Peyton Manning for Tony Romo?

On Friday, ESPN Radio’s Galloway and Company posed the question of trading Tony Romo and signing Peyton Manning this offseason. Not only did it make great radio, but it had me thinking all weekend. Would I do it?

Manning is probably my favorite active NFL player, and I would LOVE to have him on my team. He’s the only quarterback that I don’t want DeMarcus Ware to decapitate, and watching him destroy little brother twice a year for the Cowboys would be phenomenal. End of discussion, right?

Peyton Manning is probably done in Indianapolis, and will most likely be cut–no one is going to trade for that contract–before his twenty-eight million dollar roster bonus is due March 8 (a roster bonus is just that–a lump some of money that a player receives in his account one day just for being on the team). The exact scenario proposed by Galloway and Company was this: trade Romo to another team in exchange for a Pro Bowl interior lineman still in his prime, and then sign Manning as a free agent. In addition to having the best quarterback in the league (history?), this would allow the Cowboys to upgrade the offensive line before even utilizing a draft pick, and then using the first round draft pick on either a SEC cornerback or defensive lineman. Upgrading those lines is crucial to success in 2012, and the less draft picks that we use for that, the better.

This could be a move that made the Cowboys truly great. Think about the possibilities: Manning has never had a defense worth anything, even when they won the Super Bowl in 2007. The 2011 Cowboys were infamously bad, but even minor improvements would give Peyton the luxury of not having to score 35 points each week just to keep the game close in the fourth quarter. He would also help the defense–they would only need to hold teams to 20 (still a challenge for a group led by Gerald Sensabaugh and Orlando Scandrick) because you know number 18 is going to score at least 21 points on even the elite defenses. That alone could have improved the Cowboys to 10-6 this year.

His offense  hasn’t been perfect either. He might be the best passer in league history, but his best running back was Edgerrin James. Yeah, that Edgerrin James. He’s never had the benefit of a legitimate running game. No quarterback can execute a play action pass as well as he does. On film, his footwork and ball placement are exactly the same on running plays and play action. It is so good, that it can make the strong safety come forward a few steps to stop a run when there is no relevant running game to threaten with. Imagine how deadly he would be with DeMarco Murray in the backfield.

Manning is a very cerebral quarterback, maybe even more so than Jason Garrett. He embodies Garrett’s “Be great today” mantra. His work ethic is exactly what Garrett is looking for in a quarterback–Romo’s might be, but we don’t know for sure. There just isn’t a consensus from people in position to know. Work ethic matters even more than normal when needing going to a new team.

The Cowboys don’t need to sell any more merchandise, but Manning would be a marketing match made in heaven. Like his ball placement, his endorsements are the best in the league. You would have the most marketable player on the most popular team and, if possible, more money would be made. I guarantee you that Jerry Jones is losing sleep thinking about this possibility. He probably has some poor intern working nights at Valley Ranch, super imposing a Cowboys jersey on Manning’s body into his latest WingStop commercial.

I would love to have Peyton Manning on America’s Team, but it just wouldn’t help the team.

Peyton runs a certain type of offense, and no team that signs him is going to make him fit their existing offense–they will make the offense fit him. The entire unit would have to relearn language and concepts, in addition to the improvements they need to make to be better in 2012. Learning a new offense is hard enough but when the quarterback basically invented it, the task is impossible in one offseason. It’s said that he receives three plays from the sideline each down–when Manning doesn’t call his own plays without intervention from the coaches.

After getting a working knowledge of the offense in training camp, you still have to run it against defenses in real game situations for sixteen weeks. To run his offense effectively, you need an offensive lineman that can keep up with the multiple protection changes, and complete audibles that Manning will call on each play. Every time he calls a codeword to the line one lineman is responsible for adjusting the protection accordingly, and quick enough to be ready when Manning snaps the ball. Can any of our offensive lineman even have a chance? Our centers needs to work on snapping the ball exactly when Romo is ready–not before. Kosier has shown that he’s a leader by helping Tyron Smith this year, but I’m not sure anyone wants him to be responsible for your new free agent signing’s well being. Jeff Saturday has been making Manning’s protection adjustments for a decade, that chemistry doesn’t get replaced.

