About This Blog
Rick Gosselin came to The Dallas Morning News in 1990, covering the Cowboys for two years and then the NFL. He's been the NFL columnist since 1992.
February 5, 2010
Rick Gosselin, Pro Football Hall of Fame writer for The Dallas Morning News, answers your questions about the Super Bowl, Cowboys and Hall of Fame from South Florida at 11 a.m. Click here to join the chat.
January 22, 2010
The NFC pregame hype is focusing on quarterbacks Drew Brees and Brett Favre. But keep an eye on utility backs Reggie Bush and Percy Harvin. They catch passes, run wide, return kicks and score touchdowns by the bunches. If Harvin outproduces Bush Sunday, the Vikings could be Super Bowl-bound. And vice versa.
* Brett Favre has played in the Superdome four times in his career and has posted a 3-1 record, throwing nine TD passes against only one interception. Speaking of interceptions, when Favre does not throw any interceptions in a game his team has won 89.1 percent of the time in his career. When Favre throws an interception, his winning percentage drops to 47.7.
* What a difference a decade makes. The last time the New York Jets reached the AFC title game in 1999, they had one of the oldest quarterbacks in the league in 35-year-old Vinny Testaverde. They are back in 2010 with one of the youngest in 23-year-old Mark Sanchez.
* If Mike Nolan can do for the Miami defense what he did for the Denver defense in 2009, I would expect the Dolphins to be right back in the playoff mix in 2010. In his one season as coordinator with the Broncos, he took Denver from 29th to seventh in the NFL in defense. He inherits a Miami defense that finished 22nd this season.
* I also liked the San Francisco hire of Mike Solari as offensive line coach. With Frank Gore, the 49ers should finish higher than 25th in the NFL in rushing. And for Alex Smith to find his niche as an NFL quarterback, the 49ers need to do a better job of keeping him on his feet. Forty sacks is way too many for an offense to allow if it aspires to be a playoff contender. Solari developed Kansas City's blocking front into one of the best in the NFL in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
January 21, 2010
This one is from Tom:
Any chance of Harvey Martin or Ed "Too Tall" Jones getting on a seniors committee Hall of Fame ballot?
They are in the queue, Tom. So are Chuck Howley, Lee Roy Jordan, Cliff Harris and Drew Pearson. But understand that the seniors committee can only nominate two per year. There are 32 NFL teams and all have at least three players whom they all believe have been unfairly passed over in the Hall of Fame selection process. That's almost 100 players right there. If you gave each franchise one senior nominee every 16 years, all 32 teams would be treated fairly.
The Cowboys have already had three senior nominees in the last six years. So it may be a while before we see the next Cowboy nominee from the seniors pool.
This one from Charles:
I realize the NFL schedule is determined by statistics fed into a computer, but after looking at the Dallas Cowboys' home-away breakdown for 2010, I have to wonder whether the process really is fair to every team. As you probably know, the Cowboys play Minnesota, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Houston, Arizona, and New Orleans. All finished 1st or 2nd in their division, and all but Houston made the playoffs. How can a random scheduling process result in five of those games being played on the road?
Charles, the process is not supposed to be fair. The schedule, like the draft, is part of the parity process.
Here's how the schedule works: the Cowboys play every other team in the NFC East twice. That's six games. The Cowboys also have been assigned four games with another NFC division (in 2010, it's the North) and four games with an AFC division (in 2010, it's the South). That divisional rotation was set up years in advance. That gives the Cowboys 14 games. That leaves two more games, and this is where the parity part of the schedule kicks in.
Because the Cowboys finished in first place, they have been assigned the other two first-place teams in the NFC divisions they do not play -- New Orleans (South) and Arizona (West). The second-place Eagles are assigned the two second-place finishers in those divisions (Atlanta and San Francisco), the third-place Giants the two third-place finishers (Carolina and Seattle) and the fourth-place Redskins the two fourth-place finishers (Tampa Bay and St. Louis).
