I don't believe they should have, but Gregg Easterbrook thinks so …
At Texas Stadium, they'll be watching the scoreboard and rooting for the Browns to lose. Dallas holds Cleveland's first-round choice in the 2008 draft. "Play Quinn! Play Quinn!" the Cowboys' faithful will chant, considering that starting rookie QB Brady Quinn might brighten Cleveland's long-term prospects but also lead to another cellar-dweller season for the Browns in 2007.
Why do the Cowboys hold Cleveland's 2008 first choice? Because they traded to the Browns the chance to draft Quinn. Tony Romo had a few good games in 2006, then Jones concluded his quarterbacking was set and passed on the Notre Dame star in the draft. It wasn't long ago Quincy Carter had a few good games for the Cowboys, then Jones concluded his quarterbacking was set, then Carter was history.
Since Troy Aikman taped his ankles for the final time, the core problem for Dallas has been the lack of a young franchise-quality quarterback. Dallas has not won a playoff game in 11 years, and this period coincides with Jones trying to slide by with quarterbacking on the cheap.
Jones passed on J.P. Losman in the 2004 draft, passed on Jason Campbell in the 2005 draft, now has passed on Quinn in the 2007 draft. Romo's 2006 performance gave new meaning to "flash in the pan." Taking over from Drew Bledsoe at midseason, Romo won five of his first six starts, and based on just six outings, was named to the Pro Bowl -- whose balloting ridiculously closes with the season still in progress. Romo proceeded to lose four of his final five starts, including Dallas' playoff game, in the process often looking terrible behind center. Was his early success beginner's luck? Yet Jones decided his quarterbacking was set, and traded to Cleveland the pick that could have brought Quinn to the Cowboys.
During free agency Jones gave a huge stack of bills -- about $19 million guaranteed -- to Leonard Davis, who might be a giant but has always played like a man of average size. Don't marry them thinking you are going to change them! The likelihood is Davis won't suddenly become the dominant performer he has never been until this point. There's a greater chance that, having signed his monster contract, Davis will celebrate by taking 2007 off. During free agency, offensive linemen Kris Dielman, Derrick Dockery and Eric Steinbach also signed deals with huge guarantees, and none has made the Pro Bowl -- but unlike Davis, all played really well in the past two seasons. Dielman, Dockery or Steinbach might have gone to the Pro Bowl, were Honolulu invitations for offensive linemen not based solely on rep. All three performed better in 2006 than guard Larry Allen, who went to the Pro Bowl solely on rep. That guards, tackles and centers make the Pro Bowl based on rep, not performance, shows that not even other NFL players really pay attention to who the good offensive linemen are. Anyway, four megadeals went to offensive linemen during this free-agency period, and Dallas might be left holding the least cost-effective of the group.
Todd Archer looks at Cowboys contingencies …
As the Cowboys prepare for Thursday's preseason finale against Minnesota and the regular-season opener against the New York Giants on Sept. 9, they are doing their contingency work.
The final cuts come Saturday, but the shape of the 53-man roster for the Giants game could take many different forms before kickoff because of the questions the Cowboys have at cornerback, punt returner and linebacker.
Some contingencies have been taken care of, like at backup center, where the Cowboys feel comfortable with Cory Procter or Joe Berger, and backup nose tackle, in Jay Ratliff. As for the others ...
What if Terence Newman can't play in the season opener?
Newman wants to play against the Giants, but he's not sure he will be ready. The best way to treat the small tear in Newman's right plantar fascia is rest. He has not had a full practice in nearly two weeks because of the injury.
Contingency: The Cowboys are looking at teams that might have a plethora of cornerbacks, which they know are few. Aaron Glenn is the best in-house candidate to start, although coach Wade Phillips acknowledged Glenn did not have his best game against the Texans. But the domino effect from Newman's injury also includes the substitute defense packages and special teams. Without Newman, Glenn would move into the slot, and the third cornerback candidates include Joey Thomas, Jacques Reeves, Alan Ball, Quincy Butler and Nate Jones.
