NFC East: Randy Moss

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IRVING, Texas -- Wade Phillips has the second-best winning percentage of any coach in Dallas Cowboys' history. Better than Tom Landry's. I think Phillips might know that.

On Thursday, Phillips tweeted this:



And later followed up with this addendum:



Like most things with Phillips, he lacked context.

When Phillips took over in 2007 as head coach, he inherited a team from Bill Parcells that was ready to win. QB Tony Romo was going into his first year as a full-time starter. The defense had DE DeMarcus Ware at his best. WR Terrell Owens was putting up big numbers.

The Cowboys went 13-3 and had the best record in the NFC. Phillips was the perfect antidote to Parcells and the players responded. Well, they did to a point. The Cowboys were not the same after beating the Green Bay Packers to move to 11-1 and effectively clinch home-field advantage.

They got lucky to beat the Detroit Lions the following week. They lost two of their last three games, but they were in shutdown mode against the Washington Redskins with nothing to gain from a win.

Other than momentum they had lost.

The Cowboys lost to the New York Giants in the divisional round at Texas Stadium, and the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl.

That's basically when the Romo narrative started. Maybe you heard that Romo went to Cabo during the wild-card weekend. Did it affect the outcome of the Giants' game? Of course not, but the perception machine was rolling, and has been rolling ever since.

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You can track most of the Cowboys' woes to that lost opportunity. If they simply beat the Giants and make the NFC Championship Game, things would be different. Could they have beaten the Packers for a second time at Texas Stadium? It's the best what-if of the Romo era.

In 2008, the Cowboys acted as if they were predestined to not only make the playoffs but win the Super Bowl. Go back and watch the "Hard Knocks" episodes, and you see a team full of itself. They finished 9-7, missed the playoffs and were a mess late in the season.

Phillips could not pull it all together and looked inept as he attempted to deal with the fallout from the Adam "Pacman" Jones' incident. Phillips earned a reprieve in 2009 when Dallas posted an 11-5 record, won the NFC East title, and recorded a playoff win -- but that was the high point.

The Cowboys went 1-7 to start the 2010 season, including an embarrassing home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and a gutless loss to the Packers (45-7) the following week. After that game, Jerry Jones made the switch to Garrett, and the Cowboys are 29-27 since and have not made the playoffs.

Garrett did not inherit a team ready to win the way Phillips did in 2007. By the time Garrett took over, the Cowboys were growing old on the offensive line, and there were too many people (especially those in offices at Valley Ranch) who believed they had the best talent in the league.

The head coach of the Cowboys has tremendous sway with Jones. The Cowboys did not take Randy Moss in 1998 at least in part because then-coach Chan Gailey didn't want Moss.

On that premise, the 2008 draft -- with Dallas' two first-round picks -- was a mess because the Cowboys didn't even attempt to re-sign those first-rounders (Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins) when their contracts expired. The 2009 draft was a colossal failure in part because Jones was convinced that it could be a "special-teams draft," which is as ludicrous as the "draft for backups" the team had when Barry Switzer was the coach in 1995.

This is not in defense of Garrett. He has made plenty of mistakes on the field and in the draft.

Phillips has had a tremendous career in the NFL that has spanned decades. He is a terrific coordinator, but is he in the same conversation as guys like Dick LeBeau, or even Monte Kiffin? I'm not sure a Phillips defense scared offenses the way LeBeau's defenses in Pittsburgh and Kiffin's defenses in Tampa Bay did. Phillips was a good head coach but could not get his teams in Denver, Buffalo or Dallas past a certain point.

Phillips knows his resume inside and out. He can cite team stats and all the Hall of Famers he has coached.

He can claim his tweet was more about the number of games he and Garrett have coached, but it looked more like a passive-aggressive shot at the guy who replaced him, and a way for him to remind everybody of his record.

By the way, his winning percentage is .607. Landry had a .605 winning percentage.
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has already said he will not use an early draft pick on a quarterback to possibly begin the process of finding Tony Romo's successor.

Could Johnny Manziel sway Jones' mind?

Manziel will be the story of this year's draft. He drives attention with his style of play, with his brashness, with how he has handled the fame since winning the Heisman Trophy at Texas A&M. Wherever he goes in May, Manziel will be a draw.

I've already mentioned Jones can't so easily dismiss the possibility of taking a quarterback. History suggests otherwise.

