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Inside the Star Talks Cowboys With Mickey Spagnola

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It was about this time two years ago when Lee and I created “A Cowboy Nation”. In the beginning Wow! The posts weren't so great, but over time we grew and they got better. Then last year I met Bryson at “Cowboys Nation” and together we created the site you see now.

I was born and raised in Arlington, Texas so being a fan of the Cowboys has been in my blood from the beginning, 36 years ago. A Cowboy Nation was started just to have an outlet for my joys and frustrations of being a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, nothing more and nothing less.

In December of 2004 my family and I moved to Houston, Texas to help take care of my wife’s mother after we lost my Father-In-Law to Cancer. Not being in the Dallas area around all my Cowboys friends is really what set these wheels in motion.

During my years of being a Cowboy fan there has been one person whom I have had a lot of admiration for, and just truly enjoyed when it comes to what is happening with the Cowboys. So a couple of months ago I reached out to him about the possibility of him participating in an interview with us.

I really never expected him to actually do the interview, after all he has nothing to gain by helping out a couple of guys he has never met, with a blog! But he gladly accepted the invitation, and now we are very proud to present to you our very first interview! With none other than long time Dallas Cowboy columnist Mickey Spagnola!

DCN (Inside the Star): As a professional sports writer, what is your process for reading the new outlets, such as blogs?

Mickey Spagnola:

Depends on their credibility. If they are creditable, I’ll check in, otherwise I don’t even bother, especially when blogs come from bloggers who don’t cover the team on a daily basis. I don’t consider blogs news outlets unless they are from a professional news-gathering outlet.

DCN (Inside the Star): When you write an article or blog post, or even answer Mick's Mail - what qualities do you really try to convey and emphasize to the fans? For instance, do you aim to be more technical, or freely opinionated? Is there a difference in your goals for your blog vs your newspaper articles?

Mickey Spagnola:

Tell the truth. Give people accurate information. No different. Blogs are just faster. More immediate, which you have to be careful of, because sometimes in the effort to be fast with information you do not take care to be as accurate as you should always be. Sometimes being first is not always best, which was one of the better qualities of newspapers in the days gone by because writers had more time to collect information than say the radio or TV.

DCN (Inside the Star): How is DeAngelo Smith developing so far? What do you think he needs to do to succeed at this level?

Mickey Spagnola:

Just learn the game. Gain more experience. I really like how athletic he is and how competitive he is. He already seems to be a quick learner, and I’d imagine he’ll be a huge contributor immediately on special teams.

DCN (Inside the Star): Of all the rookies this year, which one for each defense and offense do you believe will make the biggest impact in 2009 and why?

Mickey Spagnola:

I really don’t see a rookie making a huge impact on the offense this year, unless you want to count kicker David Buehler if he makes the team as a kick-off specialist. I mean if you don’t count Buehler, then only four of the 11 draft choices were offensive players, and one is competing to become the third quarterback and one is sort of a project offensive lineman. The other two, Jason Phillips and Manual Johnson, would seem headed toward the practice squad. On defense, well, that will depend on opportunity. None figure to be starters. Keep an eye on the outside linebackers, Victor Butler and Brandon Williams, if they have an opportunity to rush in passing situations and the DB’s on special teams.

DCN (Inside the Star): Coverage of the team seems to lead to the denigration of the chemistry of the team and that between Tony Romo and Roy Williams.  From what you see, is the chemistry getting stronger for the team?

Mickey Spagnola:

Chemistry always is strong when you win and before you play a game. I can say, though, the coaching staff has to be pleased with how hard these players have competed in the OTA and minicamp practices. When you compete hard, you tend to bond and when you bond chemistry improves and is strong enough for when things go bad, which they will at some point in a season for every team.

DCN (Inside the Star): What do you think would be the best possible rotation for our 3 headed beast of a running game?

Mickey Spagnola:

So the running game which gained one yard or less last year on nearly 30 percent of the carries already is a beast is it? That has yet to be proven. You are only a beast running the ball when the other teams know you are going to run it and you do run it successfully. My guess is Marion Barber will open and close and be used in short-yardage and goal line situations. You will see Felix all over the formations and on third downs and Tashard Choice will get a series here and there in the middle quarters. But have seen no evidence to suggest I’m totally accurate.

