I was almost eight years old and I knew I wanted the Dallas Cowboys to beat the Washington Redskins. The winner would go to the Super Bowl. I also knew that as a fan, Dexter Manley was the player that scared me the most.
I remember the way he looked with his hand in the dirt. He was like a monster, waiting behind a sling shot. Number seventy-two would explode into the backfield. He was tall, powerful, and hungry to kill quarterbacks. Manley hated the Cowboys and I could feel it through the TV. I would watch him pre snap, and be worried for the health of every offensive player on Dallas.
As the 1980’s rolled on the NFC East was coached by Parcells, Gibbs, and Buddy Ryan. There were plenty of defenses to worry about, especially as the Cowboys were coming down inside the pack.
There were also better players than Manley in his division, and even on his own team. Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor, and Darrell Green rush to mind. Dexter had a stand out career. The category was not about complete play, it was about fear.
It was natural for me to cheer for Tony Dorsett and Danny White. To want their success, was to learn the guys on the other side can be scary. Dexter Manley will always have respect in my memory.
When the name Tom Brady comes up, there is one memory I’ll always think of first. It’s not a Super Bowl, Ugg slippers, or a controversy. It’s a random week five game against the Dallas Cowboys in 2011. It’s actually a singular moment that stands out in my mind.
This game was a big deal to me. The chance to beat the Pats and Tom Brady (and my buddy David Schultz) is an opportunity that comes around every four years. It was New England’s turn to play at home. The Cowboys came to compete hard on this Sunday in October.
It was one of those games where Dallas was out playing them, but only maintaining small leads. The Cowboys offense was sinking in the red zone as the Patriots held them to field goals multiple times.
The real action began here. There was five minutes left, and New England had the ball down by three points. Even in 2011, my fear of Brady was intense. You know this is where he sticks it to you. I was shocked and elated when the Cowboys held them to a three and out. They have picked off Tom twice today, sacked him three times, and now this? Wow! They have to take advantage.
Dallas has the ball with 3:36 to go. A couple first downs and this baby is in the refrigerator. First down. DeMarco Murray gets tackled in the backfield for minus two. Second down and twelve. Minimum Dallas needs to throw a screen pass here. Instead, Murray on the ground for minus one. Tony Romo melted down the week before vs Detroit, and the coaching staff got gun-shy. Sitting on a lead in the NFL is telling the football Gods you would like to lose. Playing that way against Bill Belichick, you are begging to lose.
This was the moment. I KNEW the game was over. It was now third and 13. Dallas still had the ball and the lead. Time was running out. I just KNEW the game was over. The Cowboys were not going to throw for sure now. Even with all that still had to take place……I just KNEW it was over. Brady is not going to let them off the hook again. Zero chance.
Third down. False start Dallas. Run for a few yards. Punt. Brady now has the ball on his team’s own 20 yard line. There is 2:31 left to play. This defense that had played rugged all day, was about to be burnt toast. There was no deep mystery here.
Then it happened. It was like an episode of Batman from the 1960’s. Pow! Sock! Wham! Tom was 8-9 passing on the drive for 79 yards. It’s like he was taking a walk in the park. Finally, the dagger came in the form of an eight yard touchdown pass with a measly 27 seconds on the clock.
Cowboys fans had their hearts broken on that play. I started dealing with it twenty minutes earlier. Tom Brady is so great, you can assume he will do difficult things easily.
Tony Romo was not drafted. He was an elite talent who carved out a fine career. He will fall short of the Hall of Fame, but deserves an important label. Romo’s overrated teams, helped him become the most underrated player of his generation. He wasn’t just bashed for coming up short. He was not recognized for carrying many of his ball clubs. Tony was a high risk, high reward player. He was more clutch than you realize. When he melted down? He could come apart with the best of them. Over his first seven seasons, Romo struggled to be consistent.
No window of play explains this quarterback like the opening month of the 2011 season. This four game stretch defines Tony Romo.
