Playing the blame game

Jason Cole
Yahoo! SportsNovember 1, 2006

A lighter load of letters (OK, I'll stop the alliteration right now) this week. Away we go:

ABOUT DREW AND THE 'BOYS ("Right call," Oct. 26, 2006)

No question, just some observations. I am a long-time Dallas Cowboys fan (since 1966). Until the offensive line develops and can actually protect a quarterback, it won't matter who is calling the signals. The line was atrocious in the game against the Giants. Yes, Tony Romo is more mobile, but plays like the safety on Drew Bledsoe against the Giants show that no quarterback can survive until the line gets better. Why would the Cowboys use a right tackle (Marc Colombo) that couldn't make the Bears when they were terrible? Their right guard (Marco Rivera) is ready for the retirement home. Get some mean, nasty young guys like Nate Newton and Mark Tuinei of the Super Bowl years. I know these guys are hard to find but maybe we should have used the money spent on wide receiver Terrell Owens to find them and stood status quo with our wideouts.

Wayne Kaufman
Marquette Heights, Ill.

Wayne, your point is excellent and many people, including me, agree. However, Bledsoe merely highlights how inadequate the line is because he holds the ball so long. I don't know that Romo is going to be better, but the point is that the Cowboys are going nowhere with Bledsoe and need to find out if they have a solution with Romo or if they need to keep searching for a replacement.

I don't see how being a sports writer gives you the ability to make a determination about such a complex position change. Bledsoe is not mobile – he never really has been – but he has tons of experience and is a proven leader and winner. Coach Bill Parcells and owner Jerry Jones are responsible for getting him the protection he needs so he is not sacked three steps after the snap. I don't hear any of you writers say the obvious, and that is: why doesn't Bledsoe have better protection? Even Romo couldn't avoid the defensive line of the Giants, and look how many picks he threw. You should not be so quick to point out that it's Bledsoe that's the problem. It's you writers who never have been on a football team that are the problem. Maybe you should become a gossip columnist for Hollywood rags and quit trying to crucify a good football quarterback. The same things happened to Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, John Hadl, Warren Moon, Brett Favre and Joe Montana at the end of their careers and all are or will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It's easy to put the blame on one man, but it takes 10 other men to make a team. … Why did it take Parcells two-plus years to finally make a decision? Because the sport hacks have put the spotlight on one person because they think it makes good copy. Well, one good writer is all it takes to show that they understand the sport and put the blame where it really belongs: on the offensive line, coordinator, head coach, and owner, oh and the fickle press.

Los Osos, Calif.

Curtis, I'm not sure if anything makes me qualified to state my opinion other than I watch and evaluate what I see. I've done it for a long time and just hope that I'm right more than I'm wrong. But the same is true of everyone in sports: from executives to coaches to scouts. There's no exact training for the job. You just do it. I've seen the Cowboys three times this year and I've seen Bledsoe play about 25 times in his career. That's a pretty good sample size. Yes, the Dallas offensive line is bad and needs to be improved. But the line only highlights what's wrong with Bledsoe and it's easier to change one guy than to change five.

Drew Bledsoe and Kurt Warner both have a tendency to make poor decisions when under pressure. I also understand that for either of them, being the backup is not where they want to be … But take a look at both players on the sidelines. Warner is talking to his quarterback and cheering his team on. Bledsoe stood alone in the second half against the Giants, no longer involved in the game. Warner is a class act.

Michael Freemire

Michael, everything I have ever heard about Bledsoe in these situations has been positive. Granted, he didn't look happy last Monday, but I'll cut him some slack. It's hard to come out of a tight game if you're a true competitor. We'll see how he reacts moving forward.

Every Cowboys fan must be torn. Bledsoe is as immobile as that Diet Pepsi machine in this season's advertisements, but he can throw the ball when given time. Romo showed a glimmer of hope against the Giants, but also exhibited many rookie mistakes. If you commit to Bledsoe, you get several more W's during the season and may not make the playoffs. But teams in the postseason are bound to have powerhouse defenses and Bledsoe can't handle that. On the other hand, if you start Romo for the rest of the season, you deal with the potential mistakes of an inexperienced quarterback as well as a controversy caused by someone other than Owens.

Chase Roberts

I loved the article on the Bledsoe benching. I believe you to be 100 percent accurate about the subject, except for one thing – Parcells. I am young, so give me grace, but doesn't it seem obvious that Parcells has surrounded himself with ancient quarterbacks? … Maybe Parcells is a little gun shy [given the issues with] Quincy Carter and Drew Henson. But even then, you have got to develop talent. We definitely did not have the best season in 1989, but when you develop those younger players, you are going to get Troy Aikman, Tom Brady, Donovan McNabb etc. They are all products of patient coaches.

