The Dallas Cowboys announced that they haven’t officially named a starter for running back this upcoming Sunday. This coming off a weekend in which DeMarco Murray rewrote the Cowboys record books at running back and showed the most promise at that position since Emmitt Smith himself was donning the uniform. I understand that it’s likely a small mind game played by the Cowboys against their next opponent to keep them guessing, but it highlights one of the more serious issues in sports that drives me crazy. It’s the battle of the old veterans vs the young guns for starting spots on the roster, almost 95% of which I would argue go to the old guys. To give you the best example possible, consider the Kansas City Chiefs last year. Jamaal Charles rushed for 1,467 yards last season, but officially he was Thomas Jones’ backup on the depth chart. He averaged a Jim Brown-ian 6.4 ypc and was one of the most unstoppable players in football. And yet still his head coach Todd Haley didn’t name him the starter. One could argue it doesn’t really matter. But it does.
Consider another outstanding example in last year’s Dallas Cowboys. Marion Barber had been considered one of the “rocks” of the offense for years in the big D. His production declined considerably over his last couple years but for some reason the Cowboys coaching staff insisted on keeping him as the official starting running back every Sunday. They did this despite Felix Jones clearly proving he was the better football player. And furthermore they did this despite Marion Barber being unable to do the one thing he had been known for earlier in his career in blasting through the line of scrimmage in short yardage situations. It cost the Cowboys multiple red zone touchdown opportunities in Barber’s final years and it’s all because of management’s stubborn insitance on sticking with guys who they feel earned the right over the course of their careers to get the first shot. It was a completely insane decision that had no logic whatsoever behind it if the Cowboys were in the business of winning football games as they claimed to be.
Let me digress quickly and tell you where all of this anger originated. When I was in high school I was lucky enough to be a part of one of the more outstanding baseball classes my school had ever seen. In my freshman and sophomore years we lost a total of three games (we probably played 50+games in that time) and were touted by all our coaches as the most talented class ever to come through. So naturally you would think that come our junior year, our varsity coach would have moved up the talented players to try to give them the experience they’d need to make a run at state as seniors, right?
Coach Schembeck moved up just one junior that season and the group of seniors largely sucked, but goddamnit if he wasn’t loyal to those older guys! By the time my class reached their senior year, they just didn’t have the necessary experience hitting pitching of that level and didn’t even advance out of regionals. I consider it one of the single greatest wastes of talent ever. Even though I was long out of the picture from that team by my senior year, I’ll still never forgive that coach for screwing over my buddies. They were soooooo good. All ruined because a coach wanted to be loyal to a group of older players instead of playing the most talented guys in the program.
You can tell me any argument you want, but there is no excuse for not giving your best players the deserved respect of being named a starter. It’s an insult to the player, the fans, and the organization as a whole. To me it shows a coach who lacks the necessary capacity to do his job at the highest level. The one constant in the NFL is that the show always goes on, with or without you. I think it’s safe to say every single coach wants to be a part of that show. So why then limit your team’s chances at being successful by not playing your best guys? Why disrespect the most talented players on the team by refusing to give them the starting nod?
Here’s hoping DeMarco Murray gets the nod and continues to dominate opponents, if only for my fantasy team’s purposes.
Generation Y, where Tony La Russa needs a more reliable service provider.
I broke one of my cardinal rules about modern day professional football and actually attended the Broncos/Cowboys game last night in person. My rule was that I’d never attend a game in person again and let’s just say that vow didn’t last very long. I accepted the invitation to go in about .03 seconds (all times approximate) and was happy to get the chance to witness the Broncos quarterback (non)controversy in person. I’ve been there three times previously, but all of those games were for college football (two Big 12 Championships and the TCU/Oregon State game last season). Little bit different crowds between the pro and college level.
First of all, let’s get one myth out of the way real quick. Everyone who says that modern day stadium is pricing out the blue collar fan couldn’t be further from the truth. Well over 50% of the fans at the game last night were of the blue collar mold and I don’t think that’s because it was a preseason game. While the modern day stadium might carry ridiculously high costs and the unforgivable concept of a PSL, all that’s happening instead is Jerry Jones is playing Ebenezer Scrooge to the Bob Cratchit lower-middle class families of the Metroplex. Way to go Jerry, you crook! People will try to tell you the white collar fan is the only person attending NFL games anymore, but that’s not true at all.
