Dallas Cowboys: Tom Brady

Quick look at Cowboys' 2015 schedule

July, 16, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have not played a down of their 2014 schedule, so maybe it is a little early to look at the 2015 schedule.

If you don’t want to know, then click away. If you do, here goes:

In addition to the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, the Cowboys will welcome the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, New York Jets and an NFC West foe to AT&T Stadium in 2015.

The Cowboys non-division road games will be against the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and an NFC North foe.

The NFC West and NFC North foes will be determined by finish in the division.

This will likely be Tom Brady's one and only appearance in Arlington. The last time he visited was in 2007 when the Cowboys played at Texas Stadium. The Cowboys have to play an AFC foe on Thanksgiving in 2015, so could that be Brady and the Patriots? They played the Jets on Thanksgiving in 2007, winning, 34-3.

Insiders not high on Cowboys' future

July, 11, 2014
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IRVING, Texas – ESPN Insiders John Clayton, Mel Kiper, Louis Riddick and Mike Sando had the difficult task of coming up with power rankings for teams over the next three years.Insider

The Dallas Cowboys did not fare well. They came in at No. 28. Only the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders were worse.

Using five categories – roster, quarterback, draft, front office and coaching – the Cowboys checked in with 68.10 out of 100. The Seattle Seahawks checked in at No. 1 with 88.4 points.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/John FroschauerTony Romo's age could be a factor in the Cowboys' low ranking in the NFL Future Power Rankings.
To read the full article, you have to be an Insider, but here’s what they wrote about the Cowboys:
The overview: Dallas and Oakland are the only teams ranking among the NFL's five worst in four of the five categories. The Cowboys were 13th at QB. Tony Romo ranked tied for eighth in our recent "QB Tiers" project, but that was for the present. The future rankings project forward through 2016, when Romo will be 37 years old. How will his surgically repaired back hold up? Subtracting DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee from a defense that's already shaky appears devastating. That helps explain why the Dallas roster (beyond QB) ranked 29th. There aren't enough front-line players on defense. Salary-cap challenges persist. Only the Raiders and Dolphins ranked lower than the Cowboys in the front-office category, which is a strong statement of disapproval for how Jerry Jones runs the franchise. --Mike Sando

The dilemma: For Dallas, the real issue going forward is how successful it is at developing its draft picks on the defensive side of the ball, primarily 2012 draftees Morris Claiborne and Tyrone Crawford and 2014 draft picks DeMarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens. The offense is set, regardless of how easy it is to pile on Romo. Defense is where championships are won. --Louis Riddick

The youth movement: The Cowboys are betting on two rookies from the 2014 class to be exactly what they hope they can be. If Zack Martin performs well at guard after transitioning from playing mostly tackle at Notre Dame, the offensive line could be the best in the NFL -- no exaggeration. And second-rounder Lawrence needs to provide pressure for a defensive line that is really light on ceiling elsewhere. --Mel Kiper
Analysis: If they’re going to hold Romo’s age against the Cowboys, then why isn’t that a factor for Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees? Injury, too. Manning has a medical risk to him and is the oldest of the quarterbacks. Brady’s 25 touchdown passes in 2013 were the fewest he has had since 2006. Is that a sign of age catching up with him?

While I have said the Cowboys should have kept Ware, are the Insiders sure Ware’s best days aren’t behind him? He has been slowed by injuries as well the last few years. Can he be a consistent 12-15 sacks-per-year guy for the next three years?

I’m not so sure salary-cap challenges persist. They’ll be in really good shape in 2015 and should be in great shape in 2016, all while being able to keep Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant off the market, and perhaps DeMarco Murray, too. The days of the Cowboys doing huge deals for players they don’t know, I believe, will be few and far between.

The Cowboys have re-tooled this roster in the last three years. They have tried to rebuild – without using that word – and win at the same time. Where I agree the most is the development of defensive players. They need Claiborne, Crawford and Lawrence to play at a high level this year. They also need guys such as Bruce Carter, Brandon Carr and whoever plays safety next to Barry Church to play much better than they played last year.

I was a little more optimistic in my three-year take on the Cowboys, while using the last three years as a template.

Some of this is the benefit of the doubt. I get it. Those teams and quarterbacks have earned the benefit of the doubt. The Cowboys haven’t earned anything.

I just don’t think they earned a No. 28 future ranking, either.

What QB tier is Tony Romo on?

July, 2, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- When it comes to ranking quarterbacks, the debates can be endless and sometimes pointless, but Mike Sando took the question to people inside the NFL with his latest ESPN Insider piece. Insider

Romo
It might surprise some of you that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo finished tied for eighth in the tier-rankings of 26 general managers, former GMs, pro personnel people, coordinators, head coaches, position coaches and an executive.

