NFC East: Joe DeCamillis

Danny McCray joins Bears

March, 18, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Danny McCray is now a member of the Chicago Bears.

The free-agent safety signed a one-year deal with the Bears on Tuesday, reuniting with special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis.

McCray led the Cowboys in special teams’ tackles two of his three years with DeCamillis, and finished second in 2012 when he was forced to play more defensive snaps because of injuries. McCray was credited with eight special teams tackles in 2013 under Rich Bisaccia, tied for sixth on the team.

McCray joined the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and quickly made his presence felt on special teams. He had 87 tackles in 10 starts in 2012 to go with five pass deflections and an interception.

He is the third Cowboy to sign elsewhere in free agency, joining DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher.

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.

Cowboys, Chris Boniol part ways

January, 8, 2014
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IRVING, Texas – The first change in the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff for 2014 has happened with assistant special-teams coach Chris Boniol and the club agreeing to part ways.

Boniol’s contract was set to expire after he signed a one-year deal. He will attend the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and hopes to remain in the NFL.

“It’s been a great time, blessed to have been around some great people and good players,” Boniol said. “And I’m grateful for the opportunity Jason [Garrett], Stephen [Jones] and Jerry [Jones] have given me.”

Boniol joined the Cowboys in 2010 and worked with then special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis for three years. Rich Bisaccia took over as special-teams coordinator in 2013 after DeCamillis left for the Chicago Bears.

Carlos Polk, who was with the Cowboys through the season as an intern, could be made Bisaccia’s assistant. Bisaccia interviewed for the Washington Redskins head coaching vacancy and has been mentioned as a candidate for the Tennessee Titans opening.

Boniol had a three-year run as the Cowboys' kicker, winning a Super Bowl in 1995 while making 81 of 93 field goal attempts. He has coached Dan Bailey to three of the best seasons in team history for a kicker. Bailey has made 89 of 98 attempts in his career and has missed just two in each of the past two seasons.

Punter Chris Jones averaged 45 yards per punt with a 39.1-yard net average in 2013.
“They’re great guys, work their butts off, love those guys like my own,” Boniol said. “Real proud of them and what they’ve accomplished as players and people. It’s been a joy to watch them grow and mature as athletes and young men. It’s people like them that I’ll miss.”

Cowboys coaches are off this week. Last year the Cowboys made two coaching staff changes in running backs coach Skip Peete and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan two weeks after the 2012 regular season ended.
IRVING, Texas -- For the second straight year the Dallas Cowboys will see their special teams coordinator interview for an NFL head coaching vacancy.

According to ESPN’s John Clayton, Rich Bisaccia will interview with the Washington Redskins. Last year Joe DeCamillis interviewed with the Chicago Bears and eventually joined Marc Trestman’s staff as assistant head coach/special teams coordinator.

Bisaccia put together one of the better special teams’ units in the NFL last season, but he almost never got to the Cowboys. If things had not worked out, then he would be coaching in the BCS Championship game for Auburn. He was the school’s running backs, special teams and assistant head coach for 22 days before joining the Cowboys last winter.

Bisaccia and Redskins general manager Bruce Allen worked together for years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Bisaccia was Jason Garrett’s top choice last season, but he also interviewed Bruce DeHaven, a former Cowboys’ special teams coach, and Alan Lowry.

The Cowboys saw improvement in their kickoff and punt return averages, albeit minimally in the punt returns. The kickoff and punt coverage were also improved by fractions, and there were no major breakdowns.

In 2012, the Cowboys had a punt blocked, a punt returned for a touchdown, and a kickoff returned for a touchdown. This season, the longest punt return allowed was 26 yards, and the longest kickoff return was 45 yards.

With injuries on defense, Bisaccia had to mix and match his units, but they were able to hold up their end of the bargain.
IRVING, Texas -- With Lovie Smith set to become the next head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to reports, it is only natural to see Rod Marinelli linked to the former Chicago Bears head coach.

Marinelli spent four years on Smith’s staff with the Bears and was the coordinator from 2010-12. They coached together in Tampa Bay. He became the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line coach in part because of his loyalty to Smith, who was fired.

There is nothing more important than loyalty to Marinelli.

But if he wants to return to Tampa Bay -- he was a Buccanneers assistant from 1996-2005 -- and reunite with Smith, then he would need the Cowboys’ OK, according to multiple sources.

