Offseason | 2022

Spagnola: At Least There Was Something Special


FRISCO, Texas – OK, calling a timeout with the Super Bowl on the immediate horizon.

So, how's about taking a break from beating a dead horse, er, at least a wounded one. Plus, we've got plenty of time to continue figuring out why the Cowboys lost a home playoff game to San Francisco, much the way Tampa Bay lost a home playoff game and Green Bay lost a home playoff game and Kansas City lost a home playoff game and Tennessee lost a home playoff game.

And certainly get it. There still will be enough blame to go around since the darn draft is like two and a half months away. Take cover Jerry Jones and Mike McCarthy and Dak Prescott and Kellen Moore, although Dan Quinn certainly has escaped the rounds of flak even though the defense in that first-round playoff loss to the Niners has been given a mulligan. While no shame in yielding just 23 points in a playoff game, remember the Cowboys didn't have to allow San Fran to hog the ball for 6 minutes, 30 seconds in their next two possessions after the Cowboys narrowed the score to 23-17 with 8:02 still left in the game.

Any-who, with most everyone ducking for cover, how 'bout that John Fassel. You know, the special teams coordinator. At least a little sunshine there with those units.

The other week or so saw former Dallas Morning News NFL writer Rick Gosselin's annual special teams rankings, as he takes all the specials teams stats for the 32 teams in 22 kicking-game categories – you know, like net punting, average kickoff return, special teams takeaways and giveaways, field goals for and against, extra points, all of that – to come up with a total number, lower the number the better.

Well, the Cowboys finished sixth with a combined ranking of 301 points, one and a half points shy of News Orleans (299.5) in fifth and just two and a half points shy of Kansas City (298.5) in fourth. Baltimore was tops at 241.5. See where 10 of the 14 playoffs teams finished in the top 21 with the Chiefs, Cowboys, Bills, Raiders and Bengals finishing in the top 12. The only playoff outlier was the Packers, finishing dead last, and imagine that, specials teams did them in during the loss to the Niners.

And get this, the Cowboys finished first in three categories, net punting average (franchise record 44.6), points scored (18) and blocked kicks (5). Their other top rankings included fourth-place finishes in punt coverage, punting gross average and opponent punting average, while finishing fifth in kickoff returns. Though dragged down by tying for 21st in field-goal percentage (.833) and 26th in conversion percentage (89.9).

Hey, got to take your shots when you can get 'em.