Four players tied for the top spot in Sando’s rankings, using a 1 for the best at the position and a 5 for the worst. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees shared the top spot. Andrew Luck was fifth.

Romo checked in after Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger and tied with Russell Wilson and Eli Manning in the second tier.

Here’s what Sando wrote and the insiders had to say about Romo:
T-8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (2.23 average rating)

A few evaluators questioned whether Romo had the mind-set to play at the highest level consistently. It's a familiar refrain in league circles, a feeling that Romo is an undisciplined QB playing for an undisciplined organization with a poorly constructed roster.

"People want to knock him," one GM responded, "but the guy has talent and is one of the top 10 starters in the league."

Romo is 34 years old and coming off back surgery, but he still could be in line for a "monster" season, one evaluator said. "But I absolutely believe they will not win big with him. As soon as he decides it's a clutch moment, his brain goes elsewhere. He loses focus and tries to create something."




What’s funny is that the GM and evaluator have the same thoughts of those who love Romo or loathe Romo who are not on the inside. Pete Prisco of CBS Sports went so far as to call Romo “underrated” in his yearly rankings, which drew the ire of some.

The “clutch” talk has been a big thing around Romo since the bobbled snap in 2006 against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs. That talk is always followed up with Romo having the best fourth-quarter passer rating in NFL history (102.4) and his 20 come-from-behind wins.

Those numbers aren’t hollow, although with one playoff win to his credit that’s what his detractors will say.

That’s why this debate is a good one. Both sides can declare victory with their points. If Romo were to ever win a Super Bowl -- or perhaps just get to one -- then the perception would change entirely.

Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 2

June, 14, 2014
Jun 14
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IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:

• When the Cowboys might draft a successor to Tony Romo
• Dead money in 2015
• Special teams' job opportunities
• Can the Cowboys be the Mavericks?
Brandon Carr's contract

If you want to see Part 1, click here.

Away we go:
@toddarcher: If Romo remains healthy and plays well, then I think you'll see it happen in 2016. The Cowboys are all-in on Romo. They said as much when they skipped on taking Johnny Manziel. They don't believe in drafting a developmental quarterback, in part because you might be developing him for another team and, truthfully, quarterbacks taken in Rounds 3-7 hardly ever pan out. For every Russell Wilson or Tom Brady, there is a ton more guys like Mike Teel and Stephen McGee. Now, if Romo cannot make it through the season healthy, then I can see the Cowboys going after a quarterback early in 2015. Kyle Orton may or may not play here in 2014, but he is out of a contract in 2015. Brandon Weeden is doing some nice things right now, but I don't think they view him as a potential starter down the road. If you're looking for a franchise quarterback, the odds say take him early. I believe when the Cowboys are ready to move on from Romo, that's when they start to look.

@toddarcher: I wrote about this a few months ago. In Miles Austin, Orton and possibly Doug Free, you're looking at about $11.3 million in dead money in 2015. Austin was a June 1 cut this year, which pushed money into next year's cap. Orton has two voidable years left on his deal that will come forward. Free also has two voidable years left, but the Cowboys might try to extend his deal, which would take away that dead money. The Cowboys have done a good job of cleaning up their cap the past couple of years and will be in good shape in 2015 and excellent shape in 2016. But that doesn't mean they will go crazy in free agency spending money on players they don't know. I really think they have learned their lesson that they don't get their money's worth.

@toddarcher: Cody Mandell will have a chance, but I think he'll clearly have to beat out Chris Jones over the summer. He didn't do it in the organized team activities. For some reason it takes young punters time to get accustomed to the NFL game. Maybe it's the directional kicking that is more prevalent. Jones has a strong leg. Left-footed punters can be tricky for returners because of the spin on the ball. He's also a good holder, and that's important for Dan Bailey. The Cowboys' special teams were good last year. I don't see any changeover from the specialists unless Mandell knocks out the champ, so to speak.

@toddarcher: I'm not sure which way I should take this. If you mean the Cowboys will be the last wild-card team, then I can see that happening, but until I see more visual evidence in training camp, I'm sticking with 8-8 and missing the playoffs. If you mean, the Cowboys' offense will have to carry the day, then, yes, I'd say true. There are just too many questions on defense to expect anything great. The offense, however, has the tools necessary to be one of the best in the league. Maybe I'm too optimistic on this, but I think Scott Linehan will be really good. I think he'll be more aggressive than Jason Garrett or Bill Callahan. I think he will devise ways for Dez Bryant and Jason Witten to beat double teams. All that being said, if the defense can't be at least a little better and get into the low 20s in rankings, then I don't think the Cowboys will make the playoffs.

