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Cowboy Flavored Kool-Aid — Is Cowboys’ Head Coach Garrett Really the Answer?

Posted by RichieZ23 on November 17, 2010

Ahh, nothing like a nice, tall glass of Kool-Aid to quench the thirst.  You see after starting 1-7 and firing marshmallow head coach Wade Phillips, the Dallas Cowboys were looking for a refreshment.

They have found one in intern head coach Jason Garrett — and the media is drinking the Cowboy Kool-Aid once again after just one game.

Head coach Jason Garrett celebrates with Jon Kitna during the Cowboys win over the Giants in Garrett's first game as a head coach.

Head Coach in Waiting

For the few who do not know the story, a quick refresher.  Garrett comes from a family of coaches, and his father Jim was a scout for the Cowboys.  Garrett played backup quarterback in the league for 12 seasons.  Always a student of the game, Garrett often watched from the sidelines, essentially training for a gig in coaching.  He got in in 2005, when the Miami Dolphins hired him as the quarterbacks coach in Garrett’s first year not playing in the NFL.

He was hired by Dallas as offensive coordinator in 2007, and replaced Phillips midway through the 2010 season.

The Cowboys are the NFL’s laughing stock for the second time in three years.  (2008 was another “Super Bowl or bust season, in which Dallas missed the playoffs altogether)  Sitting at 1-7 and going into week ten, Dallas had the second-worst record in the league behind only Buffalo.  The knock on Dallas was simple — they were an undisciplined team with little attention to detail, who made mistakes and could not play a complete 60-minute ball game.  Many questions arose in Dallas, but talent was rarely one of them.

Sure the offensive line is a bit slow and old, but so is Pittsburgh’s.  You don’t see the Steelers sitting in the basement.  The middle linebackers and safeties for Dallas are a bit below average in their coverage abilities.  So are the Chiefs who are sitting at a very respectable 5-4.  Point is, many teams around the league have done more with less talent than Dallas did in 2010 under the helm of Phillips.

Change of Culture

Garrett has initiated a change of attitude and culture in Dallas.  Attention to detail and the approach to practice has been altered so far under Garrett.  With talent not being a burden, (Dallas arguably has three top-five players at their position in Demarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, and Jason Witten.   Garrett must both motivate prepare a mistake-ridden club that has little to play for in 2010.  Oh yeah, besides their jobs.  Players on Dallas knew that Phillips would be fired before they would, and their performance on the field did little to say they wanted anything but Phillips out of Dallas.

Garrett brings with him a sense of uncertainty.  Uncertainty in that, if you do not perform, changes will be made.  A phrase that former head coach Bill Parcells used quite frequently was “churning” the roster.  It basically meant if you’re not doing your job, you will be replaced.  Wade Phillips brought with him a “family” mentality, which sounds great, but the NFL is a business, not a family affair.

The playoffs are out of the question for Dallas.  They had their share at the beginning of the season, along with 32 other teams.  Instead of doing what needed to be done, they proceeded to start 1-7 before Garrett finally brought a prepared team to the New Meadowlands and defeated the New York Giants 33-20.

Even without Tony Romo for the remainder of the season, under Jason Garrett the Dallas Cowboys have an opportunity to continue to improve and build off of their second win of the season.  With attention to detail and a stricter attitude enforced, look for Dallas to end 2010 on quite a high note.  Focus and enthusiasm are the two main elements that will best improve this Dallas squad, and Jason Garrett is the man for the job.

Another reason?  Football is a young man’s game.  In following with Bill Simmons Speed Limit Corollary if head coaches over the age of 55 typically do not have the success that younger coaches do.  Why?  Because they’re old, and being the head coach in the NFL is a very time-consuming and high-stress job.  Phillips was 63.  Garrett is 44.

While the Cowboys still have to face teams such as the Colts, Saints, and the Eagles twice, they will at least remain competitive in the remainder of their games.  Garrett finally has the team focused and buying into a system of structure and discipline.

So go ahead and drink the Cowboy flavored Kool-Aid for the remainder of the year.  Just know that the remainder of this season is just the pre-game.  The real party and after party will be the 2011 season when Garrett has an entire off-season and training camp to implement his ways.

But for now Garrett has Dallas fans reaching for another glass of Kool-Aid, which is a needed refreshment in the disaster that is the 2010 season.


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Five Friday Favorites

Posted by RichieZ23 on November 12, 2010

Alright so I’m going to try some things that will be updated a bit more frequently, since I’ve obviously been doing a horrific job of staying on top of things lately.

Every Friday I’m going to pick five of my favorite teams to watch that I think will get a win.  So let’s get this started.