Marinelli is under contract to the Cowboys in 2014. The Cowboys could let him go if they choose, but they have blocked Joe DeCamillis and Tony Sparano in recent years from taking jobs with different teams while under contract. It is possible they could come up with some sort of compensation package to let Marinelli go.

Teams are only required to allow assistant coaches to interview for head-coaching vacancies.

But the feeling is the Cowboys do not want to lose Marinelli. He was forced to work with 19 different defensive linemen in 2013 because of injuries and poor play. The Cowboys' higher-ups liked what he brought to that group and the defense in particular.

With Monte Kiffin’s status up in the air, Marinelli could be a candidate to be the Cowboys’ coordinator if they went that route.

But there is no questioning Marinelli’s feelings for Smith.

“I'll say this, he was one of my very best friends,” Marinelli said during the season. “I went there because of him, not for any other reason. We had a long tenure together and I believe in him. I've started this thing off about my beliefs, being old fashioned or whatever, I have a strong belief in what he believes in and I liked it. For me, it's got to be that or I struggle. I never want to not do it with all my heart. For me, that was Lovie's defense.”
IRVING, Texas -- As thrilling as Sunday’s 24-23 win against the Washington Redskins was, it might have only delayed the inevitable for the Dallas Cowboys.

Ware
Ware
With a loss this week against the Philadelphia Eagles in a third straight NFC East championship game, there will be change. Actually, win or lose there will be changes, because that is just the nature of the NFL. How grand and how widespread are the questions.

Speculation abounds about Jason Garrett’s future. Twice in the past two weeks Garrett said he is focused on doing his job to the best of his ability. There is nothing else he really can say. Would Jerry Jones have the patience to bring Garrett back for a fourth season after three crushing Week 17 losses?

After last season’s loss to the Washington Redskins, Jones promised an uncomfortable season for everyone in the organization ... not named Jones.

Would it have made a difference if the Cowboys beat the Redskins last season? Would Jones have stayed with the status quo? They didn’t win, so changes were made.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was fired. So was running backs coach Skip Peete. Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis was allowed to leave for the Chicago Bears. Garrett’s brother, John, was allowed to leave for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson was named “senior coaching consultant,” however, he has not been seen at one practice the entire season.

Ryan’s replacement, Monte Kiffin, would appear to be on thin ice after this historically bad season as the Cowboys switched to the 4-3. He has consistently said retirement is not in his plans, but at 73 years old that could change quickly.

Players, like Gerald Sensabaugh, Marcus Spears, Lawrence Vickers and Dan Connor, were cut in the offseason. Doug Free had his base salary cut in half. Players like DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin could be in the crosshairs this year win or lose to the Eagles.

A lot is at stake against the Eagles, and for some people it could be more than just a playoff spot.

Five Wonders: Changes on defense?

December, 11, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Those of you wondering where Five Wonders went on Tuesday, fear not. It's here on Wednesday.

We just pushed it back a day with the Dallas Cowboys playing on ESPN's “Monday Night Football.” And boy wasn't that an exciting contest?

Anyway, off we go ...

1. Jerry Jones said there will be changes on the defensive side of the ball after the debacle against the Chicago Bears. I wonder what they would be. And how big of a difference could they actually make? The scheme is the scheme. They can't become some blitz-happy team overnight. The personnel is the personnel. So does it make a difference if J.J. Wilcox starts over Jeff Heath at safety? Minimally. I'd look for Sterling Moore to be the nickel back if Morris Claiborne cannot return this week from a hamstring injury. Huge difference? Perhaps considering how lost B.W. Webb looks. Injuries could force a shakeup at linebacker. Does DeVonte Holloman get some time? He's not a weak-side linebacker by trade, but maybe it's time he plays instead of Ernie Sims or Cam Lawrence if Bruce Carter can't go. The defensive line does not have many options, but maybe Drake Nevis moves in for Nick Hayden. Again, we're not talking major changes.

[+] EnlargeDallas' Rod Marinelli
Casey Sapio/USA TODAY SportsWould Rod Marinelli be interested in rejoining Lovie Smith if Smith were to become a head coach again?
2. This isn't so much an “I wonder,” but it is for those wondering if Rod Marinelli will join Lovie Smith should Smith return to the NFL as a head coach somewhere. From what I'm told, Marinelli signed a three-year deal with the Cowboys when he joined the team in the offseason. Technically Jones could allow Marinelli to join Smith if he wanted, but he does not have to. The promotion rule was dropped a long time ago. Since Jones would not let Joe DeCamillis leave for the Oakland Raiders two years ago to be with Dennis Allen or Tony Sparano to leave for the New Orleans Saints when Sean Payton took over in 2006, I can't see Jones letting Marinelli walk. The defensive line has been a drive-through of sorts because of injuries and Marinelli has made it work. It's not been perfect by any stretch but it's been fine.

