IRVING, Texas -- Owner/general manager Jerry Jones has repeatedly vowed that this disappointing season will cost some of the Dallas Cowboys their jobs.
If you're a ridiculously overpaid player on the roster, this probably isn't a good time to pick fights with the interim head coach who has an excellent chance to keep the job on a full-time basis. But that's exactly what running back Marion Barber and receiver Roy Williams have done, albeit in completely different manners.
I guess you can afford to be foolish if you've already cashed checks that total well into eight figures over the past few years.
Barber and Williams combined to make almost $21 million this season. They've accounted for less than 1,000 total yards entering Sunday's season finale in Philadelphia. Bernie Madoff offered better investments.
With all the guaranteed money in their contracts already paid, Barber and Williams didn't need to give the Cowboys any more reasons to strongly consider cutting them. That's what makes their choices to publicly challenge Jason Garrett so puzzling.
Barber blatantly disrespected Garrett before the first game of his interim-coaching tenure by blowing off the travel dress code, sporting an untucked shirt, jeans and sneakers while the rest of the team wore the required suit and tie. It was a childish act of defiance, especially considering Barber's status as a team captain.
Garrett showed great restraint by only fining Barber an undisclosed amount instead of benching him. Garrett showed great loyalty by refusing to publicly rip Barber or discuss any details of the discipline despite persistent poking and prodding during the news conference the day after he made his head-coaching debut with a road upset of the New York Giants.
How did Barber repay Garrett? Well, he committed one of the most selfish, silly penalties in a season that's had a bunch of them, drawing a personal foul by pulling off his helmet while celebrating a rare touchdown run Saturday night against the Arizona Cardinals.
"He's an emotional guy and sometimes emotions get the best of players," Garrett said after acknowledging his disappointment in Barber. "That's unfortunate. We talk about the importance of maintaining your poise and your composure in that situation and he knows better.
"It's not going to happen again."
The only way Garrett can guarantee that is if the Cowboys get rid of Barber, who is about to finish the third season of a seven-year, $45 million contract. Crunch the numbers and it's clear that should be a sure thing. Barber's pedestrian production, which gets worse by the year, simply doesn't justify paying him Pro Bowl kind of money. He's a back who averages 3.4 yards per carry and is due $4.25 million next season with the price going up each season remaining on the deal.
In fairness, we'd like to be able to present Barber's side of the story. However, he has no interest in discussing his actions, his performance or his future. He grants legitimate interviews even less often than he has 100-yard rushing games. Come to think of it, the last time Barber told the media anything interesting was when he complained about his good friend/Garrett enemy Terrell Owens getting cut.
Williams, on the other hand, talks too much for his own good.
Last week, moments after saying he hoped to retire as a Cowboy and earn a spot in the Ring of Honor, Williams passive-aggressively pointed the finger at Garrett for his own poor production. This has been a theme for Williams, the self-proclaimed "coachable wide receiver," since the Detroit Lions suckered the Cowboys into mortgaging the 2009 draft to acquire the former first-round pick who had worn out his welcome with one of the NFL's worst franchises.
Jerry gladly signed Williams to a six-year, $54 million contract the week he arrived in the blockbuster deal. For that kind of money, you expect a receiver to produce numbers like 93 catches for 1,318 yards and 13 touchdowns. Per season. Those are Williams' totals in two and a half years in Dallas.
"There's a whole bunch of things I can get into, but I'm not going to get into that," Williams said last week on the subject of his production not justifying his paycheck. "I would love to just say what I want to say, but there's no possible way I'm going to do that. It is what it is. It is what it is.
"Is it my fault that it is that way? No, it's not my fault."
You didn't need a diva receiver translator to figure out that Williams was blaming either the quarterbacks or the playcaller.
Considering the fact Williams actually (and finally) clicked with Tony Romo this season, catching 21 passes for 306 yards and five touchdowns in the franchise quarterback's five full games, you can cross Romo off the list. Williams has made it clear that he has a major man-crush on backup quarterback Jon Kitna, who fed him the ball during his best seasons in Detroit but has completed only 15 passes for 298 yards and no touchdowns to his former favorite receiver in 10 games together this season.
By process of elimination, it was obvious that Williams was calling out Garrett. He decided to scrap the subtlety this week.
"Coordinators can make who they want to make the star," Williams said.
And that wasn't even the most delusional thing to come out of Williams' mouth Wednesday afternoon. He compared himself to arguably the greatest athlete of this era, saying that he thinks if Michael Jordan is hot he should keep getting fed the ball.
If you boil down Williams' argument, he actually has some legitimate points, at least as far as this season is concerned. But nobody wants to hear excuses from an overpaid underachiever. And his timing is terrible, considering that the last pass thrown to him bounced off his hands and into the arms of a Cardinals cornerback who returned it for a touchdown.
Williams' contract might actually save his job for one more season. He's due to make $5.1 million in 2011 and would count $9.4 million against the salary cap. Because of all the bonus money Williams has been paid, he'd count significantly more against the cap if he isn't on the roster.
Of course, there is precedent for the Cowboys taking a major cap hit to cut a high-profile player. They did it with T.O. a couple of offseasons ago.
Williams -- and Barber, for that matter -- still has a long way to go to approach T.O.'s level of being a divisive pain in the butt. But T.O. produced. That's the biggest problem for this pair of high-priced Cowboys, which is the primary reason they should be wearing a star on their helmets for the last time Sunday afternoon.