@toddarcher: He is guaranteed $1 million this year now that he has been on the roster the first day of the league year. That's the last of the guaranteed money. Yes, he will be gone if he doesn't play well this season. If the Cowboys were to cut him in 2015, they would save only roughly $550,000. If they made him a June 1 cut, then it would free up $8 million in space in 2015, but Carr would count $7.4 million against the cap in 2016. To me, it would be better to not spread the hit over two years even though there wouldn't be much savings. I'll give Carr credit for how he has approached this offseason. He knows it is a big one for him. He has changed his approach to the offseason and dropped some weight in hopes of being faster. If he plays solidly, like he did in 2012, then maybe the Cowboys approach him with a pay cut. If he plays great, then I think you might see them restructure the deal potentially to open up cap room. 

Where does Tony Romo rank all time?

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
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IRVING, Texas -- The NFL offseasons are built for rankings, top-10 lists, five-best signings, five-worst signings.

SportsNation

Which quarterback would you rather have?

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    35%

Discuss (Total votes: 13,140)

Chase Stuart at footballperspective.com has ranked NFL quarterbacks in history a few times and his recent ranking has Tony Romo ranked fairly high all time and among current quarterbacks.

You can read about the methodology used in the rankings here and see the entire list here.

Romo is ranked No. 23 all time. Roger Staubach checked in at No. 14. Where is Troy Aikman? He came in at No. 38. The last time these rankings were put together Staubach was No. 15, Romo No. 30 and Aikman No. 42.

Among the active quarterbacks, Romo is behind Peyton Manning (No. 1), Tom Brady (No. 2), Drew Brees (No. 7), Aaron Rodgers (No. 16) and Philip Rivers (No. 21). The next active quarterback after Romo is Ben Roethlisberger (No. 32), and he’s won two Super Bowls.

It’s an interesting look and offers up debates that make the “greatest quarterback of all time” debate so lively.

Comparing Cowboys, Pats take on QBs

May, 26, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was one of Peter King’s subjects in his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column, and there are a couple of nuggets worth relating to the Dallas Cowboys.

Brady
The Patriots took quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the draft's second round and he is viewed as Brady's successor. Brady turns 37 in training camp and has been the starter since early in the 2001 season.

I’m sure Ryan Mallett was viewed by some as Brady’s potential successor when New England took him in the third round in 2011, but he has played little as he enters a contract year.

“I had a pretty good idea we’d take a quarterback,” Brady told King. “Coach Belichick doesn't care who the quarterback is here. He’s always going to play the guy who he thinks gives him the best chance to win. It’s not my role to choose players here, thankfully. And this is not the first time they’ve taken another quarterback either. There’s no entitlement in the NFL. I don’t expect to be given anything. I just hope I’m the one most entitled to play that position for a long time here.”

It was different from how the Cowboys worked.

The Cowboys had a chance to select Johnny Manziel in the draft's first round on May 8 but passed in part because they knew the type of circus the aura of Johnny Football would bring once Tony Romo has a poor throw/series/quarter/half/game/month.

The Cowboys even informed Romo before the draft they would not take Manziel.

Romo
The Cowboys also have a sizable investment in Romo with the six-year, $108 million extension he signed last year. They ended up passing on quarterbacks altogether in the draft. Part of their reasoning is their belief in Romo and part of it is they don’t want to develop a quarterback for another team.

The Cowboys’ thinking on not picking Manziel was not incorrect. It had the opportunity to be a big distraction made even bigger because of the national attention the Cowboys receive. Roger Staubach saw the potential pitfalls of a Manziel/Cowboys marriage and suggested a quarterback controversy can tear a team apart.

The other quote from Brady that stood out had to do with his offseason work.

SportsNation

How many more seasons will Tony Romo play?

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Discuss (Total votes: 5,645)

“Sometimes we’ll be watching tape and [offensive coordinator] Josh McDaniels will say to me, 'What happened on that play?' And I’ll say, ‘I missed it. I just missed it.' Throwing a football is a very, very tough to thing to do consistently well. Other sports too. You think when LeBron tries a three-pointer he’s aiming for the back of the rim, hopes he hits the back of the rim? Of course not. On an approach shot in golf, are you trying to miss by four feet? No -- you want to get it in, or within two inches. That’s why, to me, it’s so important to work in the offseason perfecting mechanics. Say you’re off 1 percent on your mechanics of throwing in one week, and you don’t fix it. Over four weeks, if you keep going, that’s 4 percent that you’re off. And you say, ‘Why am I not throwing the ball as crisply as I need to? I was the 199th pick in the draft for a reason. I need to maximize my efficiency, my mechanics and my reps to be sure I stay on top of my game.”

