble in Seattle was not the helping of Humble Pie he needed.  Perhaps that embarrassing home loss to the Giants in the 2007 playoffs was insufficient to wake him from his slumber.  Maybe this year’s  44-6 thrashing at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles will prove to be the right tonic.  Or not.  The questions surrounding his work ethic are not new – in fact, they’ve been widely condoned.  That was then.  This is now.

There is enough distraction to go around in Dallas.  Maybe the only thing that gets this team to focus on its ability to run the ball, stop the run, and win the turnover battle is a less prolific passing game which operates without one of the best receivers in the history of the game.

That sounds like a scapegoat to me.

So long DeAngelo, So long Dallas!So long DeAngelo, So long Dallas!

19 comments

  1. Great piece and I definitely agree. I’ve said all along that Dallas’ problem is more than just T.O. It’s starts at the top and trickles down to the locker room. T.O. is just the easiest to blame.

    If Jerry Jones was serious about winning, Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett would both be gone.

  2. The Cowboys may really regret believing their own media fabricated stories. Romo threw 14 picks. Brad Johnson threw 6. Romo had 13 fumbles. Barber had 7. The team was ranked 31st in turnovers.

    What do they do? Release their most talented offensive player because he has a big yap.

    Say what you will about T.O., but you’ve seen D-wil’s piece re: Jeff Garcia on SOMM. Garcia, for all his talent, can’t keep a job. Owens was the first to provide a reason why. Garcia will be vindicated by history, but not now. As for McNabb, the Eagles continue to struggle — and they continue to resist the laws of balanced offense. McNabb has to win a Super Bowl to be vindicated. He may never get there with the Eagles. Ownership simply may not want to pay the price. Aside from his misbegotten tears of infatuation with Jessica’s man, Owens’ critique of the Cowboys offense stands up well to scrutiny. Predictable? Check.

    He’s running out of bridges to burn. I hope he doesn’t think New England’s the answer. If he goes there, he’s not going to supplant Moss or Welker as passing targets for Brady. By the time the Pats are done handing the ball off to Maroney (maybe) and Fred Taylor and/or Sammy Morris, he’d be lucky to catch 50 balls for 10 touchdowns. They’ll win just about every game, but it won’t be because of him.

  3. Yep, those are great points as well. I think that Dallas will be hurt without his presence next season.

    At this point his options are limited. I just heard that the Redskins will pass on him and i’m not even certain that the Patriots would want to bring him in either.

  4. The irony, of course, is that from a “personality perspective,” he and Marvin Harrison are opposites who find themselves in remarkably similar situations. Harrison is less expensive and has less “downside,” but the converse is true of Owens. Interesting situation.

  5. Yeah really nice piece brotha. I saw this coming, but not this soon and not by stepping clean via release.

    If New England picks up TO they will have the most prolific offense in the history of the league. Welker would get more balls. Who could stop that team in the red zone?

    That shit would be a video game. There is no defense that could stop. You can put Wes out in the flat or run outs, TO on slants, Moss on go’s and out and ups and Faulk on the opposite side of Welker. Madness would ensue and I see a lot of Moss and Owens dancing for six.

    One year. If I was Owens that’s what I would do. I’d sign one year contracts based on incentives.

    Throw out all conventional wisdom when New England lines up. There’s nothing comparatively to gauge the potential.

  6. You could be right. They still have to block for Brady. The last time I checked that was a problem for them…at least it was in that Super Bowl.

    They’d probably go 16-0 again.

  7. Don’t know how Matt Light still has a job after the way he crapped the bed in the Super Bowl.

  8. Wow, hadn’t thought about TO with an incentive-ladened contract (and some clinical psychotherapy) in N.E. It could spell redemption for him if he opened his ears, kept his mouth closed on the sidelines (as cameras fixate upon him as they did CWebb running down the court) and truly humbled himself to the purgatory of 50/10.

    The greatest distraction was the HBO special during training camp, imo. I think that was the cause of the lack of consistent focus.

  9. I can hear the enthusiasm from your keystrokes, B. You know I’m skeptical about NE and all their talent. They’re adding great skill, but its either going to taste like a fine wine or vinegar.

    It seems to be increasingly difficult for them to get through a season without losing critical players to injury OR with replacements who can fill the void.

    GN can attest to this…one of the reasons we were both so surprised the Steelers won this season was because of the quality of the schedule and because of the number of injuries. They had quality depth at several positions – at QB (the Pats don’t have that); at RB (the Pats have that); on the offensive line (NE has question marks there if guys get hurt); at LB (NE drafted Mayo, but lost Vrabel…they’re younger here, but were vulnerable to the run all season).

    The Pats would look unbeatable with Owens — but that’s the paper. There are many teams that face two elite receivers every week and neither of them are 32 like Moss or 36 as Owens will be in December. These two look as if they could place past 40 — but can they stay healthy? And can that line keep Brady upright?

    Osi Umenyora, James Harrison, Dwight Freeney (or Shawne Merriman) may very well decide who is happiest at the end of the season– just like they have for the past 3 seasons.

  10. The Cowboy’s training camp this past season was the subject of an HBO mini series. They were gasin’ those dude’s heads up, big time. When the coaches are censoring what they’re saying and guys are aware of the cameras, that’s less time they’re focused and building the intensity necessary for “the one heartbeat” necessary to truly become a team. With the attention Romo got for dating ol’ girl and being able to parlay it to endorsement dollars off the field, those dudes, some of them, seemed to be sucked in, hoping that their profile would allow them to possibly get some endorsement dollars, too.

    Hearing and then seeing folk on camera constantly talk about all the SB talent you have (and your the only team, talent-wise, that DESERVES to be featured) on your team set them up for a big fall. That show facilitated the we-can-turn-it-on-anytime-we-want hubris that led to their humiliating downfall.

  11. T3, that’s a good way to analyze them, but Bellicheat is still a gridiron genius of the first order. His smoke and mirrors are usually better than everyone elses.

  12. About that uphill climb…

    One of the things that makes it more difficult is that as you have success, more and more of the people who developed all that smoke and all them mirrors get a chance to showcase their own brand…and you have to find new people as well.

    So, if you’re the Chargers, you’re going to see some of those New England plays FIVE times a year instead of once: twice with Denver, twice with Kansas City, and vs. the Pats. If you draw Cleveland, you might even get 6 bites at the apple. By the time you play the Real Magilla in December or January, you should really be ready. The diffusion of talent and replication of game strategy makes what was once opaque commonplace.

    2004 was a long, long time ago. The Cowboys may not be the only ones still scratching their heads about how they lost to the 2007 Giants.

  13. Thanks Burundi….I heard about that but didn’t know the scoop. Good looking out.

    T3,

    I’m digging the new look….especially the chick at the top of the page. 🙂

  14. Yeah, Mizzo and I were talking last night about how both of our websites were not conducive to people actually reading what the heck we write. I may not leave the pic there, but it is inspirational.

  15. scapegoat?

    Definitely.

    — The one thing that I am not sold on is that JJ is not hell-bent on winning. I agree that he is a business man that loves media, but he also wants to win. And removing T.O. might actually bring less media attention

    — I think what was most telling was your stat that the Cowboys went 6-0 when running for 100 yards. that says a lot.

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