Markus Paul's 'Lifer' Legacy; What's Next For Cowboys?

First and 10: The NFL remembered Markus Paul after his passing earlier this week. The Cowboys assistant leaves a 'football life' legacy; what's next for Dallas?
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FRISCO - The NFL remembered Markus Paul after his passing earlier this week. The Cowboys assistant leaves a legacy; what's next for Dallas? Our Sunday Cowboys 1st and 10 ...

1) A Football Life

Markus Paul was a pro football lifer. And there are plenty of them. I’ve been around them since I started working Dallas Cowboys games in the late 1990’s as a columnist for the Tyler Morning-Telegraph in Tyler, Texas. I spent plenty of time around them during my four seasons as a Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer for the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Florida. And I’ve been around them as I’ve continued to write about the Cowboys here at CowboysSI.com.

The lifers are the ones that keep the game humming. From assistant coaches to strength-and-conditioning coaches to scouts to front-office people, most of them aren’t heard from unless something out of the ordinary happens in the day-to-day hum of NFL life.

Sadly, we experienced that this week when Paul, just 54 years old, passed away before the Cowboys played Washington on Thursday.

I never met Paul, but he fits the pro football lifer category perfectly.

He played just five seasons in the NFL from 1989-93. He had only seven interceptions. He never reached a Pro Bowl or earned an All-Pro nod. But he played long enough to get at least part of his NFL pension. That’s better than most. And when he finally got a chance to start in a season opener in 1991, he got his moment in the sun, as the Orlando Sentinel interviewed his family after his debut

We should all get that once.

In Syracuse, Paul is a legend, having earned All-America honors and compiling a program-high 19 interceptions. And it was that Syracuse connection that helped him get back into the NFL. In 1998 Paul went to New Orleans to work for his college strength-and-conditioning coach, Mike Woicik. If that name is familiar, it’s because he was the Cowboys’ strength and conditioning coach during the Super Bowl years in the 1990s.

Woicik had a profound impact on Paul’s career, and he talked with NFL Network’s Mike Garofalo about it for a recent piece Garofalo did about NFL assistant coaches.

Woicik was a proper mentor for Paul. After a couple of years in New Orleans, the pair rolled off to New England to work for Bill Belichick and helped turn that team into a Super Bowl perennial. If Paul couldn’t win rings when he played, then he racked them up as a coach. 

Bet you didn’t know he had five of them until he passed away, did you?

Paul won three of them as Woicik’s right hand in the early days of the Patriots’ dynasty. From there he set off on his own, working two seasons for the New York Jets, one as the team’s director of physical development and another as the team’s strength-and-conditioning coach. Then, in 2007, he joined the New York Giants for 11 years and won two more rings, both coming in wins over Paul’s former employer, the Patriots.

In 2018, the Cowboys lured him away from the Giants to be their assistant strength-and-conditioning coach. Once again, it was Woicik who served as the lifeline. When head coach Mike McCarthy came and Woicik left, Paul got the promotion.

The Cowboys took a knee in prayer before the game with Washington on Thursday, a nod to their respect for Paul.

They also found a place to honor Paul during the game.

But they weren’t the only ones showing appreciation for Paul this week. One of his former Syracuse teammates has three Super Bowl rings himself.

Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was one of Paul’s pupils in New York.

Former Giants offensive lineman Shaun O’Hara was moved by Paul’s passing.

The Giants’ ownership group sent their regards.

Another former teammate from his NFL days, this one on the opposite sideline on Thursday, spoke about losing Paul.

The Jets, who employed him for only two years, sent their best.

The Chicago Bears were moved to tweet about Paul.

And, finally, the Syracuse family remember their former All-American.

Superstars obviously get a lot of attention. But the lifers keep the game humming. And the NFL lost a great lifer in Paul. The best to his family as they struggle with this loss.

2) COVID game change

The Cowboys were supposed to play the Baltimore Ravens next Thursday. Now the Cowboys will get an extended break.

After the Pittsburgh-Baltimore game was pushed from Thanksgiving night to Sunday afternoon to Tuesday evening, that meant the NFL had to move the Cowboys-Ravens game from the Thursday slot next week to a Monday time at 4 p.m. CT on Dec. 7.

The Cowboy Maven staff gets you caught up on the shuffle here.

3) Check out the Cowboy Maven Top 60 All-Time Dallas Cowboys

We published our Top 60 Dallas Cowboys of all-time as part of our celebration of the Cowboys’ 60 seasons in Dallas. We presented the Top 60 in groups of five. We hope you enjoyed the series and if you have an opinion, take them to our Cowboy Maven community or hit me up on Twitter at @PostinsPostcard.

If you missed any of the stories in our Top 60, just click on them below.