  • Not Playing Singles: Now isn't this rather amazing. Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, first pick in the 2009 draft, played 12 seasons in Detroit, taking the Lions to the playoffs three times, but losing all three games, one of those following the 2014 season, 24-20, to the Cowboys here in his hometown of Dallas. Had been criticized for not being good enough as the first pick in the draft to carry his team. But voila, Stafford is traded to the Rams and now he's in the Super Bowl on Sunday against Cincinnati. So, did Stafford suddenly become so much better, or is he now playing for a better team? Say it until I'm blue in the face. These quarterbacks aren't out there playing singles – OK, maybe other than Tom Brady.
  • Super Sighting: One of the first people saw getting off the Cincinnati buses heading to their Los Angeles-based hotel the other day was Frank Pollack, the former Cowboys assistant offensive line coach (2013-14) and then offensive line coach (2015-17). He's the Bengals offensive line coach – uh, again – landing with the Bengals in 2018, then the Jets (2019-20) and now back in Cincinnati as the run-game coordinator, too. Remember, the Cowboys moved on from Frank when hiring former long-time Bengals OL coach Paul Alexander (24 seasons) in 2018. That didn't work out so well, firing Alexander seven games into the season.
  • Moving On: So, with Kellen Moore returning from his nationwide head coach interviewing tour, Quinn, too, looks like the Cowboys coaching staff, at least at this point, is remaining intact, with the exception of moving on from wide receivers coach Adam Henry. They have replaced him with 14-year NFL veteran receivers coach Robert Prince, likely thanks to yet another Boise connection. Prince, with the Texans this past season, was the Boise State receivers coach during Moore's final collegiate season (2011), and then after serving as Boise's offensive coordinator the next two years, Moore and Prince were reunited when he arrived in Detroit in 2014. See where Henry just interviewed with the Giants and is expected to be their new receivers coach, where he spent the 2016-17 seasons. Also, consultant Ben McAdoo has been hired as Carolina's offensive coordinator.
  • Nothing Golden: Just so you know, Makaela Shiffrin isn't the first Olympic favorite to unexpectantly and almost tragically fall, as she did during the outset of her first run in the giant slalom and then unbelievably again in the slalom Tuesday night, leaving her sitting for nearly 20 minutes off the course in her own thoughts in the man-made snow. Back in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, I was there the night U.S. speed skater Dan Jansen, a gold medal favorite, fell not once, but a second time. His first fall occurred on Feb. 14 on the first turn of his 500-meter race, just hours after learning his sister Jane had lost her battle with leukemia. Four days later, Jansen, trying to compose himself emotionally, began his 1,000-meter race at record speed, and in the backstretch straightaway he caught an edge and went down again, something unheard of for such an accomplished skater. No way, not on a straightaway. Take solace, Makaela.
  • NFL Honors: If the 29-member voting panel got it right the other day, Cowboys Lionbacker Micah Parsons should win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Years honors in a landslide during Thursday night's presentation from L.A. Parsons was the only unanimous winner in the seven categories voted on. He also received one vote for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, T.J. Watt winning with 20 of the 29 votes, Aaron Donald receiving the other eight. In the comment section for Defensive Rookie of the Year, former Cowboys personnel director Gil Brandt had this to say of Parsons: "To be a great linebacker in the NFL, you need size, speed, competitiveness and great ball-reaction skills, and Parsons ranks _very _highly in all these traits – he might be the best since Lawrence Taylor entered the league in 1981." The only other Cowboys player receiving votes from the panel in the seven categories was quarterback Dak Prescott for Comeback Player of the Year, with the only six votes of the 29 Bengals QB Joe Burrow didn't get.
  • Super Shorts: Oh, and we'll also find out if former Cowboys 2005 first-round pick DeMarcus Ware, a seven-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro and Super Bowl champion with Denver, becomes the first-ballot Hall of Famer that he should be … Good to hear Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he spoke with unrestricted free agent Randy Gregory's agent at the Senior Bowl last week. Probably hoping Gregory will give the cap-strapped Cowboys a hometown discount after all they've been through with him since making the Nebraska defensive end a second-round pick in 2015 … If I were a betting man, probably put my money on the Rams in Sunday's Super Bowl LVI, but for some reason keep having this nagging tug about the Bengals, since seemingly somehow, someway, Burrow figures out how to win these games, even when getting sacked nine times and hit another 13 times throwing in the improbable second-round, last-second 19-16 win over Tennessee. That's just not supposed to happen.

And for this week's last word, well, it goes to me as a huge era in Cowboys history comes to an end.

After 32 seasons with the Cowboys, now senior vice president of public relations/communications Rich Dalrymple has decided to retire, having dealt with eight of the nine head coaches in franchise history and only the third owner. Not to mention some memorable rides and some heartbreaks and unexpected tragedies a public relations man must manage.

First met Rich back in the mid to late 1980s when he was the sports information director at the University of Miami while covering several home Hurricanes games, including that 1987 season National Championship game victory over Oklahoma at the Orange Bowl. Former Miami head coach Jimmy Johnson was responsible for bringing Dalrymple to the Cowboys in 1990, taking over for Greg Aiello who went on to become the NFL's top PR guy.

Think about this, the Cowboys have only had three public relations directors over the past 51 seasons, Doug Todd for 18 (1971-88), Aiello the former 10-year assistant for one (1989) and then Dalrymple for the past 32 (1990-2021). Man, for those guys, especially Rich, talk about rides of a lifetime when dealing with these Cowboys all these years.

Happy trails.

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