When the Dallas Cowboys travel to play the Giants this week, there will be an obvious sense of urgency surrounding the game.
During their bye week, head coach Jason Garrett made the choice to switch from quarterback Brandon Weeden to Matt Cassel in hopes of lifting the team from the doldrums following the loss of Tony Romo.
Said Garrett, “There are a lot of different reasons you make a decision like this. You evaluate the quarterback position, what we’re asking the quarterback to do and how we execute those things that we’re asking him to do on a daily basis and a weekly basis.
“Also at this position you look at how the offense is performing, and this position has an impact on the entire offensive unit maybe more than any other position, and certainly has an impact on how the team is performing. Sometimes that’s fair. Sometimes that’s unfair, but that’s the nature of this position.”
Not surprisingly, the decision didn’t go over well with Weeden, who didn’t play horribly, but certainly not well enough to win. The three losses with him at quarterback extended his record as an NFL starter to 5-19 and left the Cowboys lurching, pining for when Romo will allegedly return on Nov. 22
Asked how he felt, Weeden said, “How do you think I took it? Obviously I’m pissed. But, you know, nature of this business.”
The defense allowed 95 points in the three games, and the Cowboys aren’t nearly as productive running the ball as they were last season with DeMarco Murray, but the quarterback is always the focus when it comes to winning or losing in the NFL.
When Weeden was asked whether he believed he was being made the scapegoat, he said, “You guys can dictate however you want to perceive it. I’m not going to comment on it.”
At which point, of course, he did, while couching his response in generalities. He said, “I don’t want to bring the attention to me. I don’t want to say something I shouldn’t say. I’ve got my feelings, I’m going to keep them to myself and go from there. I’m going to handle it the right way, I’m going to go about it the right way. I’m not going to make excuses, I’m not going to throw a pity party for myself. I’m a pro. I’m going to handle it the right way, and go back to business as usual.”
The Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens was played just three seasons ago, but emblematic of how quickly things change in the NFL, consider this: The combined number of current starters on both teams is — are you ready? – 10. Yes, 10 of a possible 44.
Granted, injuries are a part of it, but that’s still a stunning number. For the record, the 49ers have six: quarterback Colin Kaepernick, tight end Vernon Davis, tackle Joe Staley, guard Alex Boone and linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks.
The four for the Ravens are quarterback Joe Flacco, guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele and linebacker Courtney Upshaw.
*The atmosphere has been quite different since Dan Campbell took over as interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins after the firing of Joe Philbin. There were numerous changes on the coaching staff, something that normally doesn’t happen in similar situations. Mostly, though, Campbell changed the tone of practices, almost ignoring what seems to be the new way of life in the NFL since the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. Campbell urged his players to “violently compete” in practice and added, “We’re trying to change the attitude of those guys up front; it’s about finish. We need a little bit nastier attitude; we need a lot nastier attitude.”
*Charcandrick West was hardly a household name around the NFL, but he certainly became one after the Chiefs lost running back Jamaal Charles for the season because of a torn ACL. Naturally, his ascension to a more prominent role on the team led to inquiring minds wanting to know, “Where did your parents come up with your first name?” Claiming to have no idea, West said, “Man, if only I knew. How many Charcandricks do you know in the world? I’m probably the only Charcandrick in the world. It’s nice to be something.”
*Many coaches around the NFL grow weary of almost daily media conferences during the season, especially when a persistent line of questioning seems to be going nowhere. It happened with the Vikings last week after the team returned from their Week 5 bye. During the time off, the Vikings traded linebacker Gerald Hodges to the 49ers for center Nick Easton. So it was that it was the first chance for head coach Mike Zimmer to be asked about the deal. Several questions were asked with little said by Zimmer, when he finally barked, “I didn’t get this many questions when my father died about a guy.” Finally, he was asked about the trust quickly earned by rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks, who moved from being on the field in the nickel defense to being a starter and playing all three downs. Said Zimmer, “He’s a good player. I don’t know what else you want me to say.”
*Are we seeing a new Jay Cutler in Chicago? Only time will tell, but teammates speak about him as a leader, and head coach John Fox has been impressed. Fox said, “I look at it on tape but it’s (tape) like robots move around. You don’t really know the emotion, know some of the dynamics involved in the performance. I can just tell you that he’s attacked it as far as learning what we’re trying to teach, what we’re trying to execute, and that’s all you can ask of any player.”
New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles is straight and to the point in his dealings with the media. That was the case when defensive end Sheldon Richardson was reinstated after missing the first four games of the season under a league-imposed suspension, reportedly for a marijuana violation. Bowles was asked whether he believes Richardson had learned his lesson, especially in the context of having his rookie contract end after the 2016 season. Said Bowles, “It’s an ongoing process. I don’t think you learn a lesson in a month or so. It’s an ongoing deal that will be answered later in life.”