When Newman returns, will he return punts?
Newman is a threat to return any punt he fields for a touchdown. His speed makes him dangerous, and he can flip field position in a hurry. But the Cowboys need him more at cornerback, so it wouldn't be wise to open him up to further risk.
Contingency: Patrick Crayton is the most experienced punt returner, with a 7.5-yard per return average, but he does not bring the same threat as Newman. Jerheme Urban handled the return duties against Houston but had little chance. When the Cowboys drafted Isaiah Stanback in the fourth round in April, they mentioned the possibility of him returning punts, but he has not returned punts much in practice.
What to do if Greg Ellis is out for more than just a game?
Phillips will not rule Ellis out for the Giants game, but Ellis has not made it through a full practice yet. Even if he suits up, is it realistic to expect him to be the same player he was before tearing his Achilles' tendon in November? Probably not, but he could be able to play a limited role.
Contingency: Phillips wants to have at least three outside rushers, so the Cowboys started to plan for Ellis' absence by moving Bobby Carpenter to the outside last week in practice. Phillips said rookie Anthony Spencer rushes better from the right side, but he will spend most of his snaps on the left side. Spencer said he is feeling more comfortable playing against the run. Junior Glymph is also a possibility.
Who replaces Kevin Burnett?
Burnett's availability for the season opener against the Giants is unknown because of ankle surgery he had Tuesday to remove bone chips. The hope is that he will be able to practice next week in order to be ready to play.
Contingency: Burnett had been developing into his role in the substitute defense in coverage and as a blitzer. Without him, Bradie James is next in line. James was a three-down linebacker last year, but Parcells wondered if he was in on too many plays and wore down. This year, James has dropped weight and has looked much quicker. It is possible Carpenter also could see time inside in the nickel and dime packages, but he is already seeing time at outside linebacker.
Cynical about Vick’s apology? …
I believe in second chances. I have done so many stupid things in my life that I also believe in third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth chances.
But I don't know if I believe in Michael Vick. I watched his performance on ESPN late Monday morning and again online, read and re-read the post-plea statement he offered the media.
He was good. There's a baseball term that applies to home runs -- touch 'em all. Vick touched all the subjects he needed to, and one he did not.
Vick, somehow only 27, dressed as safely as a banker, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and gold tie. He spoke softly, his voice a testament to contrition and sorrow. Only once did he refer to himself as Michael Vick.
He stood behind a lectern crammed with microphones and tape recorders at the Omni Hotel in Richmond, Va., and, although he often looked down, he never looked at notes.
Vick apologized to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank and coach Bobby Petrino, apologized to his Atlanta teammates and, more than once, to children.
He called dogfighting "terrible."
He blamed nobody but himself.
He made a mistake when he said he "found Jesus."
Maybe Vick has. But a man who wants to get out of jail or stay out of jail always says he has found Jesus. Find me a man who stands before a judge who has not found Jesus.
It's a cliche. It was one too many.
"I told a judge once that my client had found Jesus," says George Laughrun, a Charlotte criminal defense attorney for 26 years and the rare attorney people like. "The judge said, `I didn't know he was lost.' "
I asked Laughrun, whose customers have included former Panthers Rae Carruth (briefly) and Jason Peter, if he writes statements for clients, who then turn his words into theirs.
Laughrun said he might suggest issues they should address. But a client comes across as more sincere when the message is his own.
Law is public relations, and going to court is like going on a job interview or a first date. We don't have to be at our best. We have to be better than we are.
As I said, Vick was good. And it was not merely U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson whom Vick was trying to impress. It was Goodell.
"He might be positioning himself to show Goodell that he's changed," Laughrun said.
In today’s “get ready for College Football” news The Big 12 has QBs …
The presence of a group of talented quarterbacks could provide the league with an opportunity to regain some of its lost luster. It can be argued that the Big 12's depth under center has never been stronger.
