Jan. 26, 2004, 6:24 p.m. (CST)
good reason why the Patriots and Eagles are where they are - and will be come Monday.
6. Antonio, Antonio: That Antonio Bryant didn't have the mental capacity to become the team's top receiver this season, especially in light of Terry Glenn's season-ending injury, really hamstrung this offense. Bryant was a second-round pick in 2002, and this should have been his breakout year if training camp and preseason were any indication. Instead, he became preoccupied with me-me-me, and basically wore out his welcome with the coaching staff, front office and even some of his teammates, leading to his trade for Quincy Morgan. Worse, the Cowboys enter 2005 still searching for a lead receiver.
5. Speed Zone: Several injuries cramped the Cowboys, and one of the worst was the loss of Glenn. Couple that with No. 6, and the Cowboys really didn't have a receiver with the ability to run past defensive backs. Defenses knew it, too, and adjusted accordingly, making it far more difficult for quarterback Vinny Testaverde to throw underneath and for Keyshawn Johnson to shake double coverage. The Cowboys basically had to trick 'em to get someone open deep. With Glenn, he still could flat run by a D-B, and teams would have to devote a safety to make sure he didn't. Plus, remember all those spectacular catches before he got hurt against Green Bay? Huge loss.
4. The Black Hole: How could one position - right corner - cause so much consternation? Instead of spending freely and exorbitantly in free agency, the Cowboys thought they had enough resources to properly man the position that had been manned rather averagely the past few years by Mario Edwards. Wrong. They weren't even average there this year. But that wasn't from a lack of candidates. Want a list of guys who tried? Pete Hunter. Jemeel Powell. Andrew Davison. Donald Mitchell. Jacques Reeves. Nate Jones. Bruce Thornton. Tyrone Williams. Lance Frazier. How many is that? Nine? And to the bitter end, offenses picked on the Cowboys' right side time and time again. Playing a rookie free agent plucked off another team's practice squad at right corner is no way to do business in the NFL.
3. Where's The Safety Man?He was in street clothes. All season. Never played a play. And the absence of Darren Woodson had as much to do with the defense dropping from No. 1 in 2003 to No. 16 as anything else. Not only did the Cowboys miss his talent - Tony Dixon and Lynn Scott couldn't come close to replacing him - but they also missed his experience and leadership. This was a rudderless secondary, and worse, because of their concerns over the right cornerback position and the inability to trust Dixon in coverage, the Cowboys also were forced to play Roy Williams out of character - meaning in more coverage. It might have been one thing to cover up the deficiency at right corner after Hunter's season-ending injury in Week 3, but it was another when you were compensating for the other safety position, too.
2. Julius, Where Art Thou?Need we even explain this one? Rookie running back Julius Jones, playing in the final seven games after recovering from his Week 2 broken scapula, rushed for 803 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Want to do the math on that pace stretched out over a 16-game season? Try, 1,844 yards and 16 touchdowns. Let's see, that would have made him this year's leading rusher in the NFL, and just what the doctor ordered for a team struggling to run the ball with a combination of the aging Eddie George and Richie Anderson in his absence. Jones not only gave the Cowboys an outside threat in the running game, he also had the speed to take it to the house on any carry and the ability to make tacklers miss in the hole. This was a huge eight-game absence.
1. After Troy: And the No. 1 reason why the Cowboys finished 6-10 and will be home again for the Super Bowl is . . . four seasons since releasing Troy Aikman and the Cowboys are still chasing the quarterback position. Seven guys have tried, and still, heading into the 2005 season, the Cowboys have a big, fat question mark hovering over the quarterback position. Now this is not to say Testaverde played badly, and let's face it, he did throw for 3,532 yards - 11th most in the NFL - while finishing out