WEEK #1 (9/12/11) COWBOYS AT JETS
Opening day. Sunday night football. I waited all year. I waited all day. The Cowboys controlled the first half, while Romo put on a clinic in escaping New York defenders. Fast forward to the early part of the fourth quarter. Dallas is up a touchdown with the ball. Tony hits Jason Witten on a beautiful 64 yard pass and run. Unfortunately (for me), Jason was pushed out at the one yard line. Two snaps later on third and goal…Tony was forced to step up in the pocket and take off to the end zone with his legs. He plowed forward with his head down. The ball was knocked lose and he fumbled. The Jets kept themselves alive. With five minutes left, New York blocked a punt and turned it into a quick six. With the game tied, and 55 seconds remaining…Tony challenged the best corner in the game. Darrelle Revis made him pay for it. He scooped up the easy pick and headed down the sideline. The Jets went on to win 27-24. This was the first impression of the season for the already polarizing Romo. He was destroyed in the media all week-long.
WEEK #2 (9/18/11) COWBOYS AT 49ERS
Dallas hit the road again to face a physical 49ers defense. Early in the second quarter, Romo was blasted from behind by corner Carlos Rogers. Tony was left with fractured ribs and a punctured lung. He finished out the second quarter. After being evaluated at halftime, the Cowboys started the second half with Jon Kitna. After Jon had two picks and Dallas was now down ten, Romo had seen enough. Despite spitting blood, Tony was obsessed with avoiding an 0-2 start to the year. He re entered the contest and dominated in pressure. He led Dallas to a fourth quarter tie. On the first drive of overtime, Romo threw a perfect 77 yard strike to a reality-tv star named Jesse Holley (caught seven passes in his career). He was tackled at the one. Dallas kicked the chip shot field goal and won the game 27-24. In the fourth quarter and the extra session..Tony was 12-15 throwing with 201 yards. A week after being the focus of serious scrutiny, Romo put on a display of what real leadership is.
WEEK #3 (9/26/11) REDSKINS AT COWBOYS
Because of the division opponent, this was the biggest game of the four. Tony was wearing a Kevlar vest. With every throw in warm ups, you could see him wincing through the pain. This was a competitive night as you would expect. These Redskins hit hard and they made sure number nine knew it. The score was Washington 16, Dallas 15 with 2:20 left. The Cowboys had the ball on a dire third down and 21. Tony rolled right, faded deep behind the line of scrimmage, and connected with Dez Bryant for a 30 yard gain. Kicker Dan Bailey put the ball through the goal posts and Dallas won the game 18-16.
WEEK #4 (10/2/11) LIONS AT COWBOYS
Romo came out hotter than McDonald’s coffee. In the early stages of the third quarter, he had his team in a commanding 27-3 lead. Tony got careless. He threw two pick sixes in the third quarter. The Lions were now right in the game. You could feel the Cowboys fans with lumps in their throats. An uneasy feeling was looming over this life-size stadium. Dallas was nursing a three-point lead with just over four minutes on the clock. Romo threw one more unforgivable pick. You can’t give Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson layups. They made Dallas regret it, and completed a stunning come from behind 34-30 victory. On a day where Tony completed 72 percent of his passes, for 331 yards and three scores, he played one of the worst games of his life. This one hurt.
He made bone headed plays, and was always called out for being a choke artist.
He was often brilliant in the clutch. His lack of team success, left this fact buried in history.
Before he was “fragile” at the end of his career, Romo was an all time tough guy.
Over his first seven seasons, he was like a thrilling roller coaster with good and bad results.
This four game stretch, was a fair look at who Tony Romo was as an NFL QB.
