Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End 9.10.21, where we dig into a "classic loss'' in the NFL opener ...
*Buccaneers 31, Cowboys 29: My Top 10 Whitty Observations after a night that gave Dallas both a heart-breaking loss and a heaping dose of encouraging hope.
*With 882 combined yards, 54 first downs, five turnovers, four 100-yard receivers, three missed kicks and four lead changes (two in the final 84 seconds), Thursday night was a classic. The NFL’s first game of 2021 might wind up being its best game of 2021.
*I was in New York both the day before and six weeks after 9/11. Every anniversary of the attacks – especially this weekend’s 20th – yanks me right back. As I did annually while a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, I was in New York for the U.S. Open tennis tournament in 2001. I flew my ex-wife and her son up on Labor Day Weekend for some sightseeing and sports. We lunched in Central Park, went to the top of the Empire State Building and took the ferry tour around New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty. The photo of us on 9/2/01 – Twin Towers standing proudly in the background – gives me chills to this day. After writing a story about Lleyton Hewitt’s upset of Pete Sampras in the final, I flew out of LaGuardia Airport on Monday, Sept. 10. Life as we know it changed forever 24 hours later. I remember being glued to the TV for days, writing stories with tears literally spilling onto my computer keyboard and the deafening silence of no airplanes in the DFW sky. I traveled back to New York on Oct. 30, 2001 to cover Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA as a member of the Washington Wizards. Walking around the makeshift memorial of a still-smoldering Ground Zero was one of the most eerie, sad things I’ve ever done. Now, 20 years later, we’re draped by somber, dominated by memories and sprinkled with tears. But are we safer? The attacks of 9/11 killed 2,977 Americans. COVID has claimed 653,000, and counting.
*So, hold up. The Dallas Mavericks are crowing that they’ve landed their targeted “3-and-D” guy, a player who can shoot 40 percent from deep but also take pride in guarding the opponent’s best offensive player. Coulda sworn we were led to believe they found this guy last Summer. Hopefully new GM Nico Harrison’s Reggie Bullock is a much better version of old GM Donnie Nelson’s Josh Richardson.
*Better late than never, the Texas Rangers may have finally received a benefit from the 2017 Yu Darvish trade. Pitcher A.J. Alexy has been relatively brilliant in his first two starts after working his way up through the minors, allowing one hit over 5+ shutout innings in each of his first two games. He is the first MLB player since at least 1893 to go 5+ shutout innings and allow one-or-fewer hits in each of his first two appearances, both starts. Not quite time for Nolan Ryan to get nervous about his place in franchise history, but it’s a splendid start for Alexy.
*Though allowing 31 points and 431 yards won’t remind anyone of the ’85 Bears, the Cowboys’ defense under new coordinator Dan Quinn played harder, better than last year’s fiasco. They created four takeaways and really only out-smarted themselves once when DeMarcus Lawrence was asked to cover Rob Gronkowski on a safety blitz.
*Maybe you don’t believe in moral victories, but the Las Vegas oddsmakers do. Before Thursday night the Cowboys were 3-point underdogs in Week 2 at the Chargers. After watching Dallas push the champs to the limit, the line moved dramatically to only 1-point.
*Had a good talk with Cowboys’ all-time sack leader DeMarcus Ware on Thursday. As an ambassador for Crown Royal for 15 years, he was at AT&T Stadium this week for a kick-off event when he looked up and surveyed the decor. “There’s Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith and Charles Haley,” he said of the Ring of Honor. “I said ‘Wow, D, you really could be up there with them!’.” Ware, of course, will be in the Ring of Honor, likely soon after he becomes a first-ballot inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022 next summer. “I’m not nervous about it,” he says, “because I feel like I’m submitting a dang good resume.”
*We saw Ware, by the way, working with Cowboys’ rookie linebacker Micah Parsons in the final episode of Hard Knocks. Was that a one-off, or a long-term mentoring venture? “We’re talking about it now and I think I’m going to get him into my gym and start working with him,” says Ware, who last year opened a gym in Trophy Club. “Athletically, he has all the gifts to be great. He runs a 4.3, which is ridiculous. Hopefully I can mentor him a little bit, and show him some moves. Just give him some more tools to take onto the field.”