In talking to Romo last week, he referenced the importance of working in the offseason. Last year he could not take part in the organized team activities or the minicamp because of surgery to remove a cyst from his back. While his final 2013 stats -- 31 touchdowns, 10 interceptions in 15 starts -- look really good, Romo did not have the same freedom of movement that he had in previous years. His 7.2 yards per attempt were a career low (the previous low had been 7.6).

Was that a product of missing the offseason? Perhaps.

Romo said he is close to 100 percent and will take part in the OTAs, which start Tuesday, and June minicamp, but be on a “pitch count.” He likes the offseason because he can tinker with his mechanics to speed up his delivery or footwork. He also has his third different playcaller in as many years in Scott Linehan.

There is a difference between watching and doing when you are learning new things. Last year he had to watch. Now he can do.

"It's amazing how much you can improve in an offseason as an athlete, a football player, a quarterback," Romo said last week. "I think one of the great joys is attacking your craft and being a better player than when you left. This offseason has started off that way."

Like '07, Cowboys affirm Romo love

May, 9, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys reaffirmed their love of QB Tony Romo on Thursday night when they passed on selecting Johnny Manziel in the 2014 NFL draft.

In 2007, they made a very similar move.

Romo
Back then, there were questions about Romo even after he took the NFL by storm and lifted the Cowboys to the playoffs in 2006.

Was he truly a franchise quarterback? Would a new coaching staff see him the same way the previous coaching staff saw him? Would there be any aftereffects from the bobbled snap in the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks?

The Cowboys had searched forever, it seemed, for Troy Aikman’s successor. They tried Quincy Carter. They tried baseball players, such as Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson. They tried veterans, such as Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe.

In 10 games, Romo threw for 2,903 yards with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He went to the Pro Bowl.

He was also in the final year of his contract. Would the Cowboys make him a mega-offer with such a short track record?

Staring at the Cowboys as they were about make the 22nd pick in the '07 draft was Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. Nobody expected him to be there. He was the Cowboys’ highest-rated quarterback. Forgetting what we know now, he had the stamp of approval from Charlie Weis, a coach who worked with Tom Brady. Quinn put up some strong numbers.

On the clock, the Cowboys traded out of the first round when they secured the Browns' second-round choice in 2007 and their first-rounder in 2008. Eventually they moved back into the first round in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to take Anthony Spencer with the 26th pick.

The Cowboys affirmed their love for Romo. Seven games into the 2007 season, they signed him to a six-year, $67.5 million deal that included $30 million guaranteed.

About 14 months ago, the Cowboys reaffirmed their love for Romo with a six-year, $108 million extension that included $55 million.

Like in 2007, he faces some questions in 2014. Some are football-related. He has not led the Cowboys to the playoffs since 2009. He has a 25-28 record since the beginning of the 2010 season. There are a lot of questions about his health because he is coming off his second back surgery in less than a year. He turned 34 last month.

But just like seven years ago, Jerry Jones backed Romo once again.

“I think that Tony has everything to do with this decision,” Jones said of Dallas' selecting OT Zack Martin over Manziel. “We have a big commitment to Tony. We feel that anything we look at at quarterback would be down the road and in the future in the development of that quarterback. If you look at the difficult dynamic, giving up this player [Martin] that really enhances what we can do on offense and what Tony can do for the future, just on a pretty quick consideration [taking Manziel] didn’t make sense. That was the driving force behind it.”
IRVING, Texas -- Because Tony Romo is 34 and because he is coming off his second back surgery in less than a year, just about everybody believes it is time for the Dallas Cowboys to find his replacement.

ESPN NFL draft Insider Todd McShay said it. Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said it. A lot of fans have said it. A lot of others have said it.

If the Cowboys draft a quarterback, then it must be early in the draft. At least, that’s the general philosophy of Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery when it comes to taking quarterbacks.

"I just did a little study. It's very interesting," Emery said in this ESPNChicago story. "That developmental theory doesn't hold a whole lot of water. There's entire classes of quarterbacks, since '06, I went back and looked at from Jay [Cutler's] on -- when people say developmental quarterbacks, OK, so who has gotten developed? There isn't a single quarterback after the third round since 2006 that has been a long-term starter. So you're either developing thirds, and most of them have been wiped out of the league. So to get a quality quarterback, you've got to draft them high. That 2012 class is a blip on the radar that's unusual, highly unusual.

"Most of the starters in this league come from the first and second round. So that's where you need to take a quarterback. So when you talk about quarterback every year, they have to be somebody that you truly believe will beat out the second and third quarterback that you perceive on your roster. And if not, history shows that you shouldn't make that pick."

