Friday, September 26, 2008

110 Percent Hall of Fame 2008: Emmitt Smith

The Year: 1990. The Scene: New York, NY. The Event: The NFL draft. The previous year the Cowboys had gone 1-15, easily the worst record in the league. They would have had the #1 draft pick, but they had used a supplemental pick on Miami QB Steve Walsh. But the Vikings had traded a slew of draft picks for Herschel Walker the previous year and the Cowboys were ready to reap that harvest. They had a player targeted, but weren't sure if he would drop to them. After some maneuvering, they got as high as they could: #17. Unfortunately, the guy they wanted, Baylor LB James Francis, went #12 to the Cincinnati Bengals, who had a decent 10 year career. So they settled on the 2nd RB taken in the draft, Emmitt Smith, a guy who was very productive in college at Florida, but considered too small and too slow to make it in the NFL. Sometimes it better to be lucky than good.

For the 90's Cowboys that won three Super Bowls in four years and was arguably the greatest team in NFL history, QB Troy Aikman was the brain of the team, WR Michael Irvin was the heart, but Emmitt Smith was the engine that team ran on. In the fourth quarter of many games, Emmitt would grind it out behind that awesome offensive line and just punish a team into submission. His statistics and awards speak for themselves: career rushing leader, career rushing TD leader, 1990 rookie of the year, 1993 MVP, 1993 Super Bowl MVP, and 3 Super Bowl rings.

His signature game was on January 4, 1994 against the Giants in New York. They were tied with the Giants for 1st in the NFC East. This game would be the difference between a bye and home field advantage and going on the road for the playoffs. Late in the 2nd quarter, Emmitt separated his shoulder. But going into overtime, tied 13-13, the Cowboys rode Emmitt to the tune of 50 yards on 8 carries to a game winning field goal. He was the warrior that won that game. For the whole game he rushed for 163 yards on 32 carries and totaled 229 yards of all purpose yardage.

The Cowboys have had a history of great running backs: Tony Dorsett, Calvin Hill, Duane Thomas, and Herschel Walker, but Emmitt stands at the top of that list.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Did we watch the same game?

I really shouldn't make a big deal about this. I really shouldn't be drawn offsides by the national media, but I just can't help it. One of the upsides to the Cowboys winning on Monday night was that I could listen to sports talk radio and read the blogs and sports writing and be happy. After a Cowboys loss (say after the Giants playoff game last year), I will not read the newspapers or blogs, listen to the sports talk show idiots, or anything else. But I was sure after Monday night's game I would enjoy a little ESPN radio praising the greatness of the previous night's game and the strength on the Cowboys and just laugh while reading Peter King and others venerate the Cowboys. But instead of praising the Cowboys, the Colin Cowherd of ESPN and Peter King of SI evidently quit watching the game after halftime when the Eagles were ahead 30-24 and assumed that it was misprint that the Cowboys outscored the Eagles 17-7 in the 2nd half. They worshiped at the shrine of Donovan McNabb who was great until about 10 mins to go in the game when he evidently got tired and quit being able to complete passes longer than 10 yards. In fact, the longest play for the Eagles late in the game was a ten yard pass to a TE on a 2nd and 18 (the series ended in a punt). The fumble was clearly Donovan's fault as he was seemingly unable to decide if he was going to give it to Westbrook or to the receiver on the reverse. It was that choke job that turned the tide towards the Cowboys. Cowherd trumpeted over and over how the Eagles were able to get yards when they needed them. However, he failed to mention that the Eagles got inside the Cowboys 25 five times and had to settle for field goals in three of them. Two of the Eagles TD were a direct result of Cowboy turnovers, both of them really unforced, but rather bad plays by Tony Romo. So the absolutely awesome Eagle offense scored 23 points. Hardly the stuff of domination. Also, they talked about the return of Donovan McNabb, but they evidently missed the stats about his performance in Sept. the last few years. He's been dominant. There is a good questions whether he'll be able to keep it up. The Eagles better hope so.

Another group that got a ton of praise from the national media was the vaunted Eagle defense. But Tony Romo emerged from the game almost completely untouched (except, of course for the unforced errors of the fumble and the pic). The Cowboys showed their offensive strength by being able to almost completely stay away from TO and still move the ball at will against the Eagles. It opened up Marion Barber to get 51 yards on 11 carries in the 2nd half after just 12 on 7 carries in the first. Jason Witten made their line backers and safeties look silly and the Cowboys lower rung guys like Martellus Bennett, Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin, and Tony Curtis made plays as the Eagles payed their attention to TO.

I could go on. It's still early. The last several years the Cowboys have been great until the calendar turns into December. And all this won't matter if they fall apart down the stretch and there are things that concern me. Tony Romo being the crazy gunslinger is one and the penalties (which make me think of their lack of disciple) is another. But I want the national media to realize that the Eagles are good and maybe the 3 best teams in the NFL are in NFC East, but the Cowboys were clearly the best team on Monday.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cowboys Eagles knee jerk reactions and live blogging.

