Dallas finds an inside linebacker. Plus, the Cowboys are about to climb out on a limb. ... of somebody else's tree. I explain in this FISH on FOOTBALL Wednesday notes package:
GOOD-LOOKING BROOKING: The good little things that are being accomplished tend to get buried under the bad big things (losses) that are understandably the headline-drivers. Still, props to Keith Brooking and the decision-makers who brought him here to, essentially, replace Zach Thomas. Brooking has that fire and cares (I'm sure Zach did, too). But on top of it, he makes good instinctive plays, good physical plays and good plays at the right time. Four games in, he's more notable than Thomas was after 16 games. Kyle Orton is yolked by that neckbeard and yolked by looking so mediocre in Chicago. But forget how he looks. Once he got lucky and beat Cincy on a long-distance fluke. Twice he's gotten lucky now that he'd beaten Dallas on a long-distance fluke? Maybe, but once you've done it twice, maybe it's not a fluke. I hate to say it, but: DeMarcus Where?
PARCELLS' COACHING TREE: The Cowboys are about to climb out onto another limb of the Bill Parcells coaching tree. Last week, the Cowboys bumped into Denver rookie coach Josh McDaniels, a"son'' of Bill Belichick and therefore a Parcells "grandson.'' This week it's Kansas City rookie coach Todd Haley, who of course was a lieutenant under Parcells in Dallas from 2004-06. Those are obvious ones. But the tree is more extensive than you think. On this year's Dallas schedule alone: Carolina's John Fox was Giants aide under Ray Handley, who is a Parcells guy. The Giants' Tom Coughlin is a Parcells guy. Sean Payton in New Orleans is a Parcells guy. In total, six of the Cowboys' 16 opponents are coached by Parcells disciples. Throw in Cleveland coach Eric Mangini, coach and the Rams' Steve Spagnuolo (a grandson via Coughlin) and almost a third of the coaches in the NFL spring from Parcells roots.
‘MILE-HIGH TONY': I'd like to give Tony Romo enough credit to wonder if there isn't something physically off about him. A shoulder, a finger, a hip, I dunno. But all season long he's been stunningly inconsistent in the accuracy department. We spent a lot of time in this space before the game discussion Denver's Mile High altitude and all I know is this: The biggest issue regarding "Mile High'' in that game was the location of too many of Romo's throws. Some day, Sam Hurd is going to be able to tell his grandchildren that he once got chances to catch consecutive TD passes against the great Champ Bailey. Now, Grandpa Sam isn't going to actually be able to say he caught ‘em. But he'll be able to say he had those chances.
SLOW DOWN, WADE-HATERS: DFW radio disc-jockey Jody Dean - who doubles as the Cowboys Stadium PA voice - actually did a Tuesday morning segment on the possibility of an in-season firing of Wade Phillips with Joe DeCamillis as his replacement. C'mon, FM radio. Settle down. Who was at fault on Brandon Marshall's game-winning touchdown? Start with Terence Newman, who was in perfect position but got beat by Marshall's "more perfect'' position. Then start adding up the Cowboys who missed tackles/clunked into each other/took bad angles. And you've got plenty of fault to go around. I still don't see how somebody named "Andre Goodman'' held up in that game. Was his name ever even called?
WITTEN THE PASS-BLOCKER: Why wasn't Jason Witten running game-winning routes at game's end? Dallas says if the other team rushes an extra guy, it's going to keep in a tight end to protect. OK, but if this Chess game is that simple: Dallas' opponents ought to "bring extra people'' (or at least show a blitz look) on EVERY PLAY. Then will Dallas keep Witten in on EVERY PLAY? Of course not - and therefore the Cowboys' overly simplistic explanation is lame. In their last eight games, the Cowboys are 3-5. In their last four roadies, the Cowboys are 1-3. Thank goodness for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And, thank goodness for the Kansas City Chiefs. If you are a Cowboys fan, you are getting a little sick of Brian Dawkins not being retired.
KEEPING ‘EM DOWN: The Denver loss featured a perfect example, a perfect opportunity, for a good veteran team to put away a team that isn't quite certain how good it is. It was early - 10 minutes left in the second quarter - but the Cowboys were already up 10-0. Dallas faced a third-and-14 from its own 22. Is this when you "gun-sling it''? (Heck, you are NOT going to convert on third-and-14 against a solid Denver defense. You just aren't.) Or is this when you use McBriar to play some push-me/pull-you field position, to move the Broncos way back south? (Yessir. That is what you do. We all boo when our team runs a third-and-14 draw play, but that is what you do.) Dallas opted for Plan A. The Cowboys lineup in the shotgun and they put Choice in motion meaning Romo is in an empty backfield. Here comes a blindside safety blitz - quite possible dictated by the empty backfield - and Renaldo Hill records the sack and the forced fumble. Seconds later, what was 10-0 and a long Denver field is 10-7 and the Broncos have their free touchdown and their 4-0 confidence. Third-and-14 from your own 22, people.
BREAKS, SCHEDULE AND INJURY VARIETY: It's a good time to bring on the lowly Chiefs, and who cares if they're lowly? "Lowly'' is what the Cowboys need right now - and "lowly'' is how 2-2 Dallas gotten this far anyway. Dallas hasn't yet beaten a team with a win and right now, heck, don't you wish the schedule would serve up a steady diet of those? Dear Fox: I wish you'd trade all your pretty sideline reporters and all your cartoon robots and all your Caliendo mockery and all your weather reports from domed stadiums for more real reporters who will, at some point during a telecast, tell me why Gerald Sensabaugh and Marion Barber aren't playing in the friggin' game going on right in front of them.