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Playoffs and Layoffs: Black Monday for the NFL

Eagles Cowboys Football .JPEG-0a50b

“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.”

jasonjerry

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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Cowboys Stadium meets Seinfeld: A Scoreboard and a Nose that You Can’t Miss

cowboys scoreboardJerry Jones’  Über-Jumbotron

The New Cowboys Stadium opened officially last week as Jerry’s Kids played the team formerly known as the Houston Oilers the Tennessee Titans, or as I will now call them the Toilers. Most people have been focusing on the controversy over the height of the scoreboard from the field, and if it is really in the way of a punter.  Okay, so what? There are other domed stadiums throughout the league where punters have hit the rafters or roof.  I actually could care less if a punt hits the damned thing that is why the NFL has a rule that says something like this: “If a punt hits the ceiling, roof, scoreboard, the Goodyear Blimp, low flying aircraft or a Space Shuttle returning to earth the punt shall be done over” or words to that effect.  So really the whole controversy over Jerry’s Gigantic Über-Jumbotron being too low is a red herring.  Jeff Fisher doesn’t like Jerry and figures that he will make Jerry’s life complicated, especially since Jerry spent something like 43 million dollars on the scoreboard, or the price of three large pizzas and three beers at one of the stadium’s concession stands.

The thing that got me was not that the Toilers punter hit the scoreboard and if it was intentionally done as Jerry’s Kids claim, or if it was unintentional as Fisher and his Punter claim.  It is how the scoreboard appears when you see it on TV and I can only believe that the effect has to be even more pronounced in person.  It is overwhelming; it is all that you see, it is like a really nice looking girl with a nose that is so big that it overwhelms every other facial feature and draws your attention to it so you can see nothing else.    A colleague of mine at work has had season tickets for the Cowboy’s for years.  Every home game she and her husband fly from the East Coast to Mecca to see the Cowboys play.  She has her tickets for the new stadium and she is pretty sure that her seats will be low enough not to have her view of the other side of the field impeded by the Über-Jumbotron.

So back to my point; when I first heard about the scoreboard I thought, big deal it’s only a big scoreboard.   A lot of stadiums, auditoriums and churches have large screen scoreboard.  I think there is a church in Texas that has one that shows the preacher, has his preaching stats on one column as well as that Sunday’s hymn numbers, Scripture readings and the offering count for the previous month noting the biggest givers’ contributions, but I digress as we are talking about the Jerry’s Über-Jumbotron.

This thing is so big that when I briefly flipped past the game I was transfixed by the sheer size of it.  It was all that I could see. It dwarfed everything.  When people say that everything is bigger in Texas, this proves it.  Although one wonders like the old question dealing with the size of a man’s you know what; if size really matters.  Since girls are not as discreet in talking about such things in public I have occasionally overheard conversations in bars, restaurants and malls where women are discussing this rather delicate and sometimes controversial subject.  Once again I digress.

So anyway when I saw Jerry’s Über-Jumbtron I thought to myself “I have seen this before but where?’  Then it came to me…Seinfeld.  The episode where George dates a girl who has a massive nose which the writers focused in on as if it was George looking at her and all that he could see was nose…nothing but nose.  Once again Seinfeld meets life, only rather than a nose it is Jerry’s Über-Jumbotron.  I was astounded at just how large that it is and I was almost mesmerized by it.  I shook my head to break eye contact with the monster before I could be sucked through my TV screen and into the Stadium.

seinfeld noseThe Nose

Like I said, I could care less about the rules and how the scoreboard affects play.  I personally find football only mildly interesting now and a diversion to fill occasional time slots when Baseball season ends.  The only question that I have is about the ascetics of the scoreboard.  I wonder if it will become a distraction from the game itself.  I wonder of people who actually care about football wonder the same thing.  Has Jerry Jones created a monster in putting in such a large and overwhelming edifice in his high tech Temple of Cowboy’s Football?  Or is it like the scene out of the movie ruthless people where Judge Reinhold is talking to a rich couple

buying a stereo:

Ken Kessler: Over here, we have a great speaker, Sentry EV- . Consumer Stereo has just rated this a best buy.  I have a pair myself.

Male Customer in a leather Ferrari jacket: Yeah, uh, what do you think of this one?

Ken Kessler:  The Dominator X- ? The Dominator’s a good marketing idea, but it’s really not a good speaker.  We give it a 100 % markup, so we sell it at 50 % off, give the customer the illusion he’s getting a deal and we still make a bundle.

Female Customer: But it’s so big and impressive!

