Cowboys await final script

Dan Wetzel

Two weeks ago, the star receiver of the New York Giants walked into a Manhattan nightclub carrying an unregistered weapon in his sweatpants. He proceeded to shoot himself while trying not to spill a cocktail.

It ended his season, perhaps his career (at least in New York) and most likely his freedom (at least for some stretch). It also may have dragged in a teammate who authorities allege may have been less than cooperative. The Giants went out and played terribly in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

And yet, heading into Sunday night's game at Dallas, New York isn't even the team dealing with the most distractions.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones always wants to be in the spotlight. Leave it to his organization to steal it from what in most years would be the runaway choice for the NFL's top soap opera.

Dallas may or may not be coming apart at the seams. It depends on whether you believe the anonymous complaints or the on-the-record denials (we choose the former).

Tony Romo and Terrell Owens may or may not be on speaking terms. Romo may or may not be favoring his tight end and close friend Jason Witten over T.O., who once cried in front of the media as he begged them not to blame another playoff defeat on the quarterback.

Owens and Witten may or may not have come to heated words and near blows before being separated Friday, according to the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram.

There may or may not even be secret meetings being held between coaching staff and players or players and players or owners and coaches or players and cheerleaders. (The last one is pretty likely.)

Wade Phillips, the head coach, may or may not know anything about any of this; or anything at all, for that matter.

If this sounds like something out of a third-grade-like triangle, one of the callers on the "Jim Rome Show" offered that T.O. might want to send Romo a card with three boxes on it asking, "Will you pass me the ball: yes, no, maybe."

Quite incredibly, Jessica Simpson has managed to stay out of this.

Jerry Jones hasn't. He has his own side controversy going about whether he questioned Marion Barber's toughness after the running back sat out because of injury last week.

"He can play with the soreness and a combination of those things," Jones said. "I see nothing that led us to believe he couldn't."

He later said he didn't mean anything by it. Imagine if he did. Even later, he said it was a compliment of sorts.

Meanwhile, the guy who was supposed to be the Cowboys' biggest gamble of the season – Pacman Jones – could be gone in light of a neck injury.

Pacman has just returned from a six-game suspension for fighting one of his own security guards. That incident violated the terms of the deal he made with the league to return from his previous one-year suspension.

And to think: At the beginning of the season, Jerry Jones thought it would be a good idea to sign the team up for an HBO reality show on training camp. To the bad luck of the show's producers, nothing interesting happened then.

Oh, for the days of Oxnard. With 13 Pro Bowlers on the roster, egos in every corner and the always combustible Owens front and center, the Cowboys' season was set up to end in spectacular fashion, one way or the other.

Dallas is 8-5. It's on the cusp of missing the playoffs but also of making it, so the final script hasn't been written.

It does face a virtual must-win game against the reigning Super Bowl champions. And no one knows if anyone is getting along.

Can Romo throw the ball to Witten, even if he's wide open, without risking a chemistry meltdown? Does the coaching staff have to chart looks to Owens and weigh them proportionately against other players?

Then again, will Romo avoid debilitating mistakes, such as his three interceptions last week at Pittsburgh, which ruined a supreme defensive effort?

Much of the blame seems to be falling on Owens, which is his own doing. He brings much to the table – one of the chief reasons Witten is open is Owens' ability to draw defenses – only to find a way to turn into a negative.

This is his third consecutive fallout with a quarterback he once hailed as his BFF. First it was Jeff Garcia in San Francisco, then Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia. At some point, he needs to realize it's him, not the other guy.

At least he hasn't insinuated Romo is gay (not that anyone would believe him), as he did with Garcia, or out of shape, as he labeled McNabb. There's still three more weeks to the season, though.

It's Jones who set the Cowboys up for this, however. He craves talent above teamwork and thought he could control this. Ego knows no bounds in Dallas, and it begins with the owner. The team hasn't won a playoff game since 1996.

With Jones involved in every decision, no one is quite sure who is in charge, only that it isn't Phillips.

Still, the Cowboys remain a team with a puncher's chance if they can make the playoffs. There's no doubt they could turn it on.

First they need to defeat the Giants, who – wounded receivers and lawyered-up linebackers aside – somehow walk into this one the (relative) picture of tranquility.