ARLINGTON -- The Dallas Cowboys completed their first winless preseason since 2000 Thursday night at AT&T Stadium.
Denver smashed Dallas 27-3 as the Cowboys joined the Indianapolis Colts as the only teams to lose all four exhibition matches. The Cowboys lost their four games by a combined score of 116-60. The 56-point differential was the NFL's largest.
The Cowboys went 0-5 in 1962, 1986 and 1998 and 2000.
Chan Gailey's 1998 team that had Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders went 10-6 and won the NFC East. None of the other teams made the playoffs.
Nothing owner Jerry Jones has said in the last 24 hours should make you feel optimistic about the 2014 season.
Has Jerry really been so seduced by the Cowboys' cache and marketing prowess -- Forbes reported this week the Cowboys are worth $3.2 billion, tops in the NFL -- that he's forgotten what's important?
Even if the Cowboys drafted Manziel in April he wasn't going to play anytime soon because Tony Romo's six-year, $108 million contract extension begins this season.
The only way Manziel was going to get on the field is if Romo suffered an injury, forcing him into the lineup.
Jerry's in love with the idea of Manziel keeping the Cowboys on prime time television and in the headlines no matter how bad the product on the field.
Here's a novel approach: Win some games. Win some playoffs games. Compete for a championship.
The Cowboys have one playoff win since 1996, which is shameful. They have missed the playoffs each of the past four seasons and it'll probably be five when this season ends.
Perhaps, Jerry has forgotten the Cowboys didn't become America's Team and one of the most polarizing franchises in professional sports because of glitz and glamour. They became marketable because they won with a collection of personalities and Hall of Fame players.
Don't forget, the the Cowboys used to be sarcastically called, "Next year's champions" because they couldn't win the biggest games.
Making the playoffs an NFL record 20 consecutive years with players ranging from Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett to Aikman and Smith made the Cowboys' blue star among the world's most identifiable logos.
Drafting Manziel would've been the dumbest move Jerry made since letting his ego get in the way of his relationship with Jimmy Johnson. We know this because Jerry's the only one in the organization that thought it was a good move.
Not vice president Stephen Jones. Or coach Jason Garrett. Or assistant director player personnel Will McClay. Or anyone else in the organization with a valued opinion.
If the Cowboys did a better job of drafting and developing players they'd have more young stars such as Dez Bryant to build marketing campaigns around.
Then again, Jerry is as desperate as he's ever been. This team is as far away from the Super Bowl as the day Jerry hired Garrett, in part, because the Cowboys have been trying to rebuild without bottoming out.
It's a worthy goal, but it has left the Cowboys with a quality offense and an abject defense.
Having watched training camp and four preseason games, you get the feeling several offensive players such as Jamar Newsome, Ryan Williams and LaRon Byrd will wind up on NFL rosters or practice squads if they get released, while defensive players who don't make this team will need to contemplate the next phase of their life.
That's one of the reasons Jerry told fans at the team's kickoff luncheon Wednesday that the 2014 season was going to be an "uphill battle."
"These guys we're expecting to play have a lot to prove to play the way we expect them to play," Jerry said. "I candidly have these thoughts that you do your best work when you have the longest odds.
"This team has no-name guys. Guys that weren't No.1 draft picks. Guys that were retired. You have guys coming back from injuries. This a to-prove group. The to-prove Cowboys."
This from a man who wears Ray-Bans with rose-colored lenses to bed, while listening to Tony Robbins CDs. If Jerry isn't optimistic, then this team must be far worse than we even imagined.
“I’m thinking that it was in the next day or two, but we haven’t heard from it,” Jones said. “I’m just sure we’ll get some word here as we’re making this roster and we’re making these decisions about the status of players and certainly the players that are on the 53. So I would think just knowing that it’s roster-making time, we would hear something from the league on Josh Brent.”
The Cowboys will create a roster spot for Brent as soon as he’s ruled eligible by the NFL.
Brent has not played since the December 2012 car accident that killed practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown. Brent was convicted of intoxication manslaughter and sentenced to 180 days in jail, with a judge allowing him to serve the final 45 days in an addiction rehabilitation center.
Sources recently told ESPN’s Ed Werder that Brent, who retired last summer while awaiting his trial, will have to serve a suspension before being allowed to play for the Cowboys again. The length of the suspension is up to Goodell, whom Jones believes will make a ruling before the Cowboys must make their roster moves Saturday.
The parties are working to get a deal done before the regular season begins -- as Bryant will cut off negotiations until next offseason -- but neither side is certain an agreement will be reached over the next week.
