As my great-aunt on my mother's side, Wilma Fingerdoo, used to say, “Whether it’s chocolate cheesecake or crap covered nuts, you have to eat what life gives you.”
Yes, I’m cheating and playing both sides of the fence. For the last two-plus weeks or more, the battle has raged on about the Cowboys continuing to play to make the playoffs, or tank the rest of the season for the highest possible draft pick.
Come this night, when our beloved Cowboys travel to FedEx field, the question of the playoffs and most likely draft position will more than likely be answered. A win and Dallas is one game back. A loss and we’re sitting at 3-9 with a firm hold on at least a top-five pick.
Myself? I’m still torn between both. Do I believe the playoffs are out of reach? Yes, I do. I have no faith whatsoever in Matt Cassel, or what the Cowboys offense can bring with him as the quarterback.
Do I want the Cowboys to tank? Hell no. It doesn’t matter if it’s sports, raising a child, or cleaning toilets at Walmart to make a paycheck, one should always take pride in one’s job. Tanking is out of the question.
While I’m not opposed to letting the young guys get a chance to see what they may be able to bring, I also believe that you put the best players on the field who give you the best chance at victory. That’s the coach's decision not mine, not yours.
We may not agree with all the choices made from the Cowboys brass, but it’s our duty as fans to support the team come hell or high water, no matter the outcome.
Agree or disagree? Feel free to let me know your thoughts or feelings in the comments below.
NFC East Weekly: Giants Change QBs, Eagles Take First Loss
While we always have plenty to talk about when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, it's never a bad idea to look around our division and see what's happening with the rivals. This is the first is a new weekly feature on Inside The Star where we'll talk about the major happenings in the NFC East, and especially what they mean for the good guys.
Before we get into the headlines, though, here's a quick glace at the current standings for the division after Week 2 of the 2019 season:
- Dallas Cowboys 2-0 (2-0 vs division)
- Philadelphia Eagles 1-1 (1-0 vs division)
- New York Giants 0-2 (0-1 vs division)
- Washington Redskins 0-2 (0-2 vs division)
The Cowboys have started off the season in grand fashion, picking up two division wins against the Giants and Redskins. It's an incredible foundation from which to continue through 2019, and one that they will hopefully build on this week against the tanking Miami Dolphins.
Those division wins could be crucial this year if the Eagles live up to expectations. Despite the loss last week in Atlanta, Philly should still be right there in the end and the NFC East crown may come down that tie-breaking record against division opponents.
If these two weeks have shown us anything, it's that all projections of 2019 being a two-horse race between Dallas and Philadelphia were spot on. New York is as bad as most thought they'd be, and any thoughts of Washington being a plucky underdog are about gone now.
In fact, it only took two weeks for the Giants to throw in the towel and name rookie Daniel Jones their starting quarterback.
End of the Eli Era
Remember this offseason when Giants' General Manager Dave Gettleman said that Eli Manning "had plenty left" going into 2019? Apparently it ran out fast, and it only took two losses for New York to promote Daniel Jones and effectively end Manning's run with the Giants. He had been the full-time starter since 2005.
Assuming that an injury or a total management meltdown don't lead to Eli being renamed as the starter, Jones will get six games under his belt before the rematch with the Cowboys in Week 9. The rookie gets a few soft opponents in Tampa Bay and Washington to start his career, but then it toughens up quickly with Minnesota and New England in Weeks 5 and 6.
Taking my Cowboys glasses off for a second, I actually am rooting for this kid. Daniel Jones was one the most maligned draft picks I've ever seen, basically declared a bust before he even had time to hug the commissioner on stage. On a purely human level, I'd like to see him prove people wrong.
We'll have plenty of time to look at Jones in the weeks and years to come. But before we change topics, I wanted to quickly reflect on the end of the Eli Era.
It was hard as a Dallas fan to watch Manning's success with two Super Bowl wins. Other than physical durability, there was nothing about Eli's game that made you think he was better than our own Tony Romo.
But happenstance is what makes the NFL work so well. It's why Week 1 in the NFL means more than the middle rounds of the NBA Playoffs; unpredictable outcomes make for greatest excitement and intrigue. The best teams and players don't always win, because single-elimination games and even single plays within can change history.
The bottom line is that "ifs" don't make legacies or Hall of Fame resumes. Like Batman said to Rachel Dawes, "it's what I do that defines me." Eli Manning won two championships against the greatest coach & QB combo of the last two decades. He kept his team relevant in the most competitive division in football more years than not.
If he doesn't make it into Canton then I won't think it's a tragedy. But if it does, it's absolutely deserved.