READ MORE: Should Mavs Trade for Pacers' Myles Turner?
*Dallas has America’s Team, but only its 10th-smartest sports fan base. That, at least, according to a new study by the website, US Bets. New York is supposedly the smartest sports city, followed by L.A., Chicago, Houston, Phoenix and San Antonio. The most commonly searched sports question on the internet by Texas users: “What is a shortstop in baseball?” Which, kinda makes the whole state sound as dumb as a knapsack full of hammers.
*Rangers are 37 games under .500 and the Cowboys are already 0-1. Good news? Only 28 days until the Mavs host the Utah Jazz in their preseason opener.
*Hard to explain this one, but the Cowboys are now 2-20 the last three seasons when trailing at halftime. They were down, 21-16, to the Bucs before rallying but, yep, losing.
*Wonder how the beard-wearing, pickup-driving, red-meat devouring alpha males in DFW feel about the newest badass Cowboys’ linebacker (Parsons) playing chess and wearing a dangling earring from his right lobe? Conflicted, would be my guess.
*Cowboys have had their fair share of whiffs in the NFL Draft lately, but no bigger swing-and-miss than in 2017 taking defensive end Taco Charlton ahead of the league’s newly minted highest-paid defensive player, T.J. Watt. While Charlton (drafted 28th by Dallas) is a free agent after his August release by the Kansas City Chiefs, Watt (drafted 30th by the Pittsburgh Steelers) on Thursday earned a four-year, $112 million contract extension as a reward for leading the league in sacks and being named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2020. Last time we checked, “best defensive player in the league” trumps “out of the league.” I know, 28 other teams passed on Watt in that draft. But the Cowboys were targeting a pass rusher, only two spots ahead of where the Steelers nabbed the game’s best pass rusher. Ouch.
Tank Has Broken Foot; What’s Next for Cowboys?
The Cowboys were dealt another blow on Wednesday as DeMarcus Lawrence left practice with a foot injury
Cowboys Lose Tank Lawrence - Long-Term Injury
DeMarcus Lawrence has sustained a serious injury as on Wednesday as the star defensive end was forced to exit practice at The Star due to a foot issue.
Cowboys Coach Injured; 2 DBs Miss Practice
Leon Lett, the long-time Dallas assistant defensive line coach, needed to be carted off the field and them put on crutches to advance to medical assistance inside the building.
*Despite the rigors of the NBA Playoffs and Olympic qualifying and Olympics and the burden of signing that new supermax contract, Mavs’ star Luka Doncic says he’s had sufficient rest this summer. Took two weeks off and then started again practicing. So what’d he do during his “vacation”? Refurbished the basketball courts in Savsko naselje sports park, where began playing regularly at age 7 in Slovenia. Good on him.
*Don’t listen now, but an ESPN talking head NOT named Stephen A. Smith went on a scorched-Earth rant about the Cowboys … and their fans. A taste of Michael Wilbon’s attack on Thursday’s Pardon The Interruption: “(Cowboys fans) are not great, they’re overrated. Their team is overrated. The statement of what their team is, is overrated. The nickname “America’s Team” is preposterous and outdated. To Hell with the Cowboys. Just deliver me from the Cowboys already.” In Wilbon's defense, since winning Super Bowl XXX in 1996 the Cowboys own a .520 winning percentage (208-192), 24 different starting quarterbacks, seven head coaches, four playoff wins and zero appearances in the NFC Championship Game, much less any whiffs of the Super Bowl. So … he ain’t wrong. Is he?
READ MORE: Wait, the Rangers Have a Winning Streak?
*Another NFL Week 1 season opener, another change of scenery for Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver Jason Witten. The former tight end and future Ring of Honor member suited up for the Cowboys for their opener in 2017. He then retired, and called 2018’s Week 1 Monday Night Football as an analyst for ESPN. In 2019 he was back with the Cowboys, then played in 2020 with the Las Vegas Raiders. This year, again retired (but coaching high school), he spent Thursday night’s opener virtually chatting with fans about Cowboys-Buccaneers on something called HANG.
*Cowboys are only the fourth team in NFL history and the first since 2002 to lose a game when producing 450+ yards of offense and enjoying a +3 turnover margin. Makes you feel worse, doesn’t it?
