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COWBOYS AWFULLY BIG FOR THEIR BRITCHES

The preseason is over, and on behalf of the Cowboys, I pronounce it a success.

To wit, no one arrested Coach Boomer, Barry Switzer, for transporting his specialty teams across state lines. Nor did President Clinton watch the exhibition debacle up in Toronto and accuse Owner Jones of screwing up NAFTA.No, the Cowboys are right on schedule. Troy is sharp. Emmitt is fit. Michael is motivated. And Deion could sashay in at any minute.

We know this because the Cowboys tell us. Out at Planet Cowboy, orbiting somewhere over Irving, USA, two quarters of efficiently executed preseason apparently is enough. Questions have been answered, they tell us. Not even a concrete wall can stop the 1995 Cowboys, as Erik Williams' prompt return has shown.

Bring on the Giants. Bring on Eddie DeBartolo Jr. Bring on NFL Properties.

Yes, the Cowboys have become awfully big for their britches. And, by the way, Owner Jones may soon be marketing those new, double-star britches for $79.95.

To hear the gang down at Cowboys 95 - not to be confused with Windows 95, which occasionally emits a message and admits a mistake - there is only one game that matters in this forthcoming regular season and it is Nov. 12. Everything else is just stylin'.

All the off-season maneuverings, all the draft-day sleight-of-hand, all the announced whip-cracking by Coach Boomer, all the Deion Sanders-wooing - it all boils down to Nov. 12 and beating the 49ers.

If I am getting the wrong message, I apologize. I must have misinterpreted one of those 32 or 33 weekly Cowboys radio shows.

San Francisco owner DeBartolo must have hit a nerve last week when he talked about the Cowboys being "obsessed" with the 49ers. He was dead-on correct, yet Owner Jones tried to come back with a witty retort and it landed a lot like the Cowboys' preseason.

I think Jones has a lot thinner skin than he cares to admit. He continues to insist that he has the best team in the National Football League, yet stammers off and does something expensive every time the 'Niners get his goat.

In the Hunt for Neon October, lingering questions about this team have remained unanswered. Darrin Smith comes to mind, mostly. The impact of his loss at outside linebacker has been ignored at the expense of chatting about his inscrutable contract demands.

Owner Jones is right on this one. He doesn't have to pay Darrin Smith one additional red penny.

But I seem to have forgotten both parties' original points. And at this stage, one week before the Monday night opener against the Giants, I think some humble pie must be served and something must be done to get Smith to return to work. It's bad form to be rewriting veterans' contracts and clearing a limo space for Deion when $200,000 or so can get a starting linebacker back to camp.

Another lingering question is the offensive line. With the return of Williams, it's being hailed by Planet Cowboy as potentially one of the NFL's best ever.

Instead, I say it is also one of the most fragile, staffed as it is with old guys (Mark Tuinei and Ray Donaldson), rehabbed guys (Williams) and, on the next "Geraldo," Guys Who Formerly Played Other Positions. There's even a fat, retired guy (Derek Kennard). Go figure.

Meanwhile, the secondary has been fattened up, so to speak, by last week's addition of Scott Case. It's a curious addition, seeing as in a poll a few seasons ago the Cowboys voted Case as the opposing player they hated most. This is a true story. Something about cheap shots and late hits. Beam on in, Scotty.

No, the Cowboys are right on schedule, they say. They kept 10 rookies. Understudies for Aikman and Emmitt Smith have been found. Replacements for Mark Stepnoski, Alvin Harper and Butch Davis have been secured. Their powder is dry. The Pepsis are in the fridge.

Bring on the Giants.

You guys do remember the Giants, don't you?