Since taking Troy Aikman with the No. 1 pick in 1989, Jones has selected just three -- Bill Musgrave (1991), Quincy Carter (2001) and Stephen McGee (2009) -- in the regular draft and used a first-round pick in the supplemental draft on Steve Walsh in 1989.

Before the change in the collective bargaining agreement, he did not want to make the huge financial investment in an unproven commodity early in the draft. Now that the rookie prices have come way down, Jones remains reluctant.

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    49%
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But we all know Jerry Jones loves a draw.

He didn't need to draft Dez Bryant in 2010 with the first round. He committed megabucks to Roy Williams in 2009. He had Miles Austin coming off a Pro Bowl season and would soon pay him megabucks. But Bryant kept slipping and the Cowboys moved up slightly to take Bryant with the 24th pick in the first round. Somehow he could not envision passing on Randy Moss and Bryant.

This year the Cowboys will pick either No. 16 or 17 in the draft, depending on a coin flip with the Baltimore Ravens.

Manziel figures to be gone by then, but what if teams are scared off by Manziel and he slips in the same way Bryant slipped? Does Jones make the move? Does he bring in the star of the draft?

There will be tons of work done on Manziel between now and the draft. The Cowboys will do their due diligence and know the player inside and out.

The general manager will have all of the reports and know if it would be a smart football move or not.

Would the owner be able to stay out of the way?

It sure it would set up an interesting dynamic on draft day.
The big question of the day was whether the Dallas Cowboys would or should sign free-agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress. This all sprouted from an ESPNDallas.com report Thursday that said the team had had "preliminary discussions" with Burress' agent. Adam Schefter addressed this on SportsCenter, and while he did allow that he's surprised that Burress hasn't signed anywhere yet, he said, "it would be an even bigger surprise if he ended up in Dallas with the Cowboys. The Cowboys are trying to groom their young wide receivers, and if they wanted to sign Plaxico Burress, they probably would have done it by now."

So there you go. If you don't believe me, believe Adam. Burress isn't what the Cowboys are about right now. As you know from reading Camp Confidential earlier today (as I'm sure you all did), the Cowboys are trying to build their football program for the future. Burress isn't a good enough player at this point in his career that it's worth (a) the baggage he brings or (b) costing the young receivers reps and setting back their development another year. The Cowboys will be fine without Burress, and even if they do have an injury to Miles Austin or Dez Bryant, there's nothing in Burress' recent history to indicate he'd be a significantly better option that Kevin Ogletree or anyone else the Cowboys currently have. I'm sorry. I know he's a big name, but this isn't 2006.

If I were Burress and his agent, I would also be surprised and disappointed that Randy Moss and Terrell Owens have been able to get jobs and I haven't. And if Burress' agent is trying to drum up interest in his client, good for him. That's his job. But like Adam, I would be surprised if the Cowboys reciprocated his interest. And I think they're wise not to.
Best winter ever continues. I have a northern New Jersey forecast that says 50 degrees today, and I can't remember where my snow shovel is. Almost feels like spring, which would mean free agency and draft and all that good stuff. But it's not. Yet. And so we stick with what we have. Which is links.

New York Giants

When you win the Super Bowl, other teams come after your people. The Giants lost assistant offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. to the Kansas City Chiefs, who have made him their offensive line coach. This just a few days after quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan left to become offensive coordinator for Greg Schiano in Tampa Bay. Hard to say what impact, if any, these moves will have on the Giants' on-field product in 2012, but it's another sign that nothing is forever.

Giants fans are paying attention to the rehab of cornerback Terrell Thomas, who tore his ACL in the preseason. The Giants surely are as well. Their decision on whether to bring back Thomas, and for how much, is likely to be rooted in what they can learn about his health between now and the start of free agency. With Aaron Ross likely to depart via free agency, the Giants would surely love to be able to re-sign Thomas at a reduced cost thanks to his injury.

Philadelphia Eagles

There are few more stringent believers in the "Wide 9" defensive line concept than Jason Babin, who has flourished in the scheme under Jim Washburn for the past two seasons. Babin adds his voice to the chorus of Eagles emboldened by the strong finish and eager to continue their progress as a defense in 2012.

Steve Spagnuolo spoke about his decision to take the New Orleans Saints' defensive coordinator job over the amorphous, undefined role he was apparently offered by Andy Reid in Philadelphia. I'm not sure that's a decision that really needs explaining, am I right?

Dallas Cowboys

Calvin Watkins' sources tell him the Cowboys are not interested in UStream sensation Randy Moss, who's trying to return to the NFL after a year in which no one wanted him and two season after he flopped miserably with three different teams. That's one down, 31 to go.

