Ross Tucker
Friday March 6th, 2009

We took an informal poll on my Sirius NFL Radio show to gauge the mood of Cowboys fans in the wake of Jerry Jones' decision to release Terrell Owens. A clear majority of the callers, say 75 percent, were ecstatic about the move, describing it as one of the best days in the history of the franchise and predicting an upcoming Super Bowl appearance. The other callers argued T.O. wasn't the problem and the blame should be placed squarely on the shoulders of one man. Head coach Wade Phillips? Nope. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett? Uh-uh. To a man, every caller who was disappointed with the Cowboys placed the onus on quarterback Tony "Big-Game" Romo.

None of the callers really did Romo any favors. Even the ones happy now have created through-the-roof expectations about the 2009 season and beyond. Suffice to say, Romo is on the hot seat. Big-time. As in, if the Cowboys don't win a playoff game next season, Romo should get the ax.

He's already failed in three seasons as a starter to lead his team to one measly playoff victory, a team with a roster so stacked that it's perennially one of the two or three best in football. How many chances does one guy get? With T.O. gone, there should be no more excuses for Romo. None. No more team chemistry dissertations or distraction discussions. Romo got what he wanted, and now he better make the most of it.

T.O. fell on the proverbial sword this year. Romo should take the fall right around this time next year if the Cowboys don't win a playoff game yet again.

Now, onto my inaugural mailbag. It was a lot of fun going through your e-mails and seeing your questions, so please keep them coming.

A comment about Hometown Discounts: Is Albert Haynesworth's life going to be any different with $75 million of the Redskins' money instead of $65M of the Titans' money? Beyond the abstract concept of numbers in a bank database, what does it REALLY mean to make the extra money? That his grandchildren might have to work some to supplement their trust fund, instead of it taking three generations to dilute his wealth to the point that his descendants have to work? --Jim Campbell, Nashville

My guess is it is probably true that the more money you are going to make, the more likely it is you would be willing to factor in other considerations and take some sort of hometown discount. Believe me, I wish I'd been in that situation so I could speak from experience, but it wasn't in the cards for me.

In terms of the difference between $75 million and $65 million, my guess is it probably wouldn't affect his life all that much. But if you look at it strictly as compensation related to a specific task and nothing more, why not get paid more for the same job? Ten million is a huge sum, and even if it wouldn't materially affect Haynesworth's lifestyle, that is money he could give to charity or use to perform other good works if he were so inclined. At the very least, he would have the freedom to use it however he saw fit, because he would have earned that money and that right.

Are you serious about players looking for money "for their families?" Given guys like Pacman making it rain in clubs, the proliferation of bling and customized Escalades, I figure that only the occasional Ross Tucker type actually cares about his family. The evidence seems to show that most of these guys care about the money as a way of keeping score. See Anquan Boldin and the like. --Claire Fewtrell, Leeds

I can certainly understand how Pacman's antics and the MTV Cribs-style excess of some players can be a turn off for a lot of fans. I assure you, however, that those guys are the minority, not the majority. The ridiculous, over-the-top spending by some would be hilarious if it weren't so sad. The guys with five or six expensive cars who are also wearing thousands of dollars worth of jewelry are usually the guys who are flat broke within two years of the end of their career, and that is a crying shame.

Your second point is a good one. A lot of guys do look at their contracts as a sign of respect and a measure of their status among their peers around the league. I think for some guys, getting as much as or more than so-and-so becomes the greater obsession. Players are constantly keeping tabs on the other players around the league and it can be a bitter pill to swallow when a comparable or lesser player gets a larger contract. But the salary cap goes up every year, sometimes significantly, so comparable or lesser players are necessarily going to get bigger deals.

I am not sure it would be all that different in other professions if all of the information was public like it is in the NFL. Can you imagine what it would be like in a typical workplace if every employee's compensation were in the newspaper? My bet is there would be a lot of angry workers banging on their boss' door looking for an explanation. A lot of people attempt to "keep score" with their colleagues, the guys in the NFL just do so in a more public forum.

Hi Ross. I really love your column and insights, and the fact that you were just as broken up about Reggie White as I was is gravy. I have a question for you though: In your Detroit +$100K vs. Indy comparison, do the players spend any time considering the potential for sponsorship deals? It seems to me that you're more likely to get a national advertising deal if you win with Indy than if you lose with the Lions. Is that true? Is it likely to affect a player's decision, or do players only worry about that stuff after they've settled their contract? --Wil Dawson, West New York, NJ

A large number of readers submitted similar questions relating to my hypothetical Detroit vs. Indy free agent comparison. The most common queries revolved around the opportunity for playoff money, endorsement money and the residual benefits of playing for or being associated with a playoff team going forward if I would choose Indy instead of Detroit.

Playoff money is a real thing, but would not surpass $100K unless the team wins the Super Bowl. More importantly, there are no guarantees when it comes to this supplementary income, as you don't really know how far you might go in the postseason if your team even makes the tournament. The Pats went 11-5 but didn't get a dime in playoff money in 2008.

The endorsement money is very likely a minor concern for a top level free agent when he is making a decision, much less so for the rank and file. Elite endorsement level players can at times factor in the market size of the prospective city as well as the team's prospects for success and national television exposure, but again, I think this is a small consideration because there are no real guarantees as far as that stuff is concerned. That being said, there is no doubt there are more paid public appearances available to players on winning teams.

It certainly helps your case for future contracts going forward if you play and play well for a good team, but that assumes a great deal. First and foremost, you need to stay healthy for the entire season. Second, the team has to have an excellent year. Then you also have to have a good year personally.

The bottom line is that all of these are potential factors when making a decision, but because of the variables involved, they take a backseat to the written terms in the contract.

Different people have different values. I am a college professor. I have turned down higher paying jobs for a better quality of life. And I've taken a lower paying job for more professional satisfaction. Why? My wife and I are comfortable with what we make. Sure, we could afford a bigger house or a pricier car. But guess what? We don't need those things. That's just how we are. If you and those like you value money above all else, then that is fine. Go for the dough. Just realize that not everyone feels like you do. And try not to put down those whose values are different than yours. They are not wrong. They are just operating on a different set of priorities than you. --Robert Ravenscroft, West Kingston, RI

Well said Robert, though I am not sure our values are all that different. I could pursue more lucrative options in other industries but I choose to work in the media right now because I love writing and talking about football for a living, and the nature of my current employment allows me to live where I want yet still do what I want.

My point is, the majority of fans have a tough time understanding that players make their free agent decisions based upon their own personal value system, not the fans'. Just because a fan may bleed Black and Gold since birth doesn't mean the player does. Given the lack of longevity in their careers and the physical sacrifices that players make, it is no wonder that they often choose money as the top priority.

Who knows, maybe placing money above all else while they play will allow them to have the freedom to make different decisions and re-establish their priorities once their playing careers are over.

Mr. Tucker, with the grim mood of world events and the economy prevailing over our nation, I was just wondering about some of the lighter sides of football, such as ... can a player date a cheerleader? What flavor of Gatorade is in the team bucket? --Alex, Los Angeles

Ah, Alex. Man, you are deep. Now we're talking. I get asked that first one a lot.

I played for five teams and was never told that the players were not allowed to date the cheerleaders. Not once. On the flip side, I have heard that the cheerleaders are told not to date the players, so that may be where the confusion lies. That being said, I know that it happens. Chris Cooley's wife was a cheerleader when they first started dating but she lost her job when their relationship was revealed. Chris married her, however, so I guess it worked out.

As for the Gatorade, they switch up the flavors now so that there are a couple of choices, but the staple is still lemon-lime.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.