Eagles Lose 1st of 2019
Philadelphia fell behind a little in the race with Dallas by dropping their first game of the season, losing on the road against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday. A late touchdown by Julio Jones on 4th-down stole the game away from the Eagles.
All losses hurt in the NFL but this one wasn't too damaging. The record against NFC opponents is more relevant to Wild Card races than divisions crowns.
But for two weeks at least, the Cowboys have looked like the better team. They beat the Redskins by a wider margin on Sunday than the Eagles did, and that was even with the game being in Washington.
This week could allow the divide to increase. The Eagles will host the Detroit Lions, who have yet to lose a game this year (they finished Week 1 with a tie) while Dallas gets the league's worst team in Miami.
Also concerning coming out of the loss in Atlanta was that Carson Wentz had to leave the game, albeit briefly, after the NFL's medical spotter called for him to be examined for a concussion. Wentz has since stated that he was fine and the exam was unnecessary.
Even if the concussion exam was overzealous, the fact remains that Wentz was taking some big hits throughout that game. Given his history, one has to wonder if he can make it through the season without some better protection or more efforts to avoid contact.
Until he proves otherwise, Carson is going to be seen as injury prone. It's a fear that Eagles fans keep deep down, in places they don't like to talk about at parties or on Twitter, but it's there.
But if Philly slips up again this week against the Lions, especially with Dallas likely improving to 3-0, then a much more present and potent fear could start to take hold.
Football Focus: How Things Have Changed In First Two Weeks of the Season
Only two weeks have gone by in the 2019 NFL regular season and the landscape already looks completely different. The league is always unpredictable, but it seems to me this year things have changed way too much from what we expected to see out of many teams. Injuries will reshape how division standings look once it's all said and done. Allow me to be specific:
- One of the strongest Super Bowl contenders this season are the New Orleans Saints. On week 2, QB Drew Brees sustained a thumb injury that will knock him out for six weeks of action. I don't believe the Saints chances of making the playoffs are gone, though. The Saints' division rivals haven't looked strong and Teddy Bridgewater might be one of the best backups in the NFL. Winning a handful of games will keep them in the race. Even still, the Brees injury is a heavy blow for Sean Payton's team.
- As a football fan, this one hurts quite a bit. Ben Roethlisberger suffered another injury and this one looks pretty real. It was a non-contact elbow injury that will require surgery. The Steelers will be led by Mason Rudolph, who didn't look bad last week when taking over. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers could've been considered contenders if Big Ben was in the lineup. With Rudolph, I don't see it happening. Not to mention, it would be devastating if this how Roethlisberger's career ends. I hope he comes back. The two-time Super Bowl champion is one of the best we've seen in this "era." Right now, the AFC North might be between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens.
- The Jacksonville Jaguars talented defense will likely go to waste after Nick Foles broke his clavicle. Foles was one of the players that intrigued me the most going into the season. Is he a good quarterback that got off to a slow start? Or did he just ball out in a single postseason and isn't really that good? I frankly don't know, and we could've found out had he had the chance to play a full season. Now, it'd be a surprise if the Jaguars manage to be competitive in the AFC South.
- Speaking of the AFC South, this one isn't as "new," but let's not forget who was supposed to start at quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. After having a monster season in 2018, Andrew Luck was supposed to lead his team to the postseason again. His unexpected retirement has led to Jacoby Brissett starting and although he's not bad, he's no Andrew Luck. Yet another team that we expected to be a contender that has taken a heavy blow.
Injuries will always suck. Football is a great sport, but you hate to see these players and teams miss out on opportunities due to an injury. At the same time, great players' careers have started because of injuries to other players. It is what it is. And even if it sounds like a cliché, next man up is the philosophy of the sport.
Three-And-Out: 3 Quick Thoughts
- How early is it too early to say Cam Newton is done? The Carolina Panthers quarterback was at his worst last Thursday when his team fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Newton has lost eight straight games as a starter. Per PFF's Steve Palazzolo, 34.2% of Newton's passes were uncatchable (most in the league). He is simply hasn't been the same since his MVP season in 2015. If the Panthers were to release him after this season, they'd only have $2M in dead money. I'd certainly think about moving on.
- The Chicago Bears should be 0-2. They got a last-second win against the Denver Broncos on Sunday but they didn't look like a winning team. With one of the league's top defenses, they were seen as one of the main contenders in the NFC this season. After two weeks, they might be the most disappointing team in the entire NFL. Mitchell Trubisky's offense is just not good. And it won't be easy to fix it. Right now, the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings are the best teams in the NFC North. Let's see if they can turn things around.
- The New York Giants are handing Daniel Jones the starting job. That's the correct call. Although Eli Manning has a lot of history there, he isn't playing good football. Giving a chance to your sixth overall pick is the right thing to do for your team. It almost would've been disrespectful to the players not to start him.
