Was Super Bowl XXX the Last Roundup for Cowboys?
A day after Super Bowl XXX, a team that could end the Dallas Cowboys’ domination boldly stepped forward.
This team could ensure that the Cowboys, who have won three Super Bowls in four years, do not surpass or match the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s, who won four in six.
This team could ensure that the Cowboys’ late-night Sunday promise to “See you in New Orleans,” the site of next year’s Super Bowl, will ring as hollow as a monologue by Michael Irvin.
This team could alter Nate Newton’s D-word into something that sounds more like dumbfounded.
The San Francisco 49ers with a new running back? The Miami Dolphins with Jimmy Johnson? The Pittsburgh Steelers with two fewer passes?
Nope. The team that could make the Cowboys history, is well, the Cowboys.
Bleary-eyed and short-sighted, their owner conspicuously missing after spending all night at his star-studded party, their quarterback somewhere cleaning up after his own private party, the Cowboys behaved as if they had no idea where to go from here.
NFL champions for one day, and already looking like a team in transition.
“The good news is, we won the Super Bowl,” Coach Barry Switzer said with a smile. “The bad news is, I’m back.”
And that is merely one of the potential problems for a team that has already won one title in spite of itself. Here are some others:
--The quarterback still doesn’t like the head coach.
While Switzer celebrated in his hotel suite, listening to son Doug bang out tunes on a grand piano, Aikman threw a ritzy bash that included an appearance by country music star Reba McEntire.
Expect them to get together later this spring and agree on at least one thing: If one of them doesn’t change, the other must.
“We’re both adults,” Switzer said. “We’ll do what is necessary.”
That will be whatever it takes so that Aikman--who has wandered into the postseason neighborhood of Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw--can win a Super Bowl and not say, “This is more of a relief than anything.”
Added Aikman, “We’ve gone through more distractions this season than in any other year. We’ve had to face more things inside our locker room than ever before. That’s what makes this so gratifying.”
And makes it so important that it doesn’t happen again.
Aikman is not retiring. Any such thoughts disappeared with the final snap on Sunday, when suddenly he was one Super Bowl ring away from tying Montana and Bradshaw.
Recalled Leigh Steinberg, Aikman’s agent and friend, “Last night he said to me, ‘I’m only 29, and I’ve already got three rings.’ I think now he wonders whether it would be possible to get that fourth or fifth ring.”
The problem is, Switzer says he’s also not retiring.
“We’ll take it from year to year, as long as Jerry believes in me, and I, in him,” Switzer said of Jerry Jones, the Cowboys’ owner.
What happens next?
Aikman meets with Switzer and Jones and formally asks that Switzer get tougher.
Jones, so wearied by his team’s shenanigans that he seemed to have little fun this week, will look at Switzer and agree.
And if Switzer doesn’t have the energy to suddenly become a disciplinarian, not only with the players but himself, he might suddenly quit.
Unprecedented? Not quite.
The last time Jones won a Super Bowl, his coach was gone by April.
--The Super Bowl MVP probably won’t even be on the team next year.
Not that potential free agent cornerback Larry Brown, whose two interceptions led directly to touchdowns, is a goner. But what usually happens to everyday cornerbacks whose agents stand outside of celebration news conferences and start using phrases like, Two million . . . ?
Somebody wanted to know, how much of that money would be paid to Neil O’Donnell, the Pittsburgh quarterback who threw to Brown.
The Cowboys have been looking for a reason to dump Brown for a couple of years. Now they have one.
“If he would play for $54,000, we’d certainly keep him,” Switzer said. “But I don’t think . . . “
This is a problem, because many think the level-headed Brown kept the Deion Sanders-led defense from tripping over its own hype.
With hotheaded Kevin Smith--this is the guy who started a fight with the 49ers’ Jerry Rice before a game--scheduled to return from Achilles’ tendon surgery and become a starter again, this secondary could be an accident waiting to happen.
And what about Sanders? If he continues his mediocre baseball career, he will miss a few more months at the start of next season.
Ladies and gentlemen, at one cornerback for the defending Super Bowl champions . . . Alundis Brice?
He’s a seldom-used rookie who not only had his number, 21, taken by Sanders, but his new number, 23, taken by . . . Robert Bailey?
--Six other members of a defense that sacked O’Donnell four times and intercepted three of his passes Sunday could be gone.
The Cowboys will probably re-sign standout safety Darren Woodson.
But it is probable that with three Super Bowl rings each, linebackers Dixon Edwards and Robert Jones and defensive tackle Russell Maryland will become somebody else’s overpaid problems.
The salary cap tricks played by Jones will haunt him, just as the tricks played by the 49ers’ Carmen Policy haunted him.
“Free agency does some things,” Switzer said. “This team was not as strong as the team that won in 1993 . . . and we were not as strong as last year’s team. It is going to be tough to maintain our strength.”
--Super Bowl XXX showed, for the first time, that the quietly aging Cowboy offensive machine can be broken down.
The field was slippery, and Emmitt Smith never adjusted. He gained 26 yards in his first two carries, then 23 yards in his ensuing 16, an average of 1.4 yards a carry.
The Steeler defense was small but quick and hard-hitting, and the Cowboy offensive line never adjusted. Only young Larry Allen played well, and the offense gained only 61 yards in the second half.
Michael Irvin caught only two passes after an apparent touchdown catch was nullified because he had pushed off Carnell Lake early in the second quarter.
Daryl Johnston heard the “Moose” call only once, perhaps because he had only 12 yards of total offense.
“There’s only a window of time for some of our players to continue on this run,” Switzer said. “The clock is ticking on a lot of these guys.”
Just as he heard it tick all night Sunday in a celebration that felt more like a cleansing of seven months of dirt.
“Have I been to bed?” Switzer asked. “Well, uh, I haven’t been to sleep.”
Amid great laughter, he held up his hands. “Now what the heck was so funny about that? You ask me a question, I give you an answer.”
Cowboy fans can rest assured that at least some things will not change.