Dallas Cowboys: Bill Bates

Family, friends say goodbye to Coach Joe

April, 17, 2012
FLOWER MOUND, Texas – The Cowboys said their goodbyes to their former special teams coach, Joe Avezzano, who passed away from a heart attack April 5 in Milan, Italy.

Among those in attendance at Tuesday's service were owner and general manager Jerry Jones, Hall of Famers Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith and Jason Garrett, Norv Turner, Jackie Sherrill and R.C. Slocum. Players from all of the Cowboys’ eras showed up, including Preston Pearson, Bill Bates, Russell Maryland, Darren Woodson, Dexter Coakley and Randal Williams.

Current Cowboys assistants Joe DeCamillis, Skip Peete and Chris Boniol, who also played for Avezzano, were in attendance. Former Cowboys assistants Robert Ford and Tony Wise were also on hand, as were any behind-the-scenes co-workers.

A crowd of roughly 200 attended the hour-long ceremony at Trietsch United Methodist Church and were treated to moving eulogies from Brad Sham, the radio voice of the Cowboys, and Avezzano’s son, Tony.

Avezzano, 68, died while working out on a treadmill. He had been in Italy coaching the Milan Seamen of the Italian Football League.

He helped the Cowboys to three Super Bowl wins in the 1990s, staying with the team from 1990-2002. He became the first coach of the Dallas Desperados of the Arena Football League before returning to the NFL with Turner in Oakland.

Bill Bates doesn’t remember the date or even the opponent, but he vividly recalls being stunned as he came to the Cowboys’ sideline and saw blood trickling out of the gash on special teams coach Joe Avezzano’s forehead.

Avezzano brushed it off when Bates asked what happened, saying he’d tell the special teams captain about it after the game. Avezzano got bandaged up and coached the rest of the game.

“Don’t worry about it, but you head-butted me,” Avezzano told Bates in the locker room later, explaining that it happened while celebrating a big play and adding that he didn’t want Bates to be distracted by having injured his coach.

Bates told that story after Avezzano’s sudden death Thursday because he thought it epitomized what made Coach Joe special. Players simply loved playing for Avezzano, who won three Super Bowl rings during his 13-year tenure as the Cowboys’ special teams coach.

It’s one thing to motivate Bates, who was established as one of the NFL’s elite special teams players before spending his last eight seasons playing for Avezzano, to cover punts and kickoffs and do other dirty-work tasks on special teams. Avezzano was such a master motivator that key starters, such as safety Darren Woodson and linebacker Ken Norton Jr., lobbied to stay on special teams.

“Joe had that ability to have everyone’s attention,” Bates said. “Not only have their attention, but they wanted to play for him, wanted to succeed for him, wanted to give their best for the coach.

“He was able to be an old-school coach, kick your ass, cuss at you. Then next time you saw him, he’d hug your neck. You knew he cared about you and wanted to get the best out of you. … He had the ability to motivate players to want to play for him and want to make his special teams the best in the league.”

Bill Bates hit hard by Coach Joe's passing

April, 5, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- When Joe Avezzano joined Jimmy Johnson’s staff in 1990, Bill Bates knew the Cowboys were getting a good coach.

As a freshman at Tennessee, Bates was coached by Avezzano.

News of Avezzano’s death has hit Bates hard.

“We were lifelong friends from my days at the University of Tennesse. He coached there for a year so I knew him from my freshman year,” Bates said. “Having him come to Dallas and be the special teams coach in the early ‘90s was a blessing to me. To have somebody I knew I could actually help in the coaching process and feel truly like a player-coach on the field, it was great getting that coaching experience never knowing I was going to play as long as I did.”

Bates played for the Cowboys from 1983-97, overlapping with Avezzano for eight seasons, including three Super Bowl wins.

Bates was one of the NFL’s pre-eminent special teams’ players and Avezzano became one of the best and most popular special teams coaches.

“Those kinds of coaches that have the ability to motivate players and do it in a way when sometimes you need to have a coach in your face yelling at you and a few plays later you’ve got a coach that’s hugging your neck, that’s the difference between old-school coaching and the way coach Avezzano coached,” Bates said. “You knew coach Avezzano wasn’t just worried about his job, but also the life of people. Anytime you were around him, man, you always had a smile on your face. He was always bringing laughter even in the tough times.

“For me, the memories with him and his family through a lot of years, some bad years but also some great years, will always be remembered.”

Reaction: Joe Avezzano, 1943-2012

April, 5, 2012
Reaction to the death of longtime Dallas Cowboys special teams coach Joe Avezzano, who died Thursday in Italy at the age of 68:

Former Cowboy Nate Newton shares stories about the late Joe Avezzano.

