- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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"It wasn't the greatest," Newman said while walking to the bus after a 31-14 loss to the New York Giants with a playoff berth and NFC East title at stake Sunday night.
It wasn't surprising, either -- at least not to anybody who has watched the 33-year-old Newman's decline over the past couple of seasons.
It's painful proof of why cornerback has to rank atop the list of the Cowboys' many needs when they're considering prospects for the 14th pick in the first round of the NFL draft.
Newman simply can't cut it anymore, certainly not for an entire season. Orlando Scandrick, fresh off signing a five-year, $27 million contract extension, is ready to fill Newman's shoes. That's not a compliment. It merely means the target on No. 32 is just as inviting as the one on No. 41, as evidenced by Eli Manning & Co. picking on Scandrick as the Giants crushed the Cowboys' comeback hopes in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys need to find an upgrade for Newman. That shouldn't be too difficult at this point.
"This isn't the time to evaluate any of the individual players' future," coach Jason Garrett said, avoiding a direct question about Newman.
Actually, it's at least a year too late.
The Cowboys tried to replace Newman -- who also started fast and faded miserably last season -- during training camp. It was quite a surreal scene: a giddy Jerry Jones handing defensive coordinator Rob Ryan his cellphone on the Alamodome sideline during practice, hoping Ryan could close the Cowboys' recruiting campaign on All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, a conversation that happened about 10 yards away from where Newman and the other defensive backs ran drills.
Newman conveniently forgot about that scene during one of the rare times he talked to reporters at Valley Ranch this season. A few days after his two-pick performance against the Buffalo Bills, a proud Newman made a media horde trail him around the perimeter of the locker room, reversing direction a few times while he chided those who had dared to doubt him.
Never mind that the man who paid him $22.5 million guaranteed as part of a six-year contract extension signed in 2008 clearly doubted Newman, who hasn't earned a nickel of that money since his peacock-strut act.
This poor performance was pretty much par for the course for the former Pro Bowler down the stretch, albeit a bit worse because of the embarrassing, ankle-biting tackling attempts on a tight end and fullback best known for blocking, allowing Bear Pascoe and Henry Hynoski to make the Giants' highlight reel by hurdling Newman in the open field.
The Giants picked on Newman early and often in their 37-34 win Dec. 11 at Cowboys Stadium. It would have been stunning if they hadn't attacked one of the weak links on a defense that failed the Cowboys as they lost four of their final five games to fall out of the NFC playoff picture.
Newman allowed more than 100 receiving yards in the first quarter alone, setting the tone for the Giants jumping out to a 21-point head start by halftime. The biggest blow came on a simple quick out to New York's Victor Cruz, who turned up the sideline and left the former Kansas State track star in his wake en route to a 74-yard touchdown.
"I don't even remember it," said Newman -- who was checked for a concussion after being inadvertently kicked by Hakeem Nicks -- when asked about Cruz's touchdown. So it was pointless to ask about Nicks' 36-yard catch on the coffin-nailing drive in the fourth quarter, or any of the other plays the Giants made on the Cowboys' highest-paid defensive back.
Unfortunately for Newman, the fifth overall pick in the 2003 draft, this game will probably be the final lasting memory of a pretty good career.
He's due a little more than $6 million next season, none of which is guaranteed and none of which he'll see if the Cowboys' front office has any sense. Newman's smart enough to understand that reality.
"Whatever happens, happens," said Newman, the last player to leave the visiting locker room. "I mean, it is what it is, I guess. It's part of football."
Newman can't be part of the Cowboys next season. Not if they plan to be legitimate contenders instead of pretenders who crash hard when it counts most.
Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.
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