Nick Eatman has a list of five Cowboys players who weren't starters in 2011 but could have a chance to make more significant contributions in 2012. Bruce Carter and Sean Lissemore seem like obvious candidates, but check out what Nick has to say about Barry Church, Andre Holmes and Alex Albright. There could be some serious opportunity at linebacker for a guy like Albright, especially if a guy like Carter can't take the next step for which the Cowboys are hoping.

Washington Redskins

Mike Jones analyzes the Redskins' quarterback dilemma and wonders, as some of you have begun to wonder, if it might make sense to take a second-tier option such as Ryan Tannehill all the way up at No. 6 if they can't or won't trade a bunch of first-round picks to get Robert Griffin III. This came up in Tuesday's chat, and I wonder if Tannehill can improve his stock enough to get that high by April 26.

Hogs Haven broke down the Redskins' own free agents by tier. I agree with their first tier, and the idea that they could upgrade at starting center and still bring back Will Montgomery as a utility lineman who can play guard as well. I also expect that they'll bring back Tim Hightower as the starting running back, since they like their depth there and believe he's a better passing-game asset than Roy Helu or Evan Royster.

Would anyone want Randy Moss?

February, 13, 2012
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Yeah, I saw the story that Randy Moss wants to come out of retirement and play in the NFL again in 2012. And yeah, it's the offseason, so my first reaction was to do a post about whether he'd make sense for any of the teams in the NFC East. I'm not proud. It's content. It's a big name. It hits all four teams. And hey, you're reading it.

Moss
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However, before we go any further, I must make one thing clear: I do not believe Randy Moss will ever play in the NFL again. The guy washed out with three different teams in 2010, couldn't find a job in 2011 and now, at the age of 35 and in a free-agent market flooded with good wide receivers in their primes, he thinks a team is going to take a chance on him? Agree to disagree, Randy. Agree to disagree.

That said, I have (as many of you are fond of pointing out) been wrong before. And so, if by some chance Moss can prove he still has enough speed to be a legitimate deep threat -- to get separation from defensive backs and perform as a difference-making downfield option for an offense, as he could not do in 2010 for three different teams -- would he make any sense in our division? My team-by-team ultra-fantastical hypothetical answers follow.

Dallas Cowboys: No. Not even a little. The Cowboys need a No. 3, first of all, and that's only if they let Laurent Robinson walk. If Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are healthy, Moss is an upgrade over neither one. And do you really want him around Bryant? No.

New York Giants: No. Not even a little. Go back and read the Cowboys answer and replace "Laurent Robinson" with "Mario Manningham" and replace "Dez Bryant and Miles Austin" with "Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz." No. Not a Giants kind of thing to do, this.

Philadelphia Eagles: Interesting, but only if they decide to move on from DeSean Jackson, as I believe they might. If Moss shows the deep-threat ability that made him such a weapon with Minnesota and New England at various points in his career, and if Jackson is out of the picture, the must-win-now-or-everyone's-getting-fired Eagles wouldn't be a ridiculous landing spot. Again, lot of "if"s, but don't be surprised to see this connection made again if Jackson isn't back.

Washington Redskins: The 2007-09 version of Moss is exactly what the Redskins need. But (a) this is the 2012 version, and (b) Moss doesn't respond well to being in losing environments. Even if he could flash that 07-09 form, the Redskins would have to be a lot more set at quarterback and offensive line than they are right now. And the quarterback would have to be a veteran like Peyton Manning or Kyle Orton and not a rookie or first-time starter like Robert Griffin III or Matt Flynn.

Breakfast links: Skins change course

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Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys signed safety Abram Elam to a one-year, $2.5 million contract, reuniting him with new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

Ryan should move Jay Ratliff back to defensive end, his natural position, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Mac Engel.

Demarcus Ware responded to criticism from NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp, who recently said Ware is "not going to lead a pack of ants to a picnic in his own back yard," saying, "I saw [Sapp's comments], but I'm getting ready for the season, so it really didn't bother me."

New York Giants

Tight end Kevin Boss was in Oakland Wednesday working out for the Raiders, who are scrambling to replace Zach Miller.

The New York Post's Paul Schwartz looks at the escalating feud between Osi Umenyiora and the Giants.

After signing a two-year incentive-laden contract, Mathias Kiwanuka may become more important to the team with Umenyiora’s status in jeopardy.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles reached out and made a one-year contract offer to Randy Moss -- after he had filed his retirement papers.

