Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Postpone Cowboys judgement til January

The NFL is not - thank the lord - the BCS.  Regardless of a teams performance in any singular week, every team has an opportunity to play for the Lombardi Trophy the first Sunday in February.  So despite the Dallas Cowboys' 31-22 win over the Cincinnati Bengals raising more questions than it answered, if Wade Phillips' crew wants to bring Dallas a sixth Super Bowl win, they should focus on themselves and quit reacting to every fire fanned by reporters, talk shows and fanatics.

Things are much better for the NFL when the Cowboys are good (ask the NBA if they enjoyed a Lakers-Celtics Finals), and with that comes more intense scrutiny on the organization.  There are calls that the team needs a reality check or a visible coaching blow up to somehow whip this team into shape.

Instead, the Cowboys need to come together inside their own locker room and not worry about the external distractions. They will be probed at by the local and national media because they will forever play in the shadow of the "America's Team" heroes of the past. Names like Landry, Lilly, Staubach, Wright, Renfro, Dorsett, Johnson, Aikman, Emmitt, Irvin and Sanders cast long shadows over the current crop of Cowboys. And while the 2008 Cowboys aren't looking for the BCS-required style points in their victories, the rest of the nation is.

There will be no vote on who goes to the Super Bowl in February. Had that been the case, Dallas would have faced New England last year. They were clear-cut favorites who extended a franchise-worst playoff drought. Now they must take on an us-against-the-world mentality. In recent memory, the most blatant example of a team responding to criticism to perceived mediocrity can be traced to the 2000 New York Giants and Jim Fassel's guarantee. While that team did not have the expectations nor the potential of the Cowboys - not to mention a 4-1 record - they did rally together to win seventh straight games and advance to the Super Bowl thanks to a 41-0 thumping of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game.

"This is a poker game. I'm shoving my chips to the middle of the table. I'm raising the ante.''

Then Fassel made the boldest guarantee of his tenure with the Giants: ''This team is going to the playoffs. This team's going to the playoffs. I'm going to define where we're going. I'm not afraid to say one thing: we're going to the playoffs.''

The fairy tale ended for the Giants with a loss in Super Bowl XXXV.

Is it possible for the Cowboys to make a similar stand? And if so, would Wade Phillips be the coach to push all the chips in?

As Cowboys fans would love to see Dallas make such a stand, they aren't in the position to do so. In 2007, the team went 13-3 before losing the franchise's sixth straight playoff game. The Giants missed the playoffs the year before their Super Bowl run. Dallas is a preseason favorite to go to the Super Bowl in the NFC. In 2000, the Rams and the "Greatest Show on Turf" ranked ahead of the Giants. So while the situation is not the exact same, the ideals and more importantly the results must be considered.

Dallas is a team with a coach under tremendous pressure and a quarterback who many still doubt. Furthermore, this team's track record in the final month of the regular season over the past five seasons dating back to the team's first playoff appearance under Bill Parcells.

Record in games played after Thanksgiving (including playoffs)
2007: 3-3*
2006: 2-4*
2005: 2-3
2004: 2-3
2003: 2-3*
*includes playoff loss

When you consider that the Cowboys have suffered late-season toe-stubs under a dictator coach like Parcells as well as the "Stay Puft" Phillips, perhaps a irrational coaching change is not the solution. Perhaps second-guessing touches is not the solution. Perhaps the Cowboys should be judged not after a Week 5 win - albeit messy - but instead they should be judged based on their performance in December and January.

Whether they go 13-3 again or 12-4 or 11-5 or even 15-1, none of it will matter if they don't win a playoff game. The Giants once again proved last year that you can be a 10-6 wild card team and win three road games before winning the Super Bowl (see 2005 Steelers). So regardless of Dallas wins the NFC East (which they should) or wins in December (which they need to), their entire 2008 body of work will be judged solely based on their results in January.

Trojans Troubles? Sanchez start in doubt for ASU game

LOS ANGELES -- Danny Sullivan vs. Mitch Mustain? That might be the quarterback matchup Saturday when Arizona State faces Southern California at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Backups Sullivan and Mustain have thrown a combined total of only 17 passes for their respective teams this season, but injuries to starters Rudy Carpenter and Mark Sanchez have put their status in doubt. (more)

Did I upset Los Angeles?

It seems fans in Los Angeles both agree and disagree with my position that LA is a fair-weather sports city.  I guess that in keeping with my theory that LA sports fans really only care about the "hot topic," in making them the "hot topic," they are all coming out of the woodwork.  Good.  It's good to see them at least defend their name.

I'm not saying that Los Angeles is a bad sports city.  On the contrary, I think that this market is tremendous because of just how many teams call the LA-area home.  I'm excited at the prospect of getting the chance to see the Mavericks and Stars multiple times this season because of just how many trips they will be making to Southern California (10 total).

Los Angeles is a great sports town, but don't be afraid to stand your ground and say, "No! The other team here is not my team."  With two baseball, hockey and basketball teams, I recognize the argument that it's easy to drift back and forth which is why I bring up the fact that this doesn't seem to be the case in other markets with the same dilemma.

