NFL@L.A.: Dallas Cowboys

NFL@LA Four Corners

October, 21, 2011
Each Friday we will update you on the four NFL teams most likely move to Los Angeles; ranking them in order of the likeliest to call L.A. home within the next few years.

Last week: San Diego had a bye last week and remained atop the AFC West.

This week: The Chargers play the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sunday in what may be the best game of the week although much of the intrigue surrounds the post-game handshake between the coaches. When Jets coach Rex Ryan was asked this week what would have happened if he got the Chargers job in 2007 instead of Norv Turner he said, “Well, I think I would have had a couple rings. I’m telling you, those teams were loaded. There's no question about it.” He later called and apologized to Turner who said, “I was a little bit surprised by the call and then after I saw the quote, I didn't have a chance to ask him this, but I was wondering if he had those rings with the ones he's guaranteed the last couple of years.”

L.A. Story: The Chargers and San Diego city officials are still going in separate directions when it comes to how a new football stadium should be financed and built. The Chargers say there is no other way the financing of the stadium makes sense unless it is built in downtown and part of the convention center expansion. City officials, who have been working on the convention center expansion for years and can finally see the finish line, say that’s unlikely. San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders recently said a new Chargers stadium could be built after the convention center expansion if the public is willing to spend $38 million a year over 30 years. If you’re doing the math at home, that’s a $1.14 billion cost to the public. Good luck getting the public to sign off on that. Needless to say the chances of the Chargers getting a new stadium in San Diego seem more remote than ever.


Last week:
Oakland beat the Cleveland Browns 24-17 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. It was the Raiders’ first game back in Oakland since the passing of Raiders owner Al Davis and the emotional ceremonies included former coach John Madden lighting a torch in honor of Davis. The tributes, however, were quickly overshadowed by the broken collarbone of quarterback Jason Campbell, who was lost for the season. Two days later the Raiders traded a first round and second round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for Carson Palmer.

This week: The Raiders will play the Kansas City Chiefs in Oakland and Palmer, who hasn’t taken a meaningful snap since December 2010 will start the game five days after being traded to Oakland. It didn’t take much to unseat Kyle Boller and Terrell Pryor judging from the comments of Raiders offensive coordinator Al Saunders who told a local radio station Palmer would start for the Raiders as long as he was breathing before he had even taken a snap in practice.

L.A. Story: The Raiders were already thought of as Los Angeles’ team by many before the team traded for Palmer, a former USC quarterback and Heisman winner. The move will only help the team’s draw in Southern California where Palmer is still thought of as the best quarterback in school history. Sadly Raiders and USC fans in Los Angeles will have to wait to buy their Palmer jersey in person. The Raider Image, the official team store at the Universal City Walk, said it won’t be getting Palmer’s No. 3 silver and black jersey until next month.


Last week:
Minnesota lost to the Chicago Bears 39-10 at Soldier Field in a game that wasn't as close as the lopsided score would indicate. The Vikings’ nightmarish season continues to get worse every week. At the beginning of the season, the Vikings were blowing double-digit leads in the second half, now they’re trying to come back from double-digit deficits in the first half.

This week: The Vikings begin the Christian Ponder era on Sunday when they welcome the undefeated Green Bay Packers to the Metrodome. Way to ease into your first NFL start, right? Ponder replaced Donavan McNabb in the second half of last week’s game on Sunday night and he completed 9 of 17 passes for 99 yards. Nothing spectacular but the team needs a spark that McNabb simply isn’t giving them.

L.A. Story: As the Vikings struggle on the field, team officials are scrambling to get support for their proposed new stadium in Arden Hills. Eric Grubman, executive vice president of the NFL, met with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton this week to get an update on the stadium. Dayton is currently pushing for a special session by late November to deal with the stadium issue. After the meeting Grubman said the chances of the Vikings leaving Minnesota and possibly moving to Los Angeles would increase if the stadium issue wasn’t resolved by the end of the year when the Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome expires. “We're worried about a stalemate," Grubman said. “A stalemate means there's no lease, or the lease is about to expire; there's no plan for a stadium, and there's an alternative plan in another city.”

4. ST. LOUIS RAMS (0-5)

Last week:
St. Louis lost to the Packers 24-3 at Lambeau Field in a game that was just as ugly as anticipated. All the scoring took place in the first half as the Packers simply held on for the win in the second half.

This week: The Rams will play the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday and Rams quarterback Sam Bradford remains questionable for the game with a high ankle sprain. Bradford, who has been sacked a NFL-high 21 times, has not practiced this week while getting treatment. Sunday may not be the best game for Bradford to return considering the Cowboys are ranked in the top ten in sacks with DeMarcus Ware having the third most sacks in the league with seven. If Bradford doesn’t start, A.J. Feeley would play in his place.

L.A. Story: While the St. Louis Rams play the Dallas Cowboys, a group of former Los Angeles Rams will gather in downtown Los Angeles to watch the game on Sunday. Jack Youngblood will be watching the game at the ESPN Zone and signing his book along with former teammates Fred Dryer, Vince Ferragamo and Rich Saul. Youngblood recently said he would like to see the Rams return to Los Angeles "where they rightfully belong" and Dryer famously said after the team left in 1995, “I hate these people [Rams management] for what they did, taking the Rams logo with them when they moved to St. Louis. That logo belonged to Southern California.”