DCN (Inside the Star): Based on the draft, the free agent acquisitions of Keith Brooking and Gerald Sensabaugh, and the resigning of Miles Austin; which do you believe will impact the organization the most?

Mickey Spagnola:

Sensabaugh since that position has the most room for improvement. Remember, Zach Thomas wasn’t a liability out there last year, so if Brooking is at least a push, then that’s good. As for Austin, he can be, but again, how many snaps will he earn and how much do you want to count on from a guy with 19 career catches? But Sensabaugh, with his coverage ability should be a huge improvement over Roy Williams, especially since it doesn’t seem he needs to be substituted for on the nickel defense.

DCN (Inside the Star): There is a perception that you tend to write more fluff when writing about controversial players and issues, what do you say to that?

Mickey Spagnola:

Fluff is in the eye of the beholder I guess. My other guess is, if that’s accurate, just because I don’t take out a big hammer and bludgeon the subject away that could be the perception. But I do think I make my point in a more literary way. Plus, I’ve always valued being right more than being tough. Seems to me these days being tough but ultimately wrong is accepted more so than being fair and accurate.

DCN (Inside the Star): Is it difficult to manage calling things as you see them with regards to the coaching staff, players and decision making of the Cowboys, since you are employed by them?

Mickey Spagnola:

Not as long as I’m right. Not as long as I have all the facts and don’t buy into perceptions. No one here has ever, ever told me to change a story or take something down, so in my mind there would be no need to feel that way. Sometimes when you are around things and really know what’s going on then calling things as you see them means you see them far differently than the people who don’t really know the truth. Sort of like those stories at the end of the season on why the Cowboys charter flights were routinely taking off late. I was on those charter flights, so I knew that wasn’t accurate and when they did leave late I knew why. Sometimes it’s more difficult when your opinion stands alone. It’s easy to follow the crowd.

DCN (Inside the Star): How did you manage to end up as the top guy for the Cowboys and what is your official title?

Mickey Spagnola:

I was hired back when the Cowboys were trying to make their website something more than just a normal PR site as most professional team sites were back in 2000. And they decided they wanted opinions, meaning a columnist.

DCN (Inside the Star): Do you believe that the influx of youth is going to build a team that can contend for years to come?  If not, what is necessary to solidify the future?

Mickey Spagnola:

You can’t wait until you’ve grown old to get younger. Must be a constant process, and the Cowboys obviously have made a concerted effort this off-season to prevent growing old. The idea is to sustain goodness over a long period of time and avoid the inevitable down cycles that cripple franchises, as the Cowboys were in the late ‘80s and at the turn of the century.

DCN (Inside the Star): It appears as though the Cowboys are in the middle of making an organizational change in the way they look at players (looking more at their character issues). Do you feel that this is true? Or are they simply trying to relieve some of the scrutiny and will be back to collecting players that require team supplied body guards?

Mickey Spagnola:

Chances are the days of running a rehabilitation locker room are over for now. If you build from within, especially continually bringing in good, young players, then you avoid getting into situations where you become so desperate for help you take chances on guys with questionable character. If you already are a successful team, with a strong locker room, then you are better equipped to take chances on guys like Pacman Jones. But a team still seeking success is far too fragile.



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2 Comments
  • https://insidethestar.com/ Bryan Martin

    It’s just awesome that Mickey would take time to answer some of those questions. The same questions that have been running through our mind endlessly. Thanks for the insight Mick!

  • Jonathan

    Excellent interview.

Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.

Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.

Cambios de Coach

A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.

A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.

Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?

El Draft

A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.

A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.

En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.

Decisiones difíciles

La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.

Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.

Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.

No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Star Blog

Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story

Kevin Brady

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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.

Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.

Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.

Here's why those people are wrong.

Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.

Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).

Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.

There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.

Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.

Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.

Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.

Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.

And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.



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Star Blog

Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?

Brian Martin

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Can Dak Prescott Regain His Mojo Against Atlanta?
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.

It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.

Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.

Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.

Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.

Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:

24 starts
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating

Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:

17 starts
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating

As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.

Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

Now, he just has to go out and prove it!

Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?



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