I'm writing this during the game and will continue to write this during the game. There will probably be a whole lot of knee jerking, but here goes. And I'm going to type "us" alot because I'm watching the game.
1. This is already one of the craziest games I've EVER seen.
2. I'm starting to question the Romo gospel. It seems that just about every big game he gets jittery. I think every team needs to look at what the Eagles do. He is all kinds of rattled. He still makes some good throws, especially on that last drive, but I'm not sure we can trust him to lead us to the Super Bowl.
3. How in the world does this defense continue to be just shredded by good teams. How many big free agents and top round picks are on the defense? And the coach was supposed come in with his big scheme and make the defense better. Is the defense better?????? I don't know. As I'm typing this, they stop them on a three and out. I'll take the jinx on that and I may try it again later in the game.
4. Penalties are killing us. Two penalties led directly to touchdowns and another penalty wiped out a big gain to TO. On the other hand, I don't know what game these refs are watching. The PI on Anthony Henry was HORRIBLE!!!!! How do they miss that??? It was in the endzone so it practically gift wrapped the Eagles a TD. And on the TD run after that PI, I saw at least two holds that didn't get called.
5. Speaking of penalties, I've counted at least twice when the Eagles hold up a receiver so someone else can lay in a kill shot. That's dirty football. It's not gonna get called because the Cowboys is still churning for yardage, but it looks bad to me.
6. In the first half, it looked like Marion Barber was tiptoeing. He's running much better in the 2nd half.
7. It's a little surreal watching the game while my daughter sleeps upstairs. The monitor is on down here and every time she makes any noise, I'm afraid she's going to start crying and I'm going to have to go get her.
8. As I type this, it's 31-30 Cowboys. 5 mins to go in the third. How much crazier can it get?
9. Whoever has the ball last wins or after Romo throws another pic. (Typed after the Eagles score to go ahead 37-31.
10. I hate Bryant Westbrook. I wish he played for my team.
11. I like Felix Jones. Think he could become Bryant Westbrook? He's not there yet, but he can clearly play.
12. Early 4th: are they planning on throwing to TO again? How long has it been? Did he get a pass thrown his way in the 3rd? I mean, I love Jason Witten, but TO is your homerun hitter.
13. Again, after this drive that ends in a field goal and makes it 37-34 Eagles, where in the world is Terrell Owens?????
14. The defense gets the stop when they need it the most. The fans are the 12th man tonight. I've never heard a Texas Stadium crowd as loud as it is tonight. I think Dallas has a rep for being quiet fans, but not tonight.
15. The questions of the night: 3mins to go and I just put Erica down to sleep in her crib. Will she stay asleep for the final 3 mins?
16. 2nd guess time. Why can't you run the ball and force the Eagles to use their last time out? As Darrell Royal said, three things can happen when you throw the ball and two of them bad. Can the defense do it one more time?
17. MORE PENALTIES???!!!???
18. GREG ELLIS!!!!!! He's been one of favorite Cowboys since he came so many years ago. He's going to fall by the wayside of all the great Cowboys in their history, but he is a darn good one.
19. I've been complaining about the Cowboys all game, but I don't understand that last call by the Eagles. Weird play.
20. So we won. I can't believe it. To quote Tommy Boy: "I've seen alot of crazy stuff in my days, but that.....was.....awesome!" and yes Erica stayed asleep throughout the whole end of the game.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The end of Vince Young? and After Week 1 Predictions

Vince Young is my favorite non- Dallas Cowboy football player. In fact, since I don't have any real fandom connection to any of the current Cowboys, he might be my favorite football player. Don't get me wrong, I love the Cowboys, but I'm really more of a 90s Cowboys fan that really just rooting for the laundry. I think it's similar to what those who were fans of the Cowboys during the glory years of the 70s thought about the 90s Cowboys. They like Staubach, Dorsett, and Pearson better than Aikman, Smith, and Irvin. I like the latter better than Romo, Barber, and Owens. It's ok. I just matter of when the Cowboys were great and entered your brain.

But Vince Young entered demigod status with myself and every other Texas Longhorns fan with what he did in 2005. He almost singlehandedly beat who everyone on the whole wide world thought was the best college team of all time. He made everyone realize who should have won the Heisman trophy that year. Very rarely in football does one player raise a team to the level of national champion, but that is exactly what Vince Young did. He made Mack Brown look like a pretty good coach. And on a personal note, he also provided light in a very dark time for me, and when we moved to Nashville in 2006, I was so excited that Vince was coming to the Tennessee Titans. Chances are I would have liked the Titans anyway and since they're in a different conference I feel like I can get away with rooting for both the Titans and the Cowboys like I do the Rangers and Astros, but Vince's arrival in Nashville cemented that. And 2006 Vince was everything we all hoped he would be, leading the team to an 8-8 season after starting 0-5. He slowed flashes of the transcendent quarterback I thought he could be. Especially the Giants game when the Titans scored 24 points in the last 10 minutes including escaping the grasp of a Giants linebacker and running for a key 1st down. Barely missing the playoffs.

