Cut loose
Tony Banks is as surprised as anyone by Dallas' decision to release him.
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Cable Modem

Bold decision
Jerry Jones is aware of the possible pitfalls of starting a rookie QB.
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Moving forward
Dave Campo remains confident that the Cowboys will be able to move the ball in "unconventional" ways.
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Stepping in
Quincy Carter accepts the leadership role as the starting quarterback.
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The Morning Show
ESPN's Chris Mortensen is impressed so far with Cowboys QB Quincy Carter.
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Banks won't be Cowboys starter, or anything after being released

Mort: Jones forces Cowboys' hand at QB

Mort Report: Cowboys give Banks fresh start

Banks not worried about replacing Aikman in Dallas

Mortensen's 2001 archive

Jerry Jones' latest ax puts Banks in good company

Aug. 15
As one sage observer nailed it, you can be assured that Jerry Jones did not lose sleep over treating Tony Banks with the same respect of a Texas longhorn headed for slaughter.

Jones fired Tom Landry. He shoved Jimmy Johnson out the door. He was able to cut ties with Troy Aikman. Tony Banks? Candy for Jones.

I'm hoping Jones at least reimbursed Banks for his moving expenses. Banks walks away with nothing. His $500,000 salary was not guaranteed.

In a way, nothing really changes with the stunning release of Banks. The Cowboys were going to be 4-12 with Banks. With Quincy Carter, they might be 2-14 and end up with the second pick of the 2002 draft behind the Houston Texans. Therefore, the smartest thing Jones said Tuesday was, "One of the things we're doing is sending a message to ourselves. We are burning bridges."

He's not burning a hole in his pocket, that's for sure. Jones is laughing, folks. He's laughing all the way to the bank. By estimates from the best NFL sources, Jones is going to make a cash profit of $40 to $45 million for the 2001 season.

You see, the team may be strapped against the salary cap because of "dead money" that was committed to the Troy Aikmans and Deion Sanders of the world, but it's all paper. Those guys took the cash in previous years, but the money still counts against the cap. Because he can't spend in 2001, Jones is about $25 million in real cash under the salary cap. That all goes in his pocket.

And if we know anything about Jerry Jones, he is a terrific businessman. He also is a dangerous football man, as lovable as he occasionally is.

Don't let the company spin from coach Dave Campo fool you. Carter is being shoved down the throat of the coaching staff -- a staff that surely knows now that it will be dismantled after the 2001 season when Jones pitches a "new era" starting in 2002. This staff had no clue that Banks would be cut after being allowed to throw just 14 passes in two preseason games without the benefit of having his starting receivers (Joey Galloway and Raghib Ismail) and running back (Emmitt Smith) ever take the field.

Oh, the coaching staff became aware Sunday that Jones wanted to open the quarterback competition, rather than have Banks declared the starter, which Campo had affirmed to the media last week. In fact, the offensive staff counseled Banks to seek out Jones for a personal meeting, so that the quarterback could tell the doubting owner that he was the right man for the job.

But Jones is smart. He tap-danced around a meeting until he assassinated Banks on Tuesday morning.

Funny stuff, I heard Tuesday; that Carter and Anthony Wright were better suited to the offense that the Cowboys wanted to run. Word leaked to the media that Campo mulled over the idea and made the decision that the team needs a ball-control offense that would keep an inexperienced defense off the field.

Tony Banks
Tony Banks has thrown 61 TDs and 58 interceptions in his five-year career.

What? That didn't happen over the weekend. I sat on a plane with Campo in March and he shared that exact vision with me -- he wanted a run-oriented team behind a strong offensive line blocking for Smith, which would set up some deep play-action passing to take advantage of the speed the Cowboys have in Galloway and Ismail. Smart plan.

Problem is, Carter and Wright don't necessarily have the big arms to deliver downfield like Banks.

The veteran players on the Cowboys know it. Smith must be cringing because he knows he will face eight-man fronts given the little respect defenses will show Carter.

Walter Payton's record is a bigger mountain today for Smith, who reacted to Banks' release like this: "All I can say is 'wow.' I don't have time to get frustrated. But I can be disappointed."

So don't sell us anything about the offense needing a new direction, Jerry, and don't embarrass Campo by forcing him to spin it your way. Sell us the truth, nothing but the truth, just as you did when you said, "We're burning our bridges." I like that better. Oh, you might also inform Campo of those flames behind him.

As a postscript, Banks did not necessarily endear himself to Jones. He was not as active in the offseason program as the team wanted. That was probably a mistake by Banks -- you're new, there are already doubts about you, you better do all the right things. Nevertheless, Banks also needed to move his family to Dallas -- and anybody who is married and has to move knows that it's not an easy process. So some of his time got entangled in a $20,000 move.

I'm hoping Jones at least reimbursed Banks for his moving expenses. Banks walks away with nothing. His $500,000 salary was not guaranteed. I guess that's life in the NFL, but it is not necessarily the ideal way to treat a fellow human being. But then, Tom Landry was as fine a man as you would ever want to meet, so Banks should not feel that he's an exception here.

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