3. With all of the talk about how well Tyron Smith has played this season, I wonder if the Cowboys will be more patient than normal in talking about an extension for Smith. Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Cowboys have a fifth-year option on Smith in which they would pay him roughly the amount of the transition tag in 2015. They have to make their decision to use the option year in the spring and the money becomes guaranteed after the 2014 season. Maybe the Cowboys will wait because they will have to do something with Dez Bryant, who will be a free agent after next season. They could franchise Bryant and use the option year on Smith, but with salary-cap limitations I can see them being more willing to get a deal done with Bryant first. Because the option year is a new tool teams will have a difficult time navigating those negotiations on long-term deals. Bryant will be a more pressing deal to get done and the Cowboys will be able to keep Smith in their back pocket, so to speak.

4. I wonder how strongly the Cowboys attack the defensive line in the April draft. Marinelli played a big part in the team choosing to pass on Sharrif Floyd last April because they did not want to use a first-round pick on what they viewed was a two-down defensive lineman. A few years ago the Cowboys saw their offensive line grow old with Marc Colombo, Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode and Kyle Kosier. They cut Colombo, Davis and Gurode and bit the bullet. Jason Hatcher turns 32 next season and will be a free agent. Anthony Spencer turns 30 in December, is coming off microfracture surgery to his knee and is also a free agent. DeMarcus Ware turns 32 next July and has been slowed by nagging injuries this year. Their one building-block defensive lineman is Tyrone Crawford and he is coming off a torn Achilles. For as well as George Selvie has played this year, he is not a building-block player. He is solid, but you would feel better about him being a backup than a full-timer. The rest of the guys still have things to prove. If the last few years has been about rebuilding the offensive line, I wonder if it's time to start rebuilding the defensive line.

5. I wonder if assistant director of player personnel Will McClay becomes a sought after front-office personnel person. The NFL has tweaked its Rooney Rule and now teams will have to interview at least one minority candidate for their head coaching or general manager vacancy. Last year there were eight head coaching vacancies and seven general manager jobs and none went to a minority. McClay, who is African-American, was elevated to his current role in the offseason and has the run of the personnel department. He has yet to set up a draft board, but he has been responsible for a lot of the pro personnel work in recent years and has found players that have come off the street and contributed to the Cowboys' success. He was a former head coach with the Dallas Desperados and has also helped the coaches on game day. He has received interest from teams in the past, but the Cowboys have not let him leave. This time they may not have a choice.
Washington Redskins

Rich Campbell has some thoughts on the state of Robert Griffin III's knee and the Redskins' offense moving forward. He's not optimistic that Griffin will be ready for Week 1, which is fair, but he admits that there's no way at this point to know, nor any reason to bet against the young man.

The Redskins will need help in the secondary and on the offensive line once they start making picks in this year's draft (which won't be until late in the second round), Mel Kiper, Jr. thinks they'll be able to find what they need.

New York Giants

Eli Manning is happy to be going back to the Pro Bowl, especially because it offers a chance to hang out with some of his Giants teammates as well as his brother in a place that's nice and warm.

Ohm Youngmisuk's latest entry in the "Five Giant Losses" series focuses on that Week 13 Monday Night Football loss in Washington -- a game that changed a lot of things for both teams.

Dallas Cowboys

Tim MacMahon points out that new Eagles coach Chip Kelly completely dominated new Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin when the two held the same roles at Oregon and USC in the Pac 12. Worth pointing out, but there will necessarily be differences when the two meet at the professional level -- not the least of which is the fact that the Cowboys have better players on defense than USC did.

The Cowboys have lost special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, who has accepted the same position on the staff of the Chicago Bears. Lots of chatter about the potential for more coaching staff changes in Dallas. I still say it's about time the guy running the team steps forward and starts explaining what the vision is and reassuring everybody he's not just making changes so he can say he did. But that's just me, right?

