I caught up with Cowboys often vocal mascot Rowdy yesterday, a day after the disastrous Cowboys and Indians battle at Cowboys stadium on Thanksgiving day. As compared to his attitude the last many weeks, I found Rowdy to be calm, thoughtful and contemplative in expressing his feelings on where the Cowboys are as the season progresses and his thoughts on the last two games.
MH: Rowdy, let’s take the Cleveland Browns game first, your thoughts please?
Rowdy: I was glad to see us win. I spoke to the team before the game and I think the importance of winning this one really got through. I was disappointed to see us fall behind early and, even though it took going into overtime, I was happy to see us pull this one out. You cannot underestimate the significance of winning two in a row for the first time this season.
MH: OK, what about yesterday’s game against the despised Washington Redskins?
Rowdy: You don’t allow 28 points in the second quarter to any team and expect to win. It was uncanny, the passes the Redskins completed and, specifically, the tight windows that RG III was able to throw into to complete passes. It really is a game of inches.
MH: You have often referred to how you play a game of Madden Football against the next opponent and how you would use that as the game plan for the game. How did you do before the last two games?
Rowdy: Cowboys 35-Browns 3 and Cowboys 35-Redskins 0. Yeah that would have been nice. But in reality (Rowdy lets out a laugh) game planning around Madden Football is a bit whacked and I was a bit whacked in suggesting it would work that way, along with many other things I said when I was so angry about how this team was doing. In reality, my version of Madden does not even have many of the current players. If only we could have gone against Rex Grossman yesterday. And I am still playing with Martellus Bennett and Tashard Choice on offense!
MH: You brought up things you said in the past, let’s talk about that. You have not been shy in your criticism of Jason Garrett, has anything changed in your opinion there?
Rowdy: I would say yeah, that has changed. Is Jason perfect? No, I wouldn’t say that, but he is going to war with a lot of disadvantages, so I give him some credit for what he is doing without much to work with.
MH: Can you elaborate on that?
Rowdy: Sure. As you know, I have been involved in player personnel for some time now and these decisions are not always mine, the official scouts, or even Jason’s. For example, the salary cap can force some bad decisions. We were able to sign Brandon Carr for big money and move up to get Morris Claiborne in the draft. But this causes cuts elsewhere. I’m sure Jerry and Stephen Jones thought we were making the team better by dumping older offensive lineman. Younger is better right? The problem is we had to bargain shop for lineman to replace them and in the NFL, like anywhere else, you get what you pay for. I was on record as saying “let’s identify who can still play on our line and try to sign them for less, before we just cut them and move on”.
MH: So you’re saying the decisions on the offensive line personnel is the root of this year’s problems on offense?
Rowdy: Yeah, for the most part I would agree. It’s not our only problem, but it’s the biggest one. I think there are some ways to mitigate the issue, but Jason just seems to be too stuck on his plan to look at it objectively.
MH: Please explain.
Rowdy: OK. In just the past month, in games against the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and then yesterday with the Redskins, we saw the Cowboys fall behind and then come roaring back with the no huddle offense. I will argue until I am blue in the face that we need to start the game with a no huddle “fast break” offense. Doing that helps to cover the weaknesses of our offensive line and does not allow the opposing defense to change personnel. Not only do they have to stay with more of a basic defense, they tire out from the fast pace. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if we can score like that late in the game, why not use that method to build a lead early in the game and then slow it down once we have the big lead?
MH: Does that mean not even trying to run the ball and just passing early in the game?
Rowdy: No, not at all. We need to come out with one tight end, three receivers and one running back. With this spread offense, Tony makes the decision at the line of scrimmage whether to run or pass. If he decides to run, we have a chance to make something on the play, because the tight run formation with strength on strength, line versus line, is just not getting it done. In this case we are likely playing against more defensive backs and that’s more favorable for us to run and gain some yards.
MH: is there more than just the line that is causing the team to fail miserably early in games on offense?
Rowdy: There might be something to that. I know that the line sometimes makes it difficult for Tony to find the open receiver, because he has no time. But there are other times he scrambles and buys time, but there are still no open receivers. I suspect that Jason’s offense has become a bit predictable.
MH: But a good running game cures some of these ills, right?
Rowdy: Yes, I would agree with that. Even though the blocking would not be better, a dynamic runner like DeMarco Murray is able to make something out of nothing and, once the other team has to be more concerned with the run, you open up a lot more opportunities passing the ball.
MH: Speaking of Murray, let’s talk about injuries.
Rowdy: Sure, it’s a very big issue with this team. I am starting to think we need a mobile hospital on the sideline, kind of like a MASH unit, we have so many injuries during the game each week. Let’s just go down the list and talk about how this has hurt us. Sean Lee, lost for the season, our most prolific tackler and captain of the defense. Sure Bruce Carter is a very good linebacker and ably took over calling out the defensive signals, but it’s not the same as having both of them in there at the same time. And now Carter is hurt and a dislocated elbow does not bode well as far as his prospects for the rest of the season are concerned.
Jay Ratliff has missed a lot more than he’s played, you add to that Kenyon Coleman out for the rest of the season and Sean Lissemore missing the last several games, there goes our run defense as well as some of our pass rush. And now we will suffer more in the defensive backfield not only with the early season loss of Barry Church, but now Orlando Scandrick with a broken hand. Mike Jenkins has not been available for every game, but we sure need him to be going forward from here. I was the one that said “don’t trade him”, by the way.
On offense, we are down to our third center. I did not realize how good Phil Costa was until we tried to play without him, which has been all but one game this year. Now we are missing our best lineman, Tryon Smith, as well. We already talked about Murray, but also Felix Jones is playing hurt. Then yesterday, we lose our most consistent receiver, Miles Austin. I am not sure how long he will be out, but if any time at all, he will be missed. Kevin Ogletree missed the game with a concussion, we need him back, especially if Austin can’t play for a while.
MH: Wow, are there any bright spots?
Rowdy: Some. We have some young receivers that can play and they are getting their chance to show it. I have been especially impressed with Dwayne Harris. Of course that is no big surprise to me, because I lobbied for us to draft him. I said “I’ll walk the plank to pick that Dwayne Harris from the East Carolina Pirates”. We are also seeing that Cole Beasley can play too. Dez Bryant has shown marked improvement in the last few weeks, so we all feel good about him.
MH: So, where do we go from here?
Rowdy: We play out the string. For all of our fans, this is what I advise, be happy when we win, but don’t go off the deep end when we lose. To think that we can run the table the rest of the season and make the playoffs is not very realistic, too many weaknesses compounded by injuries at key positions will likely keep that from happening. But I will take this time to plug in my thoughts on offense again. Jason, start the game with the no huddle, what do you have to lose?