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FISH on FOOTBALL Wednesday Notebook: The Cowboys Don't 'Suck In A Nutshell'

Here’s the FISH on FOOTBALL plan: A long-form notes column every Wednesday … that has turned out to be so long-form that I’m going to bust it in half and do a long-form notes column every Wednesday and Thursday. The sheer volume of the thing ought to allow me to please some of the people some of the time as I pitch in what I believe is the finest website of its kind. BTB is special, the team it covers is special, and the Cowboy Fan? You are the heart of the whole thing.

But enough about you. Let’s get to my thoughts on the Cowboys and more, the inaugural edition of BTB’s Wednesday "FISH on FOOTBALL’’:


ROMO, STAUBACH, WHITE AND AIKMAN: Sometimes I think people are anti-Romo just for the sake of being contrarians. Example: The Dallas paper says that on Romo's 80-yard TD pass to Patrick Crayton, the QB benefited from a "busted assignment.'' Dude, the reason the Bucs coverage was "busted'' is because Romo "busted'' it with a pump-fake that was part of the play's design! Listen, he hasn't won a playoff game and he seems to like being on the cover of "US Weekly'' but football facts are football facts: Through 40 games as the starting QB here Tony Romeo has thrown for more yards, touchdowns and recorded a higher completion percentage during the same length of time of predecessors Staubach, White and Aikman. Romo is 28-12 and in a season-opener Dallas damn sure didn't want to lose, he threw for a career-high 353 yards and electric TDs of 42 yards, 66 yards and 80 yards. Oh, and as you know, Dallas won at Tampa, 34-21. That's really all you can ask him after one week, isn't it? ... What's going on with Texas Tech superstar Michael Crabtree, the rookie whose contract dispute with the 49ers threatens his entire rookie season? The potentially great receiver's camp is making noise about him sitting out all season and re-entering the NFL Draft next year. Having talked to people in that "camp,'' I can promise you that ain't the brainchild of veteran agent Eugene Parker. Rather, it's the talk that comes from a Crabtree cousin named David Wells who is by trade a Dallas-based bail bondsman and a bodyguard but because he has served in both capacities for a bunch of Cowboys over the years fancies himself "experienced in these matters.'' What's the old saying? "A football player who lets his bail-bondsman relative help represent him means the bail-bondsman relative has a fool for a client.'' Or something like that. ... Maybe in December, coach Wade Phillips needs to treat his players like Serena Williams treats line judges. But in September? As the Cowboys head coach, the avuncular ol' softie is now 8-1. ...

"WE SUCK IN A NUTSHELL'': Roy Williams (I think we can drop the "E.'' now, OK? I'd no more confuse him with the Bengals safety than I would with the college basketball coach) said it before the opener and maybe unintentionally let all the words run together. "We suck'' is something he often says about the post-T.O. receiving corps, letting the sentence soak in sarcasm. Ideally, there should be a comma after it. As in, "We suck, in a nutshell.'' But after Williams, Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin combined for eight catches, 263 yards and three touchdowns, I think it's a badass rallying cry, a fittingly ironic T-shirt, a snarky website name. I'll get Rafael to set it up. ... Wade's "acceptance speech'' after the Tampa win was so boring I almost hoped Kanye West would take the stage to try to give the win to Beyonce. ... Byron Leftwich is gritty. But I still cannot believe Tampa Bay made him its starting QB on purpose. What's he now, 1-6 in the last seven games he's played? ... I'm not feelin' the fast-talkin' beer salesman "Football Jimmy,'' who does a sort of Billy Mays-like infomercial act. I think they should have hired the real Billy Mays, and that the real Billy Mays would be more effective than "Football Jimmy.'' And yes, I say that fully aware that the real Billy Mays is dead. ...

AND NOW A MESSAGE FROM THE COMMISSIONER: Roger Goodell chided the players' union by saying he doesn't believe in "rhetoric.'' But Rog, if you don't believe in "rhetoric,'' what are you doing spending 10 minutes talking about the issue on NBC's Sunday night pregame show? ... Can you change the performance of your entire special teams by changing an assistant and by drafting a kickoff specialist? Clifton Smith was invisible, David Buehler was cannon-legged, so was Mat McBriar, so was Nick Folk, and Gerald Sensabaugh blocked a field goal. ... Now we finally know what "Romo-friendly'' means. It's Latin for "Get T.O. the hell outta the way.'' ... We have the right to be a little surprised at the first-team's long-distance strikes given that in 84 preseason plays with the first team, Romo had just one completion of more than 25 yards. ... For the third time in three seasons under Wade Phillips, the Cowboys opened with an impressive win. If you are a Wade-hater, I guess you can argue that the only time he's a great coach is when he has eight months to prepare for a game. ...

SABBY STAT O' THE WEEK: My research team informs me that the Cowboys have never lost to a team that was playing a guy named "Sabby.'' ... Is Sunday night against the Giants going to be Orlando Scandrick's turn at the right cornerback? It's Socialism, I tell ya!... I'm not saying Byron Leftwich's windmill delivery is deliberate, but I've seen the hour hand on a clock come over the top faster ... Tony vs. Tampa: Looking back to Thanksgiving 2006 and last Sunday, in his last two starts against the Bucs your boy Romo has produced 659 passing yards and eight touchdowns. ... Somebody go watch the preseason film and tell me if Roy Williams coming in motion is a new wrinkle. I don't remember seeing it at all ... Quote from Wade: "Everyone was wondering if this was a dink-and-dunk offense. It's not." For the record: I don't think anyone is expecting weekly flourishes including three TD passes of more than 44 yards. Dink-and-dunk has value if it's being chosen by the offense rather than being dictated by the defense. ... Don't pencil me in for beach-house-rental-in-February reservations just yet, but teams that win their openers are more than twice as likely to reach playoffs than teams that lose in Week 1.

CLOCK MANAGEMENT FROM YOUR LIVING ROOM: Which was more boneheaded: Leftwich running out of bounds before halftime, which simply ended up giving Dallas’ offense more time to operate? (Which it did, with Austin’s TD). Or Patrick Crayton’s decision to cap off a Dallas muffed punt by futbol’ing the loose ball out of bounds? … Nothing against Tashard Choice; it’s always nice to have a third running back – you know, in case Nos. 1 and 2 are unavailable. But as cute as it was so see Choice in the Wildcat, er, Razorback, I’d much rather have the ball in Felix’ hands two more times. Last year, Felix Jones had 8.9 yards per rush on 30 rush attempts, the Cowboys were 4-1 when Jones had at least one rush attempt, and they won all four games in which he scored a TD. Against the Bucs he had nine touches (six carries, three kickoff returns). Not enough. There’s not much arguing with MB3’s role. But if there is a way to increase Felix’ role, Dallas – assuming his hammy is healthy -- should do it. And not getting cute with Tashard is that way. … Gerald Sensabaugh moved to the ball, covered receivers, made decisions and delivered blows like his predecessor only dreamed of doing … Did Tampa hire the best coach in the 33-year-old Raheem Morris? Or did they just do what Cincinnati once did with David Shula, and simply hire a guy because his office was conveniently located near the GM’s? … Only four penalties for 41 yards? That’s even better than Bill Parcells used to pretend he could get done around here!

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