For good reason this week, thought back to 2003, the arrival date of one Bill Parcells, taking over as head coach of the Cowboys from Dave Campo after three consecutive 5-11 seasons.
Bill believed in mind vitamins. He posted signs at The Ranch all around the outer portion of the locker room. In the hallways. On the walkway inside leading to and from the practice field. Where the players ate. Above the doors. Even hung mouse traps from the locker room ceiling, dangling down on long strings in the midst of an unexpected winning streak to warn his players against listening to the outside hype, or as he put it, not wanting them to _eat the cheese_.
Just messages he wanted his players remind of – every day. Just things he wanted to sink into their very consciousness.
Things like: Dumb Players Make Dumb Plays. Individuals Win Games. But Teams Win Titles. Blame Nobody. Expect Nothing. Do Something.
But here is the one that spoke volumes to me, especially after now having been in and around an NFL locker room for 35 years:
LOSERS ASSEMBLE IN SMALL GROUPS & COMPLAIN ABOUT THE COACHES AND OTHER PLAYERS. WINNERS ASSEMBLE AS A TEAM AND FIND WAYS TO WIN.
Hmmm. Amazing, isn't it? The Cowboys drop to 2-4 after getting spanked by the Arizona Cardinals, 38-10, and well, new head coach Mike McCarthy is now answering questions about what anonymous players have complained about, trying to pass the blame on to this new coaching staff for not being prepared or very good.
So, in the infamous words of one Forrest Gump, "That's all I got to say about that."
On to the rest of the shots.
- Lee Speaks: And you better believe when Sean Lee speaks, people listen, and you should, too. Lee has been on injured reserve since the start of the season, finally undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia, and as he described to have his abs reattached to his pelvic bone. Why speak now for the first time this season? Guarantee you the 11-year vet didn't take kindly to the above-mentioned anonymous player(s) criticizing the coaching staff for the early failures this season, so this was no coincidence. He knew what he was going to be asked about, so here Lee goes: "The first thing with anonymous sources, you never can really take them seriously. First, they don't put their names on it. Second, you don't know if the person is in the room or not in the room. Maybe they were but maybe they aren't now. Sometimes, you don't know if it's through a second-hand source. Maybe it is a player, but maybe it's coming through an agent. You just can't speculate, so you have to just say, 'Listen, the consensus in our looker room, with our defense right now, is that we all need to work hard. We all need to improve. There is no pointing the fingers. The only way out of this is to keep faith in each other, and we have that faith.' So like we said, anything anonymous, we're not going to worry about that. Somebody won't put their name on it, so be it. But we know that we need to stick together. We know we need to improve. And we're going to continue to stick together and do that." And this time for sure, that's all I've got to say about that.
- Knight Out: OK, can't make this stuff up. The Cowboys' two starting offensive tackles already are on injured reserve. Done for the season. The presumptive backup swing tackle, Cam Erving, has already served his stint on IR (knee), and then just when he was eligible to return, falls ill, and who knows if he'll be available this week. And now this: Brandon Knight, who has started three of the past five games at left tackle, finished another and started one game at guard, just had his right knee scoped to repair torn meniscus and is likely out for maybe three weeks. Seriously? And now what? Even head coach Mike McCarthy wasn't sure heading into Wednesday's light, walk-through practice since this is a short week. The easy answer would be to move Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin out to tackle, the position he played in college. But, uh, buddy, he's in concussion protocol and the team is unsure if he'll be eligible to play Sunday. So the other candidates are many, though highly inexperienced, other than eighth-year vet Jordan Mills, who is on the practice squad. On the 53 is Greg Senat, in his third. Then there are practice-squad tackles Eric Smith and William Sweet. When it rains, man it pours in 2020.
- Here's A Thought: The guy's name is Quinton Spain, a seventh-year veteran guard who has started 66 of the 70 games he's played for Tennessee (four seasons) and Buffalo (two). Well, after agreeing to a three-year, $15 million contract with the Bills this season, after playing in 2019 on a one-year deal, the Bills up and released him Wednesday. The guy played every snap at guard last year for Buffalo without giving up a sack, though was benched the past two weeks. Probably is at least worth taking a look at, though remember, it's a six-day COVID-19 process for a newcomer to enter into your locker room. For now, if Martin is unable to play, Conner McGovern will get his first NFL start after the second-year player experienced his first extended NFL offensive snaps on Monday against the Cardinals in relief of Martin.
- Deceptive Stat: The stat package shows Washington having totaled a robust 16 sacks in six games. But there is a catch somewhat questioning the real strength of that defensive front containing five first-round picks: Ryan Kerrigan, Chase Young, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat and Jonathan Allen. The Washingtons recorded eight of those sacks in the season opener against the O-Line-challenged Eagles, meaning only eight in the past five games. Heck, the Cowboys have 10 in the past five games.
- Insightful Stat: We are well aware of the turnover problems plaguing the Cowboys after six games, their 15 giveaways leaving them with a historically poor minus-12 turnover differential. And that probably has something to do with this: When it comes to field position, the Cowboys have yet to score an offensive touchdown driving less than 64 yards. Not a one. And any scoring drive of less has resulted in just five field goals. As for their six opponents, they have driven less than 65 yards for 10 touchdowns and 10 field goals. In fact, six of those touchdowns have come on drives of no more than 39 yards.
- Don't Ask: As in if the Cowboys should have looked into re-signing their former defensive tackle David Irving, who signed this week with Vegas after being reinstated from the commissioner's indefinite suspension list. Absolutely not. Not after what he pulled the last time he was here in 2018 when coming back from suspension and an ankle sprain overweight and out of shape, with no ambition to get in shape for a playoff run. The last straw should have been when after practice one day owner Jerry Jones walked onto the practice field to speak with Irving, still lying on the ground after a disgusted defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli stomped off. Irving didn't even have the decency to stand up to speak with Jerry. Did so lying down. Outta here in my books. And he was.
And, heck, the last word today goes to Jones, when asked if it was any consolation to the 2-4, first-place Dallas Cowboys that the pathetic NFC East still gives them a chance to win the division. He starts off by saying, "I'm not in the feel-good mood, frankly, that we've got manna from heaven being in the East. … When you're not playing any better than we are, it's hard for me to basically look to the end-game, which is to win the NFC East, and get excited about the fact that we're better than anybody – we may be slow, but we're ahead of you syndrome. We've got to get better to have the kind of season that makes sense to us."
And again, that's all I got to say about all of this … for today.