Category Archives: Dallas Cowboys

Bengals add kicker, waive Faine

The Bengals have added a kicker — and waived a familiar name.

Veteran center Jeff Faine is now a free agent again as the Bengals signed veteran kicker Josh Brown. Mike Nugent’s calf injury is enough of a concern that the Bengals tried out some kickers on Wednesday and signed Brown in time to have him for Thursday’s practice.

Faine, signed just before the season after Kyle Cook’s foot injury, immediately stepped in at center and stabilized the line. But he battled hamstring issues, and rookie Trevor Robinson had come on and started the last four games. Cook is on the injured-reserve but designated for return list, and he’s back at practice.

All Marvin Lewis would say this week is that Cook has “done well” in his return to work.

It’s that time of year for nicks and bruises and teams having to scramble to have enough healthy bodies, and having a healthy kicker is obviously a priority. With Cedric Peerman injured, the Bengals promoted rookie running back Daniel “Boom” Herron from the practice squad earlier this week.

Health is an even bigger priority for the 7-5 Bengals now not only because they’re tied with the Steelers for the AFC’s final wildcard spot, but because they play Dallas Sunday then play at Philadelphia five days later. There’s not much margin for error — or much time to wait if there’s reason to think a player might not be healthy enough to play.

Random question to ponder

Did Dallas’ turkey of a performance on Thanksgiving against Washington move Mike Holmgren about three steps closer to the Cowboys sidelines in 2013? Just wondering.

The Holmgren situation

At the risk of being repetitive, I was not in Dallas on Sunday and did not see it, but many reports had Browns former president Mike Holmgren yukking it up with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

The two are friends, so they can yuk it up anywhere they like.

But on the same day this happened, Ed Werder of ESPN reported that the one job Holmgren would leave retirement for would be Dallas. This of course came after a report that Holmgren would seriously consider coaching the Cowboys if Jason Garrett were fired. And after Holmgren “denied” that report by saying he had never talked to Dallas — even though nobody ever said he had.

Call me a cynic, but it sure feels like this is already all set up.

I mean, Holmgren addressed the issue by saying he didn’t know his future and he’d never talked to the Cowboys, but nobody questions his future is uncertain and nobody every said he talked to Dallas.

What the heck?

It’s becoming apparent that folks believe Garrett pretty much has to have a miraculous finish to return, and if he doesn’t Jones will go for the big name in Holmgren.

If that happened, and it is a big if, the guy who would not coach the Browns and instead hired Pat Shurmur would come out of retirement to coach the Cowboys.

Methinks Browns fans would find this a tad insulting.

Do I know this will happen for sure?

No.

But this is lining up like a classic NFL scenario, with a guy keeping his distance and answering reports with non-denial denials and then acting surprised when things come together.

Maybe it won’t happen.

But rarely have the stars seem so aligned for something to happen.

Browns go medieval on their fans

A school-related engagement with my daughters meant I couldn’t watch the Browns live.

Lucky for me, the event concluded in time to race to a spot where the first play on the screen was  the Miles Austin catch-and-fumble in overtime that was incorrectly ruled an incompletion.

Dallas went on to win.

Somehow this seemed like all I needed to see.

And it was.

Then again it wasn’t. The replays showed there were penalties, a fourth-and-1 fade, more penalties and some very key calls that went against the Browns.

At this point it’s almost bordering on cruelty to animals, what the Browns put their fans through. They come close, play hard, but find a way to lose.

The Browns are quite simply good enough to lose.

It’s interesting. Before the game folks were talking about Dallas playing its third center. Take advantage, Browns fans said. Dallas then lost left tackle Tyrone Smith. Nobody in Cleveland felt in the least bit sorry for the Cowboys.

But when the Browns lost Joe Haden and Buster Skrine, well it was a problem.

Didn’t the Cowboys have the same problem? They couldn’t run, so they threw — and completed just enough to win.

Winning teams do that. As I write this Pittsburgh is getting ready to play Baltimore without Ben Roethlisberger. I fully expect the Steelers to play well, and win. Because they are a team that does not listen to the externals, and they are a winning team that finds a way to win.

Losing teams find ways to lose.

Which the Browns did.

Up three with a minute left, they committed two penalties on the Cowboys game-winning drive, part of a day in which the Browns gave Dallas 10 first downs by penalty. This might be unprecedented. It’s simply an amazing fact.

Ten first downs by penalty. Incredible.

Were all calls good? No.

The worst was the overtime non-fumble call. Worst by far.

But take the flag for a hit on a defenseless receiver on T.J. Ward. Bad call? Probably. But then again I thought the blindside block by Josh Gordon against Baltimore was a good block, but he was flagged and fined for the block.