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy is coming off one of the finest statistical seasons for a freshman in college history. If he remains healthy, he's poised to break virtually every school passing record — and some could start falling this season.
Oklahoma State quarterback Bobby Reid directed one of the most potent offenses in the country last season, enabling the Cowboys to average more than 200 yards rushing and passing per game. Reid threw for 2,266 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 500 yards as he led his team to a dramatic bowl victory.
Texas Tech coach Mike Leach might not have liked some elements of Graham Harrell's work this spring, but it's hard to argue with his production last season. Harrell passed for 4,555 yards and 38 touchdowns, capping the season with the largest comeback victory in bowl history.
Although his statistics aren't as gaudy as some of the others, Texas A&M's Stephen McGee might have had one of the most satisfying seasons. Despite battling a shoulder injury that set back his early development, McGee rushed for 686 yards, completed a school-record 62 percent of his passes and was intercepted only twice. And for good measure, he went into Austin and led the Aggies' first victory over the Longhorns there since 1994.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel calls Chase Daniel "the most special quarterback" he's been around after Daniel passed for 3,825 yards and 28 touchdowns in his first season as a starter. Considering that his predecessor, Brad Smith, was the first player in NCAA history to produce 8,000 yards of passing and 4,000 rushing yards in a career, that's lofty praise.
And new Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller might be better suited to run coach Bill Callahan's offense than 2006 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Zac Taylor. Keller fired 20 touchdown passes in 2005 in an injury-shortened season at Arizona State, earning the MVP honors of the Sun Bowl.
The best example of the strength of the Big 12's quarterbacks can be seen in Iowa State senior quarterback Bret Meyer, who twice led the Cyclones within a game of the Big 12 North title game in 2004-05.
Meyer was ranked as the top Big 12 quarterback coming into last season. And while he's still a productive player, he likely would rank no higher than seventh among conference quarterbacks coming into this season.
And it wouldn't be surprising if Oklahoma's Sam Bradford or Keith Nichol or Kansas State's Josh Freeman eventually develops into a quality starter.
Aggies ready for Montana State …
Montana State may not be on most fans' radar, but the school in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) has left plenty of big boys muttering in frustration.
Oklahoma State had to battle back from a two-point halftime deficit to win, 15-10, in 2005. Colorado wasn't so lucky. The Buffaloes stumbled around and lost to the Bobcats, 19-10, last year.
Texas A&M players have been reminded often of the importance of playing well in Saturday's season opener. It's doubtful the Bobcats will catch the 25th-ranked Aggies off guard at Kyle Field.
"I heard the story, but the thing I kept stressing is that this isn't Colorado," A&M tight end Martellus Bennett said. "We're ready to play. It doesn't matter who it is, what they look like, what color their skin is or what they're wearing. We're coming."
A&M coaches can't follow regular protocol to formulate their game plan, though.
Montana State coach Rob Ash was hired on June 11. He replaced Mike Kramer, who was fired in May after a string of off-the-field incidents. Ash compiled a 125-63-2 record in 18 seasons at Drake.
So the A&M coaches can't get a real sense of what this coaching staff can do with the current players.
"We're probably going into this game about as blind on our opponent as you could go into it," A&M coach Dennis Franchione said. "We prepare for a lot of ghosts in the first game, a lot of things that might happen that probably don't happen. That makes it doubly tough."
Mack Brown given another raise??? …
The UT system board of regents on Tuesday unanimously approved a new 10-year contract for Brown, one that will push him into college football’s $3 million club by the end of next season.
The pact will pay Brown at least $2.91 million this year and includes an automatic raise of $100,000 annually.
“He brought new life to our program and he’s done it with great integrity and class,” UT athletics director DeLoss Dodds said. “He is who we want at Texas for the long term.”
To that end, Brown’s new contract is heavily laden with incentives designed to keep him in Austin for the rest of his career.