1.  Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants — Everyone is writing the Cowboys off for dead — and rightfully so.  They’ve played uninspired, mistake-ridden football for the majority of the season.  2010 is the biggest embarrassment in Dallas history.  But New York is banged up a bit, especially along the offensive line, and Jason Garrett has instilled a complete 180 degrees shift in mentality.  Everyone always talks about how talented Dallas is, yet they never live up to expectations.  A head coach like Jason Garrett just might be what the doctor ordered.  Look for Dallas to pull off the upset 24-21.

Jason Garrett has begun a change of culture in Dallas with more discipline.

2.  New York Jets at Cleveland Browns — What is going on in Cleveland?  They’ve already beat the Saints and Patriots this year.  Can they knock off the Jets too?  In short, no.  The Jets are one of the most talented teams in the league, with also one of the best head coaches to match.  Head coach Rex Ryan has brought with him plenty of swagger to go along with the hard-hitting Jets mentality.  The Jets prove why they are one of the NFL’s elite teams and win 31-13.

3.  Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins — Well the Randy Moss era kicks off in Tennessee.  With receiver Kenny Britt sidelined for weeks with a hamstring injury, the Titans desperately needed help at receiver.  Moss now steps into a lineup that has the most explosive running back, and now the best deep threat in NFL history.  Moss might not be the receiver he once was, but he still commands a constant double team, and will help out Chris Johnson in that he won’t see so many 8 and 9 man fronts.  Moss makes the Titans a legit contender in a tough AFC South.  Miami is also starting Chad Pennington, who has trouble throwing the ball further than 20 yards down the field.  Yeah, pretty bad.  Titans beat Miami and Moss catches a touchdown.  35-21.

4.  Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos — Is Kansas City really for real this year?  Not yet, but they are better than Denver.  Broncos head coach has seemed to think that if he gives away all of his best players, the Broncos will somehow get better.  In 2009 he traded his 2010 first round pick to move up and draft cornerback Alonso Smith in the 2nd round.  Then in 2010 he traded Alonso Smith for tight end Dan Gronkowski.  Smith has damn near the same amount of picks (5) as Gronkowski has catches (5).  Division games are always close, but KC escapes 17-14.

5.  New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers — And now what may be the game of the week.  Actually, there is no maybe about it.  The Patriots and Steelers are two of the top five teams in the league, and could quite possibly be a preview of the AFC Championship.  The Patriots have ditched the spread offense that they employed recently, and have went back to more of a traditional base offense that won them three Super Bowls.  The Steelers have a tough as nails defense as always, but recently receiver Mike Wallace has blossomed into one of the leagues best deep threats.  He is averaging nearly 25 yards-per-catch, and is the spark plug the Steelers need.  The Steelers offense has a slight advantage on both offense and defense, but never count out Bill Belichick.  That being said, look for the Steelers to take out New England 28-27.

Those are my five favorites to watch.  What about you?

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Let ‘Er Fly — The NFL as a passing league

Posted by RichieZ23 on September 28, 2010

Monday night showcased the 180th contest between the Bears and Packers, the most ever between two teams.  Classic, tough, smash-mouth football.  The black and blue division. Run the ball and pound your opponent…

Wait a minute?  What’s that?  You mean quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler passed for a combined 537 yards?  That the leading rushers for each team was fullback John Kuhn with 31 yards, and quarterback Jay Cutler with 37 yards?

Yeah.  This ain’t your father’s NFL anymore that saw players like Bob Griese pass for 2,252 yards and 22 touchdowns and make the Pro-Bowl.  It’s a passing league, and running the ball has taken a backseat.

Besides winning the turnover margin, passing the ball efficiently and having a high yards-per-attempt has the highest correlation to winning ballgames in the NFL. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

According to Michael Signora of NFL information, through the first three weeks of the season, there have been 5 quarterbacks to throw for 400+ yards in a game, which is the highest in NFL history.

With rules being put in place to increase scoring, passing is becoming the standard to win in the NFL.  Gone are the days when running the ball and stopping the run are keys to success.  This is not meant to downplay the running game, but according to Advanced NFL stats, the highest correlation to winning in the NFL is passing the ball efficiently, and stopping the pass.  Passing efficiency is best measured by the yards-per-attempt, or YPA.

The next time you hear the old adage of you can’t win without stopping the run, that is simply not the case in today’s NFL anymore.  The highest correlation to winning in the NFL is passing the ball efficiently and having a high YPA, and stopping the pass.

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Chris Johnson thrives on the big play — but just how good is he?

Posted by RichieZ23 on September 16, 2010

Nearly three years later, and some things never change.

I remember watching Eastern Carolina take on Boise State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl back in December of 2007.  Relatively unknown Chris Johnson was known amongst some around college football, but nothing near today’s status as the best back in football.

I watched him put up 223 yards on the ground, including a 68-yarder that he housed putting Boise up 10-7 in the first quarter.  Not only that, he also chipped in 32 yards receiving and 153 yards returning kicks, good for an NCAA bowl-record 408 all-purpose yards.

