Ask Farmer: Why the Cowboys get preferential TV treament

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones signs autographs for fans before a game last month in Arlington, Texas.
(LM Otero / Associated Press)

Have a question about the NFL? Ask Times NFL writer Sam Farmer, and he will answer as many as he can online and in the Sunday editions of the newspaper throughout the season. Email questions to:


Question: Why are Dallas Cowboys games on TV almost every Sunday or Monday night? There are a lot of people who would like to see their favorite teams more than once or twice in a whole season. Enough is enough.


Don Gabel, Chino Hills

Farmer: This season, the Cowboys have five prime-time games — three on Sunday, a Monday and a Thursday — plus their traditional Thanksgiving Day game. Yes, that’s a lot, Don. So I asked Mr. Sunday Night, NBC play-by-play man Al Michaels, why the network can’t seem to get enough of the franchise that calls itself “America’s Team.”

“It’s pretty simple,” he said. “When you break down ratings by teams, they are always at or near the top. Very rarely does it depend on the competition. Even if they’re playing a mediocre team, they’re at or near the top. Also, because of their great lineage with Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, Don Meredith, and you go down the line, a lot of people love the Cowboys, and then there are a ton of people who love to hate the Cowboys. They’re one of those teams where you’ll get both sides of the spectrum. You run the gamut of emotions.

“Another reason, for some crazy reason, there always seems to be high drama. They’re coming down to the last game of the year, all they need is a win to get in the playoffs, and they just can’t do it. There’s drama … and then you add Jerry Jones into the mix, who’s probably the best known of any owner in sports.”

Considering all that, what would it take for the networks to tell the Cowboys to vamoose?

“For the Cowboys to get off the Sunday night schedule, they would have to go 3-13 for five consecutive years, and then they would have to move to Albuquerque,” Michaels said. “That would get them off.”


Question: Do the rules allow for a forward pass to cross the line of scrimmage, be lateraled back behind the line of scrimmage, and a second forward pass be thrown across the line of scrimmage? If yes, wouldn’t it be an option compared to a Hail Mary pass?

Ray Scaffidi, Altadena

Farmer: That kind of zigzagging play would be fun to watch, Ray, but the rules don’t allow it. In the NFL, an offensive team may make only one forward pass during each play from scrimmage. Obviously, the important stipulation there is “forward” pass. And if the ball has been beyond the line of scrimmage, you can’t come back behind the line and throw a forward pass.