From 2006 to 2013, there were 59 quarterbacks drafted in Rounds 3-7. Only two are top-end starters: Russell Wilson (third round, 2012, Seattle Seahawks) and Nick Foles(third round, 2012, Philadelphia Eagles). And Foles might have more to prove, but he was Pro Bowl-worthy in 2013.

The best of the rest: Bruce Gradkowski (sixth round, 2006); Matt Flynn (seventh round, 2008); Curtis Painter (sixth round, 2009); Ryan Mallett (third round, 2011); Kirk Cousins (fourth round, 2012). Other considerations: Colt McCoy (third round, 2010); T.J. Yates (fifth round, 2011); Tyrod Taylor (sixth round, 2011).

The odds are stacked against a team looking to develop a quarterback. Teams are not a lock to carry a third quarterback on the 53-man roster these days. The Cowboys have not done it since 2011, when they had Stephen McGee (fourth round, 2009). There just aren’t enough snaps to go around in a season for a quarterback to develop. The pressure on coaches to win means they want guys who can help carry games if a starter goes down, part of the reason why the Cowboys have gone with Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna and Kyle Orton as Romo's backups.

Maybe the Cowboys will draft a quarterback in the middle to late rounds this week. The odds of him turning into Wilson, Foles or Tom Brady (sixth round, 2000) are remote. He’s more likely to be Andre Woodson (sixth round, 2008), Mike Teel (sixth round, 2009), Jonathan Crompton (fifth round, 2010) or Nate Enderle (fifth round, 2011).

Where do Staubach, Aikman rank on QB list?

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
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IRVING, Texas – Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is one of the finest football writers around, and before Super Bowl XLVIII he ranked the top 25 quarterbacks he has seen play.

Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman made the list. So did one-time Cowboy Randall Cunningham.

Joe Montana was at the top of McGinn’s list and it’s hard to argue that spot. The rest of the top five was Johnny Unitas, Tom Brady, Dan Marino and Peyton Manning.

McGinn did not have any set criteria. He called some of it just a “gut feeling.” He is not afraid to make some decisions others might think are off, like having Ken Anderson check in at No. 14 and Donovan McNabb come in at No. 21.

Brady and Manning were two of the four active quarterbacks on his list. Aaron Rodgers was not on his list, but Ben Roethlisberger (No. 18) and Drew Brees (No. 25) were.

As for Staubach and Aikman, they were ranked Nos. 10 and 19. Staubach was one spot behind Dan Fouts. Aikman not only checked in after Roethlisberger, but also Kurt Warner. He ranked one spot ahead of Steve McNair.

Thoughts?

NFLN Survey/Super Bowl QB: Cowboys

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
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The answers came quickly and were the same two quarterbacks the 10 Dallas Cowboys anonymously quizzed and answered for ESPN’s NFL Nation survey regarding which quarterback they would want with the Super Bowl on the line.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady got seven votes. Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning received three. In the overall vote, Brady, with his three Super Bowl titles, was the winner (128 votes) and Manning, with one title and the chance for a second Sunday, was second (86 votes).

Fourteen quarterbacks received votes in the survey, but Tony Romo was not one of them.

Until Romo delivers the Cowboys deep into the playoffs or maybe even to a Super Bowl, he will have to live with the perception that he can’t get it done when it matters most, even if the fourth-quarter numbers say otherwise.

Once that happens, then Romo would receive votes the way Super Bowl winners Aaron Rodgers (32), Drew Brees (21), Ben Roethlisberger (20), Eli Manning (nine) and Joe Flacco (one) did.
Romo remains the NFL’s highest rated quarterback in the fourth quarter (102.4) with 66 touchdown passes and 26 interceptions. He has 20 come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter or overtime in his career. He had five in 2012 and two last season.

With a herniated disk causing pain down his leg, Romo beat the Washington Redskins with a last-minute touchdown pass to DeMarco Murray as the Cowboys overcame a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to win.

He would have surgery less than a week later and miss the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Cowboys vs. new coaches in 2014

January, 16, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- With the NFL's game of musical chairs involving head coaches just about over -- except for the uber-patient Cleveland Browns -- let's look at the effect the new names in new spots will have on the Dallas Cowboys.

The Cowboys will face three teams with new head coaches in 2014: Jay Gruden with the Washington Redskins, Bill O'Brien with the Houston Texans and Ken Whisenhunt with the Tennessee Titans.

In 2013, the Cowboys went 1-4 against teams with new coaches. The lone win was the October meeting against Chip Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles, but they returned the favor in the more-important Week 17 rematch that won the NFC East.

The Cowboys also lost to Kansas City's Andy Reid, San Diego's Mike McCoy and Chicago's Marc Trestman.