Ken Kessler: Size means very little. Bigger is not necessarily better. I sound like Dr. Ruth.

Female Customer: You mean the Dominator’s like a, uh–

Ken Kessler: Well, the Dominators are very popular with men who like to have bigger… uh—

Female Customer: Equipment?

Ken Kessler: Exactly!

Have a great football season Cowboy fans!

Peace, Steve+

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One Tough Poo…Memories of a Fearsome and Fat Wiener Dog

Mommy's Poo“One Tough Poo”  Drawn by Judy

If ever there was a little dog who took life seriously it was a fat little red smooth hair Dachshund named Greta, or Greta-Poo or simply “the Poo.”  Greta was the second of our Dachshunds, or as they are known in Germany Dackels.  We got Greta in 1988 when we were stationed in San Antonio.  We were visiting our friends across the street, Anthony and Kathy and they had visitors who had brought the remnants of a litter of Dachshund puppies over.  They were the products of a red smooth hair and a dappled smooth hair.  One puppy was already spoken for, Anthony and Kathy were looking at a second, and the third, the runt of the litter was in the arms of one of the visitors.

Judy immediately fell in love with the very sweet looking and pretty puppy. Looking at her in the arms of another woman Judy realized that she could not let the other person have the adorable little creature.  Judy immediately made an offer for the puppy which was accepted by the people who had brought her to Anthony and Kathy’s house.  Forty dollars later the puppy was curled up in Judy’s arms.  From that moment on we had the “mommy and puppy mutual admiration society.”  Greta quickly became “Mommy’s Poo.”  Greta’s sister “Miss-T” became the puppy child of Anthony and Kathy.  The two puppies though now living in separate homes still visited each other and played with each other.  Our eldest dog Frieda was sweet to the Poo.  She accepted the new addition to the family and after ensuring herself that Poo was trained appropriately in household security retired at the age of four years old.  Since Frieda lived to be 16 ½ this meant that she spend the majority of her life retired and complaining about our insufficiency in fulfilling her needs.

Poo was the most serious little dog that I have ever seen.  She took herself seriously and though a happy dog always was somewhat dour.  Frieda and Molly who we got towards the end of Poo’s life enjoyed being funny, but not Poo, and her very seriousness made her funny as hell.

Now Poo was a chow hound, in fact if you look under “chow hound” in the dictionary there is probably a picture of the Poo.  Poo seldom met a food that she didn’t like, or at least wouldn’t eat to keep Frieda from getting it.  As a result, though she was incredibly active she was fat.  She should have weighed about 18 pounds, but most of her life she spent between 20 and 23 pounds.  She looked like a red bratwurst and not a hot dog.  Poo’s first sin was a defining moment in her life.  Judy had left a freshly baked chocolate chip muffin on the arm of our couch and got up to refill her drink.  As she went back into the living room she saw Poo, now the little shit, charging off with the muffin toward our bedroom.  The very small and barely four month old puppy had the muffin in her mouth and was moving as fast has her little legs could take her.  Chasing her down Judy got the muffin back, but the incident was defining.  No food was safe if you left it alone where Poo could get it.

There were three other incidents of this particular “puppy sin” that came later in her life which are worthy of mention here. Both occurred when I was in seminary or during my Clinical Pastoral Education residency.  The first was when Judy put a cast iron pan which has the residue of freshly made refried beans on the ground for Frieda and Poo to finish off.  Now most of the time the two little shits would share whatever table food that we gave them.  This time Frieda decided that she did not want to share.  Now Frieda was a very strong animal.  She grabbed the pan by the handled and proceeded to run away with it, mind you this was a cast iron frying pan.  Poo was not about this prize get away.  As Frieda sauntered off with what she believed to be “her” booty Poo chased her down and tackled her.   They ended up sharing.  Another was when the “Free Dog” and the Poo were left at home when we left the apartment to take a blind friend to the store.  Now this was around Christmas and Judy had been baking cookies all the live long day.  Somehow we left the house with a couple of boxes full of Judy’s best on the coffee table.  How the hell we did that I will never know.  The coffee table was well within the range of both of our little shits.  As we pulled into our friend’s driveway we realized our mistake.  I rushed into our friend’s house and said, “Bert, quick, I need your phone.”  This was patently in the days before regular folks had cell phones.  I called our home number.  The answering machine went off, as I waited for my version of Bill Clinton to finish the message I wondered how many cookies the little shits had eaten.  My words, “Dammit, Frieda and Poo, you better not be eating the cookies or you’re both dead.  I’m coming home now!”   I ran back to the car and sped back to our place.  Dashing into the apartment I found that the cookies hand indeed been raided, but neither of our little shits was to be seen.  One was hiding under a table and the other; I think Frieda, was cowering behind the toilet.  I wonder what the look on their faces was when that answering machine went off with my voice telling them to get away from the cookies.  God if we had the money for surveillance cameras, it would have had to have been as funny as hell.  The third was when we had friends over for Saturday night pizza and Star Trek, the Next Generation.  I happen to make a very good large New York style pizza, thank you.  Anyway it was one of those nights when thunderstorms were crashing over the DFW Metroplex.  One of these boomers came over our area that night. I’m sorry, if you haven’t been through a North Texas boomer you have only been in the minors.  This was a cool one, we were under a tornado warning and the storms were bringing lightening, hail and massive thunder.  We and our guests decided to go out to the breezeway between buildings and watch what the Deity Herself was bringing upon the Metroplex in punishment for the firing of St Tom Landry by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.  As we gathered to watch the last piece of pizza sat defenseless on the pizza pan which lay on the coffee table which we had all been sitting around.  The piece of pizza was rather large and a combination with pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic and God knows what else. As we watched the storm the Poo saw her opportunity.  When I walked back in to grab a beer and I saw the Poo devouring the very large piece of pizza.  When she saw me she simply ate more frantically. It was if she was trying to shove it down her throat.  I called Judy and we both decided that it was hers.