NFL@LA meet-up & mailbag questions

October, 19, 2011
First things first, Jack Youngblood will be signing his new book, Because it was Sunday: The Legend of Jack Youngblood this Sunday, Oct. 23 at the ESPN Zone at L.A. Live at 11:30 a.m. He will be there with his former Los Angeles Rams teammates Fred Dryer, Vince Ferragamo, Rich Saul and a few other surprise guests. I will be there as well to answer any NFL@LA questions you might have.

Also, we’ll be doing our weekly NFL@LA mailbag on Thursday so send your NFL@LA questions in the comments section below or through my Twitter or Facebook accounts and I will answer them here on the blog. I will also again be hosting a live chat on Friday at 1 p.m. if I miss any questions or if you want to discuss anything further, so stop by and join the discussion.

Cheap Seats: Almost Greatness

October, 3, 2011
On Sunday it was hard to watch and impossible to look away.

Trailing from ahead

After Tony Romo's first pick-six Sunday afternoon, you kind of shrugged and felt a little better about starting the Lions defense in your fantasy league. After the second one, your stomach started to turn. And after Romo's third interception, when Fox announcer Troy Aikman politely said, "I see what he saw, or... what he didn't see," you had to know how this movie was going to end.

The Cowboys were still ahead at that point, but the game was over. It was just a matter of how the Lions would complete their comeback; death by Megatron or Stafford?

As compelling a story as the Lions are so far this season, this game was about Romo.

Something happened to him on his way to extending the heroic storyline of how he put on a Kevlar vest and came back from a broken rib and collapsed lung to lead the Cowboys to a 3-1 record and into first place in the NFC East. Something weird. Something familiar.

It's often said that Romo crumbles in big moments, but that's not really it. It's not the pressure of the moment that turns him bad, it's what could happen if he were to say -- seize it.

Tony Romo is great at comebacks. He's poised and gutsy and brave. All the qualities you want from your quarterback when the game is on the line. Did you see him yelling and flapping his arms and almost leading the Cowboys down the field in the last minute of the game Sunday? Another 30 seconds on the clock and he might've pulled it off.

But Tony Romo is terrible at basking in his own glory. It freaks him out. Things are going well for the Cowboys and you can feel the self-sabotaging pick-6 coming. Is it the Eastern Illinois, undrafted-out-of-college thing? Is it something else? Impossible to say, but whatever the case, it's a problem for the Cowboys who are often going to be favorites and are always going to be in the spotlight.

If there's any consolation for Romo or the Cowboys, it's that they weren't the only ones who choked in a big moment and backed their way out of a win Sunday. The Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders and New York Jets all punted away their shot at glory too.

Nightmare scenario

Philadelphia, the NFL's so-called "Dream Team," so often compared to the NBA’s “Big Three” in Miami, was worked by Jim Harbaugh's suddenly-not-pathetic 49ers in the fourth quarter, dropping to 1-3 on the year.

They fell asleep in the fourth quarter, after going up 20-3 at halftime and presumably figuring no team with Alex Smith as its quarterback could rally back.

Then rookie kicker Alex Henery missed a couple of field goals and San Francisco running back Frank Gore got going, after realizing none of Philly’s big-name free acquisitions play linebacker or safety.

"I think it was a little bit too happy in here," Eagles defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins said.

"Just because you've got a lead in the game doesn't mean you've played a good game."

Kind of like how it's not a good idea to throw a disco party in July and let LeBron step to the mic and start predicting multiple championships.

Like the Heat, the Eagles may very well rally back to make the playoffs and live up to their preseason hype, but they have a long way to go, a lot of chemistry to build, and a lot of ill-wishers to dodge along the way.

Never mind

Remember way back to last week, when people were talking about the Raiders becoming an elite team again? Never mind.

While it was nice to see a sellout in Oakland for Sunday's showdown against New England, the Raiders are never going to be an elite team with Jason Campbell as their quarterback. They might be good, they might even make the playoffs because Darren McFadden is that awesome, but the NFL is a have or have-not league now.

You either have a good quarterback or you don't. Campbell has learned how to manage a game effectively. But he's never going to win games by himself. And he's always going to have games like he did Sunday.

Although he finished with over 300 yards passing, this game was lost on the two awful interceptions thrown at key moments. His interception in the Patriots’ end zone at the end of the second quarter was one of the most destructive, weirdest interceptions you'll ever see.

No wait, the interception he threw directly into the hands of 325+pound defensive lineman Vince Wilfork was weirder. (How do you not see Vince Wilfork?)

Hang on

True, Mark Sanchez spent most of the game looking at the wrong side of Baltimore defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and getting rid of the ball like he played in a Mike D'Antoni offense, but his performance in what became Fumble Night in America wasn't the way to make anyone think he is ready for what lies ahead.

Sanchez, under constant pressure, fumbled four times, lost three of them and added an interception just to complete the cycle of dysfunction. Baltimore scored three defensive touchdowns.

New York has been passing more since All-Pro center Nick Mangold went down with a high-ankle sprain two weeks ago. They had hoped Sanchez was up to the task.