Week 12 in the NFL meant the start of the holiday season and the postseason push, a good time for old adversaries to mellow, but a critical time for those adversaries hoping to extend their season beyond the holidays.
HEY JIMMY, HOW ‘BOUT THEM COWBOYS
The sideline greeting before the Thanksgiving Day Miami Dolphin-Dallas Cowboy game was cordial, bordering on warm.
Cowboy owner Jerry Jones and Dolphin Coach Jimmy Johnson seemed like nothing more than a couple of former University of Arkansas teammates catching up on each other’s lives.
How are you doing?
How’s the family?
How’s the team?
Nowhere in evidence were the arrogance and jealousy that drove them apart in 1994. If all the problems between them could have been worked around then, it might have been better for both of them. Jones could have avoided the embarrassing, wide-open tenure of Barry Switzer, who won a Super Bowl but eventually lost control of his team. If Johnson had remained in Dallas, he might have avoided the burnout that nearly drove him from the game last off-season.
But there’s no point in second-guessing, according to Jones, because the split was inevitable.
“Those were tense, critical times,” he said. “We spent a lot of ourselves. It’s not uncommon to give yourself up like that if you put yourself under enough heat and intensity.
“We liked it under those conditions. But it’s not illogical to finally say, ‘Hey, enough of this. Let’s go in opposite directions.’ And that’s what was said.”
So rest easy, Chan Gailey, your job as Dallas coach is safe.
Just so long as you find a way into the playoffs.
JUST ANOTHER SUNDAY
Drew Bledsoe threw another interception and lost another game.
Mike Ditka lost another game and threw another temper tantrum.
The Raiders lost another game on the final play and virtually threw away any lingering fantasies about making the playoffs.
SPEAKING OF FANTASIES
Leading the New Orleans Saints only 15-12 at the half, the St. Louis Rams went on to win a blowout, 43-12.
What woke the Rams up?
Said running back Marshall Faulk, who finished with 102 yards rushing after getting only 21 in the first half, “I think the best thing that happened is, we were standing in the huddle when they were flashing the stats right after halftime. That rung a bell and we went out there and executed.”
He was worried about stats? Sounds like a man who drafted himself in a fantasy league.
LET’S HEAR IT FOR DIETER
The Carolina Panthers’ victory Sunday prevented the Rams from clinching the NFC West title but it’s now merely a matter of when, not if.
It will be the Rams’ first division title since 1985, when their home was in Anaheim, their coach was John Robinson and their quarterback was . . . Dieter Brock.
Yes the much-maligned Brock was the last Ram quarterback to lead his club to a title of any sort.
So how did he do it? Well, he had a running back named Eric Dickerson, a wide receiver named Henry Ellard, a tight end named David Hill, a right tackle named Jackie Slater, some defensive backs named LeRoy Irvin, Johnnie Johnson and Nolan Cromwell, and a kick returner named Ron Brown.
Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Kordell Stewart, once known as “Slash,” shorthand for quarterback/running back/receiver, is going back to his multipurpose days.
But not by choice.
Steeler Coach Bill Cowher has announced that Mike Tomczak will start Thursday’s game for the Steelers against the Jaguars in Jacksonville and that Stewart will be used as a receiver.
He lost his quarterback status when the slashes started to stand for opportunities lost/ill-advised passes/games cost.
TRY THE SILENT TREATMENT
It was natural for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ starting quarterback, Trent Dilfer, to try to help rookie Shaun King after Dilfer was knocked out of Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks because of a broken collarbone on his throwing shoulder he suffered in the third quarter. After all, King had yet to throw his first pass in the NFL.
But Dilfer figures his tutoring days are over.
“I’ll probably shut up in the future and let [King] be himself,” Dilfer said. “Each quarterback is unique. He has to be himself. The biggest mistake would be to try to be someone else.
“I’ll just be a cheerleader in the future and see what else I can do. Maybe it’s studying films, maybe it’s helping the coaches or maybe it’s just keeping my mouth shut.”
FROM OUTRAGEOUS TO CONTAGIOUS
Five seems to have become a cursed number for NFL quarterbacks.
A week ago, Bledsoe threw five interceptions against the Dolphins. Miami’s Dan Marino caught the bug and threw five passes that were picked off by the Cowboys last Thursday.
And Sunday, it was Jon Kitna of Seattle throwing five interceptions against Tampa Bay.
Seahawk Coach Mike Holmgren hopes that the connection doesn’t end there.
“If [Kitna] plays his career like Marino has played his, I will take it,” Holmgren said.
YOU KNOW HOW THIS STORY ENDS
There might have been a lot of tense football players on both sides of the line in Sunday’s Kansas City Chief-Oakland Raider game as Kansas City kicker Pete Stoyanovich lined up to try a 44-yard field goal on the last play of regulation time with the score tied.
But Stoyanovich wasn’t one of them, he insisted. To him, there was nothing to be tense about.
“When they sat down after [the previous] series, I went over to the defense and I told them they could take their pads off because they were done for the day,” he said.
Indeed they were. Stoyanovich made good on his prediction and his kick and the Chiefs won, 37-34.
But how come we only hear tales like that where there’s a happy ending? How come we don’t hear about the kicker who says the same thing Stoyanovich did and then flubs the kick, or about the batter who tells his teammate in the on-deck circle that he’s going to hit a home run and then strikes out?
Doesn’t that ever happen?