Arguably more important than the offensive line knowing the offense, is the receiving corps. Manning loves to throw the ball, and if the receivers can’t be in the right place at the perfect time the offense will go nowhere. Routes in NFL offenses aren’t “run a twelve yard post route”. The post route might be called but if the defense rotates to a cover 3 instead of a Tampa Two, that route would need to be adjusted to a seam route on the fly. These sight adjustments only work well when the quarterback and receiver see the same keys in the defense, and miscommunications were still happening between Manning and his receivers in 2010. Do you trust Dez Bryant to see everything that Peyton does? He would end up being a waste of a roster spot–and not just on your fantasy team.

We also don’t know how many years Manning can play. I’m not a doctor, but nerve issues in your neck aren’t a sign of a long healthy playing career in the next five years. If we got three years out of him, we’re playing with house money.

I love Peyton Manning, and yes, more than Romo. But bringing him in at the expense of Tony costs you at least one year to teach his offense to everyone. What if that was the only healthy year you got out of him? Is Stephen McGee an adequate backup? If these moves were made we could easily find ourselves going into the 2013 season without Manning or Romo at quarterback, agonizing over the battle between Matt Barkley and Stephen McGee. The thought of that will give me more sleepless nights than the fantasy of Manning to Bryant over the middle.


Reflections on the Callahan Hire

After having more than a week to think about Bill Callahan being brought into the Cowboys organization as Offensive Line coach and Offensive Coordinator, I love it more than when I first heard about it. There are a few things that give me pause though–Callahan’s offenses at Nebraska and Oakland where he has been head coach weren’t breaking records. However, there is so much more to like than hate.

The big debate about the hire is over what level of involvement he will have in creating the weekly game plan, because we already know he won’t be calling plays for Jason Garrett. Will Callahan take the lion’s share of the work making the game plan, with Garrett executing it on Sundays? Maybe they will be up past midnight together at Valley Ranch fighting over the last Chik-fil-a nugget or sugar free Red Bull (Garrett intensely adheres to the USDA food pyramid). Will Jason Garrett actually let someone else make any meaningful decisions on his side of the ball? Unfortunately, no one knows.

What I do know is that even if Jason Garrett doesn’t turn over any of the game plan decisions to Callahan, a lot of good will come directly from this hire.  First, he’s another strong voice in the room. Garrett needs to surround himself with as many capable voices as possible, not just yes-men, and a former NFL head coach isn’t easily ignored–he’s not just another assistant coach. Callahan will have an opinion and if he disagrees with the direction a planning session or personnel discussion is going he will make sure other options are heard, which will ensure that the best possible course of action for the organization is taken.

Having been a head coach in the league, Callahan knows the stressors and responsibility Jason Garrett faces day to day. This is crucial, as it should initially help their relationship form a strong foundation and can possibly lead to Callahan lessening Garrett’s load. On the field, Callahan will be another person with experience managing one side of the ball while keeping an eye on the entire game picture. Maybe he’ll be able to help Garrett make a decision on when to call a timeout and when to save it, or give him time to walk over to Rob Ryan and ask if he’d like to try pressuring the quarterback for once.

But the biggest impact that Bill Callahan will have for the team is on Romo. Callahan was the only offensive coach that the New York Jets wanted to keep, hoping he could spur the development of Mark Sanchez for the future, but Dallas was able to lure him away. He also has experience with a rushing offense built around two similar but different runningbacks, which is vital since the Cowboys offense will only go as far as DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones (with a healthy Tony Fiametta) can take them. Even with a fifty year old LaDanian Tomlinson the Jets were able to gain almost four yards per carry. Romo will benefit from a consistently viable rushing attack, allowing him to throw against an eight man front more often.

When teams do walk a safety down towards the line of scrimmage, keeping Romo comfortable in the pocket will be key to destroying a defense. Some people will point out that Tony is excellent outside of the pocket during chaos and that is true, but quarterbacks are best when able to stand tall in the pocket and set their feet before releasing the ball. This is where Callahan’s primary strength comes into play–protections. He is known around the league as having very sound protections, and one of the best in the league at in-game adjustments. In 2011, Mark Sanchez was sacked only three more times than Romo–and if you’ve ever been forced to watch a Jets game on CBS, that stat is tough to believe. Last year Sanchez looked like a kid that only started one year in college, and was not comfortable with a less than pristine pocket.