While the Eagles' splashier signings get all the attention, it could be the lower-profile additions -- Ryan Harris, Ronnie Brown, Evan Mathis and Johnnie Lee Higgins -- that have the bigger impact on Eagles, writes the Inquirer's Bob Ford.

Why did Ronnie Brown choose the Eagles? Brown: "It's not so much the financial standpoint. It's more about winning and putting myself in a situation where I'd be on a team that made [winning] a priority."

Washington Redskins

The Redskins have changed course and avoided the splashy moves they made in past seasons. "I hope we're the most boringest team in the whole NFL," Brian Orakpo said.

Barry Cofield is ready to take on his new role as a nose tackle in the 3-4 scheme.

In Fridays's edition of the NFC East video mailbag, I strongly disagree with a reader's suggestion that the Philadelphia Eagles would be better off signing Randy Moss than Plaxico Burress.

Monday Afternoon Blitz Package

November, 22, 2010
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It was another eventful day in the NFC East. Three wins and a loss. Every Monday afternoon during the season, we break it all down in the Blitz:

Dallas Cowboys

  • I watched Jerry Jones stand at attention as his interim head coach Jason Garrett addressed his team after the game in a moment that was captured by the Fox cameras. Garrett had told his players at halftime that they'd have to "look in the mirror" following the game to see if they'd done everything possible to win the game. As usual, Garrett was very impressive with his delivery. He walks and talks like a head coach and it's pretty obvious the players are responding to him. If the Cowboys can go 3-3 down the stretch and pretty much stay in every game, I think this is Garrett's job to lose. You could see the admiration in Jones' eyes as he observed the postgame scene. He's walking a tricky path because he knows this fan base is still upset about a lost season. Jones once again reminded reporters how disappointed he is about the season, but he's also thrilled about these two wins. If the Cowboys can upset the Saints at home Thursday, Jones will begin preparing to remove the "interim" tag from Garrett's name. Obviously, the Rooney Rule prevents him from doing that during the season, but we'll know in two or three weeks whether Garrett's the man for the job.
  • This team also believes in Jon Kitna in a big way. At age 38, it's not like he's vying with Tony Romo for the starting gig. But he has a commanding presence that plays well with his teammates. His numbers Sunday weren't off the charts, but he didn't turn the ball over and he was accurate. And when he saw an opening late in the game, he raced for a 29-yard touchdown. Kitna is an extension of Garrett in this locker room right now. He reflects the coach's no-nonsense approach. I don't think young players such as Dez Bryant and Martellus Bennett could have a better mentor right now. They look at Kitna like a big brother, and that's no small thing. These players were begging for discipline, and Garrett and Kitna have delivered in a big way.
  • I wrote a column on Bryan McCann last Thursday for ESPNDallas.com and thought would be a one-time thing. But the former SMU Mustang once again made a game-changing play when he alertly picked up a punt that had been saved from the end zone by a Lions player and raced 97 yards for a touchdown. The Ravens have to be kicking themselves for letting McCann out of their grasp. They had him on the 53-man roster for about a week in September, but they cut him to make room for a struggling return specialist. McCann has been one of the main catalysts in the Cowboys' sudden return to relevance.
New York Giants

  • I'm one of Eli Manning's biggest defenders, but the guy is making too many poor decisions this season. I've been told more than once that Manning is the smartest player on the Giants' roster. But you couldn't prove it by the way he decided not to slide after running for a first down late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Eagles. I realize that Michael Vick has sworn off sliding. But Superman gets a free pass because he doesn't think of himself as a quarterback when he's embarrassing safeties in the open field. Manning only embarrassed himself Sunday night when he crumpled to the ground and fumbled away a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter. He indicated that he was running too fast too slide, which made little sense. Manning's an excellent quarterback, but he has to do a better job taking care of the ball.
  • Justin Tuck took over the game in the second half. Tuck was well aware that folks across the league thought Vick was pretty close to invincible. But he had confidence in defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's game plan and he kept coming in the second half. Tuck finished with three sacks and he consistently beat double-teams. His strip sack of Vick early in the fourth quarter set up the Giants' second touchdown and allowed them to take a 17-16 lead. Tuck and safety Antrel Rolle gave Vick some problems with their constant pressure. It's still a bad loss, but I think the Giants' defense actually gained some confidence in this game.
  • Jason Pierre-Paul made a huge mistake in the fourth quarter. Lost in all the talk of the Eagles' impressive fourth-and-1 play that resulted in a 50-yard touchdown run was the fact that the circumstances could've been much different. The Eagles faced a third-and-5 from their 45-yard line when Pierre-Paul was called for being offside. That put the Eagles in a much better situation, allowing them the luxury of trying to throw on third down. We may never have heard about "39 Crunch" if not for Pierre-Paul's mistake. How can a team coached by the ultimate disciplinarian make so many critical mistakes? It's a mystery to me, but the Giants once again had a double-digit penalty game. And this was after they only had six penalties in a loss to the Cowboys.
Philadelphia Eagles

