Friday, December 12, 2008

Dallas Drama: Media Tries to Divide and Conquer Cowboys Locker Room

It is very interesting to watch the latest Dallas Cowboys drama unfold, particularly in terms of how the national media slants the coverage; the story that the media wants to tell--regardless of the truth of the matter--is that Terrell Owens is, as the already cliched phrase goes, "throwing his quarterback under the bus," as he is alleged to have done previously. That is the only story that sells, from their perspective; any other story is not nearly as interesting to them.

The most important thing to note is that no outsider--including ESPN's breathless reporters--are privy to whatever was said in any closed door meetings that the Cowboys may have held in recent days. That means that anything that any reporter says about such meetings is hearsay--second or third party information that may have been spun in any number of ways, whether by that reporter or by someone with an agenda who told something to the reporter.

What I found fascinating about Ed Werder's SportsCenter report is that he felt compelled to preface the fact that the Dallas defensive players support Owens by saying "Believe it or not." That is an editorial comment, not a fact based report. Furthermore, why should anyone be surprised that Dallas defensive players want their future Hall of Fame receiver to get the ball more often? Don't most teams in any sport figure out ways to get the ball to their best playmakers?

Another thing that is fascinating about this story is how ESPN has hastened to supposedly calculate exactly how many times Romo has thrown to Owens and to tight end Jason Witten. I'd like to know how those numbers are derived, because a pass that is "thrown to" Owens that sails four feet over his head and goes out of bounds hardly constitutes a reasonable attempt to get him the ball. The suggestion that Romo has recently thrown to Owens more than he has thrown to Witten does not pass the eyeball test for anyone who has watched the games--and whether or not Romo threw to Owens more often than Witten one year ago is irrelevant to the Cowboys' current situation.

Here are some indisputable numbers:

1) Terrell Owens is the active career leader in TD receptions with 138; he ranks second on the all-time list to the incomparable Jerry Rice.
2) Owens has led the NFL in TD receptions three times and ranks second this year despite being underutilized.
3) Owens has a career 14.9 career yards per reception average and is averaging 15.4 yards per reception this season.
4) Owens has 55 receptions for 848 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
5) Witten has 24 career receptions in his six season career--which is 13 fewer than Owens has caught in his three seasons in Dallas.
6) Witten has never caught more than seven TDs in a season.
7) Witten has a career 11.5 yards per reception average and is averaging 12.0 yards per reception this season.
8) Witten has 64 receptions for 771 yards and three touchdowns this season.

What those numbers show is that Owens is a playmaker--he makes big plays, both in terms of yardage and in terms of putting points on the board. He has been significantly more productive in those areas this season than Witten has despite having fewer opportunities. Owens' speed and ability to break tackles stretch the defense, which opens up the middle for Witten and opens up running lanes for the running backs. There is no reason for the Cowboys not to put the ball in Owens' hands as much as possible. The Dallas defensive players--who don't have an agenda other than wanting to win games--understand this and that is why they want Owens to get the ball more often.

You may recall that during the whole Owens-Donovan McNabb situation the media tried to make Owens the bad guy but you never heard any Philadelphia players criticize Owens or take McNabb's side; even after the Eagles got rid of Owens that never happened. Think about that for a moment. The media want you to believe that Owens is some kind of locker room cancer but the guys who are in the locker room with him--other than the specific player who he rightly criticized for not performing up to par in the Super Bowl--won't say anything bad about him on the record, even after he is no longer on the team. What does that tell you?

We all know that on Sunday NFL Countdown, Keyshawn and the boys will line Owens up in their crosshairs and fire away with both barrels. Before you join that firing squad in spirit, look at the numbers and think about what Owens' teammates have said--and have not said--publicly. Don't be swayed by "anonymous sources said" reports. Only believe what you see and hear with your own eyes and ears. That is the real story--and here is a great quote to consider, from Dallas defensive back Terence Newman: "I don't know why people want to kind of bash TO about being the bad guy and complaining about not getting the ball, because he hasn't said one word to anybody. There are more players on this team who have went to TO and said, 'Why aren't you getting the ball? Why is Witten getting all the balls' rather than TO saying (that). If you ask me as a defensive player, I like to see TO get the ball because it excites us and we know good things are going to happen. If you look at all of our games this year, when TO gets the ball we win football games and if he's not catching the ball then we struggle a little bit."

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