Player of the Week: WR Cooper Kupp, L.A. Rams
Kupp finished week 2 with five receptions, 120 yards and one touchdown. But with a simply amazing play that put the game away as the Rams emerged victorious over the Saints, he's earned my player of the week. In case you missed his 66-yard reception, here it is. Outstanding effort.
Underdog of the Week: Detroit Lions
The Los Angeles Chargers were the favorites over the Detroit Lions despite dealing with plenty of important injuries. In an ugly game, the Lions took advantage of that. It was a low-scoring matchup that was defined in a couple of plays. After starting off with two interceptions, Matthew Stafford threw a 31-yard TD to Kenny Golladay in the fourth quarter. After that, CB Darius Slay secured the win when it all could've gone wrong for the Lions with 1:10 left on the clock. The Lions are kind of undefeated. They're 1-0-1. in the season.
College Football Corner: LSU Finally Has an Offense
The LSU Tigers always have a strong defense. This time around, they've seemed to nail the offensive side of things too. It's almost a yearly narrative that the Tigers will finally have an offense that works before we find out that's not the case. But in 2019, it's real. QB Joe Burrow has looked unbelievable on the team's new spread offense. He has completed 83% of his passes for 1,122 yards, 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He's officially a Heisman candidate. They've already beaten the Texas Longhorns and are set to face stronger opponents in October. I can't wait to see them play Alabama in November.
The Dolphins Are Tanking For The Future, But 2019’s Roster Must Pay The Price
Average: the worst thing you can be in professional sports.
In a league which is controlled by both a hard salary cap and a stringent draft system for college players, being a middle-of-the-road team is quite bleak. These teams sit in quarterback purgatory, unable to get access to the best college prospects, while also not being good enough currently to really compete with the top teams in the league.
So, in order to gain that access to top talent and build your team into a true competitor, you must first tear the whole thing down.
Yes, most of the time, you need to tank.
Though teams typically overvalue draft picks, there's no doubt that the best way to build a football team is with young, cheap talent. By leveraging the rookie wage scale, teams can maximize title windows by finding cheap quarterbacks through the draft, and spending big money on other key positions. The Seahawks have done it, the Eagles have done it, and now the Browns are looking to do it.
And, as clear as can be, the Dolphins are going full tank mode in 2019.
Miami is off to one of the most pathetic starts in NFL history. After getting throttled 59-10 at home in their season opener, Miami followed up that loss with another awful performance in week 2. Through two games, Miami has been outscored 102-10. It's unwatchable for the fans, and most importantly, demoralizing for the players.
From a front office stand point, its easy to understand what the Dolphins are doing. After all, as a Dallas Cowboy fan, you can argue that Jimmy Johnson brought the tank to the NFL with his famous Herschel Walker trade. Johnson hoarded draft picks from 1988-1991 and built one of the greatest dynasties this league has ever seen.
Miami has not had a legit starting quarterback since Dan Marino graced their sidelines, and they are doing everything in their power to make sure they have their top choice for a franchise quarterback over the next two drafts. It may work out just as it did for those '90's Cowboys. Tua Tagovailoa or Trevor Lawrence might be the next great player who brings Miami out from despair. And, with the way the NFL's access to talent is set up, this is the most efficient way to get their shot.
But, man, even the 1989 Cowboys were rarely this bad.
The one's who have to pay the price for this rebuild, really, are the current players. Tanking is likely the best way to rebuild your roster and find that quarterback, but this isn't Madden. You can't simulate the season, humans have to play these games.
While tanking has become incredibly popular in both the NBA and MLB, tanking in football is different. In a word - it's dangerous. Miami is willingly putting players out there who likely wouldn't have those same roles on normal, competing teams. If one of these lesser players misses an assignment, or simply isn't good enough to hang, he's putting both himself and his teammates in actual danger. Football is a violent game, one where your life could be at stake. You have to have confidence in the guy next to you to do his job, and the Dolphins front office is giving little reason to have that confidence.
Even outside of the physical danger, there's financial drawbacks for these players as well. The front office is putting these players in a nearly impossible position to succeed, so for the players who would have a chance at a second contract, all of this bad and embarrassing film is hurting their future earning potential.
And when it's all over, and the picks convey into players, those that had to play these games and suffer these embarrassments won't even be around the enjoy the payoff. They won't get the quarterback, or the chances at success, or the parade if there ever is one in Miami.
I get the reasoning behind tanking. From the view of the front office, and the view of all the analytics, it's likely the most efficient way to complete your rebuild. Yet I can't help but feel for the players, who are being put out there to fail week in and week out.
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