Gruden and O'Brien will be head coaches for the first time in the NFL. Whisenhunt had a six-year run with the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cowboys went 0-3 against Whisenhunt. Two of the losses came in overtime and the third was by a point. And they were three of the strangest losses. In 2008, they lost on a blocked punt for a touchdown in overtime. In 2010 they lost in part because David Buehler missed an extra point. In 2011 they lost in overtime in a game in which many believe Jason Garrett iced Dan Bailey at the end of regulation.

(Personal aside: I don't believe that was the case. The play clock was running down and Garrett called the timeout at the request of special-teams coaches Joe DeCamillis and Chris Boniol. Bailey's first miss of that season at San Francisco came with the operation rushed because of the play clock. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.)

O'Brien was the New England Patriots' offensive coordinator in 2011 when Tom Brady beat the Cowboys on a final-minute touchdown pass 20-16. The Texans have the top pick in the draft and a team that could be in line for a quick turnaround.

Gruden was the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive coordinator when Bailey won the game on a last-second field goal after Andy Dalton was limited to 206 yards passing. The Redskins folded under Mike Shanahan and have a ton of needs, but the return of a healthy and motivated Robert Griffin III could change their fortunes quickly.

The Cowboys could have six more games against teams that will lose assistant coaches in 2014.

As of Thursday, the only assistant the Cowboys have lost is Boniol, who oversaw one of the best kickers in the NFL. Maybe that will change too. Maybe.

Why Tony Romo doesn't wear a glove

December, 6, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Peyton Manning has worn gloves since the temperatures dropped. Ben Roethlisberger wears them too. On occasion, Tom Brady has worn gloves to combat the cold.

Tony Romo has worn gloves once in a regular season. It came in the 2007 finale against the Washington Redskins, and he came out in the second half of the 27-6 loss with the Cowboys having clinched home-field advantage for the playoffs.

And he won't do it Monday at Soldier Field, despite temperatures expected to be in the teens.

"I think you feel comfortable throwing in the conditions or you need something to help you, I think guys wear a glove because they don't feel strongly with the grip that they have," Romo said. "That's just part of it. It can help some guys. Other guys might not need it as much."

Having grown up in Burlington, Wis., and playing collegiately at Eastern Illinois, Romo has history playing in the cold. With the Cowboys he is 2-4 in games colder than 40 degrees, beating the New York Giants on Nov. 24 at MetLife Stadium.

"I played a lot of our games in cold weather and I think you become comfortable with it over time," Romo said. "The more technically sound and fundamental you are with your throwing motion, you can neutralize that stuff and I think it can be an advantage for a football team."

Five Wonders: A wild-card possibility?

November, 26, 2013
11/26/13
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IRVING, Texas -- It's a short week for the Dallas Cowboys with the Oakland Raiders visiting on Thanksgiving, but we're not shortening Five Wonders.

It's still five and we're still wondering.