Bryant, who is due to make $1.78 million this season in the final year of his rookie deal, is encouraged by the individual attention he has received from Jones this week. They met to talk about a contract Tuesday and Wednesday.
It’s extremely rare for Jones to personally meet with a player to discuss a deal without the presence of an agent in the room.
“We have had good visits,” Jones said. “It’s a little different to be talking directly, for me to be talking directly with the player. I know of two that I’ve spent a lot of time directly talking with in some pretty sensitive areas when you’re talking about money. We all understand what that means. One of them Michael Irvin. He asked me to induct him into the Hall of Fame later and Emmitt Smith, he asked me to induct him into the Hall of Fame later. Troy [Aikman] always had Leigh Steinberg there, but we kind of talked straight in there together.
“But Dez and I have been visiting for years, ever since he’s been a Cowboy regarding things, and so it is a fairly unique situation that we’ve talked as much as we’ve talked, made it pretty easy and maybe propitious to be able to talk to him about his contract. That’s why we were actually talking there.”
Bryant has made it clear that he believes he’s one of the NFL’s top five receivers and wants to be paid as such, meaning his annual salary would be in the neighborhood of $12 million.
The Cowboys opened negotiations with a significantly lower number, attempting to use DeSean Jackson's three-year, $24 million deal with the Washington Redskins as a starting point. However, Jones said he has no issue with Bryant’s insistence that he’s one of the league’s highest-paid receivers.
“I will say this, that all Hall of Famers and great players are as competitive with their business as they are on the field,” Jones said. “I understand that. I had hundreds of negotiations and I understand that it is a natural thing to get your back up a little bit when you’re talking about your money.
“...I’m saying that, I understand the competitiveness or the sensation you get when someone won’t agree with you over money. I understand that as well as anybody breathing.”
The Cowboys have the option of using the franchise tag on Bryant the next three offseasons if a long-term deal isn’t reached. But that’d be expensive, starting at more than $12 million next year, rising to 120 percent of that figure the following year and skyrocketing to the quarterback’s franchise-tag number in the third year.
Jones would much prefer to sign Bryant to an extension, perhaps as soon as before the regular season begins. However, Jones said he couldn’t measure how far apart the sides are in the talks.
“You can’t because it takes two to tango,” Jones said. “So you just don’t have any measure of how far you are away from the other person’s expectation or where they will arrive at. You know we’re having good visits, but why wouldn’t we? We do. We’ve had good visits when all of these guys we’re talking about, one of the reasons we have good visits is because we’ve had them in good times and bad times.”
Signed in the afternoon, Tanner led the Cowboys with 26 rushing yards on eight carries in the 27-3 loss.
“It was fun,” said Tanner, who was cut by the Indianapolis Colts recently after playing the last three seasons in Dallas. “I just took it with the mindset this is the game I’ve played since I was 8 years old and to have the opportunity to come back out here and fight for a roster spot. I was excited about that.”
The Cowboys needed Tanner because they were not going use DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar in the final preseason game and Joseph Randle (oblique) and Ryan Williams (cramping) were battling injuries. The only other back the Cowboys had was D.J. Adams.
Tanner actually started the game.
“He’s an impressive kid,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He really is. It’s easy to see why he was a big part of the team the last few years. He’s a real pro. He has some skill as a runner. He’s a reliable football player. He shows up on special teams.”
He’s not likely to make the final 53-man roster, but for a night Tanner, a Kimball High School grad, was playing for his hometown team again.
“My mindset is whenever I lace it up, this is the shot to make this team, if not somebody else’s team, Tanner said. “My mindset was to give these guys a good impression to bring me back on the 53.”
“We wanted to get those guys an opportunity if we could to just come out and have a little game action,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We’ve had this situation a number of times in the past where you just make a decision that says, ‘Let’s not play them this situation. Let’s give him 10 more days before he’s in a game and hopefully that will help him.’”
Melton missed the last three preseason games with a groin injury but has always said he would be ready for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against the San Francisco 49ers. But he has not played since Week 3 last season with the Chicago Bears when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
The knee has not given him any issues in the summer.
Claiborne is used to not playing in the preseason. He has missed every game in the past two preseasons.
“Nothing like the game,” cornerback Brandon Carr said when asked what Claiborne missed by sitting. “Just for him, it’s conditioning and those things, but he’s done a great job this year of just taking care of his body and things he can control as far as that and making sure his footwork is right. I’m confident he’s going to be ready to play. You get to this level it’s more so of a mindset. It’s the mental part of the game that gets people but I think he’s turned that corner as well.”