  • Let's give offensive line coach Juan Castillo some credit for somehow holding this offensive line together. I realize the Eagles gave up three sacks to Tuck, but at least one of those was on Vick for holding onto the ball too long. On the "Crunch 39" play that McCoy took to the house in the fourth quarter, the much-maligned (by me) Jason Peters and Todd Herremans pulled to the left and engulfed two Giants defensive backs. Even before McCoy was at the Giants' 30-yard line, Herremans had already thrust his right arm into the air. Castillo designed the game-winning play and he doesn't receive nearly enough credit. He's recently inserted Nick Cole into the starting lineup at right guard -- and the Eagles haven't missed a beat. It's a little unfair to give Vick all the credit when he's able to camp out in the pocket for nearly four seconds on a routine basis. Some of that has to do with the guys up front.
  • The Eagles continue to be a great first-quarter team. They've outscored their opponents in the first quarter by nearly nine touchdowns this season. And this was only the second time in the past six games the Eagles didn't score on their first drive. Not to worry, the Eagles had a seven-minute drive on their second possession and then Vick punched it in with one of the most exciting 4-yard gains you'll ever see.
  • We had another scary moment in this game. Eagles cornerback Ellis Hobbs remained on the ground for about 10 minutes after his helmet-to-helmet collision with Dave Tollefson during a kickoff return. The league has addressed defenseless receivers, but I think there's more to be done with ballcarriers. Tollefson led with the crown of his helmet on the play. We're seeing way too many players spend time on the ground without moving. Some folks will argue that it's an inherent risk, but that doesn't mean the league shouldn't continue to be vigilant in its protection of players. I realize that's not supposed to be a penalty on Tollefson, but maybe it should be. Coaches are going to have to do a better job across the league teaching proper technique. Fortunately Hobbs had movement in his extremeties last night and x-rays were negative for a neck injury. Now, we'll see if an MRI reveals any damage.
Washington Redskins

  • What an enormous win for the Redskins. Washington had to overcome all sort of injuries and setbacks in this game. But the Redskins persevered and got a huge win in Tennessee. The Redskins will be severely short-handed against the Vikings this Sunday, but no one really seemed to care in the afterglow of a 19-16 win in overtime.
  • Is anyone on the team healthy? From what I've been able to tell, 10 players left the game because of injuries and eight of them didn't return. Stephon Heyer has enough trouble playing offensive tackle, but he was asked to play guard for the first time in his career. He played really well and earned the respect of head coach Mike Shanahan. For the second consecutive week, the Skins lost a player in pregame warmups. Chad Simpson suffered a broken foot and then Clinton Portis re-injured his groin in the first half. Keiland Williams touched the ball 29 times in this game and he was an absolute workhorse. I'm not saying the Skins are destined for the playoffs, but this was certainly the type of win they can build upon. If they can beat the hapless Vikings on Sunday, they'll head to the Meadowlands with a 6-5 record the following week.
  • I'd say that's a pretty good job on Randy Moss. By the fourth quarter, I'd forgotten that Moss was even on the field. Running routes for someone named Rusty Smith may have made Moss yearn for the buffet spread in Eden Prairie, Minn. It was a joke for Jeff Fisher to think that Vince Young and Moss would make a good pairing. They brought a chronic complainer to play with a man who attempts about 13 passes per game. Young tossed half of his uniform into the stands as he left the field in anger Sunday. It would be his most accurate throw of the afternoon.
  • Donovan McNabb responded beautifully to that stink-o performance against the Eagles. He was brilliant during a two-minute drill at the end of regulation and then he once again made a big play on the game-winning drive in overtime. McNabb delivered a perfect pass to tight end Chris Cooley in overtime after eluding a defender and throwing on the run. Mike Shanahan joked that he wouldn't have to talk about the two-minute drill this week. For now, it appears that McNabb and the Shanahans are on the same page.

Justin Tuck compares Eagles to '07 Pats?