*Wondering if Zack Martin would’ve played had the Cowboys had a regular, traditional Sunday Week 1 opener? Given three more days to recover from COVID, maybe.
*Was leaving my gym at around 8:30 a.m. this week when I saw police officers putting a shirtless, handcuffed man into the back of their SUV. A gym? That early in the morning? I conjured guesses. Was he harassing someone? Did he break into a locker? Was he in an area he wasn’t supposed to be? Just seems a strange time and venue to be getting into that much trouble. But different strokes …
*If you missed any or all of HBO’s Hard Knocks featuring the Cowboys, you didn’t miss much. It actually lacked drama and – other than a cool drone and a cute kid – entertainment. My review of all five episodes is here, if you’re bored.
*Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman continues her reign as one of the most powerful people in DFW sports this Saturday by hosting her 10th annual “Dream Ball Gala” to celebrate police officers, first responders, community leaders and everyday heroes. The star-studded event, at the Omni Hotel in The Star in Frisco, will this year honor Pro Football Hall of Famer and SMU alum Eric Dickerson with its Lifetime Achievement award. The festivities run throughout the weekend, climaxed by a fundraiser golf tournament Monday at Castle Hills in Lewisville. Among the attendees are Tony Dorsett, Spud Webb, Charles Haley, Tony Casillas and Marty Turco. Former ESPN personality and seven-time Emmy Award winner Roy Firestone will perform excerpts from his noted one-man show, and ESPN Sportscenter anchor Jay Harris will emcee. And of course, CowboysSI.com will be in the house. Great event powered by a wonderful woman.
*Have to chew on it a while, but I think we need to find a spot in this list of Top 10 all-time season openers for Bucs 31, Cowboys 29. Again, it wasn’t ultimately positive. But what we watched will be memorable for a long time.
*In the 65-year history of Billboard’s No. 1 albums, The Beatles lead with 19 followed by Jay-Z (14), Bruce Springsteen and Barbara Streisand (11), and Eminem, Elvis Presley and – thanks to his new Donda release – Kanye West (10). I’ve never gotten into his music, but I’m clearly in the minority. An almost unfathomable 23 songs off Donda are in this week’s Top 100. (Aside: Wait, albums these days have 23 songs?)
*Been 16 years since the NFL had a repeat champ. Brady and the Bucs? Perhaps. But the more you see parity dictate the league, the more you’re pissed at how the 1990s Cowboys imploded. Three Super Bowls in four years could’ve easily been four consecutive, a record that may have never been duplicated.
*RANGERS RISK: We all think the Texas Rangers are going to be putrid this season. Our lil’ roundtable revealed predicted win totals of anywhere between 61 and 78, but no one thinks .500 is plausible. Let’s put our money where our mouth is. I’m going to bet a virtual $100 against the Rangers every game this season and, after six months and 162 games, see where I wind up. I’ll keep a running tab right there each Friday and come October I’ll (wink) disperse my profits to my most loyal readers. RECORD: 51-88 TOTAL: +$1,003.
*Rucking vs. Spartan. High-school buddy and I have this ongoing debate. I’ve completed some fitness races (Spartan, Tough Mudder, etc.), which require running between obstacles. But he’s into Rucking, a military-style event founded upon carrying a backpack loaded with 40 pounds of weights, supplies, etc. I’m taking him up on his challenge this weekend, attempting to survive Dallas’ DFW Rucking event to commemorate 9/11. So while you’re partying and sleeping Friday night into Saturday morning, I’ll be walking, doing random physical training such as weighted pushups and pullups, and trying to survive 12 straight hours from 9p to 9a. Reads the event’s fine-print disclaimer/waiver: I understand that participating in a GORUCK Event wearing a rucksack full of wights is an extremely hazardous activity. I acknowledge that a GORUCK event is an extreme and unreasonable test of my physical and mental limits that carries with it inherent risks of physical injury that cannot be eliminated completely, including but not limited to an above-average risk of serious injury and/or death. Um, yikes. Hopefully, I’ll be back here next week. Hopefully.
*This Weekend? See above. Hopefully I’m able to watch some NFL come Sunday. As always, don’t be a stranger.