Tim Letsch
Van, Texas

Tim, I think you need to do a little checking. With the Giants, Parcells not only developed Phil Simms, but stuck with a relatively inexperienced Jeff Hostetler when he deemed that the right decision. Parcells is also the guy who drafted Bledsoe at No. 1 overall in 1993 and let him play from the beginning. He's also the guy who made the call on Romo in this situation.

Will this latest benching drive Bledsoe into retirement after this season? I won't be shocked if Bledsoe decides to hang it up, not just because of this but because of all the hits he has taken for over 14 years. He has a Super Bowl ring, so he has nothing really left to play for. Plus he doesn't need to take the physical and verbal abuse. I would advise Drew to retire and enjoy watching his kids grow up

Paul Baranofsky
Waltham, Mass.


Why are people referring to Dallas' defense as good? Did you not see the Giants' offense run and pass all over the Dallas defense Monday night? The Dallas defense is good against poor offenses. Safety Roy Williams is very overrated. He can't defend the pass. Most of the big passing plays made on Dallas this year were covered by Williams. In fact, the Giants scored their first touchdown with Williams stumbling over an official and falling to the ground. The Cowboys are overrated. They are mediocre. They will never go to the Super Bowl again as long as Jerry Jones is the owner.

Scot Walker
Plano, Texas

I like the personnel the Cowboys have on defense, but it's not playing as well as it's capable right now. I think a lot of that has to do with being in constant bad situations because of the offense. We'll see. As for Jones, I think you have to give him some credit for the three Super Bowl runs he guided early in his tenure.

I LOVE L.A. ("Moving target," Oct. 24, 2006)

Maybe you can help get this message across to the NFL from someone who lives in the Southern Cal area and who shares the same opinion as most here: we don't want an NFL team here! Unlike Pittsburgh, Denver, Green Bay and some other cities, the L.A. area is not comprised of people who have lived here their entire lives and who live and breathe NFL football. On a typical weekend day, I would have no trouble finding someone wearing an NFL jersey of all 32 teams – good luck finding that in any of the above cities. There is way too much to do here to "waste" time going to a game on Sunday. Also, keep in mind L.A. is one of the few cities out there where if your team isn't a winner, attendance at the games will be sparse, at best. How long do you think it would take a team to start winning here in L.A.? My guess is quite some time. This area will not accept an existing team repackaged for our area. The NFL needs/wants L.A. But over 90 percent of L.A. does not want the NFL.

Fountain Valley, Calif.

Erik, I hear you, but I seriously doubt you have any data that backs up your 90 percent claim. Based on my own experience in Los Angeles (I grew up there), I think the NFL would do fine. There are plenty of people who will buy tickets. However, it's clear that the public will not help pay for the building of a stadium. If the NFL can find a way to deal with that, fine. If not, it can keep begging.

My question is: Why is the NFL so gung-ho about a stadium in L.A.? How can the [league] justify helping, even paying for a stadium in the [second] largest market in the country, a city that has plenty of money and rich citizens to pay for it? Meanwhile, the people of Indianapolis had to generate our own revenue source for a stadium for a team that actually exists.

Michael Smith

Michael, any business would want to have a presence there. That's just economic sense. As for Indianapolis, if you hadn't come up with the money for a new stadium, the Colts would be on their way to Los Angeles by now.

What team(s) are they considering moving to L.A.? I would rather see a move than an additional team. I was hoping they would not expand the league. I like four-team divisions.

John J. Bittman, Jr.
Vermilion, Ohio

John, San Diego, Oakland and New Orleans are the teams most often mentioned as moving to Los Angeles. The Chargers may be the easiest to move at this point because they have an escape clause in their lease that allows them to look for a new home in January. As for expansion, I don't see that happening.

I think it's (wrong) that people think there is not enough support for a team in L.A. There is a ton of support but the problem is that most of the sites they are trying to use, no one here wants to go to. Have you even been to the Coliseum? That area is terrible. The other problem is that with each passing year, people believe more and more that we will never get a team. So it appears as a lack of support, but it is really that people don't want to get excited about something that they don't believe is going to happen.

West Covina, Calif.

Cameron, the problem is not a lack of support from the fans. It's more about a lack of public support in terms of financing. That has been the issue for years and probably will never change. The same is true all over California and it's a big reason why all of the NFL stadiums in California are so old and beat up.

Thanks for the update (on Los Angeles). It pretty much means the NFL is still holding its breath hoping for taxpayers and elected officials to bow before it with offerings of stadiums and other sweet freebies. It won't happen. My feeling is that if an owner doesn't want to pay for a stadium to support his/her own business, they can leave for "greener" pastures elsewhere. Taxpayer billions to subsidize billionaires isn't a good investment for any of us. Let them pay for it themselves. We have bigger problems. I don't think I'm alone in feeling that way. I lived in L.A .for 10 years and have to admit that I'm glad the Lambs and Ladies in Silver & Black left. I now root for the team I want to root for.