Philadelphia Eagles

One of the things Howie Roseman and the Eagles liked about Kelly was that the areas over which Kelly will demand control do not conflict with those over which Roseman will retain control. Interesting detail on that here from Jeff McLane.

Among the key questions facing Kelly as he assumes the job is who will run his defense and oversee the very hard work involved in bringing it back to respectability. Jeff also reported Wednesday that Kelly wants to run a 3-4, which would be a huge change for the Eagles. CSNPhilly.com says Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is the leading candidate for that position in Philly under Kelly.
Back at it on a playoff-week Wednesday with the Redskins getting ready for the Seahawks and the division's other three teams in the keep 'em/dump 'em stages of their respective offseasons. We got links.

Washington Redskins

The team for which Alfred Morris played last year went 1-11. This year, he was the second-leading rusher in the NFL and a big reason the Redskins won the NFC East. Too good to be believed, writes Mike Wise.

Mike Shanahan says the doctors are telling him Robert Griffin III's knee is 100 percent, and he thinks the only reason Griffin doesn't look like himself while running right now is that big brace he's wearing on the knee. Doesn't sound like the brace is coming off before Sunday, though.

New York Giants

ESPNNewYork.com's take 'em/trash 'em poll says Osi Umenyiora is on the outs with Giants fans. I don't think anybody has anything to worry about. I don't think the Giants were expecting to bring back Umenyiora in 2013 no matter what happened. That relationship isn't real good.

Lots of people are getting fired this week in the NFL, but that's not the way the Giants do things. They're saying not to expect serious changes to the coaching staff, and I'd believe them. The Giants love them some stability.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis is interviewing for the Bears' vacant head coaching position. Hey, it's not completely nuts. John Harbaugh was a special teams coordinator and has done well as Ravens head coach. The special teams coordinator is generally the only assistant coach who deals with both halves of the roster, and if a guy can lead, a guy can lead.

Same way Umenyiora is likely out in New York, cornerback Mike Jenkins looks like a good bet to be gone from the Cowboys. We all know Jenkins wasn't happy being shoved into a reserve role when the team signed Brandon Carr and drafted Morris Claiborne, and there's enough demand around the league for corners that Jenkins should find a starting role somewhere.

Philadelphia Eagles

The list of potential Eagles head coaches continues to expand, and it appears to include Syracuse's Doug Marrone as well as fellow college head coaches Chip Kelly and Bill O'Brien. Doesn't sound like Kelly's real likely at this point, which is why you're hearing so many new names this week.

As for the guy that used to coach the Eagles, it sounds as though Andy Reid has a chance to be the new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Be pretty funny if he could get something for Kevin Kolb again, right?

Breakfast links: Super Bowl Thursday

February, 2, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS -- I saw Jerry Izenberg here Wednesday. He's the Newark Star-Ledger columnist who's one of three guys who's covered all 46 Super Bowls. I've covered four, but earlier in my career I had the honor to work at the same paper as Jerry, which is a point of pride. Jerry was also in Zaire and Manila with Ali. I love running into Jerry. It's one of my favorite things about the Super Bowl.

Anyway, I don't know how many steps Jerry took Wednesday, but my pedometer tells me I took 15,485, which brings my total since my Sunday arrival to 56,865. I know you're hanging on each and every one. Anyway links.

New York Giants

I'm going to link to Ian O'Connor every day I'm here, and it's not because Ian is ESPNNewYork.com but rather because Ian is great and writing great stuff. Today, he writes on Perry Fewell's frustration over not being the hot head-coaching candidate he was a year ago.

Jason Pierre-Paul says that Tom Brady is a great quarterback but that "it's not like he's God." Left unanswered was whether Pierre-Paul thinks he could sack the Almighty or whether he'd backflip out of the way due to awe. I guess it would depend on the quality of the offensive line.

Philadelphia Eagles

There was lots we didn't get to about Andy Reid's Tuesday news conference, but Rich Hofmann thinks one of the biggest issues was what he said about the 1-4 start in which quarterback Michael Vick turned the ball over at critical times. As much as anything, Vick's sloppiness with the ball was a reason for the Eagles' disappointing start and season, and he needs to do better.

Geoff Mosher writes that the next most important item on the Eagles' offseason agenda is DeSean Jackson. I still think he's a goner, but there remains a chance they franchise him while they continue to work out a deal. The franchise number isn't a bad one if they can be sure he's happy with the progress on a new contract, and it's not as if they have someone else on which they desperately need to use it.