It’s summer, and it’s time to break down NFL schedules for each team once again. I’m amazed how it’s loosely thrown around that some team’s have “brutal schedules” and some have “easy ones.” I remember just over a decade ago hearing ESPN’s John Clayton say, “the most important keys to a season are quarterback play and your teams schedule.” Really? QB play maybe. Your schedule? This isn’t college bro. These are not 200 teams where the levels of play can be so drastically different. These are the 32 best football teams in the world. Everyone is looking for that inch to expose you. Worst to first shocks nobody anymore. Even within a season, franchises can change month to month in how they are performing. I love the guy that is proud his team is number 3 in “the power poll.” That’s a completely meaningless tool. It’s a weak copycat of college polls to generate discussion.
There is always a little variance, and some schedules turn out to be more or less of a climb. Not all challenges in the NFL are equal. They are however painted on the same canvas of difficulty. Maybe your team had to play someone at the time they were their hottest. Maybe they have three road games in winter cities come December. Did they have to play Tom Brady twice? Is there an extra awesome division that year? Did they have to play a group that just got all their injured guys back? Life happens. It’s 2018, and the NFL is the ultimate league of parity. Everyone has a chance. If you are attached to a pro football team…you get it. There are NO WEEKENDS OFF. The Cleveland Browns were 0-16 last year. I thought they played hard. Seriously. They are more of a threat to any NFL squad, than Idaho State is to Michigan.
The difference between a 7-9 team, and a Super Bowl champion might be four players and twenty total plays. It’s hard to win games in the National Football League. As a kid in the mid eighties, it seemed there were more dominant teams. Player movement was less frequent and chemistry had more of a chance to grow. I could look at the 1984 49ers or the 1985 Bears schedules and guess my way through it. You try to figure out the league today? Not happening. Stop saying your NFL team’s schedule is hard. They ARE ALL HARD.
I’ve always thought the best part of football was the love and trust between teammates. Whether it’s kids on the playground of West Kearns Elementary, a high school game, or the AFC Championship ….football’s heart beat is about sacrificing and protecting each other on the way to your teams goals.
In 2005 during his Hall of Fame speech, Steve Young put it like this:
“Football players talk about the comradery with a deep sense of passion and commitment. It is the sport that when one of your guys says, “I got your back” it’s not figurative. You depend on them physically and emotionally.”
“If you are lucky enough to make it a career, you can not play very long without a love of the game. The game demands too much of you physically, emotionally and even spiritually, to stay in it if you don’t love it. I don’t care how much you get paid. You show me a six, eight, ten-year veteran of the NFL and I’ll show you a man who loves the game by definition. Money isn’t the key at the moment of impact. I have seen a lot of guys playing for money in practice and warm ups. I have never seen anyone play for money at the point of contact. You can not buy a football player on game day. He plays for the love of the game, and that is why it’s impossible for money to ruin it.”
He is a bright guy who has said a lot of quality things. Those were my favorite words that I’ve heard from Steve Young.
Here’s the joke. Knock knock. Who’s there? Chris Webber is not in the Hall of Fame.
C Webb has been eligible for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for like half a decade. Guys have to wait, I know. His first year, he did not get one nomination. This is absolutely disrespectful to Webber’s impact on the game.
We know about his ultra famous time out in college. The moment has become his signature play, along side dunking over Barkley. He was often injured. He never played in the NBA Finals. Truth is, his playoff career was “only” very good.
Chris was one of the top college players ever. He is also an all time NBA great. That’s enough. He’s in. The level you hit, is often the only thing a voter should need. I spent 1999 to 2002 devouring the NBA. I watched four plus games a night (smh, I know). This was Webber’s heyday. I thought over the first half of the 2000-01 season, Chris was the best player in the world. He was the center piece of those, ahead of their time Sacramento Kings teams. I remember Chris on a bum leg, trying to guard Shaq in game seven of the West Finals. I can see him digging that forearm into the big man. His other arm, waving to the crowd, begging them to get excited about it.
His hands were like magnets. Webber was one of the very best passers to play. He dropped circus dimes. He had patience under the rim, and had a cool way of using his shoulders. This era, was super competitive for him. The power forward was evolving and peaking in league wide depth. At worst, Webber was a low-level great.
