Whitt's End: Cowboys Screwed Themselves, Free Agency Edition
Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End 10.30.20…
*There are statement games. And then – like Sunday night in Philadelphia – there are survival games. A loss drops the Dallas Cowboys to 2-6. Since the NFL expanded its playoffs in 1990, 112 teams have started 2-6. None have made the playoffs.
At the halfway point, this season could already devolve into next season.
“I think it’s just kind of 2020 summed up,” says Ezekiel Elliott. “We have had a lot of injuries. We haven’t played the best in some games. We’ve got to figure out something fast. We’ve got to win this weekend.”
*Buyer beware? Not that Stephen Silas hasn’t more than paid his dues during 20 seasons as an assistant coach in the NBA. But history suggests setting low expectations when hiring a coach from down a couple seats on the Dallas Mavericks’ bench.
READ MORE: Mavs Aide Silas To Become Rockets Head Coach
Silas, hired to be the Rockets’ head coach this week, becomes the 13th Mavs’ assistant to earn a top job. The rancid results? The previous 12 head coaches have led 52 seasons with other teams, making the playoffs only 20 times (38%) with a combined postseason record of 58-95 and no advancements past the conference finals. Only Dwane Casey in Toronto and Terry Stotts in Portland have enjoyed any semblance of sustained success after being Mavs’ assistants. And only one has a winning record in the playoffs: Randy Wittman (12-9) with the Wizards in 2014-15.
*On Sept. 24, 2000, the Cowboys gave up four touchdown passes in a 17-point home loss that dropped them to 1-3 and paved the way for a 5-11 season. For many fans, it remains one of the proudest Sundays in franchise history.
Why? Because they fought. They stood up to a bully. They – in the form of George Teague epically blasting Terrell Owens at midfield – valiantly protected the most sacred star in sports.
With third-string quarterback Ben DiNucci taking snaps, underperforming veterans being released and assistant coaches just trying not to blind themselves with Tabasco, at this point the 2020 goals shouldn’t start at winning games … but merely saving face.
There’s losing. And then there’s limping.
When Andy Dalton was almost decapitated by Joe Bostic last Sunday in Washington, it was telling that none of his teammates confronted the Washington linebacker.
No excuses. On the field were veterans Cam Erving, Connor Williams, Amari Cooper and Zeke.
Hall-of-Famer Troy Aikman reasoned this week that “I think they were more concerned with Andy’s well-being as opposed to retaliation.” Maybe. But they are not doctors, rather teammates. Protectors. Foxhole buddies.
Zack Martin said the mindset has to change, starting this week. “We addressed it,” he said. “If it comes up again, I think it will different.”
We’re confident that Tyron Smith would’ve turned Bostic into a grass stain in the name of Dak Prescott. But if the Cowboys have any chance in 2020, guys like Connor McGovern also have to stand up for guys like DiNucci.
*Once upon a time the Texas Rangers tried to get it right. The Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series this week, capping an 18-game playoff run in which every game was started by a pitcher that spent his entire career within the organization.
In 2005 the Rangers promoted “DVD”, the pitching prospect trio of John Danks, Edinson Volquez and Thomas Diamond. With electric arms and charming personas, they were the foundation upon which the Rangers’ success would be built. Until … the group won a total of three games in Arlington.
Danks was traded for Brandon McCarthy. Diamond underwent Tommy John surgery. Volquez, the only one to pitch for the Rangers, was traded for Josh Hamilton.
Bad luck trumps good planning, every time.
*Don’t know about you, but my family would be none too pleased if I arrogantly blurted “I’m the least racist person in this room” with them … sitting in the same room.
*With the Dodgers’ Justin Turner testing positive for COVID during Game 6, what would the World Series have done had the Rays forced a Game 7? With quarantine protocols and the fact that he played six innings, the sport’s decisive, dramatic game would have been delayed.
*Kinda squeamish to admit I got sucked into watching it, but I have serious questions about the Big Brother All-Stars finale on CBS this week. Has nothing to do with the “game”, which amounts to nothing more than 15 people trying to be the most popular kid in a high-school clique. Has everything to do with masks. As in, the players in the game are living inside a safe bubble “house” for up to 85 consecutive days. But when they are evicted, it’s the player who is immediately required to don a mask instead of oh-so-serious interviewer Julie Chen. Shouldn’t Chen be wearing the mask to protect the players from her?
*They are indeed breaking out the ice skates in Hades, because in the same week two of the biggest sports egos in DFW – Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Channel 8’s Dale Hansen – issued apologies for feisty on-air diatribes.
*This week we celebrate the 18th anniversary of Emmitt Smith owning the NFL’s all-time rushing record. At this point, there’s no reason he can’t keep it another 18.
Standing at 18,355 yards, Emmitt’s lead on the closest active runner (Frank Gore) is 2,698. The 37-year-old Gore is the feature back for the Jets, averaging only 44 yards per game. At that rate, he’d have to play 61 more games (this season, plus three more) to catch Emmitt. Very unlikely. The next active pursuer is 35-year-old Adrian Peterson, these days getting the bulk of carries but also averaging less than 50 yards per game in Detroit.
Peterson trails Smith by 3,825 yards, meaning he’d likely have to play until 2024 to flirt with the record. The only other backs on the incline of promising and potentially prodigious careers are Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley and Zeke. None, however, making this climb.
In an age of specialization, increased passing and millisecond shelf lives, the days of relying on a workhorse runner are gone. Emmitt’s record, therefore, is here to stay.
*As for a second-hand item I’m committed to not buying, coffin is near the top of the list.
*Mark Cuban … Dodgers fan? Yes, because should Los Angeles souvenir hawkers create products to commemorate 2020 championships for both the Lakers and Dodgers, they’ll have to go through the Mavs owner. Seems Cuban still holds the apparel trademark to “City of Champions.”
