It seems that this morning's column about what a letdown it is to have the Chargers, instead of the Colts, face the Patriots next weekend touched a few nerves. Before making a few final points about last weekend's NFL playoff games, I feel that I should clarify some things from that column in case anything in it was misunderstood:
The Chargers aren't that damn good. They have no chance of beating New England, outside of a severe intestinal flu running through the Patriots' locker room Sunday morning. (See, Kelly Tilghman, that's how you tell a there's-no-way-he-can-lose joke. Stupid.) They have even less of a chance if LT, Gates and Phillip Rivers can't play or aren't at full strength. The Patriots aren't going to look past them, they're not going to get rattled by late scores or backups playing over their heads or adrenaline rushes or anything else. The matchup of Bill Belichick and Norv Turner actually makes me physically ill. Indy should be ashamed to have lost to them. This is depressing. I don't even expect a competitive game. I have visions of that 51-7 game from the early '90s, Buffalo over the Raiders. They might have to put a "TV-MA'' ratings bug in the corner of the screen.
Hope that clears things up a little. Anyway ...
Bill Ordine beat me to the thought, that maybe we heard a little too much about what a genius Jason Garrett was and how he was such a sure thing to be a brilliant young head coach. That leads to a bigger-picture thought about the Cowboys. Granted, they earned the title "America's Team'' long ago, but they've been riding on fumes for a long time, with the whole business of not having won a playoff game in 11 years. They had a great regular season, but long before it was over, hype swallowed them up, and yesterday brought the predictable results. One of these days, we'll all learn that regular-season reps and results are one thing, postseason is another.
There was actually a debate late in the year about whether Bill Parcells should be getting more credit for "building'' the powerhouse we were now viewing, before quitting on it after last season. Anybody want to fight for credit today?
Think about the rewards being flung around: Garrett being moved to the top of virtually every coaching wish list, yet his offense scored all of 17 points at home against a Giants team it had beaten twice already.
Tony Sparano, assistant head coach, line coach and heir-apparent in Miami with Parcells ready to plug him in, even though his line not only couldn't protect the quarterback in the fourth quarter yesterday, it couldn't even snap the ball cleanly to him.
And, of course, Tony Romo himself. Certain bye-week getaways are of absolutely no concern here. What is of concern is the rush to anoint. A Pro Bowl berth last season even though he hadn't even started the entire season. A $67.5-million contract extension last October, even though he had barely reached a full season's worth of starts and had yet to win a playoff game. And now, 0-2 in the playoffs, ending those games with, respectively, a fumbled field-goal snap and an end-zone interception in situations where the Cowboys could have tied or won.
At least Michael Vick had played full seasons and won playoff games before he got his outrageous deal. In fact, if you compare the public perception and actual meaningful productivity of both - this is, of course, before anyone knew about the dogfighting - you'd be confused as to who was who.
In fact, if any of this underachieving were going on someplace besides Dallas, it's very likely none of this would be happening - the overhyping of the QB, the grasping for credit for departed coaches, the gushing over assistants. It's all very Yankee-like. In fact, in hindsight, it's not surprising that ESPN has led its reports since last night not with the loss by the defending Super Bowl champs, but by the Cowboys' defeat. See, it's not just an East Coast thing.
But don't listen to me. Listen to the Dallas Morning News' Jean-Jacque Taylor, who rightly calls this an "abject failure.'' And who calls out Wade Phillips, who also is winless in the postseason in his coaching career. Dallas is entitled to get bent out of shape over this one, but honestly, given all the aforementioned aspects of it, why is the rest of America so caught up in it?
Finally, I don't even want to get into T.O. crying. Except: once he saw T.O. bawling in defense of his quarterback and his team, Donovan McNabb must have busted out in tears, too.