Listen Listen
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones:

“Joe Avezzano was a very special part of our Dallas Cowboys family and our organization’s history. He was also a wonderful father, husband and friend. No one enjoyed life more than Joe, and no one that I know had a greater appreciation for the people that he loved and the lives that he touched. We grieve with Diann and Tony and the thousands of fans who loved Coach Joe. He was an original. There was no one else like him.”

Former Cowboys safety/special teams standout Bill Bates:

“No. 1, what a great husband and a great dad and obviously a great friend and coach that I’ll miss forever. It just breaks my heart for the family. I knew he was in Italy, coaching over there. … I had no idea anything like this would happen. It just breaks my heart for everybody.”

Former Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer:

“Joe would rather have been a country western music star or on-stage performer than a football coach if he had a choice. Joe did a great job coaching, was highly ambitious and a hard worker, but Joe always thought he could sing. I got a kick out of that.”

Former Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson, via Twitter (@JimmyJohnson):

"Joe was great guy and coach..prayers go out to his family..."

Cowboys wide receiver Jesse Holley, via Twitter (@Mr4thAndLong):

"Coach Joe Taught me how important Sp Teams was & it doesnt take talent 2 be great on Sp Teams it takes Effort, Passion & "Want To"!"

Cowboys kicking coach Chris Boniol, who was coached by Avezzano for three seasons:

"Joe loved being a Dallas Cowboy, and he cared an awful lot about being part of this organization. He also cared a great deal about having his players be as prepared as possible to do their job. He had a very high standard for performance and production from his players. He was also entertaining and could coach with a sense of humor. He was unique in that he could bring humor into the meeting room without having it affect his authority. He made it fun to play for him, but he always demanded respect."

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett
"Joe Avezzano was a great football coach, but, more than that, he was an outstanding human being. The impact that he had on me and the hundreds of other players and coaches who had the good fortune to be around him was significant. There are not many days that go by where we are not sharing a legendary Joe Avezzano story or using a trademark Joe Avezzano expression. He was a wonderful friend. We loved him very much, and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Diann, and his son, Tony."

Rabid Reaction: Eulogizing the Cowboys' season

January, 2, 2012
Rabid Reaction: Our series of knee-jerk-styled, emotional overreactions from Ben Rogers of 103.3 FM ESPN's Ben and Skin Show. He's known to get way too excited over even the slightest of developments with the teams he grew up with in the DFW. Proceed with caution ...

We didn't have the pleasure of knowing a deep Cowboys playoff run this year, but I’ve spent some time following the adventures of Jerry, Stephen and Spalding Jones. I was raised on Cowboys football during the jewelry-producing Staubach and Aikman eras, so I have a very clear impression of the kind of glorious run that we’re here to bury today.

The 2011 Cowboys season started with such high hopes. Gone was Wade Phillips and his relaxed, friendly lemonade salesman style of leadership. In his place was a red-headed cyborg robot with the most coveted scantron in the classroom.

But in the end, Jason Garrett’s knack to finish other people’s complicated chalkboard formulas -- that only one or two others could -- ultimately gave credence to the theory that he is quite possibly little more than a very intelligent Valley Ranch janitor, potentially capable of being best friends with Ben Affleck.

But despite Garrett’s distinct ability to bore an entire room of reporters into medical grade comas with repeated monotone mentions of watching tape, all three phases and the process on a weekly basis, the Cowboys' offense racked up the second-most yards in franchise history with the worst offensive line in the history of organized football. So clearly the offense was not to blame here

When the season started, Rob Ryan’s enormous belly offered tremendous promise of big things to come. However, in the end, it proved to be little more than a human beer refrigerator and gas-powered balloon muffler. For it was truly nothing more than fruitless hot air coming from this Ryan, and all Ryans for that matter. Were it not for the intoxicating allure of his balsa wood-based bold talk, many of us would have wisely protected our fragile Jerry Jones trampled football hearts.

But because of his completely unsubstantiated and never-backed-up swagger, we believed. Rob Ryan sold us a box of disgusting rotten vegetables, and we couldn’t wait to eat them up as if it was the finest produce in the country. And for that mistake, we all feel tremendous sorrow today as the 2011 Cowboys season rests forever in the Jerryworld-sized coffin metaphor before us.

And so we say goodbye to Terence Newman, perhaps the worst cornerback in the history of the forward pass. Goodbye Anthony Spencer, master of ordinary. Goodbye Martellus Bennett, beacon of underachievement. Goodbye Bradie James, creator of the tackling piggyback ride. Goodbye Keith Brooking, linebacking Bill Bates.

The 2011 Dallas Cowboys season died a cold, wet, miserable death last night in the far-away Meadowlands. But in truth, this franchise has been on life support for a decade and a half. Jerry Jones is the worst GM in football, but he is going nowhere. And because of that, nothing will change.