November, 19, 2010
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As most of you know, New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck is a daily reader of the Beast blog and he often appears on Beast Radio, which is more commonly referred to as "Galloway & Company" on ESPN 103.3 in Dallas. But on Thursday afternoon, Tuck made some intriguing comments to SI.com's budding NFL columnist Peter King.

Tuck basically said the Giants wouldn't use the foolish game plan that Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett rolled out against the Michael Vick Experience on Monday:

"Our plan is to pressure him," said Tuck. "You sit back, basically like Washington did, and he'll kill you. You pressure him and try to move him with different looks, he might kill you. Pick your poison. But I think if you don't hurry him up, there is no question about it -- he will kill you. He throws the deep ball as accurately as anyone I've ever seen ... Look at the deep ball he threw on the first drive to DeSean Jackson."

That ball flew 63 yards in the air before finding Jackson in stride for an 88-yard touchdown. Tuck also talked about the sense of invincibility the Eagles appear to have when Vick's on the field, saying if he keeps it up, the Eagles "may not lose the rest of the year."

But I think Tuck revealed the Giants' mindset this week when he compared the 2010 Eagles to the '07 New England Patriots:

"It's kind of like that Super Bowl for us,'' Tuck said. "Think about it -- all week before that game, all we heard was [Tom] Brady and [Randy] Moss, Brady and Moss. We had no shot. It's like that this time, with Vick. Last time, we listened to it all week, then went out and beat them. That's a good way to motivate a team."

I can't wait for kickoff Sunday night. And the NFC East blog will be at the Linc to bring you all the action.

Moss to Redskins doesn't cut it

November, 1, 2010
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Even though the Redskins need more firepower at wide receiver, I wouldn't jump at the chance to sign Randy Moss.

The Vikings made a desperate grab for Moss as they felt their season slipping away. But Brad Childress isn't the type of personality who can handle a player like Moss who is more than willing to throw his coach under the bus.

Mike Shanahan would have a better shot at getting Moss to produce on a weekly basis, but I'm not sure it's worth the risk. You've already had the Albert Haynesworth saga, followed by the Donovan McNabb benching. Isn't that enough drama for one half of the season?

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.

Favre surprised by Cowboys' slow start

October, 17, 2010
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre had a lengthy conversation with ESPN's Ed Werder on Friday. Werder, who's already done his first live shot today, shared some of the information he gleaned from that interview.

Favre told him that he was more surprised about the Cowboys' 1-3 start than the Vikings', which seems to indicate that he thinks Minnesota has more reasons to be 1-3 than a Cowboys team that has remained relatively healthy. Favre has great respect for Cowboys outside linebackers Anthony Spencer, DeMarcus Ware and nose tackle Jay Ratliff. He does not think the Vikings can block any of those players one-on-one for an extended period of time.

Favre thinks that starting center John Sullivan will be in uniform today, but that Jon Cooper could end up playing quite a bit. The quarterback joked that Cooper's as big as Ratliff's right leg.

Here's the column Werder wrote Thursday for ESPNDallas.com about how Cowboys coach Wade Phillips has created a culture where players are insulated from criticism. By the way, Keyshawn Johnson just said on ESPN that the Cowboys have the best chance to turn their season around today. Cris Carter thinks the arrival of Randy Moss will give the Vikings a major advantage. It should be noted that Johnson played for the Cowboys and Carter the Vikings.

Final Word: NFC East

October, 15, 2010
10/15/10
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about the Week 6 games:

[+] EnlargeMarc Colombo
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireDallas tackle Marc Colombo has a difficult matchup this week against Minnesota's Ray Edwards.
Can the Cowboys' offensive line hold up against the Vikings? We all know what happened the last time the Cowboys were in the Metrodome. Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards abused right tackle Marc Colombo and All-Pro Jared Allen wore out left tackle Doug Free in a divisional round playoff game in January. You'll recall that Free was forced into that game when Flozell Adams went down with an injury. I think Free will bounce back from a poor game against the Titans and play well against Allen. But the problem with Colombo last season was that he wasn't getting off the snap quickly enough because of the crowd noise in the Metrodome. The Cowboys have worked on their silent counts this week and feel like they're better prepared this time around. Starting center Andre Gurode has a degenerative condition in his knee and will likely be a game-time decision. I think he'll be ready to go, but if not, left guard Kyle Kosier would be his replacement. Montrae Holland would take over at left guard.