Ward earns these calls by reputation. He’s proud of the fact he goes for the big hit rather than the wrapup tackle, and he’s earned that rep. So refs look for him.

Bottom line: Losing team find ways to lose and then wind up blaming the refs.

If you don’t want the refs to be a factor, go win the game. Make the plays that make the refs a nonfactor.

Yes, Ed Hochuli’s crew made that task a lot more difficult in Dallas — it’s still hard to fathom the incomplete pass call in overtime; it made no sense — but winning teams overcome external factors. They go win the game.

The Browns led 13-0 at halftime and did little on offense in the second half and overtime, when it had a three-and-out from poor field position. It missed opportunities, and let chances slip away. It lost, for the 12th time in a row on the road, the eighth in 10 games this season and the 20th in 26 games with Pat Shurmur as coach.

Right now the Browns are a torture chamber.

A medieval torture chamber.

A medieval torture chamber in a dank, damp dungeon.

On that report linking Mike Holmgren to Dallas

This Mike Holmgren and Dallas thing is just quirky enough to be interesting.

Maybe it’s not quirky at all.

Holmgren’s name was linked to the Cowboys on Sunday by Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com. He said on The NFL Today that Holmgren would have serious interest in coaching the Cowboys if Jason Garrett were fired.

That’s a lot of ifs.

And it would be easy to dismiss this report as just another rumor if it were not for several factors. Among them are LaCanfora’s credibility, the tendency of Jerry Jones to want to hire big names and Holmgren’s own admission that he missed coaching more than he expected when he was the Browns president.

It’s been quite evident in past years that agents or coaches troll the waters in search of their next job as seasons wind down. The coach himself won’t do the trolling. He’ll avoid it to maintain “plausible deniability,” but his friend or his acquaintance or his agent’s friend can make his feelings known.

It happens in the NFL all the time. Some guys have it down to an art form. And it’s really amazing the lengths guys will go to get their name in the hopper for certain jobs.

Did this happen with Holmgren?

Who knows.

But what was kind of interesting about his statements of denial is that he denied something that had not been reported. Holmgren’s entire take was that he hadn’t talked to the Cowboys, and he wouldn’t do it during the season while Garrett was coaching. He said doing anything like that is against his principles.

That’s believable. No self-respecting coach wants another lurking over his desk like a vulture, and it doesn’t seem plausible that Holmgren would do that.

But Holmgren was denying something that wasn’t in the report. LaCanfora merely said Holmgren would have interest if there was an opening. Perhaps that not-so-subtle difference in wording — contact vs. interest — might leave the door open to more speculation. For those who parse statements, it might be significant.

In the byzantine world of the NFL, this kind of things happen: Guy lets a team know through back channels he might be interested. Team and guy deny it because there was no “official” contact. Season ends and guy miraculously winds up coaching said team.

Will Holmgren do it?

Many factors say no. He’s coming out of a situation in Cleveland where many feel he did not do the job. The Browns under his watch were not a winning team, and though he believes he made some good moves the results are the results.

He’s also been away from coaching since 2008. He’s 64. It’s believed his wife would prefer he not coach. And he’s dealing with the normal issues of aging.

But … other factors also say yes — and make it seem possible Holmgren might think the job worth incurring the wrath of Cleveland. Which he surely would if he left the president’s job with the Browns to coach the Cowboys. Cleveland fans would be livid, perhaps justifiably so, that a guy who did not make it work with the Browns — and who turned down the chance to coach the Browns — would so quickly coach another team.

The factors that say it does happen make the match seem perfect: Jones likes a big name and a big splash, and the “Big Show” is one of the bigger splashes who could be available.

The other big names already have hit the rumor mill with landing places … Andy Reid to San Diego … Jon Gruden to Philadelphia … Bill Cowher to stay in TV … Sean Payton to stay in New Orleans. Which makes Holmgren the biggest name left — if he wants to coach. (It sometimes seems like they’re all intertwined.)

Holmgren can coach; it’s what he does. His competitive fire remains. And if he’s healthy there’s no reason to think he couldn’t succeed.

Too, one of his better friends in the league is Bill Parcells, and Parcells worked for Jones and left saying it was a good experience. No doubt he’d tell Holmgren the same — and advise Holmgren what he’d need in his contract.

See how it can seem plausible when presented properly?

Holmgren did his best to deny the report that he might have interest.

But he denied something that wasn’t reported.

This might be splitting the proverbial hair, but that little difference might be enough to keep the rumor mill flowing.

That, and the fact that if Holmgren wants to coach, Dallas makes perfect sense.