The Poo was also serious about home defense.  She was committed heart and soul to defending the realm.  This was in stark contrast to Frieda who after her retirement would have watched Genghis Khan and his hordes march off with everything we owned provided that they paid her.  Poo on the other hand was devoted to the protection of her home and her mommy.  As a still very young dog of maybe a year and a half she surprised a Pit Bull which had come up on our lawn.  We were at the time living in a neighborhood near my seminary regularly featured on the TV program COPS.   We had gone out to check the mail and Poo came out with us.  The unwitting Pit Bull was in our front yard, which since we were both poor and without time to mow it ourselves it was rather high.  In fact it was higher than the Poo.  Our little shit saw her unsuspecting victim before we did.  She bolted off the porch and tore through the high grass barking up a storm.  The Pit Bull had no idea what was going on.  He couldn’t tell from where the ferocious roar was coming from.  Just before the Poo could reach him he bolted, tail between his legs down the street.  The Poo heeding Judy’s “Dammit  Poo get your ass over here!” returned obediently to the porch, satisfied that she had done her duty.

Well things progressed in the Poo’s life, she ate, got fat, and defended the realm.  While I worked in my parent’s hometown of Huntington West Virginia as an Emergency Department Chaplain in a local teaching hospital’s Emergency Room we frequently spent time with both of my grandmothers.   My parents had long before retired from the Navy in Mudville, sometimes known as Stockton California and it was by either chance or the Deity Herself and Her providence that I landed the job after my residency.  As it were it gave us the chance to spend a lot of time with both in their sunset years.  One day while visiting my maternal grandmother with Frieda and Poo we got ready to leave.  Now both of the dogs responded to voice commands so we would let them walk to the car when we left.  As we walked out the door onto the porch the Poo took off flying down the steps.  She took off across the yard and made a right turn into the side yard.  We heard a “yelp!” and then saw a black chow tearing out from the yard screaming as it raced away from my grandmother’s house.  Following close was the Poo.  It was like a Messerschmitt 109 diving on a B-24 and pumping it full of holes with its 20mm nose cannon.   As the chow raced away, the Poo heeded our call to turn around. As she ambled back our way we saw something in her mouth.  It was a huge mouthful of black chow fur.  Our tough little Poo had taken the fur off of a chow nearly 4 times her size and weight.

Mommy's Poo portrait rs for email“Classic Greta Poo…with every roll of fat shown” Drawn by Judy

After Frieda died in 2001 Poo continued her ways, she stayed active and when we got Molly she was determined to still be the Alpha-Poo but Molly wouldn’t be bossed around and the Poo had to make a grudging peace with the new little shit. Poo remained a fighter her entire life.  She would never back down from a fight and was determined to defend the realm.  We lost her in June of 2003 while stationed in Jacksonville Florida after she had battled cancer and paralysis.  She was one tough Poo.  She was her mommy’s baby and absolutely devoted to Judy.  We do miss her.  She and Frieda were there with us in our toughest times.  Now the tradition of a little red dog defender of the realm is carried on by Molly, as ferocious as Poo but nowhere near as obedient.

So life continues for us, defended by 15 pounds of hell and terror.

Peace, Steve+

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