In 2009, the Giants were the reigning NFC East champion and drew the first-place schedule. That meant games against fellow 2008 division winners Arizona and Minnesota. The Giants lost both games, contributing to New York's downward spiral in an 8-8 season. The Cowboys, as the third-place team in 2008, drew the softer third-place schedule in 2009, which meant games against Green Bay and Seattle.
As far as home and away, the Cowboys knew heading into the 2009 season that they would have home games against Chicago, Detroit, Jacksonville, Tennessee and away games against Green Bay, Minnesota, Houston and Indianapolis in 2010. How those teams would finish in 2009 became luck of the draw.
January 20, 2010
Defense may not always win championships, but it allows you to compete for them. The NFL's No. 1-ranked defense qualified for the playoffs all 10 seasons this decade, including the New York Jets in 2009. New York's presence in the AFC championship game marks the fifth time the No. 1 defense has reached the title game this decade. Now the Jets are trying to become the third top defense to capture the Super Bowl this decade, joining the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers.
All veteran players want the honor of being selected for the Pro Bowl, but the older a player gets, the less his desire to actually play in the game. So I'd award credit for Pro Bowls only if a player appears in the game.
Randy Moss has been selected to five Pro Bowls this decade but has yet to play in a single one. He was a first alternate in the voting in 2009 and subsequently was named as a replacement for injured teammate Wes Welker. But last week, Moss withdrew because of an unspecified injury of his own.
Dan Marino was selected to play in nine Pro Bowls in his career. He played in only two of them. Brett Favre has been selected to his 10th Pro Bowls this season. He played in his first four Pro Bowls of his career but has not played any of the last five times he was selected.
A Pro Bowl selection is an honor. The Pro Bowl game itself is not. If I was the commissioner, I'd get rid of the game.
For the second consecutive week, the Minnesota Vikings must overcome not only a playoff opponent but an officiating crew.
Last week in the NFC semifinals at home against the Cowboys, the Vikings were assigned the Walt Anderson crew, which was the hardest of the NFL's 17 officiating crews on home teams this season. Anderson's crew stayed true to form in the postseason, assessing the first six penalties of the game against the Vikings. Minnesota finished the day with eight penalties for 50 yards, the Cowboys just two penalties for 10 yards.
This week in the NFC title game at New Orleans, the Vikings have been assigned referee Pete Morelli and an all-star crew of officials. With Morelli overseeing the action, home teams excelled in 2009. They were 12-3 in Morelli games, winning the last nine in a row.
January 15, 2010
This is as evenly matched a Final 8 as I can recall in the 35 years I've been covering the NFL. I can rationalize all four road teams winning this weekend. Usually there is a dominant team or two heading into the post-season. But the way the Colts, Vikings and Saints staggered down the stretch leaves them all vulnerable after the bye. This could be a wild weekend.
Click here for DMN staff picks for the second week of the playoffs.
• Score yet another coaching coup for Steve Hoffman. When he was with the Cowboys during their Super Bowl years, the club asked to go find kickers on the cheap. No one did it better. He found Ken Willis, Lin Elliott, Chris Bonoil and Richie Cunningham. Now Hoffman is coaching the special teams of the Kansas City Chiefs and he has done it again in his first season there, finding Ryan Succop at South Carolina. The Chiefs drafted Succop with the final pick of the 2009 draft and he wound up converting 25 of his 29 field goal attempts and scoring 104 points in his rookie season.
• In hiring Bobby April, the Philadelphia Eagles have fortified themselves on special teams. April came loose this week in the coaching shake-up at Buffalo and the Eagles quickly snapped him up. His Buffalo special teams finished in the Top 5 for five consecutive seasons from 2003-08. Three times the Bills ranked No. 1 during that stretch. If you make a commitment to April in both practice time and personnel, he will deliver an elite kicking game.
• Only two NFL defenses allowed both a 200-yard rusher and 200-yard receiver this season – Kansas City and Indianapolis. Their defensive deficiencies doomed the Chiefs to a 4-12 finish. The Colts overcame their defensive woes to finish as the top seed in the AFC playoff bracket with a 14-2 record. Peyton Manning is the human eraser – if you have any problems, his arm has the ability to erase them. Even defensive problems.