Of the stadium experience itself, you can’t do much better than the deathstar, but it always puts you in the awkward position of having to choose between the world’s greatest television or watching the live action from a distance (where you can actually see the entirety of the play unfold like in a video game). It’s the biggest pickle ever for a sports fan because although the JerryTron is badass, you find the little guy in the back of your head starting to ask why you even went to the game in the first place if you’re just going to watch it on TV. Let’s just say I forced myself into watching the live action (begrudgingly). One last note, the biggest atrocity the Cowboys committed in the construction of this wonder of the world was that the parking situation is criminally bad. It’s not that there’s not enough parking. Far from that, there’s actually way too much. The problem is that the infrastructure cannot handle the amount of congestion and makes it impossible for the season ticket holders with parking passes to leave the game in a timely manner. The set up can only be compared to that of a shopping mall which, in a similarly ridiculous practice, always makes it impossible for you to leave the parking lot while making it amazingly easy to get in (it’s the reason you don’t see a single stop sign on the way into the mall but then have to wait at six consecutive of them in 1/8 of a mile in order to get out). So basically what happens is you can drive in relatively easy but then it takes you an hour to reach the interstate on the way home despite the stadium being maybe a quarter mile from I-30.
But who wants to hear me wax about the little details on the stadium itself, let’s get to the game!
Last night can best be described as the battle for the belt of the best third-string quarterback in the NFL. The Broncos’ Brady Quinn and the Cowboys’ Stephen McGee put on a dazzling show in the second half last night and made that game about as entertaining as a pre-season game can be. McGee of course drove the length of the field in the final four minutes and converted on a two point conversion with about 15 second left to beat the Broncos by one. It was a great, great game, or as great as any contest can be between guys who will be stocking groceries in three weeks time.
But onto the storyline that dominated this game: the QB situation in Denver. I made it to the game a little late so I actually didn’t get to see Orton play. By all accounts he was typical Kyle Orton, carving up the Cowboys defense on his lone drive but failing to punch the ball in despite having first and goal at the one-yard line. Can’t wait for another season where Orton puts up absurd fantasy numbers but leads his team to a losing record. Ladies and gentlemen, the Denver Broncos!
But the real fun began late in the first quarter when Tim Tebow got to control the offense. I’ve already read like five columns this morning, all of which have this same theme: “Tebow may suck in practice, but that’s because he’s a gameday quarterback! Duh!!” Let me tell you how it actually went down. Tebow was mediocre, at best. He simply cannot sit still in the pocket. It’s like he has football ADD. He takes every snap back, looks at his first read, and if that isn’t available he just starts churning his legs. While one out of every five of these scrambles ends up working out, there’s also the four other ones where he took two sacks, threw a couple incompletions and a pick. The guy cannot handle the speed of the game yet, unfortunately. If there’s one bit of optimism to be had, Tebow is severely underestimated when it comes to throwing the deep ball. He converted a beautiful 43-yard play action last night where he carved up a blown double coverage on the Cowboys part. But that of course neglects the fact that he can’t hit a 7-yard out pass or find his second read. Lots of work young ahead for that young man.
I hate to type out this next part, but it’s true. Brady Quinn is a way better quarterback than Tim Tebow right now. Sure, Quinn was going against the Cowboys backups’ backups whereas Tebow only had the backups, but I have to vouch for the incredible amount of poise shown by the former golden domer. There was this awesome presence Quinn had on the field last night where you could tell the game was really slowing down for him as he exposed the Cowboys weak secondary. He threw for 120-yards in his limited time in the second half along with a brilliant touchdown pass where he delivered a strike to the back of the end zone. This guy may just end up being a good quarterback in this league one day which sucks because it only furthers the QB mess of the Broncos.
All in all I was extremely pleased with the performance last night by Denver. I fully support the move back to the 4-3 defense and you can tell Fox actually has a clue what he’s doing on that side of the ball. The Cowboys have a couple of future players in McGee and receiver Dwayne Harris, but the defense still needs a lot of work before this team makes the jump back into contention. Where you at Rob Ryan?
The NFL is back!
Generation Y, where the prospect of another player winning his first major does not get our juices flowing.