Last season, the Dallas Cowboys finished 9-7 and failed to make the playoffs. Two years ago, the Cowboys finished the regular season at 13-3 and were heavy favorites to march to the Super Bowl and face the New England Patriots. As fate (or the Giants front four, take your pick) would have it, neither the Cowboys nor Patriots emerged as the 2007 champion. On Thursday, the Cowboys released their most prolific offensive player. On Friday,head coach Wade Phillips and running back Marion Barber spoke out. Guess which network of television and internet based entertainment outlets has not posted or said a single, solitary word about the illuminating comments of Phillips and Barber.
The DallasNews.com is reporting that the “gag order” on the Cowboys was lifted briefly to allow Wade Phillips to comment on the release of Terrell Owens. The Associated Press article, however, took a different tack. The AP angle was based on their commitment to cast supporters of Owens in the worst light, regardless of the facts. AP’s report said, “Phillips’ comments came in a news release issued by the club late Friday afternoon, even though owner Jerry Jones recently put a gag order on all coaches and front-office employees other than himself.” The implication here, even though the release was issued by the club is that the coach is being insubordinate. AP’s message is that Wade Phillips is off message.
Wade Phillips on Terrell Owens:
“I enjoyed having the opportunity to coach Terrell Owens, and I appreciate his contributions to our team over the past two years,” said Phillips, who wasn’t around during T.O.’s first season in Dallas.
“In our time together, I saw one of the more productive and explosive players in the NFL at the receiver position. I think that when his playing days come to an end he will have compiled a career that is worthy of the Hall of Fame.
“We’re now ready to move on and this decision will open the door for other younger players on our team to step up. That process will begin here in a few weeks with the start of the offseason program.”
Wade is saying a mouthful here. Given the standing order for silence from Jerry Jones, there was no requirement for the head coach of the Cowboys to make any statement whatsoever. Moreover, there was no need for him to make a statement that implicitly rejects the logic of Terrell Owens’ release. If Philips actually enjoyed his “opportunity to coach…one of the more productive and explosive players in the NFL,” there is little reason to believe he sided with the son of the owner or Jason Garrett or any other folks in Dallas’ braintrust who calls for Owens’ ouster. Phillips’ comment is about as ringing an endorsement as you’ll hear in this climate from a head coach. There is no mention of locker room tension or improving the team or “adding through subtraction” or any of the coded language we’ve grown so used to hearing. In fact, all Wade says is that the receiving corps will be younger. Enter Sam Hurd.
Sam Hurd is the guy who “broke” the Owens release story for the Associated Press. In actuality, the story was first reported by Michael Smith of ESPN, but for the Associated Press, word came first when Sam Hurd communicated a text message from Owens on his surprising release. Sam is one of those younger receivers who will get more playing time with the release of Owens. Sam has a future in this business. He’s fast, but most of all, he’s media savvy.
Beginning in 2007, Sam Hurd started co-hosting “Inside the Huddle”, a one-hour player commentary show that airs on live on 105.3FM Radio in Dallas as well as a 30 minute television show on Time Warner Cables ESPN2 and Video on Demand service.
In 2007 the show was co-hosted by quarterback Tony Romo, but in 2008 Sam will be teamed up with his mentor and fellow wide receiver Terrell Owens for the show that will air LIVE on Tuesday nights from 7:30-8:30pm (central time) on KLLI from the House of Blues in Dallas.
And what were Sam’s thoughts on the release of Terrell Owens:
“I know it takes a lot of pressure off Tony Romo. A guy like Owens demands the ball and you want to get him the ball. Now Romo can look at all of us and see which one is open on any given play.”
Wade Phillips, in as clear a language as you’ll hear, is telling you what has transpired in Dallas. If you read between the lines and connect the dots, it should all be crystal clear.
For all of his notoriety and energy, Owens was essentially the 3rd option in the Dallas offense. The first option was running back Marion Babrber. Barber, in his first year as the designated starter, was to be the heart of an offense that would be punctuated by his aggressive, hard-charging style. Barber was injured during the season (as was his back up , Felix Jones), and the Cowboys fortunes during the season mirrored his own. In games where Barber eclipsed the 100 yard mark, the Cowboys were undefeated. In games where Barber had more than 20 carries, the Cowboys were undefeated. Marion Barber, more than any other player, was the offensive soul of the Dallas Cowboys in 2008.
Barber had quite a bit to say about Owens and the influence of media:
“I don’t cause controversy, I’m just straightforward,” Barber told The Dallas Morning News. “[Critics] are trying to make [Owens] into something he’s not. I felt the same way like everybody else, but then I met the man. Once you know who he is, he’s a great guy.”
“I couldn’t really believe it,” he said. “It’s part of the business and you just try to keep on moving from there. It was a shock. I’m sure a lot of people watching felt the same way I did as far as everything that went on last year. He was hoping to put things in the past.”
“I just think during that time, the other fellas have to figure out a way to come together as one and make it work as a whole,” Barber told The News. “It starts in the locker room with any team. I firmly believe that and it’s unfortunate that we couldn’t get a hold of it.”
Barber, who is good friends with Owens, and lives next door to him in a downtown Dallas high rise, said to blame the locker room problems on Owens was not fair.
“On any team, you’re going to have different personalities, and you’re going to have conflict,” Barber said. “You have to figure out a way to make it work, regardless of the situation.”
These are interesting times in Dallas. The head and heart of the Cowboys are certainly wondering about the sense of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Who is left to sniff out Tony Romo’s questionable work ethic? Who is left to label the stench of Jason Garret’s predictable offensive game plans? At the end of the day, it may just be Jerry Jones.