During his Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech last summer, Ron Wolfe referred to Lambeau Field as, "football's most storied cathedral."
I've been very blessed in that I've been able to attend a lot of Dallas Cowboys games in my life. A majority of the time I've been accompanied by my best friend - my Dad.
A year ago we decided that we'd seen Texas Stadium, we'd seen AT&T Stadium, and now it was time to explore the rest of the National Football League.
We settled on Soldier Field in Chicago and saw the Cowboys pull of a nice victory on Thursday Night Football against Da Bears.
When the 2015 schedule was released we saw that the cathedral Ron Wolfe referred to would be part of the Dallas Cowboys' tour. There was no second choice. This was Lambeau. We had to go.
We brought reinforcements this time. My Dad, his best friend, his best friend's son, and his best friend's son-in-law all accompanied us as we made our way to Green Bay, WI last weekend.
Here is a bit of our trip at what I can now say, from my own experience, is unquestionably football's most storied, historic, and illustrious cathedral.
Brett Favre's Steakhouse
We first laid eyes on perhaps the most iconic venue in sports on the night of Friday, December 11th. We were making our way towards dinner at Brett Favre's steakhouse and passed by Lambeau in all her glory.
For the time being our eyes, and stomachs, were focused on something else. Talk around the town was that Favre's put one fine piece of meat on a plate, and we had to check it out.
This thing is a living shrine to the 'Ol Gunslinger. The food is almost as manly as his style of play was.
There's a mini museum that highlights all of the accomplishments by Favre during his time in Green Bay. Magazine covers grace all of the walls and cheeshead hats are for sale in the gift shop.
There are footballs from Super Bowl XXXI, photos of Brett and his family, and just about everything Favre-related that you can dream up.
There's also food. Lots of it.
We each ordered a ribeye steak and baked potato that came with ice cream sized scoops of butter on top. One bite in we knew that the trip was already well worth it.
The only sound that came from our table for a solid ten minutes was that of satisfaction as we each feasted on what I think was a whole cow.
We raised a glass to friends, family, food, and of course the Dallas Cowboys. With a weekend of good times ahead of us... we were on top of the world. Did I mention that we were a few blocks away from Lambeau Field?
After dinner we ventured over to Lambeau. I had waited long enough, I wanted to stand in her presence.
We pulled up and got out of the car. You can't help but just stare at the stadium and let your mind wander over the course of history as you reflect how football was built here.
Right outside the stadium they have some statues. Vince Lombardi, Curly Lambeau, and a little monument to the Green Bay fans. This "statue" serves as a spot where fans can emulate the iconic "Lambeau Leap." You know that I had to get in on this.
I closed my eyes and pretended that I scored the winning touchdown during the Ice Bowl... avenging one of the most heartbreaking losses in Dallas Cowboys History. I then proceeded to find some fans in the crowd, jumped up, and soaked in the moment. They were happy... you can see it on their faces!
That wrapped up our experience for the night, but we'd be back in the morning.
Green Bay Packers Hall Of Fame
As it was Saturday there wasn't any football going on that needed to be watched. We loaded up the car and set sail to see Lambeau with some sun on her.
The stadium is incredibly large with so much going on. We wanted to check it all out, see the pro shop, but more than anything we wanted to tour the Hall of Fame.
The Packers have their own mini museum inside of Lambeau Field that is dedicated to the greatest to put on the green and gold. They also have a larger-than-life Vince Lombardi Trophy that is fifty feet tall!
Both Cowboys and Packers fans filled the line to get into the museum. Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, Ray Nitschke, Troy Aikman, Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Sean Lee were just a few of the many different jerseys well represented.
The museum encompasses everything related to football. There's a portion completely dedicated to the scouting process of the NFL... you can even measure yourself at the high jump!
There's fine details concerning the NFL uniform, the Packers weekly preparation, Ron Wolfe's contributions, the rise and fall of the Packers... it's got it all.
There's a particularly great portion of the museum that has bronze footballs dedicated to each player/coach/contributor who has helped make the Packers great over the years. Once you make your way through that you find yourself in the Trophy Room.
Super Bowls I, II, XXXI, and XLV are represented by their respective Vince Lombardi Trophies.
There are smaller level trinkets in this room that stick out as well, though.
During the days of NFL Championships they didn't hand out Super Bowl Rings. Watches, pocket watches, and even lighters that were commemorations for those particular teams are on hand for you to see.
The one that I found most interesting is Aaron Rodgers' Super Bowl XLV Ring. This thing, his ring, is just sitting here!
I can't believe that Aaron wouldn't want to keep it on him at all times, but I mean... it's obviously safe in the museum.
It's pretty sweet that all Packers fans can cruise through the museum and see the exact ring that belongs to their MVP quarterback that they watch Sunday after Sunday. Nobody does things like the Green Bay Packers, that's for sure.
Our tour for the day ended and we decided to head on over to a local casino and play some slots. The real deal was only a day away.
Dallas Cowboys Vs. Green Bay Packers
Sunday, December 13th was a day circled on all of our calendars for a long time. When it finally arrived we put on all of our gear (there was 100% chance of rain) and headed out for Lambeau.
