FROM HOME, Texas – Not again.
First because of the coronavirus from late March of last year to late July.
This week so far because of cold, because of snow, because of rolling power outages.
Fat Tuesday might as well have been a Taco Tuesday, then rolling into an Ashless Wednesday.
Some kind of year.
With all that has taken place over the past 12 months, what are the odds the temperatures would drop below zero here in Dallas-Fort Worth for just the fifth time in history, history that takes us back to 1899 when a minus-8 set the record?
Minus-2 outdoors at my house.
That's the coldest it's been since Dec. 23, 1989 when it was a minus-1.
How I remember that well. That was a Saturday, the day before the Cowboys would close out their 1989 season at Texas Stadium on Christmas Eve, with a 20-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers to finish with a franchise, 16-game record-low of 1-15 in the first year of the Jerry-Jimmy Era.
Texas Stadium attendance supposedly was recorded at 41,265. Sure seemed smaller than that, and surely was by game's end. The kickoff temp that day was a robust 33, compared to Saturday's minus-1, the third-lowest recording in the city's history, another dubious record that year of 1989.
Worse, while there was the infamous "hole-in-the-roof" at Texas Stadium, remember this was an outdoor venue, certainly not insulated for temperatures below zero. And yes, it was so cold the day before the game that the pipes froze, rendering the bathrooms inoperable and forcing fans to use hurriedly-acquired Port-O-Lets outside the arena.
And will never forget this, one of the greatest lines in sports writing history. With the Cowboys finishing 1-15 in their 30th season and first after 29 years with Tom Landry as head coach, just one of 18 record-lows that year – including losing their NFL-record 14th consecutive home game stretching back to the 3-13 season of 1988 – esteemed Dallas Times Herald columnist and good friend Frank Luksa, a guy who had been covering the Cowboys since their inception, wrote, and I paraphrase:
"The 1989 season was so bad they could not even flush it away."
- Football Man: Funny, when you go back in time to read what has been written, sometimes, and me included, you find that something you had written you probably would love to take back in retrospect. Well, that day of the 1989 season finale, saw this headline in The Dallas Morning News, and again at the end of the 1-15 season: Cowboys would do well to find a 'Football Man.' Ha, imagine that, new owner Jerry Jones after his first season as also president and general manager, though following the personnel lead of his head coach Jimmy Johnson, already taking grief. Then Giants general manager, the now late George Young, supposedly not referencing the Cowboys new setup but a noted "football man" himself, had been quoted in the story, saying, "The best way to turn a franchise around is with a true football man. Slowly, grudgingly, it's starting to move in that direction. We're into a compartmentalization era. It's too much for the coach to do and it's too much for a guy in a suit." Oh George, because two years later under Jerry and Jimmy the Cowboys won a playoff game for the first time since 1982 and then would go on to win three Super Bowl titles in the next four years.
- Watt-age: Of course, as soon at the Houston Texans released J.J. Watt, the question becomes, should the Cowboys go after a defensive end turning 32 in March? My answer is: At what price? Watt was in the final year of his contract at $17.5 million. The Texans no longer had any proration left against the cap, meaning not dead money but already a projected $13 million over the projected salary cap. OK, now how much does Watt want to make if relegated to like a designated pass-rushing role? Remember, over the past five seasons injuries have caused Watt to miss 32 of a potential 80 games, with one Pro Bowl season (2018) and just 10.5 combined sacks in four of those five seasons. Got to be careful with two things: Age and being seduced in free agency by a name heading into what would be his 11th season. (See Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.) Also, if Watt has a choice out there, is he picking the Cowboys? My guess is he's hunting a Super Bowl title.
- What's Going On: A lot behind the scenes. The Cowboys are hustling on two fronts. First, the pro scouting department is busy finishing work-ups on veteran players heading toward free agency, which starts on March 17. And the college scouting department is working double-time, already preparing for the 2021 draft, especially since there will be no NFL Scouting Combine this year. That means what took place at the Senior Bowl, with individual interviews, and attending college Pro Day workouts will be vitally important in the evaluation process, especially draft-eligible players who might have opted out this past season or those early junior-out players who might not have played a full 2020 season. This year's draft could be a crapshoot for sure.
- Unforgettable Pioneers: The National Football Foundation has produced a powerful video tribute during this Black History Month celebrating the pioneers of the NFL game. And former Cowboys scout and personnel guy John Wooten, the second black football player on scholarship at the University of Colorado (1955) to only former Cowboys wide receiver Frank Clarke and former president of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, had this to say in this must-see video: "When we celebrate black history, we celebrate what the history of this country is about. I saw people stand up for what is right. It's that drive that carries me every single day." John, now retired at age 84, is a NFF 2012 College Football Hall of Fame inductee.
- Yo, Adrian: See where running back Adrian Peterson is aiming at Emmitt Smith's NFL career rushing record of 18,355 yards gained in 15 season. Peterson, heading into his 14th season, has 14,820 rushing yards, meaning 3,535 yards behind while turning 36 this year. Peterson says he wants to play until 40. That means he'll need to average 884 yards a season over those four years to break Emmitt's record. He's rushed for more than that average just twice in the past seven seasons, but totaled 1,042 yards as recently as 2018 and 898 yards in 2019, both with Washington. But to even get those types of yards, you need carries, and those are hard to come by with advancing age and this passing era in the NFL.
This week, last word goes to Matthew Stafford, the kid who played his high school ball at nearby Highland Park, on his thoughts about moving on from 12 years with the Detroit Lions, who traded the 33-year-old quarterback to the L.A. Rams, mostly at his request:
"You know, I want nothing more than to be able to come back to this place 10 years from now and everybody welcome me with open arms. And that was one of the biggest things that was weighing on me as I went in there to talk to them. I was like, 'I don't want anybody to ever feel like I'm giving up on this town, or this city, or this place.' I gave it everything I possibly had here."