The Dallas Cowboys went to 2-1 by way of their 18-16 Monday night win over the Washington Redskins, but the fact that the Cowboys won is not the abiding memory most came away with. Besides the fact that it was a festival for field goals (Dallas never actually got in the end zone, and the Redskins scored just one touchdown), the visual most will remember of that game is the four botched snaps by Cowboys center Phil Costa. If you haven't seen them, here's the gag reel (with appropriate musical accompaniment):
Yikes. Nothing like getting earholed by your own quarterback while embarrassing yourself on national TV, right? That said, Costa did have one excuse for his abysmal performance — apparently, the Redskins defense was simulating Tony Romo's snap count through the game, and Costa got a bit confused as to who was barking out the signals. Though it happens all the time, it's actually against the rules for a defensive player to do that, and penalties could have been called.
"There's no blaming the refs," Costa said after the game. "It's on me."
"We've got to get the snap thing worked out," Romo said. "Costa said the D-line kept calling out the snap count. We'll get that worked out. We'll tell the league and see if that's something that can be fixed because you're not supposed to be able to do that. So we'll see. But we can't have that happen. We shouldn't have been in that situation."
And that's the larger point. Judging the right quarterback cadence against those fake calls is one of the many things a center must do on the fly, and that's why the best centers are paid big money. Perhaps Jerry Jones should have thought of that before releasing veteran center Andre Gurode on Aug. 29 to save $5.5 million, but this is what the Cowboys are left with at this point.
When he went on Yahoo! Sports Radio with Tim Brando on Tuesday morning, former Washington Redskins and Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly was very succinct about Costa's performance: "I've never seen so many bad snaps from center."
Costa's an undrafted second-year pro who's still learning the ropes, but the frequency with which he bobbled those snaps — at 10:31 in the third quarter, 9:39 in the third quarter, 14:04 in the fourth quarter, and 2:58 in the fourth quarter by my count — must have the Cowboys wondering where they go from here. Next Sunday, they welcome to Cowboys Stadium a Detroit Lions defensive line that has proven to be virtually unblockable through the first three games of the 2011 season.
How does Costa plan to deal with Ndamukong Suh and his buddies, especially if they add in their own quarterback soundtrack?
"Just be patient when they're trying to simulate it," Costa said. "Try not to hear them and try to hear Tony."
Well, that'd be a good start.
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