Upon arrival you can immediately sense that this place is completely different from any NFL environment. It feels like, in some ways, a high school game in terms of the excitement in the air.
I say that in the sense that it is awesome. Every fan... young and old is a complete die-hard and you can feel it in the culture of the place.
There were Christmas carolers singing, "God Bless The Packers" as we walked by the entrance gate. The electricity was tangible. It felt like, just because of where we were, a playoff game.
We got inside and went straight for our seats. At Lambeau the bottom level isn't your traditional stadium seats... it's even more traditional with bleachers!
Before I knew it kickoff was upon us and the magic of it all started to settle in.
The Dallas Cowboys. The Green Bay Packers. Lambeau Field. I don't know that I've ever seen anything like that in person.
Every sense of the stadium is incredibly rich in history... and that extends towards the Packers fans. This isn't a game for them and its not even a tradition. It's a ritual of time, family, and a deep love for their Green Bay Packers. Everything that happens there, whether on gameday or when no one is watching, is magical.
If you're looking for an NFL stadium to visit then I cannot recommend Lambeau Field enough. It was the experience of a lifetime. Go now. Take me with you. I'll show you around.
Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches
Lamentablemente, la temporada 2018 de los Dallas Cowboys ha llegado a su fin. Lo hizo cuando el equipo visitó Los Angeles para intentar sorprender a los Rams en su propio campo en la Ronda Divisional de los playoffs. Ni siquiera con una invasión exitosa de la afición de Dallas pudieron ganarse un pase al Campeonato de Conferencia. En vez de eso, los Cowboys estarán viendo desde casa y la afición estará preguntándose: ¿qué sigue para los Dallas Cowboys?
Parece ya una tradición anual que no podemos dejar pasar. Este momento en el que comenzamos a cuestionar, una vez más, que entrenador es digno de quedarse en la franquicia y cual debe irse. En esta edición de "Cowboys en Español," hablaremos específicamente de los tres principales coaches en el equipo.
Coordinador Defensivo Rod Marinelli
El futuro del coordinador defensivo de los Dallas Cowboys no se puede tratar sin mencionar a Kris Richard. Fue la defensiva la que llevó al equipo hasta la postemporada y fue la unidad que cargó al equipo en muchas de sus victorias. Incluso con la llegada de Amari Cooper a Dallas, la defensiva fue siempre el pilar de la franquicia esta temporada.
Jaylon Smith y Leighton Vander Esch sorprendentemente se perfilaron como uno de los mejores duos de linebackers en toda la liga, la línea defensiva fue muy exitosa con Randy Gregory y DeMarcus Lawrence en los extremos y con la grata sorpresa que fue Antwaun Woods en el centro. La secundaria vio la mejor temporada en la controversial carrera de Byron Jones e hizo un excelente trabajo con un talento decente, pero no genial.
Todo esto, y el haber terminado como la sexta mejor defensiva en puntos permitidos (20.2) y la quinta mejor contra la corrida (94.6), hace a Rod Marinelli merecedor de una ronda de aplausos. Sin embargo, Richard probablemente merezca más aplausos.
Fue Richard quien revolucionó la defensiva de los Cowboys y la convirtió en un grupo mucho más agresivo. Fue él quien implementó jugadas de "blitz" en el equipo (algo no común con Marinelli) y quien en un punto de la temporada, comenzó a seleccionar las jugadas desde la banda.
En esta posición, me parece que los Dallas Cowboys tienen que enfrentar la dura decisión de decirle a Marinelli que es tiempo de dejarle el puesto a Kris Richard. Si bien no se llevó un trabajo de head coach, es muy probable que le llovieran ofertas a Richard si no se hace con el título de coordinador defensivo en Dallas.
Coordinador Ofensivo Scott Linehan
Con un equipo tan polémico como este, la afición de Dallas no concuerda en muchas cosas. Sin embargo, lo hacen al hablar del pésimo trabajo que Scott Linehan ha realizado mandando las jugadas en ofensiva. Realmente ha sido doloroso de ver y es en mi opinión, el mayor problema que tiene el equipo actualmente.
Semana tras semana, fuimos testigos de pésimas decisiones en la ofensiva de los Cowboys. Vimos como el equipo se aferraba a llenar la caja de defensivos antes de correr el balón con Ezekiel Elliott. Vimos incontables pases pantalla en tercera oportunidad y largo. Pero no solo es lo que vimos, sino lo que no vimos.
A pesar de la innegable habilidad para correr el balón de Dak Prescott, Linehan se rehusó a explotar esta versatilidad de su QB. Vimos pocos "QB sneaks," jugada donde el mariscal toma el balón bajo centro y consigue poco yardage detrás del empuje de su línea ofensiva.
Siendo honestos, los Cowboys llevan dos años sufriendo por este coordinador. Dejarlo volver en el 2019 sería una decisión ridícula. Los comentarios en la radio de Jason Garrett no lucen prometedores, pero realmente sería una sorpresa que fueran ciertos. Linehan no debe volver... punto.