Basketball reference is the only place I go for stats. It’s an awesome site. They have a section where it projects what percent chance a player has to get into the Hall of Fame. I asked Jay Yeomans today (jmoneysports.com) what percent chance he thought Webber had? His response was “90.” Sounded right to me.
The answer? 14.6 percent! Huh? I’d assign Ron Harper, or Kenny Smith that number.
Kevin Johnson is at 19 percent, and Mark Price 18.3. They both are close to Hall level, and Webber was better than both. Chauncey Billups is at 84.4 percent. Um. Chris was better than him too, That Finals MVP award must carry serious weight.
On TNT a few years back a handful of guys were picking out of a pool of all time stars, like a fantasy draft. Webber was one of the guests on the panel. Duncan, Dirk, and KG had been chosen and were off the board. It was getting late and a little awkward as Chris had not been taken. C Webb had to stick up for himself a bit. “I’m cool with those guys going ahead of me. But I promise you Tim, Kevin, and Dirk know me real well.” Truth. Webber’s last pick of the draft? He ended up taking himself.
The Hall factors in what you did in college and international play. His NBA experience should be enough. He better get that invite in 2019. There have been scandals surrounding Michigan and Webber at that time so his, success has been kind of “erased.” That time out never happened then either.
These LeBron James decisions have become familiar, massive television events. The delivery is getting smoother and the choices are getting better. The story broke last night. Four years, 153.3 million dollars. LeBron is leaving Cleveland to join the Los Angeles Lakers.
We know these takes remain a little blurry. The Lakers and other teams are still incomplete. This squad will look different in a few years.
This move is a little risky, but it’s more brilliant.
It’s risky because he’s playing in the Western Conference. This group of teams offers a ton of heavy weights. Remember the Battle Royal in the WWF? It’s brilliant because he is showing he is willing to give up his grip of Eastern domination, to come hang with the “big boys.”
It’s risky because he has to play the Warriors to get to the Finals. It’s brilliant because he may as well get in there and go nose to nose with them. He is already connected with that group for life. Friends close, enemies closer.
It’s risky because he is playing on a must win stage. He is competing in the shadow of the best individual players in NBA history. It’s brilliant because he will ultimately win. He will become one of those Lakers shadows.
What if he failed in L.A.? LeBron is more self secure than he used to be. He’s showing lack of fear to do this.
The Lakers fan base is a nation. Tonight, “King James” took their love hostage. The prize athlete in the sport is with its most glamorous franchise. He is normally the top story. In L.A, he is THE STORY. LBJ just made sure the defending champion Warriors are the second most popular team in the state of California.
Some imply this will be James farewell act. Not true. He will only be saying goodbye to his prime. He will do it chasing Michael Jordan under the brightest of lights. He can never be as perfect as Mike, but he will match him by taking different roads to GOAT island. He will do it with the volume of greatness.
Winning in multiple cities is one angle ( I think he gets at least one ring with the Lakers). He will be relevant as an active player for more than two decades. It will be during the noisy internet, social media era. He is now in Los Angeles? He’s piling on. Basketball society will be overwhelmed by his long-term relevance, as he smashes records nightly. LeBron loves to control the narrative.
Even if James teams up with a player as top shelf as Kawai Leonard, this time LBJ doesn’t look as bad. The Warriors have gotten to the point they are seen as skilled bullies. More “super teams” are about to be seen as normal.
He is in the best place for his family and his entrepreneurial goals. You know this is going well when Dan Gilbert and Cavaliers fans are celebrating LBJ today.
Jeanie Buss and Magic Johnson are the right people in the key seats. I like the fit basketball wise. James meshes with everyone, and this team is full of young, ready to improve talent. Tonight they also added JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson. Both add physical impact. More shooters and help are still on the way, this year and next. LeBron and Luke Walton will get along just fine. Walton will let James run things, but has enough experience and respect to maintain his status.
L.A. has struggled for a handful of years. LeBron is about to save the Lakers. He sure picked a good story to control.