On to the Wonders:
  • The easiest way for the Cowboys to make the playoffs is to win the NFC East. With their 4-0 division record, the Cowboys appear to be in control there. But I wonder if they could sneak into a wild-card spot depending on how things play out. The Carolina Panthers (8-3) and San Francisco 49ers (7-4) hold the wild-card spots right now. The Panthers have two games left with the New Orleans Saints, whom they trail by a game in the NFC South race. San Francisco has an easier schedule the rest of the way and maybe Monday's win is a sign of things to come, but it is scuffling more than people expected. The Arizona Cardinals (7-4) play two teams with losing records the rest of the way and still have the Seattle Seahawks and 49ers. The Cowboys have head-to-head matchups against the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers in December that could aid their wild-card possibilities should the Philadelphia Eagles remain hot. Of course, it all could come down to Dec. 29 at AT&T Stadium against the Eagles for a third straight win-or-go-home game.
  • Because the Cowboys did not employ a dime defense at the start of the season, they felt they were safe in carrying only four cornerbacks -- Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Orlando Scandrick and B.W. Webb -- on the 53-man roster. They kept Micah Pellerin on the practice squad as insurance and needed Pellerin for a game. Now I wonder if keeping only four is catching up to them. Pellerin was cut last week and claimed by the Tennessee Titans, which forced the Cowboys to sign Sterling Moore on Monday now that Claiborne is out with a hamstring injury. Webb is OK in small doses, but it sure seems as if quarterbacks know when he is in the game, doesn't it? The Cowboys viewed Moore mostly as a slot player and did not believe he was worth keeping over Webb, a fourth-round pick. Until Claiborne got hurt, they were right, but the Cowboys now find themselves hoping Moore is in good shape and can pick up the defense quickly after nearly three months out of the game. Claiborne could be looking at a two-game absence again, if not three depending on the severity of his new hamstring injury.
  • I wonder if we'll see more Gavin Escobar and Lance Dunbar down the stretch. Jerry Jones made it a point of emphasis during the bye week that he wanted to see Dunbar get some snap. Dunbar had eight against the Giants and had 20 yards on three carries. His 18-yard run was the longest by a Dallas runner this season not named DeMarco Murray. He offers up a change of pace for this offense. He also caught two passes for 26 yards. So of the eight snaps, he delivered 46 yards, which is not a bad ratio. Escobar played in 12 snaps as the Cowboys used their “13 personnel” more and also had him split some of the No. 2 tight end work with James Hanna. Escobar also had his first catch since Oct. 6. He needs time to develop but he can be a decent outlet in the passing game because of his ability to make plays on the ball.
  • Sean Lee has plenty of incentive to get back on the field. First and foremost in his mind is to help the Cowboys win games. Lee is the best defender the Cowboys have, but he has missed all but one snap in the last seven quarters with a hamstring injury. He would like to play Thursday against the Oakland Raiders, but given the short week of preparation and the need for him to be healthy for the rest of the season, the Cowboys will most likely play it conservative. There is also a financial incentive. I wonder if Lee hits on the 80 percent play-time escalator in his contract that would boost his 2015 base salary from $2.5 million to $4 million. If Lee plays in 80 percent of the snaps this season or next, he would get the extra $1.5 million. Before getting hurt, Lee played in at least 97 percent of the snaps in eight of the Cowboys' first nine games. He played in 78 percent of the snaps in the blowout win against the St. Louis Rams and just 15 snaps against New Orleans before getting hurt. He has missed 127 snaps in the past two games. If he doesn't play against the Raiders, that could be another 60 snaps. The Cowboys are on pace for 1,123 defensive snaps this season and Lee would have to play in 898 snaps to reach 80 percent. I believe he gets it but he can't have any setbacks.
  • I wonder if Tony Romo makes the Pro Bowl. The voting rules have changed. It is no longer the top three quarterbacks per conference. It is six for the league. It's safe to think Peyton Manning and Drew Brees will get in. Tom Brady might not be having the typical Tom Brady season but he's still Tom Brady, so he should get voted in as well. Aaron Rodgers will miss his fourth straight game on Thursday with a broken collarbone, so he's not a lock. Seattle's Russell Wilson has the NFL's best record and good numbers. So where does Romo start to fit in? He's fourth in touchdown passes with 23. He is seventh in passer rating. He has cut back on his interceptions. He has directed two final-minute drives to lead the Cowboys to their last two wins. Who else could be in the mix? San Diego's Philip Rivers will be in there. Philadelphia's Nick Foles has 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. He could be there too. Remember, the two quarterbacks from the Super Bowl teams won't play in the game, so that adds to the pool. If Romo does not make it, you'd have to wonder if there is a Cowboys' bias. I kid. I kid.

Five Wonders: Season on line Sunday?

November, 19, 2013
11/19/13
9:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Refreshed off the bye week, Five Wonders is back and ready for action.

We'll start with this mini-wonder: Does anybody more than wonder whether the Dec. 29 meeting between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium will be to win the NFC East?

I wonder it, but only if the Cowboys beat the New York Giants this week.

On to the wonders:

SportsNation

Who will have a bigger impact in Sunday's game vs. the Giants?

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    27%
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    73%

Discuss (Total votes: 9,336)

• I wonder if the season is on the line Sunday against the New York Giants. The Cowboys would still be alive because of the state of the NFC East, but at 5-6 and reeling it would be hard to see a turnaround. They would have lost three of four and the only win came on a 90-yard drive in the final minute against the Minnesota Vikings. The Cowboys carry emotional baggage with them no matter how much Jason Garrett attempts to keep them in the present. Injuries have piled up again. Questions about the scheme have rumbled on both sides of the ball. There is a lot on the line this week. The Giants have won four in a row to claw back into the race after a 0-6 start. Their wins have not come against the best quarterbacks but winning breeds confidence and the Giants have confidence. Maybe the feeling comes from the 32-point loss to the New Orleans Saints before the bye, but the Cowboys sure seem fragile mentally right now as well as physically.