Dallas Cowboys

The Oakland Raiders wanted to hire Cowboys special-teams coach Joe DeCamillis as an assistant head coach, but the Cowboys wouldn't allow it, which is their right. Todd Archer writes that the best way for DeCamillis to re-establish himself as a head-coaching candidate is to be part of a winning Cowboys team in 2012.

The Cowboys may have been able to use veteran guard Brian Waters this year, and he's from the area and likely would have liked to play for them. But Waters doesn't give a big rat's patootie. He's in the Super Bowl.

Washington Redskins

Dan Daly thinks that, if things play out the right way, Peyton Manning could end up being a Washington Redskin next year. I really like Dan. He's a smart guy and a good columnist. He takes intelligent stands on issues like this. And no, I'm not just saying that because I made this point like three weeks ago. I'm really not. Oh, and stop with your comments about how he'd never play in the same division as his brother. Guy's about to be unemployed, and his brother's about to win his second Super Bowl. Sentiments and feelings change. Time passes. Etc.

Lorenzo Alexander is one of my favorite Redskins. He's happy. He's content. He's a veteran who helps his younger teammates learn the game. He holds fan appreciation events in the offseason. Good dude.
Tuesday is Power Rankings day on ESPN's NFL site, and today's topic was top 10 up-and-coming assistant coaches. For me, this question meant picking which current assistants had the best chance to become NFL head coaches. The rules we established for voting eliminated anyone who'd been a head coach already except for those who'd only worn the title of "interim" head coach, such as Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.

[+] EnlargePerry Fewell
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliPerry Fewell was listed first on four of eight ballots ranking up-and-coming assistants.
As a result of Fewell's high profile, the way he's regarded around the league and the number of head-coaching interviews he went on this past offseason, Fewell ranked No. 1 on our list of up-and-coming assistants. He got a taste of the head-coaching seat when he had the interim job in Buffalo in 2009, and he's made no secret of his desire to land a more permanent head-coaching position. Our panel thinks he will, as he was ranked first on four of the eight ballots and named on seven of them.

Fewell finished just ahead of new Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who was one of only two assistants (along with sixth-place finisher Winston Moss) to be named on all eight ballots. Ryan certainly has an opportunity to dazzle in Dallas, where the defense was a major letdown in 2010 and could be poised for a nowhere-to-go-but-up recovery. Dallas also offers Ryan a high profile, and if he succeeds there it could carry more weight with decision-makers around the league when head-coaching positions are being handed out down the line. He's not as likely to move up next offseason as Fewell might be, but he's a guy who's on people's minds.

I threw a 10th-place vote for Cowboys special-teams coach Joe DeCamillis, because I've heard his name mentioned in this capacity a few times. But mine was the only ballot on which he appeared. James Walker of the AFC North blog ranked Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan sixth on his ballot, but that was the only ballot on which he appeared.
Next week's Power Rankings asks us to rank the best up-and-coming assistant coaches -- coaches on the rise who might someday soon get a chance to sit in the big chair and run an NFL franchise. So I'm looking for your thoughts on who might fit the bill from within the NFC East.

Top of my head, I thought of Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, Cowboys special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. (We can't vote for anyone who's been a head coach, but we've decided that Fewell's stint as an interim head coach in Buffalo in 2009 doesn't disqualify him from the list.)

I also have a couple of guys with NFC East connections who aren't in the division anymore, including Patriots defensive line coach Pepper Johnson and Raiders defensive line coach Mike Waufle, formerly of the Giants.

But this is a tricky and subjective thing, of course, since I'm not in a position to hire a coach. So I'm wondering who, on the coaching staff of your favorite team, has impressed you as someone who might have what it takes to move up to the big role in the future, near or distant. Fire away with your thoughts.

Cowboys lost their dignity on the field

October, 31, 2010
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Wade PhillipsMatthew Emmons/US PresswireLittle went right for Wade Phillips and the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday's loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Last week, the Dallas Cowboys lost their starting quarterback. On Sunday, they simply lost their dignity in front of an alleged sellout crowd at Cowboys Stadium.

If the 35-17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars isn't the bottom, I'm not sure where this free fall ends. But at least we can dismiss this notion of the players rallying around backup quarterback Jon Kitna in Tony Romo's absence. Kitna threw for 379 yards, but he was undermined by teammates who performed tip drills on behalf of the Jaguars, who had four interceptions.