➡️ Cowboys Top 60 Greatest Players: Nos. 56-60

➡️ Cowboys Top 60 Greatest Players: Nos. 51-55

➡️ Cowboys Top 60 Greatest Players: Nos. 46-50

➡️ Cowboys Top 60 Greatest Players: Nos. 41-45

➡️ Cowboys Top 60 Greatest Players: Nos. 36-40

➡️ Cowboys Top 60 Greatest Players: Nos. 31-35

➡️ Cowboys Top 60 Greatest Players: Nos. 26-30

➡️ Cowboys Top 60 Greatest Players: Nos. 21-25

➡️ Cowboys Top 60 Greatest Players: Nos. 16-20

➡️ Cowboys Top 60 Greatest Players: Nos. 11-15

➡️ Cowboys Top 60 Greatest Players: Nos. 6-10

➡️ Cowboys Top 60 Greatest Players: Nos. 1-5

4) Cowboys Tank?

Jerry says no.

➡️ Jerry Jones Insists Cowboys Won't Tank

Do you believe him? 

5) Cowboys 'Magic Number' is 4

Four. Every way you slice it.

➡️ Cowboys Playoff Odds: 4 Percent?

Including "percentage chance'' of making the playoffs.

6) Locked On Cowboys Podcast This Week

The Dallas Cowboys dropped another one on Thanksgiving, a loss to Washington that makes the present seem dubious.

So, how about the future?

"We've just got to get in here and meet these challenges,'' Cowboys COO Stephen Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan. "Unfortunately, we took a step back this week regardless of the challenges that we were facing, we just didn't meet them. We just got to go back to work and get back on track of getting better each week."

In this episode of the "Locked On Cowboys'' podcast, hosts Marcus Mosher and Landon McCool break down the team's Week 12 loss to the Washington Football Team. ... and we ponder whether Stephen's wish is realistic.

We know that a "woe is me'' approach is self-defeating ... and we hope the 3-8 Dallas Cowboys know it as well.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

7) Catch up with the Cowboys’ loss to Washington

If you’re still getting trying to wrap your brain around the Cowboys’ loss to Washington, here is some great content to get you there:

➡️ Washington 41, Cowboys 16: Emotional Roller-Coaster Dips Low

➡️ WFT Embarrasses Cowboys: 10 'Whitty' Observations - How You Know You're Bad

➡️ Cowboys' ‘Best Player’ On Crutches; Martin Could Miss A Month

➡️ Cowboys Play-Calling: McCarthy - Too Cute And Too Frustrated

8) An ‘Organic Tanking’ Update

Jerry's comments aside ...

Each week we will update you on the Cowboys’ 2021 NFL Draft situation, mainly to see if they can improve their stock in any way as the season winds down.

Cowboys record entering this weekend’s action: 3-8.

Current selection (if season ended today): No. 4 (source: tankathon.com/nfl)

Who is ahead of Dallas?: New York Jets (0-10), Jacksonville (1-9), Cincinnati (2-7-1).

Can Dallas catch any of those three teams? It doesn’t seem likely. The Jets are awful, the Jaguars aren’t much better and the Bengals just lost quarterback Joe Burrow for the rest of the season, robbing them of their best player. Tying with any of those teams would help the Cowboys, however, as their strength of schedule (.478) is worse than any of those three teams, meaning that Dallas would get the higher pick in the event of a tie.

Who is chasing Dallas? The Los Angeles Chargers (3-7), the New York Giants (3-7), the Atlanta Falcons (3-7) and the Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1) are all at least a game behind.

Games to watch this week?: The Giants and the Bengals play each other on Sunday. The Chargers are at the Bills, the Falcons host the Raiders, and the Eagles host the Seahawks.

If you’re a ‘tanker’… You want the Bengals to win on Sunday, which would move Cincinnati to three wins and make it a bit more likely the Cowboys could move up to No. 3 at some point (with the tie, the Bengals are likely going to be ahead of the Cowboys with the win, anyway). Otherwise, you’re a Chargers, Falcons and Eagles fan on Sunday and Monday. And yes, being an Eagles fan is weird.

Why it’s likely the Cowboys won’t fall much further, as long as they continue to lose? Among the Top 15 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Cowboys have the worst strength of schedule. Only the Chargers (.497) are in the neighborhood. So, when it comes to tiebreakers, the Cowboys are in great shape right now.

Oh, and click here for my peek ahead to the 2021 NFL Draft in my First and 10 last weekend.

9) Updating Cowboys Draft Needs

Now that we are more than two-thirds of the way through the season, it’s time to update our 2021 Cowboys NFL Draft needs. Now, we can debate the ranking of these needs (and they’re being debated on Twitter). But looking ahead to next season, I find it hard to see any other major needs than the five I’ve included here. And needs are relative now as opposed to the draft in April, after the Cowboys have moved through free agency.

But for now, here are my Cowboys Draft Need Rankings through Week 12.

10) Tweet Of The Week