*An aging brand faced with shrinking sales, macho-powered Harley-Davidson is introducing an E-bicycle and an E-Motorcycle. Wondering if the “Serial 1” and the “Livewire” will prompt leather-clad gangs?
*Dodgers-Rays averaged 9.7 million viewers, making it the least-watched World Series in history. (Let me guess, it was all that kneeling? No?!) Amazingly, the most-watched World Series – Dodgers-Yankees in 1978 – averaged 44.3 million. Again, it’s simple. More options on TV/Internet/etc. equal a diminished captive audience.
*While Mavs’ assistants haven’t fared well in their promotions to head coaches, they can field a pretty legit team. Of their 46 all-time assistants, Dallas could trot out a starting five of ...
G: Sidney Moncrief (’00) G: Rolando Blackman (’01) F: Kiki Vandeweghe (’00) F: Kurt Thomas (’98) C: Clifford Ray (’93); a second unit of G: Paul Westphal (’08) G: Avery Johnson (’05) G: Mario Elie (’08) F: Popeye Jones (’07) C: Gar Heard (’88). Need savvy veterans? How about G: Brad Davis (’93) G: Butch Beard (’97) G: Randy Wittman (’94) and G: Bob Weiss (’80).
*Baseball is broken. I don’t mind the drastic defensive shifts, but the lack of epic pitching performances can’t be good for the struggling sport. In Game 6 Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell faced 18 batters, striking out nine and allowing one hard-hit ball in 72 pitches. He was pulled in the 6th inning however, because the Rays’ ballyhooed analytics predicted his effectiveness would plummet the third time through the Dodgers’ lineup.
Guard-railed by today’s numbers-numb decision-makers, Nolan Ryan would have zero no-hitters. This postseason, baseball relief pitchers threw more innings than starters. That’s not evolution. That’s erosion.
*SMU alum and U.S. Open golf champ Bryson DeChambeau did the unfathomable last week: He hit a drive that carried – in the air – 401 yards. There’ll be a day soon when golf has to consider major equipment limitations, because length of course has become wholly irrelevant.
*If you watched any of HBO’s documentary, The Vow, you’ll probably be surprised to learn that the leader of the sorta cult was this week sentenced. To 120 years in prison. Clearly the show did a poor job of detailing Keith Raniere’s crimes, because on the surface it looked like nothing more than intense brain-washing and consensual decision-making.
*Watched Fox’s NFL pregame show last Sunday and wondered again how analyst Howie Long has lasted since 1994. Quick, in his 25+ years, tell me something – good or bad – that Long has said.
Zilch, right? Me too.
I know he plays the straight man to embarrassingly bad Terry Bradshaw and I acknowledge that he won an Emmy in 1997 for “Outstanding Sports Personality/Analyst”, but Long generally insults us with his generic football-speak. To wit, his insight before last week’s Panthers-Saints game: “I expect Sean Payton and Drew Brees to be creative against the Panthers, who will again bring it with Matt Ruhle.”
I don’t get it.
*With this week’s suspension and Olympic banishment of American sprinter Christian Coleman, it further elevates Usain Bolt’s mythical status. Consider: Of the 50 fastest all-time 100-meter dash times, 35 have now been run by sprinters suspended for performance-enhancing drugs. The other 15 are owned by Bolt.
*During the regular season, Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor led the Rangers with 10 homers in 60 games. In the playoffs, the Rays’ Randy Arozarena hit 10 in 20 games.
*How crucial is the return of Martin and the looming return of O-line helper Joe Looney? The Cowboys’ next two opponents – Eagles and Steelers – rank 3rd and 1st in the NFL in sacks.
*More proof that college football’s season needs multiple asterisks (and a healthy dose of side-eye): Army (6-1) has already accepted an invitation to the Independence Bowl, two weeks before the Pac 12 Conference plays its first games.
*From Xavier Woods’ preposterous angles to Dontari Poe’s attractiveness to HaHa Clinton-Dix’s cameo, it’s fair to question both the Cowboys’ coaching and talent evaluation.
Signed to be a playmaking safety, Clinton-Dix fizzled and remains a free agent. Poe and cornerback Daryl Worley likewise didn’t immediately find new teams after this week’s releases. Dallas did get a conditional 6th-round pick for Everson Griffen, but the lack of interest/value from other teams is a stinging indictment of Dallas’ personnel appraisals.
Griffen was a captain last Sunday in Washington and Poe was a starter. In their absence, we will get to see more of Randy Gregory’s return and 5th-round pick Bradlee Anae’s development.
*I’d rather live in an inclusive country than an indulgent castle.
*With basketball and baseball done and football back to exclusively dominating Fall, it’s good to sense some normal. Except, that is, for upcoming NBA Draft, next month's Masters, 20% attendance at Super Bowl LV and America being under ice storm warnings and hurricane warnings just 500 miles apart. Reminder: 2020 doesn't do normal.
*We’re not doing Halloween this year, are we? I mean, with costumes and parties and door-to-door trick-or-treating and … naw, we’re not doing Halloween this year. Scared enough already.
*By the time you read next week’s Whitt’s End, America will – maybe – know the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. If, like me, you’re curious about this bassackward system known as the Electoral College and the logistics of the process, read Ben Sheehan’s amazing book. My biggest takeaway: Though the election actually ends on Nov. 3, there is a “safe harbor” period for states to investigate voter fraud, resolve challenges, etc. The safe harbor deadline is Dec. 8. Until then, and only then, America will collectively hold its breath.
*This Weekend? Sunday is for using the “Fall back” extra hour of sleep to prepare for another Cowboys drubbing. As always, don’t be a stranger.