He’s also not nearly as mobile or “shifty” as Romo–I love the panted “Romo Shake” to avoid an unblocked rusher, but I don’t want to see it as often as we have. The offensive line will be a primary focus in the 2012 draft, with a first or second round pick being used to begin the rebuilding process, and Callahan will be able to drive that process. Instead of having to work with a line that someone else has built, he is presented with a crumbling wall that he can rebuild exactly to his liking to protect a quarterback that can make special plays with little time. I think this fact played a large part in the Cowboys being able to steal Callahan away from New York. If he can be barely worse than the Cowboys’ sack numbers were in 2011, with an immobile and low football IQ quarterback, think about what he can do with a quarterback that can read a defense and move in the pocket. Let those highlights run through your mind as you go to sleep at night.

Two of the glaring problems going into 2012 are over-stretching Jason Garrett’s responsibilities, and an offensive line full of guys who went to directional schools. Bill Callahan may not be able to draw up a pressure package to attack Eli Manning, but he will help in both of these areas.

Why I’m Thankful that College Kids Smoke Pot

College is the best time in many people’s lives. You’re able to start discovering who you are, and make the decisions that form the foundation of your adult life. You’re also introduced to marijuana–well, at least in larger quantities than were at your public high school. Your personal feelings aside, it is illegal in all states that don’t rhyme with Shmalifornia, and people who get caught doing it can get into some trouble. But it’s not murder, so kids who get caught with pot just pay some fines and watch their reputation take a hit.

Fortunately for Cowboys fans, not playing in the NFL isn’t a consequence of doing reefer in college. Dre Kirkpatrick, out of Alabama, is the second best cornerback in the draft according to many, and was projected as a top ten pick in the last round of projections. He’s a physical 6-3 190lbs kid that can be just as disruptive in coverage as run support. He has no problem making tackles on running backs in space (ahem, Mike Jenkins) and tied for the team lead in forced fumbles in 2011. He also has no publicized plans to serve as a hurdle for the U.S. Olympic team in London this summer. His draft status should change when analysts release their updated draft boards. Don’t let his 0 interception total scare you–even in an SEC defense–teams didn’t test him too often.

The SEC produces two things with alarming regularity: NFL Runningbacks and defensive players. Dallas is pretty well set at one of those positions, but has no idea if any of their cornerbacks will become anything other than a liability. Drafting speed and strength will help shore up that position, going a long way to making 2012 much more successful than 2011. We won’t have Terence Newman next season, and teams are going to pick on the corner to replace Newman more than they will Jenkins or Scandrick. Having a tall, strong freak athlete from the best conference in college football makes you feel a lot better about that fact than a kid from the powerhouse ACC.

Kirkpatrick was supposed to have been a Top 10 overall pick, but teams don’t always want to invest that kind of money in a kid that is coming off a drug charge–even with the new rookie wage scale in effect. He may not fall to the Cowboys at fourteen, but this should knock him down far enough for Dallas to trade up a few picks to get him without adversely affecting the other rounds. If the Cowboys are lucky enough to get him in the draft, make sure to write your Congressman a nice note for keeping those ganja laws on the books.


Will the Cowboys Keep Laurent Robinson?

I think Laurent Robinson was one of the most interesting stories of the 2011 NFL season. A guy keeps getting cut, but keeps practicing and working hard, and eventually he makes the roster of an NFL team. Not just any team, America’s Team. The argument can (and might be, in a future post) be made that Robinson was the Cowboys best receiver last season, but will he even be on the roster in 2012?

Another way of asking this is “Can the Cowboys keep Laurent Robinson?” It’s not as easy a question as just agreeing that he’s a good player. His contract with the Cowboys was a one year deal, and now he’s an unrestricted free agent.  The unrestricted aspect means that he can go to any team that offers him a contract. And there will be more than a few teams calling his agent at 12:01 AM on March 13th. Robinson caught 11 touchdowns in 2011, good enough to rank third in the league among wide receivers–trailing only Calvin Johnson and Jordy Nelson. Even more telling is that one reception in five was a touchdown. As a team’s third receiver. Many teams are going to wonder what he can do as their number one or two receiver, and will be more than happy to write a fat check to see the answer.

Should the Cowboys try to keep him? He would like to stay in Dallas, as would any NFL player if you could get them to be completely honest with you. But he wants to be paid, and most would say that his play this year warrants a multi-year contract. Unfortunately he’s not going to give Dallas a “hometown discount”, and even bringing it up is dumb. Would you take fifty percent of your salary just to stay with your current firm? That could very well be what Robinson is looking at to jump from the third wide receiver on a one year deal to a receiver the offense is built around.