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips looked more befuddled than usual following this loss -- and that's saying something. I honestly think Phillips would've fired himself Sunday -- if he had that type of authority in the organization. His defense was repeatedly embarrassed by Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard and wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker, who jump-started his Pro Bowl campaign with eight catches for 153 yards and a touchdown.

The Cowboys were helpless against the NFL's 25th-ranked offense. Sims-Walker turned short passes into big gains and tight end Marcedes Lewis had two catches, both resulting in touchdowns. Players seemed sincere when they said Phillips hasn't lost the locker room, but the man in question wasn't as convincing.

"Well, I hope not," said Phillips with a blank expression. "We fought all the way the other games, but this game just got away from us and we couldn't get it back. ... I look at a lot defensively, a lot of the basic things that we've worked on, they scored on and that's what bothers me."

If Jerry Jones is thinking about changing his philosophy of not sacking head coaches during the season, now would be the time. Phillips has never been quality head-coaching material, but his credentials as a defensive coordinator have always been solid. But watching Garrard shred the Cowboys' secondary on his way to a near-perfect passer rating (157.8), it's hard to imagine how Phillips is still employed. Even the club's chairman of continuity, Jones, didn't exactly rush to Phillips' defense.

"There’s no way that the result and the way we played tonight, there’s no way that I can rest, sleep, figuratively speaking eat well with a diet of that right there," Jones told reporters. "There’s no way. And if you look at it, if you look at what we’re about -- our team, our stadium, the pride I have in this franchise -- you’d know it doesn’t digest. It doesn’t go down. We’ve got to do something that changes this on the field."

It's never a good sign when an owner makes a passionate apology to fans seven games into the season. This is a man who realistically thought he'd put a team together that had a chance of playing in the North Texas Super Bowl. Just the thought of that seems like a bad joke in light of Sunday's performance and the Cowboys' 1-6 record.

"I’m very, very, very sorry to our fans," said Jones, who's well aware that his Rangers neighbors were set to host Game 4 of the World Series. "You should have better than this."

But all Jones must do is look in the mirror as he grasps for answers. It's not like Phillips had a track record of prolonged success at his previous stops. Jones soothed his own ego two weeks ago by suggesting the Cowboys had beaten themselves and that a 1-4 record (at the time) wasn't indicative of how they'd played. But in losses to the Giants and Jaguars, the Cowboys have simply been overwhelmed on both sides of the ball.

[+] EnlargeJon Kitna
Tim Heitman/US PresswireJon Kitna threw four interceptions in Dallas' loss.
The Cowboys once had a coaching staff stocked with head-coaching candidates -- Sean Payton, Tony Sparano, Todd Haley -- but Jones didn't realize it at the time. His hand-picked successor for Phillips, Jason Garrett, no longer shows up on anyone's short list. After witnessing Sunday's performance in person, I subscribe to the change for the sake of change theory. Let Garrett or special teams coach Joe DeCamillis have a crack at this thing for nine games because this team's no longer performing for Phillips.

The Cowboys' ineptitude was on full display late in the first half when they had a third-and-goal at the Jaguars' 1-yard line with 15 seconds left. After Marion Barber was stoned for no gain, the Cowboys went with a similar play on fourth down. Left tackle Doug Free was blown up at the point of attack and tackle-eligible Alex Barron staggered toward the line of scrimmage, tripped near the goal line and failed to make contact with a defender.

Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman and defensive end Marcus Spears both had their head coach's back in the postgame locker room, but it doesn't really matter at this point. Even Phillips couldn't put a positive spin on this one.

"Everybody knows we have a lot of talented players, and that's the problem," said Phillips. "I have talented players and I'm not getting them to play well enough. To me, that's the root of the problem."

Well, at least someone's willing to admit it.

Closing time for Cowboys' 2010 season

October, 17, 2010
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Tony RomoAP Photo/Andy KingTony Romo's interception early in the fourth quarter led to Minnesota's game-winning field goal.
MINNEAPOLIS -- This is where Cowboys seasons come to die. But unlike last year's trip to the unsightly Metrodome, which resulted in a 34-3 playoff loss, fans will be forced to endure 11 more games.

The Cowboys followed their normal 2010 script in Sunday's 24-21 loss to the Vikings. They won the battle of the stat sheets, but undermined themselves with 11 penalties and two key interceptions. This team is not good enough to overcome its ineptitude, and the Vikings had the good sense to patiently wait for the implosion.