He seemed to take a step back in 2007. He didn't run as much and threw 19 pics and only 7 TDs. He did lead the Titans to the playoffs, a loss to the Chargers. But he started to show some immature behavior- getting benched in the preseason for violation of team rules, seeming to sulk after bad plays, and stuff like that. The team seemed to move better when back up Kerry Collins played. But when Offensive Coordinator, Norm Chow was fired it was generally assumed it was because of Vince, though whether he asked for it or it was just assumed that would be best for everyone. They brought in a new OC and everthing was better, or was it?

Now in 2008, he's looks barely passable during the preseason, scoring exactly no touchdowns. In fact, when the Raiders came, LaMarcus Russell looked much better throwing the ball. Then after throwing 2 pics, the last of which was of no fault of Vince but a great play by the defensive end, Jeff Fisher had to force him back out on the field then Vince seemed relieved when he hurt his knee. Now, out for 2-4 weeks, at least, there is some questions as to whether or not he even wants to play in the NFL. He can't take the sniping from the press and a few boos from the fans! I mean, come on! It's a good thing he wasn't drafted by New York or Philadelphia! Is this the end of Vince Young? It appears after all this that he is a mental midget who can't take it when there's the slightest bit of pressure. If that's the case, then he needs to go back to Houston and dig himself a hole and crawl in it. I hope he comes back and leaves this behind as an odd, but no-big-deal memory. But now, the Titans are getting Chris Simms. I know Chris Taylor is excited about it. I'm sure he'll be tivoing Titans games now.

Here are my picks. These are given after week 1, so Brady is gone and knee jerking is going on all around. Remember hate and love plays a big part in my pics.
AFC East: Bills- I hate the Pats and the Jets. Actually when I lived in NY, I prefered the Jets, but Brett Favre can't fall off the face of the earth for all I care. I'm stuck with the Bills.
AFC North: What a bunch of spare teams! Browns- underwhelming; Bengals- criminals, Ravens- rookie QB. Steelers it is.
AFC South: If the Jags had played any offense this last week against the Titans, I'd go with them. But since the Titans play better with Kerry Collins and have an awesome defense. I'm going with the Titans.
AFC West: I'm going with the Broncos, because I don't trust Norv Turner with the Chargers and the Titans wished they'd drafted home town kid, Jay Cutler.
WildCards: Colts and Chargers
NFC East: Cowboys. Like the Mavs after 2006, regular season doesn't matter. Only the playoffs matter.
NFC North: Packers. If nothing else to make Brett Favre look bad.
NFC South: Panthers. Can't come up with any snarky comments here.
NFC West: No champion. This division is so bad, the NFC should just let everyone from the NFC East in and leave out the NFC West. OK, I have to pick someone, so I'll go with the Cardinals.
Wildcards: Giants and the Eagles
Super Bowl: Cowboys over Steelers.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

2008 NFL predictions

I'm just getting my picks in under the wire (What? What Thursday night game?), so there's not too much time for analysis. Doesn't make me wrong, though.

NFC West: The Seattle Seahawks should win this division, but I don't think they'll be bragging too much about it.

NFC South: This is a tough one for me. New Orleans has the team to return to their 2006 form, but Tampa Bay could also challenge for the division title. I'm flipping a coin and saying the New Orleans Saints will win the South in a close one.

NFC North: If Brett Favre had gone to the Vikings, I might have picked them as Super Bowl contenders. With Jackson behind center, the Minnesota Vikings should still win a weak division, but I don't see them making too much noise in the playoffs.

NFC East: This is the toughest division in the NFL, and I see both wildcards coming from here, just like last year. The Dallas Cowboys, though, will be the division champs.

Wildcards: The Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants will make the playoffs out of the East, leaving the Washington Redskins as a good team sitting at home in January.

AFC West: The San Diego Chargers should have no trouble winning the West. Their biggest concern should be not getting too rusty heading into the playoffs.

AFC South: Jacksonville should give Manning and Co. a run, but in the end, the Indianapolis Colts are the best in the South.

AFC North: Cincinnati and Cleveland get a lot of attention, but the Pittsburgh Steelers will quietly win the North. Cincy still has too many headaches that will likely cost Marvin Lewis his job this year. As for Cleveland: have you seen their schedule?

AFC East: You heard it here first: the Buffalo Bills will win the East over the Pats, whose age, especially on defense, will catch them in the end.

Wildcards: Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots. Two solid runners-up who might take their divisions. Either way, these are the six teams you will see in the AFC side of the playoffs.

Super Bowl: The Cowboys should emerge from the NFC playoffs, but the AFC is harder to pick. The playoff teams there are so balanced that it is hard to differentiate them. I think the Chargers will be rusty going in, so they're out. Pittsburgh is a good team but a little short on talent. Buffalo is too young and New England is too old. Jacksonville is still a year away. So that means the Dallas Cowboys will earn their sixth Super Bowl trophy over the Indianapolis Colts in what should be a great game. Book it.