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mercifully, the Dallas Cowboys’ preseason came to an end on Thursday with their 27-3 loss to the Denver Broncos.
For the first time since 2000 -- and fifth time overall -- the Cowboys did not win a preseason game. Of the four previous winless preseasons, the Cowboys finished above .500 just once, making the playoffs in 1998 with a 10-6 record.
The Cowboys enter the Sept. 7 regular-season opener with low outside expectations in part because of their three straight 8-8 finishes and due to a defense that lacks playmakers and will be counting on role players to play in big-time positions.
The Cowboys were outscored 116-60 in the preseason.
Here are some other thoughts on the Cowboys' fourth preseason game:
- The Cowboys will go into the San Francisco game with starting defensive tackle Henry Melton and cornerback Morris Claiborne not taking a preseason snap. Melton went through pregame warmups Thursday and was expected to at least see a handful of plays after missing the last two preseason games with a groin injury. Claiborne, who will start with Orlando Scandrick missing the first four games because of a suspension, has not played in a preseason game the last two seasons. A shoulder injury limited his work the last two-plus weeks of the preseason. Cornerback Brandon Carr saw less than 30 snaps in the preseason, including only 12 Thursday, after missing the first two exhibition games following the death of his mother.
- Justin Durant did not start, so the Cowboys used Rolando McClain at middle linebacker for the first two series. McClain was active in his short time on the field, making three tackles. The Cowboys have attempted to speed up McClain’s learning curve with this defense and his conditioning but both times they gave him first-team work he was unable to finish practice. Has he done enough in the preseason to be a starter? The Cowboys might have to make a projection here with a linebacker who has not played since Nov. 2012 and retired twice since then.
- The Cowboys will go into the season with their most inexperienced backup quarterback since Tony Romo in 2006 in Brandon Weeden. Starting his second preseason game, Weeden completed seven of 13 passes for 83 yards and an interception. His turnover was the result of a forced throw to Devin Street on a roll out that cornerback Tony Carter was able to pick off, and the Broncos scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive. Weeden was able to respond with a field goal drive the next time he had the ball, completing two third-down throws and hitting LaRon Byrd with a 26-yard completion while taking a big hit. On third-and-goal he wisely chose to run the ball instead of forcing a pass, making sure the Cowboys got points.
- Ronald Leary started every game at left guard in 2013 and appears to be the frontrunner to hold the job again this season, but he played the first half Thursday. Mackenzy Bernadeau, who was splitting time with Leary in camp, did not play, getting the same treatment as starting linemen Doug Free, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. Leary missed the early part of training camp with a hamstring injury suffered in a conditioning test.
"I felt good to get a couple of plays under my belt,” Carr said. “I feel good going into next week's home opener. Now it's time to polish up the finished product and get ready for next Sunday."
Carr actually played eight snaps against the Broncos, including a penalty called on linebacker Kyle Wilber. He played 17 snaps on Aug. 23 against the Miami Dolphins.
There was a tentative plan for defensive tackle Henry Melton to play a series or two after missing the first three preseason games, but he wore a cap and watched from the sideline. He’ll suit up for the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers after not getting any game action since tearing his ACL last September.
To put it simply, Peterson's departure from Minnesota isn't up to him. In the NFL, teams wield full power over player movement, be it a superstar like Peterson or the No. 53 man on the roster. No matter what Peterson wants, he won't leave until the Vikings decide they're done with him.
Such is the harsh truth of the NFL. Peterson is a future Hall of Famer who is two years removed from the second-best season by a running back in league history. Since the start of 2012, he has gained 3,363 yards and scored 22 touchdowns. But Peterson has also played seven rough-and-tumble seasons at football's most brutal position, and at 29 he is two years past the age when most running backs begin a production decline. (Here is an April post with more detail on that topic.)
.Though Peterson is the game's highest-paid running back in 2014 with a $12 million salary, he is essentially in a rolling deal with no future guarantees. As the chart shows, if the Vikings release him after this season, he would count just $2.4 million against their salary cap.
Put it all together and you have a player who should recognize that his future with the Vikings, at least at his current pay scale, is year to year. If his production decreases in 2014, will the Vikings want to pay him $13 million in 2015? That salary dwarfs the running back market, which is at an all-time nadir. In 2015, the average running back salary will be $1.3 million. Peterson would be one of only two running backs making as much as $8 million.