The deal includes a pair of retention bonuses -- one would pay Brown $1 million if he is still the UT coach on Jan. 1, 2009 and another that would pay him an additional $2 million if he is still the coach on Jan. 1, 2010.
Including raises and bonuses, Brown would clear at least $5.2 million after the 2010 season.
The new contract also includes a steep buyout clause, as well as a guarantee that Brown could be reassigned to another university position if he voluntarily resigns as coach before 2016.
“Mack is in high demand around the country,” university president Bill Powers said, “and it is critical that we have a salary strategy to keep him here.”
During his nine-year tenure at UT, Brown is the winningest coach in college football (93-22). In 2005, he led the Longhorns to their first consensus national championship since 1969.
Under Brown’s regime, the UT athletic department has nearly tripled its annual revenue from football, from $22.6 million in 1997 to nearly $64 million last season.
Denilson in the house at FC Dallas
Update on Illegitimate Kids of Athletes …
50 things you didn’t know about Fantasy Football 2007 …
How the AL East was won ….
The Red Sox get no points for many of their acquisitions the past two years. J. D. Drew, Julio Lugo and Coco Crisp have not performed as expected. The pitching additions, on the other hand, are the primary reason the Red Sox are poised to win their first American League East title since 1995.
Daisuke Matsuzaka was on the mound at Yankee Stadium last night, epitomizing the difference between the planning of the Red Sox and the Yankees last off-season.
Matsuzaka and the Red Sox lost the game, 5-3, leaving the Yankees seven games behind in the standings and wondering what might have been if they hadn’t fouled up the previous week after slicing the Red Sox’ lead to four games.
Matsuzaka was not as sharp as he had been for much of the previous two and a half months, giving up home runs to Derek Jeter to break a 2-2 tie in the fifth and to Johnny Damon when the game was tied, 3-3, in the seventh. But it was the 22nd time in 27 starts that Matsuzaka has pitched at least six innings.
At times the Yankees have had difficulty making it through six innings with their starters in two successive starts. When the Yankees were winning four World Series from 1996 through 2000, Joe Torre said pitching was the key to the team’s success.
The Yankees have lost the key.
In retrospect, maybe we all should have recognized the significance of the Matsuzaka move. In years past, the Yankees would have been snagging the hot-shot pitcher from Japan and the Red Sox would have been gnashing their teeth and banging their heads against a wall over losing yet another desired player to the team Larry Lucchino called the Evil Empire.
Not that Lucchino, the Red Sox’ president and chief executive, was prepared to proclaim it — he’s far too wily to make that mistake — but the Matsuzaka signing might have signaled the end of the Empire’s reign. Even Darth Vader saw his run come to an end.
Some skepticism surrounded the Red Sox’ $103 million expenditure on Matsuzaka, but as John Farrell, the Boston pitching coach, said yesterday, “He’s been as advertised.”
Matsuzaka was not the only Japanese import. They signed another pitcher, Hideki Okajima, who has been one of the best relievers in the American League. How did the Yankees counter Boston’s Japanese sortie? They signed Kei Igawa.
Igawa was not at Yankee Stadium last night to greet his countrymen. He was once again back in the minor leagues as the Yankees tried to salvage the $46 million they squandered on him.
Just as Matsuzaka is the symbol of the Red Sox’ good pitching moves in the off-season, Igawa represents the questionable — all right, poor — moves that have left the Yankees gasping for postseason air.
Besides giving Igawa $20 million after paying his Japanese team $26 million for the right to negotiate with him, the Yankees re-enlisted Mike Mussina for two more years at $11 million a year. General Manager Brian Cashman saw giant dollar signs flying violently into his face with each of the 19 earned runs Mussina has allowed in 9 2/3 innings over his last three miserable starts.
As the season progressed poorly for the Yankees and their panic grew exponentially that their season was becoming a disaster, they succumbed to baseball extortion, agreeing to pay Roger Clemens, who was soon to turn 45, at a rate of $28 million for the season.