Please tell the powers that be that they are welcome to move the Arizona Bidwells to Los Angeles. I wonder how the "University of Phoenix" stadium name would go over in SoCal?

Tim Ratcliff
Scottsdale, Ariz.

OVERSEAS ISSUE ("NFL owners approve games abroad," Oct. 25, 2006)

Wouldn't each team that plays overseas lose either a home or away game? How would the NFL deal with the competitive balance issues involved? A team with seven home games, eight away games and one neutral site game would be at a clear disadvantage against teams with eight home and eight away games, particularly considering how dramatic home-field advantage is in this league.

Rob Lah
New York City

Rob, the owners understand that, but their point is that they want to find ways to make more money in the long term by opening the international markets. As the saying goes, money talks. Beyond that, home-field advantage has become less pronounced in recent years.

THE DOLPHINS MAKE ME CRY ("Reconstructing Culpepper," Oct. 13, 2006)

I have looked in on your work periodically since you left the Miami Herald. I enjoy your writing and hope your new gig is all you hoped it would be. I can't help but ask about your views on the Dolphins. What kind of train wreck are they having? Expectations were/are very high for (coach Nick) Saban. How much of this mess is due to what he inherited and how much is his own fault? Things haven't looked this terrible in years. How long before Nick's free pass begins to get challenged?

Kim Gee
High Point, N.C.

Kim, thanks for the note. As for the Dolphins, the biggest issue is still about fixing the quarterback position. At this point, it's a long-term project because of the health of Daunte Culpepper. I think Saban took the best option available in the offseason when he traded for Culpepper. It just hasn't worked yet, if it ever will. As for the free pass, it's over already.


I'd like to know what you think about the following comment and suggestion. I'm looking at the NFL schedule after Week 7 and see some teams have already played four times against division rivals and some have only played once. I know in the end, each team will play six games against division rivals. Is this kind of an unbalanced schedule or no big deal? I see some teams played their first three games against division rivals and some teams will play their last three games against division rivals. I think it would make the playoff race more exciting if all the teams played their last three games against division rivals. I wish the NFL would try that one year. Thank you and have a nice day.

Dom Periard
Ontario, Canada

Dom, the NFL has tried to gear the schedule to have more balance, but there are always exceptions. In particular, changes have to be made to accommodate the networks early in the season. While it would be best to have more balance, it ultimately works out in the end.

SAY NO TO WANNSTEDT ("Out of focus," Oct. 20, 2006)

I could not agree with you more about Dave Wannstedt. How in the world did he get the Pitt job? I remember reading a former Chicago Bear say it would take five years to clean up the mess Wannstedt left there. Can someone finally step up and say that all of Jimmy Johnson's proteges have been abysmal busts? Wannstedt, Butch Davis, Norv Turner and, in fact, Johnson himself after he left Dallas. Which leads me to my theory: (former Vikings general manager) Mike Lynn (who helped facilitate the Herschel Walker trade) was more responsible for the Dallas Super Bowls than any coach or GM down here.

P.B. Workman
Somewhere in Texas

P.B., I'm not sure I completely buy your Mike Lynn point, but Johnson's coaching tree is definitely dead.


I hope you will help me out on this. I really like to look over the NFL stats at Yahoo!, but I cannot figure out for the life of me what the letters "PD" stand for on the team defensive stats. I have asked others, sent letters to Yahoo! and looked for some kind of legend, but to no avail. I anxiously await your reply.

Jack Delany

Jack, it stands for "passes defensed," which is any pass that is batted away or intercepted.

A HELPING HAND (Also from "Moving Target")

You mention in your article on California stadiums that the Super Bowl generates $300 million for the host city. Are there any thoughts around the league about making New Orleans a regular site? Perhaps giving New Orleans the game every other year and having other cities bid on the odd years. That would be a way for the NFL to help the city rebuild. Just an idea.


Will, it's a fine and generous idea, but I don't see it happening. The next four Super Bowls have already been established. We'll see where New Orleans is in that process after that.


Jason, is the problem with the Washington Redskins' offense quarterback Mark Brunell or is it the offense they are "trying" to run? Sure, they can put in Jason Campbell, but if the same two-yard passes on third-and-eight are being called, I just don't see Campbell being the solution.

Ashburn, Va.

Wayne, my problem with Washington's offense is that the wide receivers that they have right now just aren't good enough. Santana Moss is fine, but the rest of them are nothing special. You really need to have three good ones to run that attack.