Miles Austin is in the midst of a seven year fifty-seven million dollar contract, and Dez Bryant is under a five year 11.8 million dollar contract.  Austin is getting paid like a number one wide receiver, and Dez is being paid as a rookie with a really high upside. Adding another star contract is possible, but would tie up a huge percentage of the team’s salary cap into one position. Would you rather have the best third wide receiver in the league at the expense of filling a secondary or offensive line position? If so, stop reading this post and go back to singing “Hail to the Redskins”.

I would love to keep Laurent, but the only way it makes good fiscal sense is to not pay him what the market is offering. If he’s willing to give the Cowboys a discount, Jerry needs to get his signature before Robinson’s agent beats some sense into him. After Miles and Dez, we still have receiving options that most teams in the league envy–Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray can still stretch defenses.We have more personnel holes than you can imagine, and need to upgrade so many positions to just adequate that we don’t have the luxury of upgrading a position we are already really good at.

If Robinson goes to another team short sighted fans will freak out and announce that GM Jerry Jones has screwed up again. A rational fan will wish Robinson well, and pray that our defense doesn’t face him until we’ve been able to draft the entire LSU secondary.

Why It’s Dumb to Want Romo to be Like Tebow

There is one thing that Cowboys fans can all agree on–the day is always better when the Steelers lose. It’s even better when they lose a big game on a national stage. Tonight, after losing to the Broncos, my Facebook and Twitter feeds exploded with people using “Tebow” and “Romo” in the same sentence. My favorite was, “I wish Romo had half the heart and leadership of Tebow.” Your quarterback should be judged on completions and touchdowns, not his emotions. People who use that phrase are the same people who use “they really need to make a play here.” Is there ever a time that a play doesn’t need to be made?

Tony Romo is the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, and thus will be compared to every other football player that has ever played. That’s fine, armchair analysts can make valid comparisons between Romo and some other players, but Tebow is not one of them.

In only one game has Tebow even approached Romo’s career completion percentage. In the 2011 game against the Vikings Tebow completed 66.7% of his passes, but only attempted 15 passes. Romo’s career average completion percentage is 64.5%. On his best day, Tebow can barely match an average Romo. Tony has shown that he has the talent to make every throw on the field. Tebow does make the crowds go wild with most of his passes though. Not because it was a great throw, but because they’re in shock he finally got the ball close to his receiver.

Now assuming Romo has no leadership quotient, how many wins would that quality alone have gotten you? Without any talent and just leadership alone, probably two. And both of those would be preseason games. Do the other 10 guys on offense have no desire to win without the passer having great motivational skills? It’s true, Laurent Robinson would be ambivalent about catching 11 TDs and finally getting a long-term contract if it weren’t for the motivational speeches he received before each drive. DeMarco Murray wouldn’t think to use his being drafted in the third round as a reason to run with power if it weren’t for Skip Peete’s constant reminders during pre game warmups. But a rarely publicized quote from Dez Bryant says it all–“The main problem with me this afternoon was having trouble getting a clean release when they played press coverage. I think Tony not reciting enough Vince Lombardi speeches in the huddle has a lot to do with that.”

Tony Romo is a leader, but he is definitely not the Hollywood “scream in front of the cameras” kind. You won’t see NFL Films do a montage of Romo yelling and cursing at his teammates on the sideline or in the huddle. He leads by example with his actions. By all accounts, Romo took charge of organizing the off season workouts during the lockout–not only the logistics of getting everyone in one place, but actually running each workout like a player-coach. Leadership is defined as “the action of leading a group of people or organization.” Nowhere does Webster’s mention “raising one’s voice”, or “using physical force to emphasize a point”.

After fracturing a rib and having his lung punctured in San Francisco, Romo came back to lead the team to an overtime victory. He played with the rib and lung injuries for weeks until they healed–while Michael Vick sat out multiple games this season while only suffering a rib injury. When his team needed him to play through pain he was there, giving them the best chance to win.

And let’s be honest, does anyone care about Romo fitting into a pre-conceived idea of “leadership” when Touchdowns are raining down like manna, and the Cowboys are winning? No. People who want Romo to fit in a box, who think that demonstrative leadership is a prerequisite to championships, only bring this up when the team loses. People can’t fathom that Romo isn’t the cause for the Cowboys’ lack of success in 2011. Romo wasn’t perfect, but he played at an extremely high level. Dallas was only in some games this season because of Romo’s play, and he definitely helped the team more often than he hurt.

