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Playoffs and Layoffs: Black Monday for the NFL

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“It’s not whether you win or lose, but who gets the blame.” Blaine Nye

After 17 weeks, 256 games and 11,985 points scored the NFL regular season ended last night when Dallas Cowboys’ Quarterback Kyle Orton was intercepted by Brandon Boykin.  That pass ended the Cowboys playoff hopes and season and sent the Philadelphia Eagles to the playoffs as champions of the NFC East.

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It was an exciting end to the season. The season went down to the wire for the Eagles, the Green Bay Packers who came from behind to stun the Chicago Bears to take the NFC Central and the San Diego Chargers who swiped the last AFC Wild Card when Baltimore and Miami lost.

The playoffs are now set. The Wild Card round will feature the AFC South Champion Indianapolis Colts (11-5) play the number 5 Wild Card seed Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) and the AFC Central Champion Cincinnati Bengals (11-5) face off against the number six seed San Diego Chargers (9-7). In the NFC the Eagles (10-6) will square off against the number six seed New Orleans Saints (11-5) while the NFC Central Champion Green Bay Packers (9-7) will face number five seed the San Francisco 49ers (12-4). The AFC West Champion Denver Broncos (13-3)  AFC East Champion New England Patriots, NFC South Champion Carolina Panthers (12-4) NFC West Champion Seattle Seahawks have first round byes.

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Among the teams left out of the playoff picture from last season are last year’s Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Atlanta Falcons.

As good as some teams were some were very bad and with badness went pink slips. As legendary coach John McKay said of his Tampa Bay Buccaneers years ago: “We stunk. We blocked bad; we were terrible on defense and our kicking game made up for it by being absolutely horrible. I saw nothing that delighted me, we ran on the field fairly well.”

Kansas City Chiefs vs Washington Redskins

But the bigger news today are the firings of coaches. Since Sunday night five coaches had been fired. The pink slips started Sunday night with the Cleveland Browns (4-12) who fired first year head coach Rob Chudzinski, that moved surprised many observers. The firings began in earnest this morning when the Minnesota Vikings (5-10) fired Leslie Frazier, the 7-9 Detroit Lions fired 5th year coach Jim Schwartz after a late season collapse. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12) fired their Head Coach Greg Schiano and General Manager Mark Dominick. Lastly the controversy ridden Washington Redskins who finished a dismal season at 3-13 fired the highly paid Mike Shanahan despite still owing him another $7 million dollars. Washington owner Daniel Snyder will be looking for his 7th Head Coach since 1999.

Some player’s like Washington’s fullback Darrel Young blamed themselves for their coach’s demise. Young said “We failed a Hall of Fame coach. It was a lack of execution by the players this year.”

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Not counted among the Black Monday casualties was Houston Texan’s head coach Gary Kubiak who was fired December 6th. The Texans who had made the playoffs last year finished the season 2-14, the worst record in the league. The Texans had lost 11 games in a row after winning their first two of the season and had been pre-season favorites to get to the Super Bowl.

The Redskins and Texans were both so bad this year that John McKay’s statement on when the Buccaneers had lost their record setting 26th straight game: “Three or four plane crashes and we’re in the playoffs.”

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Other coaches could still be fired, rumors are swirling about a number of others but one who seems to be safe is Cowboy’s Head Coach Jason Garrett who still has the public backing of GM and Owner Jerry Jones. However it is expected that several assistants will be let go. Likewise Rex Ryan of the Jets has survived. Oakland Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen could be gone soon, he has not been offered any contract extensions and finished with a 4-14 record in 2013. Rumors also swirl about Miami Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbon after a disappointing fish to the season.

So things will be interesting both on and off the field for the next month.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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How Bad Can “America’s Team” Get? The Dallas Cowboy Season Collapses and Wade Phillips is Fired

Wade Phillips in Defeat (NFL.com photo)

Let’s get this straight. I am not a Dallas Cowboys fan. In fact I just find football mildly interesting and I pretty much will watch it to keep from watching the talking heads on the cable news channels, home shopping networks, televangelists or the latest episode of Law and Order Special Victims Unit Bucharest. However my favorite team was playing last night, actually my favorite team of the week, the Green Bay Packers who happened to be playing the Dallas Cowboys.

After having been subjected to the Cowboys up close and personal for 7 years in the Dallas Fort Worth area and having to suffer “America’s Team” about everywhere I go I spare no effort to root against them, even when they played the Red Army Team of Warsaw Pact back in the Cold War.  Call me un-American but I think that any team that really believes that it is “America’s Team” is pretty arrogant and deserves to lose just for the principle of it.

Now please know that this is nothing personal against any former Cowboys players, one of my friends from High School played on their Super Bowl teams in the 1990s.  Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith are all pretty cool and seem like generally nice people, so it is nothing personal against any Cowboys greats or even most of their fans including many that I know who are good people that pay their taxes, go to church and adore their kids except when they want something on Sunday afternoon that conflicts with the game.  In fact my only issue with these wonderful people is their choice of football team. The team that was the first to make an away jersey its home jersey stretching the overdone western cliché “the good guys in the white hats” just a bit too far.