I was amazed.  Players such as Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart, and others stole the headlines in college in 2007.  But this Chris Johnson guy?  Wow.  More explosive than any of them.  And forget a dime.  If there was any currency smaller than a dime, C.J. could cut on that.  Why had I never seen him before?

As I watched Johnson play, I started thinking to myself.  The Dallas Cowboys needed a running back after the 2007 season.  Julius Jones was listed as a starter, but his contract was set to run out at the end of the season, and Marion Barber was clearly the more effective back.  While running back wasn’t a position of need, perhaps Johnson could slide down to the Cowboys in round three?

Chris Johnson is the most explosive running back in the NFL, scoring a touchdown run of 50+ yards in 8 of 32 contests. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images North America)

Ha.  Not a chance.  If people hadn’t heard of Johnson during the season, they heard of him when he exploded out of the blocks and posted a 4.25 40-yard-dash time.  He was selected 24th overall in the 2008, two slots after Dallas selected running back Felix Jones.  The type of blazing speed Johnson possesses has made C.J. one of, if not the NFL’s best running backs.  Johnson set the NFL on fire in 2009 as he became only the sixth player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season with 2,006.

Johnson is the epitome of the big play.  Entering his third year, C.J. has 8 plays of 50+ yard touchdown runs, in just 32 games.  Let me say that one more time.  He has a touchdown run of 50 yards or longer in 25% of his career games.

Unreal.  The scary part is that it is not out of the realm of possibility for him to not only keep it up, he might even…improve?  No one is going to catch him from behind.  That’s just not going to happen.  Point blank.  However, most backs like C.J. get their big runs by getting to the corner.  Johnson has a unique ability for a back with his speed.  Several of his long runs — like his most current 76-yard TD in week one — are inside runs, not outside runs.  And what’s the shortest distance between two points?  A straight line.  Unlike other scat backs who look to run laterally and get to the corner, Johnson can run inside, and going north and south will net you far more yards than east and west.

C.J. doesn’t have the power that Adrian Peterson has, but his burst, top-end speed, and incredible feet make him the superior back.  There’s still a long season ahead, but Johnson just might be the first back in NFL history to surpass 2,000 yards rushing in two consecutive seasons.

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NFL Football is upon us in less than 24 hours — Thoughts on Minnesota at New Orleans

Posted by RichieZ23 on September 8, 2010

Wow, I really need to get into a habit of updating this.  After that hiatus, I have fallen out a bit.

In less than 24 hours, the 2010 NFL season will be upon us.  We all finally got our first taste of real football this past weekend with NCAA football kicking off.  Boise and V-Tech?  Boise looked good don’t get me wrong, but they were an experienced team going up against a very young VT defense.  There was no reason for them to lose that game, but let’s not act like anyone thinks they’re the third best team in the country.  It’s kind of ridiculous that after the first week, we pretty much know Boise will be playing in a National Title game.  Playoffs are needed, just like the NFL.

Which gets me back to point.  The NFL season awaits us as the Vikings and Saints will do battle at 7 :30 p.m. Thursday night on ESPN in a rematch of the NFC title game last year in which Brett Favre got destroyed by the Saints — to which he still has not fully recovered.  Regardless, no one expected a 40-year old man to go out there last season and set the league on fire like he’s 30.

Brett Favre injured his ankle during last year's NFC Championship game and is still not fully recovered.

Minnesota in 2010

No Sydney Rice for 8 games, and an ankle that requires injections of lubricant lead us to believe that Favre will not repeat his statistical performance of last season.  Even if he was healthy and had Rice for the whole year, it’s hard to surpass 4,202 yards, 33 touchdowns, and only SEVEN interceptions!  Are you kidding me?  Brett Favre throwing just seven picks?  (Don’t worry he returned to form just in time for the playoffs.)  His 68.4-percent completion percentage and quarterback rating of 107.2 broke his prior career highs of 66.5-percent and 99.5 quarterback rating.  No way anything remotely close to Favre’s 09 performance happens again.

However, I fully believe that Adrian Peterson is going to take the reigns back from Chris Johnson as the best running back in the league.  The Vikings got pass happy last season, and rightfully so.  But now, the Vikings are going to lean heavily on Peterson this year, and I don’t doubt for a second that he will get the job done.  I think his fumble issues are a thing of the past, and that was really his only knock.  He’s stronger than C.J., just as fast, and while doesn’t have the wiggle that Johnson has, breaks more tackles and is a better red-zone back.

No Sydney Rice for 8 games will hurt Minnesota a lot, although their defense is still one of the best in the league.  Jared Allen gets all the attention, but Ray Edwards completes the pass-rushing duo for Minnesota, and then you’ve got the big ol’ Williams brothers in the middle with Pat and Kevin.  Then when you throw in former Hawkeye Chad Greenway, you can see why the Vikings have one of the better front sevens in the league.