The Redskins must diversify their passing game against Colts. Washington tight end Chris Cooley and wide receiver Santana Moss are on pace to have career seasons. That's good news for fans, but at some point, there must be more diversity in this offense. Anthony Armstrong made a huge play in the fourth quarter against the Packers, so perhaps he's a candidate to be targeted. But right now, I think the Redskins are too easy to defend. The Colts have unbelievable pass-rushers in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, but the Skins could counter some of their speed by running right at them. With Trent Williams back at left tackle, I think this is a game where the Skins needed to pound the running game like they did against the Eagles. But when they must pass, someone other than Moss and Cooley must step forward. Does anyone know what's happened to Fred Davis? This was supposed to be one of the best tight end tandems in the league, but Davis' season hasn't gotten off the ground.

Giants need to put the Lions away early. The New York Giants must assert their dominance early in Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. Tom Coughlin has made the Lions out to be world beaters, but we know the score. Rookie running back Jahvid Best can burn a defense if he's allowed to have any cutback lanes. I think middle linebacker Jonathan Goff, who has been impressive so far this season, will have some one-on-one situations against Best. Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson is one of the toughest covers in the league. I think you'll see Corey Webster on him initially with some help over the top from Kenny Phillips. The Giants will try to make the Lions one dimensional from the start. Same thing they did against the Texans last week.

The Eagles have a huge opportunity against the Atlanta Falcons. It sort of feels like Atlanta's the best team in the NFC almost by default. Quarterback Matt Ryan's playing really well and the Falcons also have an excellent running game. The Eagles were gashed in the running game by the Washington Redskins, and I assure you that Falcons coach Mike Smith will try to do the same thing. With Brodrick Bunkley (elbow) out for this game, the Eagles must do a good job of gang tackling. We saw what happened to Quintin Mikell when he tried to challenge Washington's Ryan Torain in the open field. Atlanta's Michael Turner can't be allowed to get in a lot of those one-on-one situations. On offense, Kevin Kolb must be smart with the football while playing behind a patchwork offensive line. Andy Reid thinks left tackle King Dunlap will play better with a week of practice under his belt, but I have my doubts. Reid better make sure Dunlap has a lot of help.

Can Randy Moss make the Cowboys pay -- again? No one loves lighting up the Cowboys more than Randy Moss, whom Jerry Jones passed on in the 1998 draft (along with several other teams). With a full week of practice under his belt, Moss could be very dangerous against the Cowboys. Look for him to try to beat the Cowboys on a vertical route early in this game. The Cowboys have struggled against the vertical routes, as evidenced by losses to the Bears and Titans. This is not a smart defense right now, and Brett Favre and Moss will look to make them pay. And I don't believe for a second all this nonsense about Favre not playing because of tendinitis. This is panic time for both teams, and Favre's come too far and had too many unretirements to sit this one out.

Tearjerker: Randy Moss forgives Jerry Jones

October, 13, 2010
10/13/10
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When Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked about Randy Moss' return to Minnesota last week, he playfully begged forgiveness for not drafting the wide receiver (in 1998) who's spent his career paying him back on the field.

"I apologize, I apologize, I apologize," Jerry told reporters at Valley Ranch.

On Wednesday, Moss told the Dallas-Fort Worth media via conference call that he longer has any hard feelings against the Cowboys.

"I always forgive, man, that’s in the Bible," Moss said Wednesday per ESPNDallas.com. "I always forgive, but I never forget.

"Mr. Jones, Jerry Jones, I still respect his organization, the accomplishments that he has made over the years, I don’t hold a grudge and I’m not bitter about the situation. This is my 13th year in the league and, like I said, I forgive him but I don’t forget."

ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon takes a look back at how Moss has performed in seven games against the Cowboys. Dallas lost all seven of those games, but I'm sure it's just a coincidence.

Who will emerge from NFC Least?

October, 7, 2010
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Redskins, Cowboys & GiantsGetty ImagesThe Redskins, Cowboys and Giants all have had mediocre starts to the season.
At least until an NFC East team wins in convincing fashion Sunday, this blog will no longer be referred to as The Beast. I'm pretty sure my longtime pal John "The Professor" Clayton buried our beloved division the moment Brett Favre and Randy Moss were finally united in the dreaded NFC North.

For years, we could turn up our collective nose at the smell coming from the NFC West and AFC West, but now the division that Landry and Gibbs built is in similar shape. How else do you describe a division that has three teams tied for the lead at 2-2, and the Cowboys sitting "pretty" at 1-2. (Yes, I know the Skins are 2-0 in the division, but just work with me folks.) Against my best judgment, I've now seen all four teams in person.