How the Brewers faded so quickly …
The Cubs did their part, giving him a 5-3 victory to unwrap in front of 40,884 fans. A four-spot in the bottom of the seventh inning was the difference, made partly possible by a Brewers gift: a fielding error (or so the official scorer said) by reliever Scott Linebrink on a high chopper by Ryan Theriot that bumped the Cubs ahead.
This won't help Milwaukee manager Ned Yost's disposition. Yost is as tight as one of the violin strings played by the guy who performed "The Star-Spangled Banner," before the start of this crucial three-game series. Watching his team blow a 3-1 lead in the seventh and lose its fifth in a row, and its 11th out of its last 14, isn't exactly the safety chute Yost was hoping for.
"It's kind of how the way things have gone for us," said Yost. "One bad inning."
When the Brewers arrive at Wrigley for Wednesday night's game, they'll see a different flag order. The Cubs remain in first, but now the Cardinals occupy second, just two games out, followed by the Brewers, who drop 2½ games behind the NL Central leader (their biggest deficit of the season). Still, the three teams are as close as the ivy that hugs Wrigley's brick outfield walls.
Someone has to win this division, though it's hard to figure out who.
The Cubs, nine games under .500 and 7½ games out in early June, have worked their way back from dugout fistfights and oblivion to first place. An e-mailer insists it has to do with the Cubs' run differential. No, it has to do with mediocrity differential. The NL Central is so ordinary that even the Reds, 12 games under .500, aren't out of this race yet.
The Cubs ought to win this thing. They have the best starting pitching, and 23 of their remaining 32 games are against teams with losing records. Plus, they have left fielder Alfonso Soriano back in the lineup after about a three-week absence.
Then there are the Brewers. The strange, impossible-to-figure-out Brewers. They once had the best record in the majors, were 14 games over .500 twice, and led the division by as many as 8½ games on June 23. Since then -- and there's no nice way of saying it -- they've reeked.
There's no need to go through all the ugly details. It's like a Lance Briggs car wreck, except the Chicago Bears' linebacker walked away from his mess in one piece. The Brewers are stuck here, having to live with the self-inflicted damage of a 9-22 record since July 25.
I enjoyed your back-and-forth with Kent the baseball junkie.
One note I think is interesting- the Yankees, who I think we can ALL agree have had the best offense in MLB over the past decade, have gone thru 5 hitting coaches within the past 7-8 years.
They had Chris Chambliss, Gary Denbo, Rick Down, Don Mattingly, and now Kevin Long. Only Mattingly was promoted. He's now a bench coach. But Chambliss, Down, and Denbo were all fired.
I know Steinbrenner is always looking for scapegoats when the Yankees don't win the World Series. This 7-year (and counting) drought just might kill him. But I'd rather have an owner demand results and then hold people accountable when he doesn't get them than whatever it is they have going on out in Arlington.
And here is a message from local promoter, Lester Bedford:
In short -- just wanted to personally touch base with you all on the Sept. 1 mixed martial arts event at the American Airlines Center (Art of War 3, USA vs Brazil) and make sure you were getting all my info.
Hopefully you all can have someone make it out to the Wednesday Media Luncheon on Wednesday (12:30 lunch, 1:00 pm presser). With MMA being the fastest growing sport in the U.S., might be a good time to do a piece on it. Please let me know if either of you would be willing to have any of the fighters on this week.
As you are probably aware, the UFC and MMA has been featured pretty much everywhere in the major national media. There are 6 UFC and Pride fighters on this card, which will be nationally televised on Pay-Per-View. Actually, a very strong MMA card, even on a national level.
I fully understand the overload of football stuff going on. Anything you all can do would be appreciated. Hopefully, you can have someone make it to the AAC tomorrow. Lots of colorful fighters to talk to.
Modano and Willa on Cribs
Is Hockey Season Coming?