Kudos to the LA sports fans for speaking up.

dancingchef: ... While ESPN was conducting its Titletown competition, and the candidacy of Los Angeles was being discussed, the fair-weatherness of the fan base arose as the number one reason why LA, despite its rich sports history, should NOT be Titletown. A local talk show took up the issue and had an interesting theory.

When you live in an area that has multiple sports, recreational, and cultural offerings, it is easy to move from being interested in one place or activity to being interested in another. The same goes for sports teams. There are so many in LA that it's easy to jump from one to the other, and if ALL of them are bad, you can simply go to the beach.

Consequently, fans in most other locales don't have such options at their disposal, so reveling in the euphoria of winning as well as sulking in the devastation of defeat comes much easier to fans in Chicago, New York, Boston, and the like.

So can you blame Los Angeles sports fans for being such blatant front runners? By this argument, maybe not. They can't help that they were born into a landscape with so many outlets for their time, sports or otherwise.

But you can say they don't know what it means to be a true sports fan.

Could not agree with you more.  Multiple options means less energy and emotions devoted to each.

jessica: ... You must have been born here, raised here, and cultured here to fully understand why people in L.A. act the way they do. It seems that you haven't been out here in L.A. long enough to justify your comment on how "sports fans follow in the footsteps of entertainment junkies". That's not how the way things works out here. How would you know what Major League Baseball fans are like? The only thing you have out there are the Triple-A Rangers out in Arlington. ...

While it's true the pro baseball team I follow closest is the Rangers, the one thing I admired about the Angels was the passion that their fans have for their team. Sadly, as soon as they lose, there seems to be an overwhelming "it's okay" attitude because "we can now all go root for the Dodgers." 

I'm well aware of the Rangers shortcomings (again), but for Angels fans to so blatantly abandon their team to hope on the Dodgers bandwagon disturbs me the most. I only wish I could support a team that would disappoint me in the way Angels fans feel disappointed.

mannybeingmanny: Most people in LA are DODGER fans. The angels are a nice bonus. ... I'm a fan of both teams but if given the choice I would take a Dodger World Series title any day of the week. Angel fans suck anyway. They are OC people who watch a game to chill and not to root on the team. Dodger fans are loud and obnoxious, just like fans should be.

You want to talk Bandwagon look no farther than your precious Dallas Cowboys. Sure right now there are Jerseys and hats and everyone drinkin the Cowboy kool-aid. But where were the Quincy Carter jerseys? Where is the loyalty? Cowboy fans and Patriot fans should hang out because they only announce they are a fan of their team when they are winning. You go to Denver when the Broncos are good, the town supports them, when they suck, the town supports them, when our QB gets diabetes, the town supports them. Cowboy fans are bandwagon wannabes who talk big now. But wait until Romo and Jessica Simpson get married, TO has a blowup, and Pac-man shoots someone else. Then the jersey's will go away and the support will be gone until Jerry Jones decides to try and buy another Super Bowl.

I guess it's my turn to get defensive.

The Dallas Cowboys, as the most prominent and arguably successful franchise in the NFL, naturally attract greater attention than other teams. They are to the NFL what the Yankees are to baseball, the Celtics are to basketball, and the Red Wings are to hockey. As a result, they are not only put under a greater spotlight but also attract more fans. For those same reasons, they also have many detractors - think New York Yankees as the "bad guys" playing the Red Sox in the 2003 and 2004 ALCS.

But to suggest that the city of Dallas has been any less focused on the Cowboys is ridiculous. Feel free to accuse the city of Dallas of being apathetic to the Mavericks, Stars or Rangers (guilty on all counts), but to suggest the Cowboys aren't the focal point of the Dallas sports scene is to suggest that people subscribe to Hustler for the articles.

Just how wide-ranging is Dallas Cowboys fandom? It's scared the Cardinals so bad that I'm having a hard time finding a ticket to this weekend's game in Glendale.

Finally, I'd love to know when exactly did Jerry Jones buy a Super Bowl title? The Cowboys won three titles thanks to astute drafting and savvy trading (just ask Minnesota). Jones has not shied away from the big free agent signing (T.O., Tank Johnson, Adam Jones, Deion Sanders, Leonard Davis), but he knows the value of good drafting when it comes to winning a Super Bowl. Just look at last year's champion New York Giants. Seemingly every 2007 Giants draft pick made significant contributions en route to the championship.

A few of the comments from my facebook page:

FA: all i care is for local success. i'm not defending myself, but just explaining myself. again, l.a. folks being l.a. folks.

DF: For the record, I've been saying this since I started going to school at SC. Just watch, as soon as UCLA gets good half the SC bandwagon is going to defect...that's just the sports culture in LA.

EH: I am not one of these people...NEVER had a rally monkey, and never will. Always been a Dodger fan...and I am happy to have the Angel fans on board with us now!!!

LA: Case in point...if Kobe ever left the Lakers, all their fans would defect and become Clipper fans...cause then the Clippers would be better...everyone knows it...but no one will admit it... The only worse fans might be Boston...they're annoying, but atleast they're real loyalty in's like Hollywood, they love who's good at the time...

Something I saw on Dodgers Thoughts and also stumbled across this season working with the Long Beach Armada...  Great video.  And if you wanna catch Steve Yeager these days, he's managing the Long Beach Armada Professional Baseball Team.

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