Owner Jerry Jones, who was conspicuously absent from last week's postgame locker room scene, commanded a large audience in the cramped visiting locker room Sunday. Knowing what was coming, Jones made it clear that he wouldn't be making any coaching changes, which begged the subtle follow-up question, "Why the hell not?"

"I would never consider doing that during the season," said Jones, alluding to the fact that it's not something he's done since buying the team in 1989.

His explanation was that even if the team started winning under a new coach, we wouldn't know if the change was the reason for the success. For the record, this was when he completely lost me with his thought process. But honestly, it's not like the Cowboys' sideline is a who's who of head-coaching candidates. The fiery special teams coach Joe DeCamillis is an impressive man in person, as long as you don't have to watch his unit play.

Just a week removed from giving up a 73-yard kickoff return to the Titans in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys opened the second half by allowing Percy Harvin to sprint 95 yards for a touchdown that tied the score. That erased all the good things the defense had done to make Vikings quarterback Brett Favre look like a 41-year-old man with a penchant for needless pump fakes and shaky handoffs.

The Cowboys let the Vikings off the hook because that's what bad teams do. Coach Wade Phillips probably will soothe his players' immense egos with tales of how they were actually the better team Sunday (please see our chart), but some of us know better. Barring an epic turnaround, Jones will eventually get around to firing Phillips at the end of the season. And he'll absolutely hate doing it because he loves an arrangement in which a head coach defers to him on pretty much every important decision and isn't jealous of his Papa John's commercials.

If you had told the Cowboys they would hold Adrian Peterson to three yards per carry on 24 attempts and Randy Moss to five catches for 55 yards, it might sound like a recipe for success. But then some of us missed the genius of the Moss trade, which apparently was designed to open things up for Jim Kleinsasser and Greg Camarillo. Both of those players made catches that figured heavily in Sunday's outcome.

Favre, a man who has more on his mind than football these days, was crushed by Cowboys defensive end Igor Olshansky in the third quarter. He had to literally crawl for several yards before staggering to the huddle.

"When I hit quarterbacks, they get hurt," Olshansky told me in a Russian accent that brought back images of Drago in the classic film, "Rocky IV." "It normally leaves a mark."

Favre recovered in time to make his best play of the game when he sidestepped Anthony Spencer and found Kleinsasser for a 20-yard gain to set up the go-ahead touchdown.

"If you have ever gotten the wind knocked out of you, you think you're pretty close to death," Favre said. "I'm not going to sit here and say I'll be John Wayne, but I'm hoping that we didn't call a pass the next play."

The Cowboys also were victimized by a middle linebacker who has trouble getting through airport security because of a metal rod in his leg. E.J. Henderson broke his femur last season, but that didn't prevent the eighth-year player from doubling his career interception total in one afternoon.

He caught a jump ball in the first quarter when Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo had the ball deflected as soon as it left his hand, in part because All-Pro Jared Allen was allowed a free run at the quarterback. Henderson later deked Romo into throwing an interception when he showed blitz and then retreated at the last second. He snagged Romo's pass intended for Jason Witten, which set up the game-winning field goal for the Vikings in the fourth quarter.

"The second one, they sent a dog with the backer," said Romo. "It’s a hot play to Jason [Witten], so I’ve got to get the ball there. I think 56 [Henderson] did a good job. He must have rushed and come back out from the line. He did a good job and made a good play. I didn’t see him. I thought he was rushing. In the process, he did a good job coming back out. That was obviously a big play in the game. It’s tough."

Asked if he was concerned that his veteran quarterback would make such a crucial mistake, Jones showed his support in his own unique way.

"We don't have a replacement for Tony," he said.

Cowboys-Dolphins: What did we learn?

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
11:31
PM ET
The Dallas Cowboys rested their starters against the Miami Dolphins, but there were still some interesting developments Thursday evening. Third-team quarterback Stephen McGee won't make it to the practice squad after going 27-of-42 for 304 yards and a touchdown. If the Cowboys want to keep him, they'll have to hold a spot for him on the 53-man roster.

