IRVING, Texas – There are a lot of things to wonder about as the Cowboys prepare for Pittsburgh on Sunday, but we’ll stick with our five.
Away we go:
** I wonder if those who believe Jason Garrett is too robotic and does not show enough emotion to be the leader of the Cowboys have changed their minds. Too often the public face a coach or player puts on is seen as the only face of the coach or a player. The supposition goes that if Garrett is that boring in front of the media, then he is that boring in front of the players. It’s just not true. Before this tragedy, players have spoken about Garrett’s stirring speeches to lead off a practice week or before a game as edge-of-your-seat amazing. In training camp, Garrett was more relaxed and forthcoming publicly. When the season started, he reverted back to his day to day mantras. His job is not to be glib with the media. It’s to win football games and lead players. Would he receive more public benefit if he showed more of the Garrett we’ve seen in the last three days? Absolutely. But he’s not in it to win public relations’ points. The leadership Garrett has shown since the death of Jerry Brown has revealed just what type of person he is, more than a coach. He cares about his players more than just what they can do on the field. He wants them to be successful in life, too.
** I wonder why it took until Week 14 of the season for the Cowboys to start this right tackle rotation with Doug Free and Jermey Parnell. Well, not really. Until the Thanksgiving game against Washington, the Cowboys didn’t know what they had in Parnell. They still don’t have concrete answers, but Parnell played well enough at left tackle against the Redskins to warrant more consideration. Free has struggled for most of the season, but coaches will tend to lean to the devil they know than to the devil they don’t. Parnell played sparingly in three tight-end sets and truthfully did not do that well early in the season. He didn’t earn more playing time. But with Tyron Smith unable to play against the Redskins, the Cowboys had no choice. Parnell was OK against Cincinnati. Free was better than he was against Philadelphia. The Cowboys will continue the rotation, but they took too long to get to it.
** I wonder what’s in the water near where Jason Witten and Gerald Sensabaugh grew up in Tennessee. Seriously. There are not too tougher players on the team. They play through injuries. They do not complain. They show up on Sundays, as Bill Parcells would say. The common thread: they love football. We all know about Witten’s pain tolerance and ability to play through injuries. In back to back weeks he has taken big shots down the seam and came up a little gimpy but didn’t miss a snap. On Sunday, he took a shot to the thigh. Sensabaugh is the same way. He just doesn’t miss games. The latest sign for him was a hip injury that slowed him against the Bengals. It didn’t slow him enough to break up a touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham. He was slow to get up but stayed in the game. And he has this curious habit: he’s always the first defender to sprint on the field after change of possessions.
** I wonder how Rob Ryan can preach to his players to have poise when things get tough when he can’t keep his emotions in check. The penalty Ryan got on Sunday for unsportsmanlike conduct was embarrassing and unnecessary. So what if Bengals tackle Andre Smith was chirping at the bench after getting away with a holding call? Ryan’s actions were childish. You just can’t do those things. It got so discombobulated on the sideline that the defense became unglued. Two plays later they had a 12-men on the field penalty. That came after they had to call a timeout for having only 10 guys on the field in the first half. Ryan has said he wants to be a head coach one day, but that penalty is not going to help his resume.
** The Cowboys say they are not going to look at other punters despite Brian Moorman’s poor day in Cincinnati, and I wonder why. What would it hurt to check out some guys? Overall, Moorman has done a good job since signing with the team as Chris Jones’ replacement. But in his last six punts he has had one returned 98 yards for a score when he should have kicked it out of bounds late against Philadelphia, and had punts of 23, 39 (which was tipped), 27 and 27 yards against Cincinnati. Could he have been that freaked out by the possibility of Adam Jones returning one that he was trying to be too perfect? Maybe, but with a hurting defense field position in the final three games takes on a greater importance. I wonder if the Cowboys are taking a chance here.