Mad Cowboys Disease
Forgive me, Bible Girl, for I am about to sin: Sonofabiiiiiiiiiiiiitch!!!
The two defining press conferences at Valley Ranch this year have featured Kim Etheredge chomping her gum and Bill Parcells chomping at the bit to play Tony Romo. I know, you usually come to this space looking to be soothed by calm, organized sports thoughts. Sorry, not this evening. Parcells' decision to bench Drew Bledsoe and beckon Romo has wrecked the Cowboys' present and likely dented their future. Dictator Parcells warned his players, "If they an opinion, it would be wise to keep it to themselves", but we've never succumbed to his silliness and we're not about to start now. Keep your Holy Water handy, because the only thing that will keep us all from going crazy today is a random, raving rant.
Goes something like this:
For Romo to actually lead Dallas to a Super Bowl, he'd have to do it with the worst pedigree of any big-game quarterback in NFL history. Of the 56 quarterbacks to start the 40 Super Bowls, only St. Louis' Kurt Warner and Carolina's Jake Delhomme were, like Romo, neither drafted by an NFL team nor offered a scholarship to a Division I college. Still, Warner (from Northern Iowa) and Delhomme (Louisiana-Lafayette) had some credentials. Warner won an Arena League championship; Delhomme, a title in NFL Europe. Romo (from Eastern Illinois), um, beat out two Drews.
There have been small-school surprises to make Super Bowls, such as Terry Bradshaw (Louisiana Tech), Phil Simms (Morehead State) and Rich Gannon (Delaware), but all were compelling enough in college to at least get drafted. Simply put, Parcells--who had the audacity to compare Romo to Johnny Unitas--is counting on Romo to do something that's never been done in the history of football. Says Troy Aikman, "I think the Cowboys are crossing their fingers that they're going to find a diamond in the rough."
And don't come in here with those Delhomme comparisons. Last week in Cincinnati Jake threw an interception in the end zone. After 41 red-zone touchdowns, it was the first pick of his career inside an opponents' 20. Romo threw one on his 25th NFL pass.
The Cowboys real problem, of course, isn't Bledsoe or Romo or T.O. It's an offensive line that's forcing schematic switches and personnel purges because it sucks. And that, my friend, lies at the feet of Parcells as a talent evaluator. Check out the offensive linemen drafted by Bill:
2003: Al Johnson (2nd round), Justin Bates (7th)
2004: Jacob Rogers (2nd), Stephen Peterman (3rd)
2005: Rob Petitti (6th)
2006: Pat McQuistan (7th), E.J. Whitley (7th)
Of those seven, exactly zero were on the field last Monday night.
For what it's worth, Romo is nowhere close to the 6-foot-2 the Cowboys list him. Monday night I was only a smidge from looking him in the eye. On my good days I'm 5-foot-9. Romo will either be Doug Flutie or the biggest, smallest mistake since Kevin Sweeney.
The classless treatment of Bledsoe (gutless Parcells made quarterbacks coach Chri Palmer deliver the news) overshadowed T.O. Monday night. But anybody else find it irritating how he dropped a key fourth-down pass and spent the next 10 minutes on the sideline laughing about it?
Speaking of the draft, we're learning the hard way that it's much easier to find a person who can coach good talent than it is to find a person who can spot good talent. Translation: Jimmy Johnson's true genius was not game-planning, but drafting. Parcells blew into town with a reputation as a guy who built Super Bowl-caliber teams with the Giants, Patriots and Jets. Truth is, he had veteran, savvy general managers at each stop. After a couple of pathetic drafts in Dallas, his infamous, "If I'm going to cook the meals, I want to buy the groceries" harrumph won't be scribbled on his Hall of Fame bust, but rather his Cowboys' tombstone. Consider this year's haul. Last Monday how many positive plays were contributed by rookies Bobby Carpenter, Anthony Fasano, Jason Hatcher, Skyler Green, Pat Watkins, Montavious Stanley, Pat McQuistan or E.J. Whitley?
If Romo was so spectacular, shouldn't he at some point have pushed for playing time during his four years on the roster? On the open market, teams would give up nothing better than a 4th-round pick for him.
To his credit and my surprise, Bledsoe is handling his demotion with class. Still, Parcells has constructed a combustible climate in the locker room. Not if, but when Romo sucks in Sunday's loss at Carolina, do veteran players stick with a raw rookie or begin clamoring for Bledsoe? Says Bledsoe, "I really believe in my heart of hearts that I give us the best chance to win." Concedes Parcells, "I don't know that it will work 100 percent." Perfect.
From the day he arrived in January 2003 to today, this is Parcells' bottom-line impact: The Cowboys now have a 3-4 defense instead of a 4-3; assistant coaches' personalities are a complete mystery; zero playoff wins; and we all have a better working knowledge of the glorious past of the New York Giants.