I can't say for sure that Peterson has contemplated that scenario yet, but I would bet the house that his advisers have. Peterson grew up in Texas, and if there is any owner who would overpay an aging running back for entertainment value, it's Jerry Jones. Whomever put Peterson and Jones on the phone, however reckless it might have been, surely understood those dynamics as well.
Both the Vikings and Peterson issued statements Wednesday afternoon, and they're notable as much for what they didn't say as for what they did. The Vikings noted they are "focused on the 2014 season," and Peterson said: "This was a casual conversation between NFL colleagues in which I never indicated I wanted to leave the Vikings. I have always said I understand the NFL is a business but that I would love to retire as a Viking."
Pointedly, Peterson didn't deny telling Jones he would like to play for the Cowboys someday. In his mind, no doubt, Dallas would be an ideal landing spot if he ever reaches free agency.
The Vikings, of course, hope that day never comes. They want Peterson to continue as an elite offensive player, one whose production matches the 11-digit salaries his contract calls for over the next four years.
If not -- if he succumbs to the NFL's near-inevitable running back decline -- then they will have a business decision to make. Peterson could well have trade value, but often in such cases, possible suitors sit tight and await a release. He could also agree to a pay cut, as painful as that usually is to the pride of most superstars.
Hall of Famers from Johnny Unitas to Joe Montana to Marcus Allen to the Cowboys' own Tony Dorsett have finished their careers with new teams. It's part of the business. No one faults Dorsett for playing with the Denver Broncos in 1988. Does anyone even remember it? I wouldn't be surprised, and it appears Peterson wouldn't either, if his name joins that list.
According to league rules, when a player is suspended without pay for a violation of the personal conduct policy, policy and programs for substance abuse, or policy on anabolic steroids or related substances, the team will have to remit to the Management Council a portion of the players’ salary that is deemed forfeited.
Scandrick was suspended for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. Hamilton was suspended for violating the substance abuse program.
With two suspensions, the Cowboys will owe 15 percent of what Scandrick and Hamilton would make over a four-week period. Scandrick will make $750,000 this season. Hamilton will make $495,000. Over four weeks Scandrick would make $176,470 and Hamilton would make $116,470.
Fifteen percent of $292,940 is $43,941.
The Cowboys actually got off lighter because they re-worked Scandrick’s contract last season. He was supposed to make a $3.5 million base salary in 2014, which would have raised the fine to $140,000.
If Josh Brent is reinstated and suspended by the NFL, the Cowboys could be on the hook for a larger fine. The Cowboys would have to pay 25 percent of the suspended player's applicable proportionate base salary up to $250,000.
Take today for instance.
Jakar Hamilton is suspended four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. That is followed up by the club’s decision to cut 2013 fourth-round pick, B.W. Webb in order to add running back Phillip Tanner to the roster so he can take some carries in tonight’s preseason finale against the Denver Broncos.
Then comes a mesmerizing tale by ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. for "Outside the Lines," and ESPN The Magazine. Some of the story is a rehash of Jones' history as the owner and general manager of the Cowboys.
After the George Strait concert Peterson confided in Jones he wants to play for the Cowboys one day after a friend of his handed Jones a cell phone. Tampering charges have been mentioned, but Jones didn’t initiate the call. If somebody has some explaining to do, it’s Peterson to the Vikings’ fans.
Jones' love of Manziel is not surprising. That he so often talks about a love he spurned by listening to the rest of the draft room on May 8 is surprising. Get over it. Zack Martin was the pick. He has looked like a veteran since the day he walked in the building. Tony Romo is your quarterback.
On the night of the draft, Jones said financially it made no sense to draft Manziel because of the price they paid to keep Romo last offseason. Since then, Jones' love for Manziel has grown and grown.
Maybe Romo doesn’t care what Jones says about Manziel, but on a human level doesn’t he have to think that maybe Jones isn’t fully in his corner?
Jones has a hard time letting things go, which was also evidenced in the piece with his comments regarding Johnson.
I was not around for the Jimmy Johnson Era. There was a clear delineation between Jerry guys and Jimmy guys, from what I’m told, and Jones still has his true loyalties to those people even if Johnson has not been around since the second Super Bowl win in the 1990s.
The sniping between Jones and Johnson remains alive and well. Johnson constantly tweaks Jones backhandedly about his football acumen. Jones said in the piece that Johnson has "but two Super Bowl rings," and won’t win another. Jones said he has the chance to win five more without Johnson.
