I am no different than many of you. Every once in a while I allow myself to lapse into a daydream about opening day at the new Texas Stadium. I imagine pre-game introductions, as the PA announcer works his way through the names of the defensive starters. As the fireworks explode, the anticipation borders insanity as the words echo through the stadium “At Inside Linebacker….from the University of Miami…..” At about that time the crowd bursts into an orgasmic chorus of cheers as Ray Lewis comes out of the tunnel doing his patented dance, and calling for cheers in his own Hulk Hogan-like fashion. Sounds great doesn’t it? Unfortunately, as our beloved Dallas Cowboys continue to remind us, all that glitters ain’t necessarily gold.
Ray Lewis in a Cowboy uniform will more than likely not work. Ray Lewis and Terrell Owens both in Cowboy uniforms can not and most certainly will not work. My reasons for believing this can be broken down into three core issues.
THE CAP FACTOR- Though Ray Lewis is physically coming down the home stretch in his pro football career, his well earned reputation will garner a hefty price tag. First and foremost, Jerry Jones should not be allowed to say the words free agent until he has DeMarcus Ware securely chained to a radiator somewhere fifty feet below the surface of Valley Ranch. The Cowboys just handed out big deals to Terrell Owens, Marion Barber, Ken Hamlin, Flozell Adams, Roy E. Williams and Terence Newman. Marc Columbo just inked a decent deal himself, and DeMarcus Ware is about to get one of those big old, life sized Publisher’s Clearing House checks. Tony Romo is getting paid a ton, and the Cowboys already have a lot of players set to go into free agency that they will have to make some tough decisions about. Let us also remember that we will have to find cap space for as many as 11 draft picks. Okay so maybe the ‘Boys don’t use all eleven picks, but knowing Jerry Jones, they might be kicking out two first round salaries by the end of draft day. I’m sorry but $25-30 million is just too much to fork over for a 34 year old guy. Even Ray Ray.
THE RESPECT FACTOR- To compare Ray Lewis to Zach Thomas is a bit unfair to Ray; but for the lack of better example let’s revisit the Zach Thomas signing. Was it not the purpose of bringing in an aging Zach Thomas to inject some leadership into a young and somewhat inexperienced team? The defense played good for a stretch there, but all in all, the unit was inconsistent and still tanked when it mattered most.
You can not just rent a leader; not with this team. Especially when it is obvious that the guy you are bringing in, is clearly brought in to lead a bunch of guys he has never sweated or bled with. This is the Dallas Cowboys we are talking about here. These guys ate Bill Parcells alive. Zach Thomas was a snack and they will devour Ray too. This locker room seems at times resentful to leadership, and will treat Ray Lewis no different. The whole “New sheriff in town” concept will not work here.
Apply this to your own everyday life. When your company hires some new manager to come in and “clean up the operation,” how is that guy received? What is said about him when he is beyond earshot? Have you ever been to a local concert, and the lead singer from a band you’ve never heard of tries to start a mosh pit? Everyone just stands around and wonders “who the hell does this guy think he is.“ Ray can get that mosh pit going in Baltimore because he is the Ravens. He is the heart soul and face of that franchise. To everyone on the Ravens, Ray Lewis has been there for their entire career. He is a part of the fabric of the organization, as much a constant as the colors on the jerseys. In Dallas, Ray would be a hired hand, who’s best days are in the rear view mirror. He would likely be resented by some, and laughed at by others eventually when the magic begins to wear off. It’s hard to buy into all the hooting and hollering when the guy with the biggest mouth starts getting pancaked by fullbacks on a consistent basis.
Leaders have to be grown organically within an organization as opposed to being hired. If DeMarcus Ware emerged as a leader, that would be fantastic. Ware has earned the respect of his teammates over time, and been there all along to endure the struggles with them. That is the same way that Ray Lewis grew into his role. Besides, after Ray’s post game comments after defeating the Cowboys, you wonder how much he would respect them.
THE T.O. FACTOR- Assuming that T.O. is suiting up with a star on his helmet next season, (which is beginning to look less and less likely everyday) to bring Ray Lewis into this locker room would be to throw a can of gas into this already out of control bonfire. Let’s be clear here. Terrell Owens and Ray Lewis do not like each other. Do we all remember when T.O. was set to become a free agent following the 2003 season? We all saw Ray Lewis at the Pro Bowl, begging T.O. to come to Baltimore. We all saw T.O.’s agent screw up his paperwork, delaying his free agent status another year. Owens got traded to Baltimore, and within days the trade was appealed and overturned. Owens then went on to basically say that the Ravens weren’t good enough for him, and headed to Philly. He then returned to Baltimore as an Eagle, scored the game winning touchdown, did the Ray Ray dance in Ray Ray’s house, then proceeded to bring up Ray Ray’s legal business in his post game presser. It was five years ago, but I bet they haven’t exchanged any Christmas cards.
Before you waste your keystrokes, please allow me to dispel the notion that T.O. will be physically intimidated by Ray Lewis. When has T.O. ever backed down from anyone? He clearly wasn’t afraid of anyone in that San Francisco locker room, and he certainly didn’t back down from Paul Bunyan himself, Mr. Jason Witten. If my memory serves me correctly, I recall a Philadelphia “locker room leader” trying to physically intimidate Owens. I also remember Philly players saying that they had to peel T.O. off of a much larger Hugh Douglas seconds later.
Terrell Owens will see Ray Lewis as a challenge, as something that he must conquer to prove a point. If Ray Lewis tries to use intimidation to reign in Terrell Owens, there will be a fist fight, end of story. Players will once again take sides, and before you know it, there is a locker room division……again.
It sounds great to have a Hall of Fame, all-time great like Ray Lewis on this team. But why can’t the Cowboys find their own Ray Lewis. I would prefer to just see this team continue to draft the way that they did last year. Keep drafting good players, keep the team young, and leaders will emerge.