It is possible for Romo to play well, but the Cowboys still fall short. We saw it this year. There are ways for him to improve his quarterback play, but asking him to emulate a quarterback whose best talent is running the ball is not one of them.

Three Lies Sports Radio is Telling Us

Look, it sucks when the Cowboys lose. It ruins that afternoon for me, and the rest of that week. If you’re reading this blog, then your worst mornings are those that come after losses. I work hard to avoid ESPN, and sports talk in general, until Tuesday morning. When I finally tune in I’m always amazed at what people are talking about–both callers and hosts. If it’s early in the season, you hear twenty reasons why that loss was a fluke, and they’ll turn it around next week. This team plays better than that. They’re too talented. If it’s mid-October, you hear that that loss will be a blip on the radar. It’s not indicative of who they are. That week will barely be mentioned on the America’s Game DVD that will celebrate this year’s Super Bowl Champion Cowboys. If it’s Week 17, one hears that the Cowboys will never win again significantly until the Cowboys hire a true General Manager.

The Cowboys shouldn’t hire Bill Polian because the Colts lost one player and then went 2-14 in 2011. Jerry’s not going to (ever) hire a General Manager. But Polian has gone on record saying that he might not want to be a full GM for his next team, and might want to be a football advisor. Jerry needs to hire him before making any other personnel decisions (including releasing Terence Newman). Yes, it would have been optimal to have a backup plan in case Peyton Manning was ever unable to play–but it’s understandable why they didn’t have one in 2011.

Manning was the starting quarterback in 227 straight games, spanning almost 13 years. That is the second longest streak in league history. With that consistency at the most important position, it allowed the Colts to spend time and money at other positions–being able to use salary cap room on other starters because they could afford to pay their backups below market rate. That type of fiscal ingenuity would be welcomed in Dallas (except for the agents of aging skill position players). Unfortunately Manning went down, and with it him, the Colts’ win total. Should Indianapolis centered the entire offense and defense around one player? If he’s Peyton Manning, yes. Take Romo’s ten best games, and average the statistics, and then duplicate them for eight straight years. You’re an idiot to not build around that guy.

In Carolina, Buffalo, and Indianapolis Polian identified the best player on the team and made all personnel decisions with that player in mind. Think about it: the same man who built a team around Jim Kelly assembling a team maximized for Tony Romo.

The Cowboys are a low-talent team because they only beat one team that finished with a winning record. This seems like an obvious truth. If you don’t beat teams that win more often than they lose, you can’t be very good. Numbers never lie, unless you use them in statistics.

The number one seed in the AFC, the New England Patriots, didn’t even beat ONE team that ended the season with a winning record. The Cowboys aren’t as talented as they would like you to think, but this statistic does not give you an accurate picture.

The Cowboys are losing popularity to the Texas Rangers and Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs winning the NBA championship and the Rangers making two straight World Series did increase their popularity. However, the Cowboys are still the team that moves the needle in the metroplex. If either of the other teams in North Texas had a .500 winning percentage, it would be rare to spot someone wearing their jersey in public. Cowboys jerseys are everywhere, and they’ve only won one playoff game in 16 years. Few teams in the world can have such a lucrative one-sided relationship with their fans.

Bonus lie: The Cowboys will never win significantly under Jerry Jones. This is one that is all over the Internet, and people are so eager for Jones to step away that they are reposting a fake article from two years ago that reports Jerry’s title change. The Cowboys will have Jerry Jones in his current position until he hands over the team to Stephen Jones (minutes before Jerry’s own funeral). While many expect Stephen to hire a “football guy” and become the owner many wish his father would be, we still have years until that happens.

The Cowboys will win big games (and a Super Bowl) under Jerry Jones. We all know he meddles, and has a penchant for signing older players in the twilight of their career to long term contracts. With some luck, the Cowboys can overcome that–and are on their way to doing just that. The only time America’s Team won under Jerry was with an incredibly talented team. Talent overcomes poor game management, and makes the media forget about owners’ antics. Dallas isn’t that talented…yet, but we have talented guys at key positions. Quarterback is set. Wide Receiver is set. Runningback looks to be more of a strength than a weakness. Tyron Smith is a great tackle, and might even start protecting Tony Romo’s blindside in 2012. DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee have strengthened the linebacking spots, and our defensive line will be anchored by Jay Ratliff for a long time–regardless of whether he plays the tackle or end position. The secondary is the only area full of holes, and we don’t need five or six future Hall of Famers to be covering our opponents. Two or three decent additions will go a long way to solidifying this defense, and the team as a whole will become elite.

