NFL: T.O. is no team player
Terrell Owens’ love affair with Tony Romo and the rest of his Dallas teammates may be turning down the rocky path that his relationships with Donovan McNabb and Jeff Garcia followed. At least it seemed that way after the Cowboys lost Sunday for the first time this season.
“I’m a competitor and I want the ball,” T.O. said after the 26-24 loss to the Redskins, ending the speculation that Dallas might emulate New England and go 16-0 this season, finishing the deal in the Super Bowl, which the Patriots didn’t.
That was a silly dream. What the Patriots did was a once-in-35 years kind of thing. Moreover, as Washington demonstrated, this season’s NFC East is not last year’s AFC East, through which New England breezed.
But beyond that, we all know that the Cowboys’ worst enemy is not the opposition, nor their slightly overrated talent level ó not all 13 Pro Bowlers last year deserved it. The enemy is themselves: an owner who is also general manager who thinks of himself as a coach; a head coach laid back enough to accept input from above; and an offensive coordinator who has been effectively designated by said owner as the current coach’s successor.
Plus a locker room with at least three players who were run off other teams for reasons unrelated to their talent.
So here was the most prominent and skilled of those three after Sunday’s game, whining that he should have been involved in more than 20 of the 58 offensive plays the Cowboys ran against the Redskins.
Yes, he was implicating the coaching staff for not recognizing that he must be the focal point of the offense. He also was implicating Romo, the same “friend” he defended with tears after the unexpected playoff loss to the Giants last January, saying from behind dark glasses: “You can point the finger at him …. and if you do that, it’s really unfair. That’s my teammate. My quarterback. We lost as a team.”
Funny he didn’t utter the “T as in team” word on Sunday. The only “T” involved was the first initial of his first name.
First of all, give some credit to the Redskins.
Then blame Jerry Jones (“Coach Jones” for long periods during his 20 years of ownership); coach Wade Phillips; and Jason Garrett, the offensive coordinator and head coach in waiting.
For the most obvious stat to come out of the loss was not Owens’ seven catches for 71 yards; 11 yards rushing on two reverses; and 11 other plays designed for him.
It was that Marion Barber got just eight carries for 26 yards and that Felix Jones did not touch the ball from scrimmage.
Barber came in with 285 yards rushing for a 4.6 average and four touchdowns in three games. Jones, the explosive rookie, had scored in all three games and had 148 yards on 18 carries, an 8.2 average. One of the touchdowns was a 60-yard run, another a 98-yard kickoff return.
Were Jones, Phillips, Garrett and Romo catering to T.O at the expense of the running game? Were they scared of the Redskins’ run defense? Washington ranked 16th in a 32-team league against the run, allowing 108 yards per game. Although to be fair, almost half those yards, 154, came in their opener against the Giants, their only loss. They improved markedly against the Saints (55 yards) and Cardinals (116).
But does that mean the Cowboys had to stop trying to run?
None of this might matter in the long run. The Cowboys might finish 15-1. Or, more likely, 13-3 or 12-4 because they play in the NFL’s best division.
But what happened Sunday demonstrates anarchy of a sort that doesn’t afflict other good teams. Randy Moss, even more notorious as a “me first” receiver for his first nine NFL seasons, discovered when he got to New England last year that playing a team game can be liberating and good for your stats. His stats ó a record 23 TD catches ó speak to that.