For years the Cowboys have labored under the illusion that they are a good football team.  Now it is true that until this year under their now deposed Head Coach Wade Phillips won a lot of games but tended to choke in the playoffs having one just one playoff game this millennium or something like that.  This year playing in the Temple of Doom or as it is better known the New Cowboys Stadium and Arcade they really believed that this was their year. They were going to be the first team to ever play and win the Super Bowl in their home stadium….well that was the hype.  Unfortunately they forgot that they had to play 16 regular season games to get there. Now since a team usually needs to win 10-11 games to get a spot in the playoffs and the Cowboys had 11 last year I think that they really believed that all they had to do was show up and other teams would say “My God we’re playing America’s Team, we can’t win!” and then go back to their hotel rooms to get drunk and eat pork rinds while the Cowboys celebrated another well deserved win.

The mantra in Dallas was that the Cowboys were a great team, loaded with talent and potential destined for greatness like those that went before them. Even when they started losing they kept repeating this like if they just said it enough that it would be true. Each week they went out on the field and had their ass handed to them often by teams that were supposedly lesser quality and each week the mantra was repeated.

A Cowboys’ Fan in Green Bay (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The only problem was that the other teams tended to show up and play good football and America’s Team failed to play good fundamental football. As my sophomore football line coach said “it’s the little things that count.”  The Cowboys stopped playing good fundamentals on day one and by Sunday night when they were annihilated by the Packers they were just going through the motions. Guys were quitting on plays, failing to make blocks and getting called for incredibly dumb penalties. It was an embarrassment that professional football players were performing in this manner. Heck if the Army went to war that way we would have our ass handed to us in about 5 minutes by the Moldavian Army, even faster by Serbania or any of those other “Anians.”  The Cowboys have been so bad the past few weeks that I think a College team from a less than elite conference could have beaten them.

The illusion crashed hard last night at the Packers pounded the Cowboys 45-7 and it wasn’t even that close.  I watched the Cowboys players and they had quit. Wade Phillips looked like Napoleon at Waterloo except he couldn’t run away in a carriage as his Army dissolved. Now don’t get me wrong I think that as a head coach that Phillips was way overrated but appeared to be a nice guy.  Everyone says that his players really liked him but if you ask me the way that they played they looked like they loathed him. It was like they were intentionally letting him down. If they liked him so much they picked one hell of a way to demonstrate their loyalty to him.

Last night I watched the Wade Phillips press conference. You hate to see a nice guy look like he did. He looked like he had lost his last best friend and his dog had run away with the couple next door. He was a beaten and depressed man. He had lost his ability to command and had to be fired by Cowboys Dictator and Cheerleader in Chief Jerry Jones.  When Jones was interviewed last night he said what everyone knew, that the Cowboys had more than one problem and that not just a few changes would be made. The first change came today when Phillips was given his walking papers and Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett was named the Interim Head Coach.

One hopes that for the integrity of the game that the Cowboys players and organization will get their act together. They are cheating their fans as well as the NFL and doing nothing for themselves. The first step to getting better is to admit that you suck and Jerry Jones basically said that last night and today. If the Cowboys are lucky and they pull themselves together they might eke out a couple of more wins but they will have to go through some really good teams to get them.  I really don’t think that much can be down with this bunch of Cowboys, even when the Cowboys went 1-15 in the first year of the Jones-Johnson years they didn’t stop trying and even though they were a bad team they played with heart and character. This team shows none of that. I may not be a Cowboys fan but this team is dishonoring the Cowboy’s legacy and tradition.  If Jones is smart he will dump half of these guys some even before the off season. The Cowboys’ culture which has been built on hype and ghosts of the past has to change.  I think that Jones now gets to point as he said:

“I think there are a lot of people here that certainly are going to suffer and suffer the consequences, I’m talking within the team, players, coaches. They’ve got careers, and this is certainly a setback. I know firsthand what it is to have high expectations. I think that unquestionably our expectations were thinking we were something we weren’t. … But again, we have so many things that we need to correct and address as this game so vividly exposed and previous games have. So I’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of decisions to make, and it’s not just one, two, three or four. There are several decisions. I think everybody in this country would agree there’s a lot wrong with this team. We’ve got to address them and certainly I’m the one to address them.”

Of course as the GM Jones needs to should some of the blame as he helped pick the players and the coaches. He also because of his cheer leading helped promote a culture of hype.  He will need to get a strong coach and let him coach to make the Cowboys a winner again.  I think that he gets it. In his post firing press conference admitted that he had “been in denial” for a number of games prior to this.

It will be interesting to some to see what happens in the coming weeks and months. Real Cowboy haters will love it and Cowboys fans will have to wear bags over their heads just to get through the games. Like them or loathe them the Cowboys need to get better for the good of the game.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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