Winning under Jones isn’t easy, Jimmy Johnson and the Minnesota Viking front office just made it look like it was easy to draft All-Pros. The Cowboys have to keep stockpiling talent, and endure the grind that’s playing for an owner that wants to do everything. As long as they stay patient, the wins will come in regularity. So will the trophies.

NFC East Title Game: Who Gets the Blame?

There is a lot of blame to go around this week, but someone has to have this game laid at their feet.

A national television audience was shown why the Cowboys worked so fervently to sign Nnamdi Asomugha in the offseason. If Rob Ryan’s deep phone voice would have succeeded in brining the All Pro cornerback to America’s Team, Dallas would have cut Terence Newman and gone with Scandrick and Jenkins as the other corners. Newman had been a liability at times this season, but not to a point that he stood out on a defense full of underachievers. Ryan and Co. knew that his skills hadn’t returned from the lockout, which explained why T-New was never lined up closer than eight yards from his assigned receiver. Occasionally Newman would fake press coverage, but bail out past the first down line just before the ball was snapped–a clear admission of defeat by a former first round pick, and his coaching staff who never changed that tactic.

During the first quarter, I tweeted (@mydirtylandry) the key to a Giants victory in this game: “Locate who #41 is covering, and throw the ball to that guy. Repeat as needed.” I looked like a savant who should apparently have access to a headset on the Dallas sideline. Eli frequently targeted Newman’s matchup, especially when 41 was across the line of scrimmage from 80. However, Kevin Gilbride also had a game plan to attack Kansas State’s finest without being forced to utilize a wide receiver. After catching a pass in the flat on third down, backup Tight End Bear Pascoe hurdled Newman and continued upfield to get a first down. Unfortunately Pascoe was not the only Giants player to act out their Track & Field fantasies on Newman. In fact, the only player to not clear Newman was Ahmad Bradshaw–and if he had kept his trail leg positioned parallel, he would have been fine.

Newman wasn’t the only reason that the Giants beat the Cowboys, but he took an ordinary loss and placed it on a shelf in Cowboys history previously occupied by only the 44-6 loss to the Eagles in 2008. He most likely will not be on this team in 2012, and that is the first step to improving next year’s team.

As a bonus, I’m assigning blame to an additional winner this week. Rob Ryan came in with incredibly high expectations for this defense, and extolled countless compliments on the “most talented team that he’s ever coached.” Thousands of words can be written about Ryan’s defense, but I am only going to focus on week 17.

Regardless of what the scheme or game plan was at kickoff, it needed to become flexible. The main issues from the previous Giants game (and thirteen other games) was the front seven’s inability to get pressure on the quarterback, and the secondary’s lack of coverage skills. In the first half, nothing had changed. Newman and Friends were letting the Giants receivers catch anything Eli threw, even off his back foot and into double coverage. The defensive line and linebackers weren’t able to penetrate an offensive line that were still trying to get chemistry with each other, and the stars of the units weren’t playing up to their billing. DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff were not factors in the game through two and a half quarters–and did not face as many double teams as you would think. Eli Manning doesn’t perform well against interior pressure and Ratliff was being handled by a Center or Guard one on one, freeing Manning up to jump around the pocket and add to Victor Cruz’s receiving records.

At some point in the second quarter of an elimination game, a D.O.A. game plan needs to get overhauled. Ryan kept using similar blitzes and coverages and getting burned in the same way, although he did eventually bench Newman for a time (unfortunately for everyone, Alan Ball was the backup this week). Ryan seemed characteristically set in his scheme, and clinging to nonexistent swagger. Eventually one needs to realize that the secondary is a liability and blitzing to force the ball out sooner only makes it worse. In September I worried that Rob Ryan would leave the Cowboys for another team as a head coach, but now I’m terrified that he won’t do that. Maybe time will improve this defense, but Jerry Jones might want to (at least) explore his options for 2012.

Ask Jerry about how this season has turned out, and he’ll probably say that transition takes time, and that he hates Indianapolis in February anyway. Good thing the Superbowl’s in New Orleans next year.

Who should be blamed for the loss against the Giants?