From the sounds of it Johnson will never land in the Ring of Honor. Here’s why:
"Disloyalty ... I couldn't handle the disloyalty. Whether it was right or not, by every measurement you can go, I had paid so many times a higher price to get to be there than he had paid, it was unbelievable. ... By any way you wanna measure it, wear and tear, pain, worry, butt kickin', the criticism -- everything in the book!"
It’s only the middle of the afternoon. The Cowboys play their final preseason game against the Denver Broncos at 7 p.m at AT&T Stadium.
What else will today bring?
With Webb gone and Orlando Scandrick suspended the first four games of the regular season, the Cowboys will likely go with rookies Patmon and Terrance Mitchell, a seventh-round pick, as their fourth and fifth cornerbacks behind Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Sterling Moore.
The Cowboys claimed cornerback Jemea Thomas off waivers from the New England Patriots on Wednesday.
With injuries to Joseph Randle (oblique) and Ryan Williams (cramping) the Cowboys were left with one tailback they would play tonight against the Denver Broncos -- DJ Adams. The Cowboys will not use starter DeMarco Murray or Lance Dunbar, necessitating the addition of Tanner, who played three years for the team and was recently cut by the Indianapolis Colts.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- There are typically two sure things when Jerry Jones delivers his speech at the Dallas Cowboys' annual kickoff luncheon.
He’ll puff out his chest and pump up his team. And he’ll make at least one confusing comment or reference that causes a lot of head-scratching in the audience.
Well, Jerry went 1-for-2 on Wednesday. He certainly didn’t make any bold predictions for this season, stressing how the Cowboys are facing an “uphill battle” with “our backs against the wall.” Those comments were clear as could be. His reference to an old Ray Charles song, um, really wasn’t.
“It basically said without the music and without his great voice was, how do you get if them that gets is them that’s got?” Jones said.
Huh? What the heck does that mean? Well, it makes perfect sense when you read or listen to the lyrics of “Them That Got.”
Jerry, the proud owner of a glitzy, glamorous franchise recently valued by Forbes at $3.2 billion, is basically saying that the Cowboys are football broke. He’s absolutely right, and the contradiction between the state of the Cowboys financially vs. on the football field pretty much sums up Jerry in a nutshell.
He’s among the best, if not the best, of the businessmen in the NFL. He's among the worst, if not the worst, of the general managers in the NFL.
Owner Jerry has done a remarkable job maximizing the marketing potential of the America’s Team history. The man just landed a multimillion-dollar deal from a swanky Swiss watchmaker whose head honcho wouldn’t know a touchdown from a fourth down because the Cowboys are the most recognizable brand in American sports. The combination of those five Super Bowls from so long ago and Jerry’s business savvy made building a $1.2 billion football palace possible, and prompted suburban Frisco to pay $115 million for the right to build the Cowboys a state-of-the-art practice facility. The brand is the biggest reason the Cowboys consistently produce big TV ratings.
But none of that will help GM Jerry’s flawed team end a four-year playoff drought or win a playoff game for only the second time since The Triplets’ time. Not with a defense whose rebuilding process isn’t any further along than the new practice facility, which just had a groundbreaking ceremony last week.
The good news is Jerry seems to get this, finally. The good ol’ days can’t help the Cowboys win in this decade.
As Ray Charles would say, this crop of Cowboys ain’t got nothin’ yet. On the field, the Cowboys haven’t been one of them that got for years.
The question is, now that Jerry’s clear about that, what will he do to change his franchise’s football fate?
Hamilton will miss the first four regular-season games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Earlier this month, cornerback Orlando Scandrick was suspended four games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.
As with Scandrick, the Cowboys were aware of the possibility of Hamilton's suspension before it was announced.
Unlike Scandrick, Hamilton is fighting for a spot on the Cowboys' 53-man roster. He missed the first preseason game because of a concussion and did not play last week against the Miami Dolphins or Thursday night against the Denver Broncos because of a hamstring injury.
Before Thursday's game, Hamilton issued a statement apologizing for letting his family and teammates down.
"I thank my family for being supportive and forgiving," he said. "I also want to sincerely apologize to Mr. Jones and his family including the entire Dallas Cowboys organization. I ask my coaches and teammates to forgive me and I pray that my mistakes in life will be for others to learn from. I humbly apologize for my past actions.
"My family, fans and the people here in Texas are the greatest. I ask for your forgiveness. I don't blame any one for my shortcomings. I just thank God for another chance to come back stronger and wiser. Let this be a lesson for those who are disobedient."