Here are some observations from the Cowboys' 27-25 win.
  • Apparently the Cowboys wanted to get left guard Montrae Holland a little more work in the preseason. From what I'm told, he has a 50 percent chance of starting against the Redskins with starter Kyle Kosier trying to return from a right MCL sprain. On an early third-and-1, the Cowboys' offensive line didn't get any push and Tashard Choice was tackled at the line of scrimmage. Holland was called for two false starts on the second drive of the game. The Cowboys need Kosier to return in a hurry.
  • I liked how outside linebacker Victor Butler pursued the running game from the backside. He came racing from the backside to knock down Ronnie Brown after a short gain. Butler also made some nice plays in coverage. Of the young backup linebackers, Butler's playing with the most confidence. On the Dolphins' first scoring drive, it was Butler who forced the field goal attempt by batting down a Chad Henne pass. Perhaps he's fired up about his alma mater Oregon State playing at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday.
  • Rookie safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah appeared to bust coverage against Davone Bess in the first quarter. It was an easy throw for Chad Henne on third-and-long. Owusu-Ansah was fortunate to hop to his feet following a clothesline from Tim Dobbins on a punt return early in the game.
  • Tashard Choice was the Cowboys' best offensive player Thursday. Watching him take a short pass and turn it into a 34-yard play was pretty remarkable. Choice couldn't find any holes in the running game. It's time for the Pat McQuistan era to end. The reserve guard doesn't play with any power and he doesn't move his feet very well in pass protection.
  • It's obvious that Stephen McGee and Martellus Bennett have some nice chemistry. Bennett does a really nice job of getting separation downfield. If his head is in the game, he could help this team in a big way. I was really impressed with a play that McGee made late in the first quarter to find Manuel Johnson. He extended the play with his legs and did a nice job of throwing on the run. On the next play, McQuistan was beaten badly off the snap. He has really awful balance. And on the next play, Alex Barron was beaten on a speed rush by linebacker Cameron Wake.
  • Rookie linebacker Sean Lee is having trouble shedding blockers. On the long run by Ricky Williams at the end of the first quarter, Lee got sealed by wide receiver Marlon Moore. It looked like defensive end Jason Hatcher was trying to come up the middle on a stunt and he got stoned by the center. Beautiful play by the Dolphins, but Lee has to be more physical than that. But he fought back and had a fumble recovery to end the same drive. Butler took over the game in the first half against the Dolphins' starters. Nice strip-sack of Henne early in the second quarter.
  • That was a gorgeous throw from McGee on the 43-yard touchdown pass to Sam Hurd. Hurd did a really nice job of accelerating when the ball was in the air. Cornerback Sean Smith had good coverage until just before the ball arrived. Going to be tough to cut Hurd after watching that play.
  • Second-year linebacker Jason Williams tried to cover a running back on a wheel route late in the first half and he never attempted to play the ball. Williams was called for pass interference.
  • Big confidence booster for David Buehler to nail the 51-yard field goal at the end of the half. Wade Phillips gave special teams coach Joe DeCamillis a fist bump and appeared to shout, "Yeah baby!" Really good night for Buehler. He also made a 45-yard field goal. I still want to see what he does in the regular season, but this was an excellent tuneup for him.
  • After tonight's game, I feel like Butler can give the Cowboys between seven to 10 plays per game and he could fill in nicely if someone gets injured. It looked like DeMarcus Ware loved watching Butler fly around Thursday evening.
  • Sean Lee showed some excellent closing speed to sack Tyler Thigpen in the third quarter.
  • I liked the way Manuel Johnson fought for the football tonight. The former Oklahoma receiver probably doesn't have a spot on this team but he gave some other teams something to think about. Speaking of other teams, I know a couple of scouts from around the league who are very interested in Cowboys rookie cornerback Bryan McCann. He'll get scooped up if the Cowboys try to sneak him through to the practice squad. Early in the fourth quarter, McCann didn't take away the inside against Marlon Moore and was burned for the touchdown. Terence Newman met McCann on the sideline to explain what he should've done.
  • Quite a battle between Hurd and Jesse Holley on Thursday. Hurd had the big touchdown catch, but it was Holley who made play after play in the second half.
  • Herb Donaldson might be a good practice squad candidate. He had some nice runs in the second half.
  • I thought reserve cornerback Cletis Gordon had a rough night. He was beaten for a long pass by Roberto Wallace late in the third quarter and he just seemed a step slow in this game. And late in the game, Wallace reached up and caught one over Gordon's head. He just didn't make plays on the ball at all. And this is after he had a ton of interceptions in training camp. Really nice second half for Wallace. He beat rookie cornerback Jamar Wall on a back-shoulder route on the goal line.

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