I think the Vikings go 10-6 in 2010 and squeeze into the playoffs as a wildcard, with Green Bay running away with the NFC North at 13-3 or 12-4.  Missing Rice for 8 games and Favre playing on a bum ankle will take Minnesota down a notch from last year, although they will still be competitive in 2010, don’t expect to see Favre riding off into the sunset.  His best chance last year ended up in Tracy Porter’s hands with might be one of the most ill-advised throws you will ever see in the playoffs from a veteran such as Favre.

My thoughts on the Saints tomorrow.

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After a multi-month hiatus, I have returned

Posted by RichieZ23 on August 30, 2010

Alright, so those of you who may have been following this blog may have noticed my absence.  Yeah I took a slight vacation called summer.  Sorry, but you dealt with it just fine.

But it’s that time again, and football is in the air.  So I’d like to take this time to say this blog will now be focusing more on football, but more specifically the NFL.  I’m sure I will still have entries devoted to other sports, but for the most part this will be an NFL-focused blog coming up.

For those who didn’t know, my favorite NFL team is the Dallas Cowboys, and you might say I’m a die-hard fan.  When it comes to sports, nothing is better than Iowa Hawkeyes football and the Dallas Cowboys.  However, while some of my blog posts might be centered around Dallas, I like football as a whole enough to be interested in the league/sport as a whole.  There will be updates regarding news and thoughts involving other teams as well.

The NFL season kicks off in just ten days, and the college season just three days.

Football is in the air.  Can you feel it?

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Cavaliers Are Still Alive In Playoff Series Despite 32-point Embarrassment

Posted by RichieZ23 on May 12, 2010

Alright, just when did winning three games in a best-of-seven series win a team the series?  Anyone?  The last time I checked, you still have to win four games to advance, and the Boston Celtics have won just three so far.  Yet it seems to be a foregone conclusion to many people that the series is over, Lebron is bolting for New York, and he’s suddenly deserving of the MVP.

Get real people.

The Celtics have been all over James so far -- but the series is not over yet. (Photo by Michael Dwyer / AP)

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Boston Now Boasts Big Four: Celtics Will Go as Far as Rondo Takes Them

Posted by RichieZ23 on May 10, 2010

The past season was a historic one for Rajon Rondo.

In his fourth season, Rondo eclipsed career-highs in what seemed like every statistical category.  His 36.6 minutes, 50-percent from the field, 9.8 assists, 2.3 steals, and 13.7 points were all career bests for the former Kentucky Wildcat.

Even more impressive for Rondo was he broke the Celtics franchise-record for assists in a season, as his 794 assists surpassed the 60-year mark previously held by Hall-of-Famer Bob Cousy, who dropped 715 dimes back during the 1959-60 season.

Rajon Rondo has emerged as one of the league's top point guards, and is Boston's best player. (Photo by Nathaniel Butler/NBAE/Getty)

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Note to NBA: Start Paying Attention to the Orlando Magic — They’re For Real

Posted by RichieZ23 on May 4, 2010

Are you kidding me?  How are people and the national media not seeing this?  All we keep hearing about as far as title contention is Kobe in Los Angeles, Lebron’s elbow and how healthy he is, and the Celtics and the experience they have.

You don’t hear a thing about the Orlando Magic yet.  And it’s an absolute joke.  Even tonight when they destroyed Atlanta 114-71, it was because Atlanta was tired and Orlando had rest.  Yes that is a reason, but it is also because Orlando is the vastly superior team.

The NBA is an individual driven sport, I think we all realize that.  From Wilt to Kareem, from Jordan to Kobe, the NBA markets individual athletes as their main attraction.  But how are the Orlando Magic not amongst the favorites to win the ‘Ship this year?

Because Dwight Howard couldn’t stay out of foul trouble in the first round?  Because they don’t have Lebron?  Because they don’t have Kobe?

Dwight Howard is the most physically dominating center in the game today, and is the forefront for what Orlando does offensively and defensively. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

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Steve Nash Proves He — And the Suns — Are Still Amongst NBA Elite

Posted by RichieZ23 on May 3, 2010

You could hear the talk dwindling.

No more was Steve Nash’s name mentioned along with the other top-tier point guards across the league.  Gone were the glory days of his two-time MVP run when he dropped dimes at will and led ultra high-tempo Suns as the highest scoring team in the league.  He was getting too old.

In fact, sports writers even suggested it was D’Antoni’s scheme that made Nash what he is.  It wasn’t Nash’s court-vision, smarts, and unorthodox layups that won games, it was merely Mike D’Antoni’s scheme that made Nash what he is.  The best part in the slap-in-the-face article to Nash is below:

Steve Nash is still an elite point-guard in the NBA (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

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