I was on the verge of joining the Michael Vick redemption tour until he was sandwiched at the goal line by two Redskins defenders in Sunday's game. Now it looks like it would take a miracle for this man to stay in one piece for an extended amount of time. He plays behind the most overrated left tackle in the league in Jason Peters and his most brilliant skill (scrambling from large men) exposes him to injury on an inordinate number of plays. (Bill Parcells loved the word "inordinate" with all his heart, so I try to keep it in play.)

Vick
Howard Smith/US PresswireMichael Vick's hot start was derailed Sunday after the starting quarterback injured his ribs.
Even the most hallowed of NFL traditions, the ESPN.com Power Rankings featuring “The Professor” himself, has no clue what to make of this division. The Dallas Cowboys surged to No. 14 to lead the division this week based on the fact that no one had to watch them play last Sunday because of the bye.

The Cowboys have reemerged as the division favorite based on their talented roster, a nice road win in Houston and our distrust of the other three teams. I applied to drive the Mike Shanahan bandwagon during training camp, but his extremely white teeth and disregard for certain positions (such as running back and receiver) have caused me to go in a different direction. It should be pointed out (by me of course) that only one of our 357 contributors at ESPN.com picked the Skins to beat the Eagles, but I think Shanahan's about to get caught in the teeth of a snarling schedule that includes the Packers, Colts and Bears in successive weeks. Even with Slingin' Don and the bruising Ryan Torain, this offense isn't built to score points on a consistent basis.

At least two teams in this division are on a crash course for 8-8, which is good enough to win an NFC West crown, but not quite strong enough to win the weakened "Beast." I picked the New York Giants to make the Super Bowl, but that's before I watched them embarrass the Mara and Tisch families against the Tennessee Titans two weeks ago. The Giants showed an utter lack of discipline in that game, and the bounce-back win against Jay Cutler and the Bears didn't totally restore my faith in Tom Coughlin's team.

The Bears were the most fraudulent 3-0 team since the Broncos of 2009. Cutler is the ultimate coach-killer because he holds the ball too long, doesn't secure it and throws too many interceptions. Other than that, I love his game.

I'd be shocked if the Bears are still in the playoff conversation in December -- especially because the Vikings are fulfilling Favre's bucket list. If they move one home game to Hattiesburg, he'll be set.

This isn't the first time the NFC East has gone through a lull. The Redskins, Cowboys and Giants all faded in December 2008 while the Eagles made an improbable run to the NFC title game, which forced fans to endure Donovan McNabb for another season. And the Redskins and Giants were both dreadful in 2009. I guess you could say there has been a trend over the past couple of seasons of the division's reputation exceeding its production.

But this is the first time I can remember looking at all four teams and seeing only mediocrity. The Eagles have one of the most dangerous receiving corps in the league, but it doesn't really matter when teams play Tampa 2 coverage and force quarterbacks to throw everything underneath. Until DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin show they can get open for Kevin Kolb or Vick downfield on a consistent basis, that's what they'll face. Coach Andy Reid made a mistake against the Redskins by taking only four receivers to the game. When Riley Cooper suffered a concussion, Jackson, Maclin and Jason Avant played too many snaps. They were so tired on the final possession that they could barely get a release at the line of scrimmage.

I'll reluctantly admit that Dallas has the best chance to break away from the pack. Tony Romo was extremely efficient in the win over the Texans and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett found the "running plays" section on his laminated play-calling chart. The Eagles and Giants didn't take advantage of the Cowboys' slow start, which will haunt them down the stretch. I didn’t expect the Redskins to do anything this season, so they’ve already exceeded my expectations.

The Cowboys play host to a wildly inconsistent Titans team Sunday and then travel to Minneapolis for a pivotal game. They return home after that to play the Giants and Jaguars in successive weeks. If the Cowboys can go 3-1 in that stretch, which seems reasonable, they'll be in control of the division heading into November.

Linebacker Keith Brooking, who normally has a good gauge of the Cowboys' locker room, said he’s not worried about the other teams in the division at this point.

“All that matters, all that truly matters -- I mean this with all my heart – is what we do, what we take care of,” Brooking said earlier this week. “We have five games left to play in our division right now. That’s all that matters. If we take care of our business and we prepare the way we’re supposed to prepare, everything will take care of itself. It’s not about what other teams do.”

But with all due respect to the founding fathers of this proud division, the best weapon these teams have is the bye week. Just ask Wade Phillips.

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