• The Baltimore Ravens managed sacks in all but two of their 17 games this season. One of them was their first meeting with the Indianapolis Colts in November. That inability to get to Peyton Manning allowed the Colts quarterback to complete 22 of 31 passes for 299 yards and a touchdown in a 17-15 victory. If the Ravens hope to turn their fortunes against the Colts Saturday night, they need to exert more pressure on Manning. If he stays upright, he will beat you.
January 14, 2010
When Brett Favre broke into the NFL, he hated playing in Minneapolis. He couldn't win there. The dome was his undoing.
Favre lost his first five starts at the Metrodome and seven of the eight games he played there during the 1990s.
Favre was 10-15 in all NFL games he played indoors in the 1990s.
But as he grew older, Favre learned to embrace the great indoors. In 32 games played indoors this decade, he has posted a 20-12 record. In the Metrodome (now the Mall of America Field), he is 12-4. That includes five victories against the Vikings and seven for them. In fact, Favre has won nine of his last 10 starts at the Metrodome dating to 2006.
In the 1990s at the Metrodome, Favre threw 37 touchdown passes and 36 interceptions in 25 games with 59 sacks. But he has done an about face in the 2000s. Favre has thrown 40 TD passes at the Metrodome against only eight interceptions this decade and been sacked only 16 times in those 16 games.
January 13, 2010
The Cowboys haven't even boarded the plane yet for their NFC semifinal game with the Minnesota Vikings this weekend but already have caught a huge break. A league source said the NFL has assigned the officiating crew of Walt Anderson to work the game between the Cowboys and Vikings.
The Anderson crew was the only one of the league's 17 officiating crews to assess 200 penalties this season. It also led the league with its 1,794 penalty yards, 172 more than the No. 2 crew. That should alarm the Cowboys, one of the league's most penalized teams this season.
But it's even more alarming to the Vikings. Anderson's crew was harder on home teams than any officiating crew this season. It assessed 113 penalties for a staggering 1,029 yards on home teams.
As a means of comparison, the Cowboys drew the Ed Hochuli crew for its opening-round playoff game last weekend. Working the same number of games (15) during the regular season, the Hochuli crew called 22 fewer penalties for 317 fewer yards against home teams than Anderson.
Anderson worked one game apiece involving the Cowboys and Vikings this the season. In the Minnesota-Detroit game at Minneapolis, Anderson assessed 13 penalties for 91 yards against the Vikings. His crew penalized Detroit only four times for 40 yards. In the Cowboys-Broncos game at Denver, Anderson penalized the Broncos 10 times for 81 yards. He penalized the Cowboys seven times for 70 yards.
In the Baltimore-Green Bay game in December, Anderson walked off an NFL season-high 310 yards in penalties. He was hard on the road Ravens, assessing 12 penalties for 135 yards. But he was even harder on the home Packers, assessing 11 penalties for 175 yards.
January 8, 2010
Rick Gosselin, Pro Football Hall of Fame writer and NFL columnist for The Dallas Morning News, chatted with readers today about the NFL playoffs, including Saturday's Cowboys-Eagles game. Ask your questions for Rick in the Coveritlive module below, and he will get to as many as he can for the hour-long discussion.
Jim Zorn didn't deserve the treatment he received from the Washington Redskins. No one does.
Owner Dan Snyder stripped Zorn of the offensive play-calling responsibilities in October, then started interviewing prospective head-coaching candidates in December while Zorn was still coaching his tail off to salvage the season. Zorn was finally fired at the conclusion of the season with a 12-20 record to show for his two years with the Redskins.
Lucky for Tom Landry that Dan Snyder didn't own the expansion Cowboys. He'd have fired Landry two seasons into his tenure as coach with that 4-20-2 record. Chuck Noll would have suffered the same fate. He was only 6-22 after his first two seasons in Pittsburgh. Bill Walsh was only 2-14 after one first season in San Francisco. That might have gotten him whacked by Snyder, who fired Marty Schottenheimer after just one season in 2001 -- and he posted an 8-8 record.
It's easy to pull for Jim Zorn and hard to pull for Dan Snyder.