Head Coach Jason Garrett
El futuro en esta posición será muy debatido durante los próximos meses, pero de los tres que hemos mencionado es sin lugar a dudas el más seguro de todos. Nos guste o no, Jason Garrett estará al frente del equipo la próxima temporada.
Garrett está lejos de ser un gran coach y aún le hace falta demostrar que puede cumplir las aspiraciones de los Cowboys de traer un sexto Trofeo Lombardi a casa. Pero siendo honesto, este equipo debería tener suficiente con Garrett y un par de buenos coordinadores. ¿El problema? No hay un par de buenos coordinadores en el equipo.
Sin embargo, Garrett ha demostrado que cuenta con el amor y apoyo de sus jugadores. Ha demostrado que efectivamente, puede ganar la división (lo ha hecho en tres de los últimos cinco años). Este año el equipo le dio la vuelta a la temporada después de comenzar 3-5.
Lo más preocupante en mi opinión, es la falta de urgencia para despedir a Linehan, por ejemplo. Quizá a puerta cerrada Garrett quiere un cambio en su staff, pero nunca lo sabremos.
Jason Garrett no es un coach excelente, pero podría ser suficiente para llevar a los Cowboys a un Super Bowl si tiene un equipo adecuado. Todo parece indicar que su trabajo está seguro (incluso más de lo que pensamos) así que es tiempo de esperar que se arreglen sus coordinadores.
2018 Draft Class Season Review: LB Leighton Vander Esch
As the first round draft pick of America's Team, any player would be under a ton of pressure from all angles. Whether it's from the fans on the outside or the organization on the inside, the expectations around being a first round pick for the Cowboys are immense. But the pressure placed upon linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, from the second he was announced as the 19th overall draft pick, was second to none.
It felt like Cowboys Nation let out a collective groan when Vander Esch was taken, with fans hoping for a more glamorous first round selection. Someone like wide receiver Calvin Ridley or edge rusher Harold Landry would've done the trick, but after Vander Esch's rookie season it's hard to imagine either of those players would have had the impact Vander Esch did in 2018.
Though he didn't start a game until week 4, and didn't become the unquestioned full-time starting WILL until week 10, Vander Esch earned Pro Bowl honors for his rookie season. Tallying 140 total tackles and 2 interceptions, Vander Esch made his presence felt week in and week out.
No counting stats can fully measure Leighton Vander Esch's impact as a rookie, however.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Cowboys defensive success often came down to the health of Sean Lee. When available and playing at his best, Lee led an overachieving Cowboys defense to solid performances each week. But, when Lee went out (as he often did), the entire Cowboys defense seemed to fall apart.
This year, though, that all changed. When Sean Lee was out with injury the Cowboys defense got better. Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith became a versatile, hard hitting tandem the NFL immediately feared, and helped to direct the Cowboys defense to signature wins throughout the 2018 season.
There are arguments against taking any off-ball linebacker in the first round, as the value of the position has been questioned due to the new style of offense in the NFL. Nowadays linebackers are relegated to two-down players, taken off the field in favor of faster defensive backs on critical passing downs.
Leighton Vander Esch is athletic enough to be both an old school run stopper, but also a three down linebacker in today's fast paced NFL.
Despite the doubts which surrounded the pick, the Cowboys absolutely nailed their first round selection in 2018. And Leighton Vander Esch made Dallas' front office look like geniuses each and every Sunday.
What Is The Cowboys Most Pressing Offseason Need?
Finishing their season with a Division Round loss, Dallas Cowboys fans are getting a somewhat late start on the 2019 offseason. Of course, we'd much rather a later start, but the results are what they are.
Now Dallas must get better, and re-tool before heading into Dak Prescott's fourth season, and the Cowboys' 2019 campaign. Though they didn't feel all that close to a championship this season, looking around the roster, it's actually tough to identify one key need the Cowboys must address.
They are filled with young, talented players that they have high hopes for across the board. And in the places they are "older," such as across the offensive line, they have established veterans who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
So what is the Cowboys' most pressing offseason need?
Well, despite already using their 2019 first round pick to address it, the answer very well might be wide receiver.
Adding Amari Cooper midseason provided a massive jolt to the Cowboys previously anemic passing attack, but on his own he is not enough to take this passing game to where it needs to be to compete in this new NFL.
Third round pick Michael Gallup is going to be a very good pro, and progressed really well as his rookie season went on. I think he can play opposite Amari Cooper nicely, and be the number two option in the passing game going forward.
Though arguably their best wide out against man coverage, Cole Beasley is a free agent, and if the reports are true about Scott Linehan returning in 2019 it could very well mean Beasley will not be opting to sign back with Dallas.
Regardless of Beasley's decision, however, the Cowboys need to seriously evaluate their pass catchers heading into next season.
This is a passing league. The rules have dictated that you must be able to pass the ball efficiently if you want to compete with the best of the best around the NFL. To take the next step in their progression, and reach an NFC title game and/or Super Bowl, Dak Prescott will need to have as explosive a group of pass catchers as possible.
The Cowboys have already taken solid steps to making this a reality, but another move or two this offseason could go a long way to putting Dallas in the conversation with teams like the Rams and the Saints in 2019.
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