To Leinart Or Not


DallasCowboys.com Columnist 
Jan. 5, 2004, 5:46 p.m. (CST)

you want to keep nibbling at this quarterback issue, as the Cowboys have over the past four years - and mostly from a lack of legitimate opportunity - then fine. But if given the chance, and certainly two first-round picks this year gives them at least a chance, me, I want to take a big daddy bite.

Of course, though, there is one mighty serious problem with saying I would. San Francisco has the first pick in the draft. The 49ers desperately need a quarterback. Uh, the Dolphins have the second pick in the draft, and they need a quarterback. Good grief, the Browns have the third pick in the draft, and they need a quarterback.

In fact, of the 10 teams drafting ahead of the Cowboys, I can make an argument that seven of them - San Francisco, Miami, Cleveland, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Oakland and Arizona - would jump at the chance to draft Leinart in the first round. Only Tennessee, possibly Washington and Detroit likely would not.

And when looking at the teams who need quarterbacks and those who do not, you think this is a coincidence? Of the first 11 teams in this draft, including the Cowboys, eight need quarterbacks.

But of the last 21, you can make an argument that not one of those teams needs a quarterback, from the standpoint they have either spent a recent first-round pick on one, already have an established one or spent big money in free agency to acquire one.

What's that saying?

Now as I've said before, I understand why the Cowboys have nibbled at the quarterback position. They really have not had a legitimate chance to draft one of these guys nor the money in free agency to explore with one of those guys. So they have tried to take a shortcut. But sometimes, as we who travel expressways and run into traffic jams know, those shortcuts most times end up taking even more time.

But now, not only do the Cowboys have ammunition, they also have somewhat of an opportunity, hanging in there with the 11th pick in the first round. And corresponding with those necessities is a legitimate guy to take.

Leinart.

Me, I'd do it in a minute, even if I think Henson can play. Let me just increase my odds on fixing the one position that must be fixed so I can pull out of this eight-year tailspin. The Cowboys have done it before, haven't they?

In 1989, not only did the Cowboys draft Troy Aikman with the first pick in the draft, they spent what turned out to be the first pick in the 1990 draft to select Steve Walsh a few months later in the supplemental draft.

And come to think of it, even with Don Meredith on board, and knowing they had taken a flyer on Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach in 1964 during that first stretch of futility, the Cowboys spent a first-round draft choice on Craig Morton in 1965. Talk about covering yourself.

Now I'm not saying this is going to happen. Not even saying the Cowboys will even have a chance of making this happen.

Nope, all I'm saying, is that while watching Southern Cal annihilate Oklahoma with this Leinart kid looking like the second-coming of Steve Young, I just kept asking myself:

Would ya?

And the answer kept coming back the same:

You're darn tootin.

MICK SHOTS

A lot of blame for the Cowboys' 6-10 season seems to be getting placed on the defense. Well, in the end, the Cowboys finished ranked 16th in total defense. Guess what? Seven of the 12 teams going into the playoffs were ranked no higher than 14th, and only one of those seven teams - Atlanta at 14 - finished ranked higher than the Cowboys. Check it out: St. Louis 17, San Diego 18, Green Bay 25, Seattle 26, Minnesota 28, Indianapolis 29.
With the contracts of at least six of the Cowboys' assistant coaches expiring, there would seem to be a good chance a few won't be re-signed. And this is the time of year when staff shakeups occur, evidenced by Chicago firing offensive coordinator Terry Shea and Jacksonville firing offensive

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