Perhaps during this quiet time we can spare a special thought and offer our sympathy, our love and our support to Cowboys fans, their families and loved ones -- and most importantly, to Tony Romo. You, sir, are not to blame for any of this. This violent, bloody football death falls directly on the head of one Jerry Jones -- the all-time QB and we're-doing-it-my-way bully of this never-ending disaster called Jerry Jones-brand Dallas Cowboys football.

Rest in peace, 2011 Dallas Cowboys. You will not fool us again in 2012.

Jesse Holley still hanging on

November, 14, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- Following Sunday's victory over the Buffalo Bills, Cowboys wide receiver/special teamer Jesse Holley was asked about his status with the team. For weeks the Cowboys needed to juggle their roster due to injuries and it appeared Holley might get released.

After catching a 77-yard pass in overtime in the Week 3 victory over San Francisco, Holley has disappeared. He has a total of four catches, including a 25-yarder in the first quarter on Sunday, on the season.

Holley doesn't worry about the lack of offensive snaps. He's a punt protector and is among the team leaders on special teams.

"It's part of the game and you just ... I don’t control that," Holley said. "I can control what I can control and I can keep coming out there with my head down working hard every day in practice doing everything I got to do. They keep trying to find a way to cut me and it ain't happened yet."

The Cowboys still value Holley in some fashion or he wouldn't be here. He can't return kicks yet has improved as a receiver but not enough where the Cowboys use him on a regular basis.

Special teams is where he makes his living. Holley said he's inspired by Bill Bates, a long-time special teams ace for the Cowboys in the 1980s and '90s.

"Bill Bates, 15 years, that’s all I got to say about that," Holley said. "They tried to cut Bill Bates for 10 years, 12 years. What the hell? Bill Bates 15 years. I can play 10."

Who is next for the Ring of Honor?

November, 6, 2011
Today the Cowboys will induct Larry Allen, Charles Haley and Drew Pearson into the Ring of Honor. It's the first time the Cowboys have conducted such an event since the Triplets in 2005.

With that we look at ten players who might be next for the Jerry Jones committee of one to consider.

Harvey Martin.No name resonates more with former Cowboys players than this man. He led the Cowboys in sacks seven times, is the unofficial franchise leader with 114 and holds the single-season mark of 23 sacks in the 1977 season. Before there was Charles Haley and DeMarcus Ware, Martin along with Randy White and Bob Lilly set the standard for pass rushers in franchise history.

Bill Bates.A special teams ace and despite making just one Pro Bowl, 1984, he was a beloved figure in Cowboys lore. When you think of outstanding special teams players in Cowboys history, Bates' name comes up first. Nobody was better on a unit the causal fan knew nothing about.

Darren Woodson. A three-time All Pro, a five-time Pro Bowler won three Super Bowl titles. He was a talented safety who not only covered tight ends but wide receivers. His presence is still felt at Valley Ranch, because the Cowboys have not replaced him and his signature is inside a locker of former safety Roy Williams, that's now the home of cornerback Terence Newman.

Everson Walls. He led the Cowboys in interceptions five times, is second all-time in franchise history with 44 and still holds the single-season record with 11 picks in 1981. The 11 picks is also the franchise record for a rookie. It would be nice if Walls gets in with Martin, another Dallas native.

Jimmy Johnson. The second coach in Cowboys history rebuilt the franchise and won two Super Bowl titles and the third one, XXX in 1995 was with Barry Switzer, but it was Johnson's team. The ending was bad, but there's no denying what Johnson meant to the franchise.

Charlie Waters. A three-time Pro Bowler at strong safety, Waters started 22 of 25 playoff games. He was a fierce hitter who gets lost because we talk so much about Cliff Harris. Waters is considered one of the top safeties in Cowboys history.

Deion Sanders.He made his mark with Atlanta, yet, Sanders was a four-time Pro Bowler, three-time All Pro and of course won one title with the Cowboys. Sanders holds the career mark for punt return average at 13.3. He was the first big money free agency signed by the Cowboys and he was a playmaker on defense and special teams.

Daryl Johnston. When Emmitt Smith broke the all-time rushing mark, he hugged this man. Johnston didn't miss a game from 1992-to-1995. Johnston is one of the best fullbacks in franchise history, and his blocks paved the way for Smith to get a bulk of his yardage.

Danny White. The third-round pick from Arizona State, made only one Pro Bowl, and he had just one losing season in the years he started, 1987 where he compiled a 3-6 mark at age 35. He took the Cowboys to three NFC title games, never advancing to the Super Bowl. White is second in completions in franchise history at 1,761.

Mark Stepnoski.A five-time Pro Bowler who won three titles. But here's a little known fact: He was named to the second-team of the 1990s All-Decade team. Stepnoski was a solid player during his era, not only with the Cowboys but in the NFL as well.