[+] EnlargeBill O'Brien
Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times via Getty ImagesIf the Cowboys fail to make the playoffs this season, Penn State coach Bill O'Brien could be an interesting choice to replace Jason Garrett.
• I don't believe owner and general manager Jerry Jones wants to replace Garrett. I truly believe he wants Garrett to be the Cowboys' head coach for a long time. But if the Cowboys don't make the playoffs this season, it would not surprise me if Jones made a move. That would be four straight seasons without a playoff appearance. Jones can sell anything, but selling a status quo wouldn't be easy. One thing I don't wonder about is if Lovie Smith would get an interview. I believe he would. But here's another guy I wonder about: Penn State coach Bill O'Brien. I don't know all of the particulars of the buyout at Penn State, but O'Brien was tempted by the NFL last season. His background with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady gives him a plus, and how he has handled the mess that has enveloped Penn State gives him a few more pluses. His time running the Patriots' offense, however, means more to me. The Cowboys drafted Gavin Escobar to be more of a "12 personnel" team but the Cowboys have not been creative enough in getting people involved. They are running the same plays they did with Anthony Fasano and Martellus Bennett as the second tight end and they were not able to produce. O'Brien made the Rob Gronkowski-Aaron Hernandez package work well with Brady. Do I believe O'Brien would get an interview? I don't know any of it, but I would have him on the list. Not that Jones would listen to me.

• The Cowboys drafted Kyle Wilber with the idea that he could play outside linebacker in a 3-4. With the move to the 4-3, he was moved to defensive end. Now he is playing some outside linebacker again because of an injury to Justin Durant. I wonder if Wilber is a man without a position. When Anthony Spencer went down in training camp with a knee injury, Wilber got the first look and then saw Ben Bass take some of his snaps. Then it was George Selvie who took them later on. When DeMarcus Ware got hurt in the season, Wilber took over but then saw Jarius Wynn take over the starting spot. Wilber always was a tweener, but the coaches have yet to feel like he can handle the full-time duty. If they did, they wouldn't be moving him around so much, especially because the defensive end spot is much more valued in this scheme than strong side linebacker.

• I wonder if we'll see a more engaged Bruce Carter now that Sean Lee is out of the lineup. There is no other way to say it then this: Carter has been a disappointment this season. The Cowboys did not need him to be Derrick Brooks in this defense, but they needed him to be productive. He had two sacks in the first two games. He had a pass deflection and a quarterback pressure. He has just two pressures and a pass deflection in the last eight games. He has one tackle for loss. The weak-side linebacker spot is designed to be the playmaker in this defense. When the Cowboys lost Lee last year to a toe injury, Carter stepped up his game before an elbow injury KO'd him for the year. The Cowboys need that Carter and not the Carter that ended the New Orleans game. We can pick on just about everybody on defense from that game, but Carter was ready for that game to end sooner than it did.

Back in June I wondered if people were sleeping on just how effective Lance Dunbar would be when the season started. I pegged him in for 30 catches out of the backfield. I saw his speed and elusiveness as being a big part of a revamped offense. I was wrong. While not as big a disappointment as Carter, Dunbar has not been able to deliver on offense. He has four catches for 21 yards and 15 carries for 48 yards. Some of it is injury. Some of it is ball security. Some of it is scheme. Jerry Jones said he wanted to see Dunbar more involved. Bill Callahan said he would like to get Dunbar more involved. Sometimes there's just not enough of the football to go around. Dunbar has seen his role taken by Cole Beasley to a degree because of the use of the "empty” package. Maybe things change in the final six games, but I would be surprised.

Why the Cowboys value Kyle Orton

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
2:30
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- As the Green Bay Packers ponder life without Aaron Rodgers for at least a little while, the Dallas Cowboys are grateful to have Kyle Orton.

Orton
He is an expensive insurance policy, but do you think the Packers would like to have more than Seneca Wallace in the wings right about now with Rodgers out with a hurt collarbone?

The Cowboys signed Orton to a three-year, $10.5 million deal with a $5 million signing bonus in 2012. He has not thrown a pass this year and the Cowboys hope he doesn’t have to.

Teams with high-priced starting quarterbacks, like Rodgers, find it difficult to commit much financially to the backup. They gamble. Indianapolis did it for years with Peyton Manning, and now the Broncos are going with a youngster behind Manning in Brock Osweiler. The Patriots are doing the same behind Tom Brady with Ryan Mallett.

Resources are precious in a salary-cap league. If you committed mega millions to the starter, it’s hard to commit millions to the backup. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett talks about how the team values the quarterback position. He’s not just talking about the starter. He’s talking about the backup, too. That’s why the Cowboys have had Brad Johnson and Jon Kitna as backups under Garrett’s watch before Orton.

Orton played in one game last year, completing nine of 10 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Chicago Bears.

He has started 69 of the 72 games he has played in his career. He has 81 touchdown passes and 57 interceptions.

Would the Cowboys' offense be the same if they lost Tony Romo? Of course not, but they are better prepared to handle an injury to their starting quarterback than most teams.

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