Now The Offseason Gossip Begins


Mickey Spagnola

FRISCO, Texas – Let the offseason begin.

Ah, my favorite time of year.

Not.

Because, you know, this is when rumors abound, akin to throwing mashed potatoes against the wall, just hoping something will stick. When sources spring up faster than those spring weeds. When reckless reporting kicks into high gear.

And most of all, so many just desperate to make something out of almost nothing, causing Rocky Mountain-sized stories to arise out of mere bumps on the landscape that start off about the size of the sorta hill I learned to ski on in, of all places, Valparaiso, Ind., that took about 20 seconds to get down snowplowing straight ahead before crashing into those straw bales at the bottom.

So fasten your seatbelts. Sharpen your discerning eyes.

But at least creating shots galore.

Hail Drew: Finally, at long last, Drew Pearson takes his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Well deserved. And man, what a job president Dave Baker and the Hall of Fame did not only surprising the eight guys selected to the Class of 2021, but that no one involved let the cat out of this huge bag during the two weeks prior to Saturday night’s announcement. Because we know how hard it is to keep secrets in this country. Darn Drew, knowing he was in when we spoke last Thursday, yet deadpanning, claiming he wasn’t sure how they were going to be informed this past Saturday before the Super Bowl. But then that’s part of being a Hall of Fame receiver, right? Having to fake out folks. Who’s Next: Here is another one I don’t understand. Darren Woodson still waiting to get into the Hall of Fame while John Lynch is a member of the Class of 2021. Lynch was a pure safety, most years a strong one and his last few a free. Lynch was part of just one Super Bowl team. Woodson three, and played in four NFC title games. Woodson has the Cowboys’ career franchise records with 1,350 tackles, 787 solo tackles and 563 assisted tackles. And think about the number of great defensive players in Cowboys history, six of those guys in the Hall of Fame, but none as productive as “Woody.” Lynch, playing two more years and 46 more games – Woodson missed the entire 2004 season with a back issue forcing him to retire in December that year – had fewer tackles (1,059) and fewer solo tackles (727) and just three more interceptions than Woody’s 23. Plus, Woodson wasn’t playing deep safety in any Tampa 2 defense. The Cowboys would move him into the slot to cover actual receivers one-on-one on the nickel defense, even if that slot receiver was named Jerry Rice. If only 80 percent of these voters could have seen Woodson play, as I did, every single one of his games. Huge Award: Kudos to the Cowboys’ training staff for a job well done this awfully trying 2020 season, winning the Ed Block NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year award. What a job that four-man crew did successfully navigating the Cowboys through all the COVID-19 protocols – just six guys missing only seven games all year on reserve/COVID-19 – and dealing with the 18 guys landing on injured reserve during the season. And not just any guys, right? Guys such as Dak Prescott, La’el Collins, Tyron Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee and Zack Martin, to name a few. So salute to head trainer Jim Maurer, associate trainer/director of rehab Britt Brown, assistant trainer Greg Gaither and assistant trainer/physical therapist Hanson Yang. Not So Fast: See where there is a lot of talk about the Cowboys ridding themselves of linebacker Jaylon Smith, this year’s leading tackler with 161, tied for second with five tackles for losses, tied for first with two fumble recoveries and his five passes defensed tied for second behind only rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs’ 14. Look, he’s not perfect. I get it. But to me, he’s not a weakside linebacker. Should be inside or strongside. Then there is this: Everyone points out his $7.2 million base salary and $9.8 million cap hit. But no one tells you that if the Cowboys release or trade Jaylon before June 1 in 2021 he would charge their salary cap $9.4 million in dead money. Smoke that part in your pipe. Motown Cowboys: Familiarity, certainly, has become the trend on former Cowboys tight end Dan Campbell’s Detroit Lions coaching staff, and probably a lesson he learned from former Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells. The new Detroit head coach has hired former Cowboys cornerback and teammate (2005) Aaron Glenn to be his defensive coordinator and former Cowboys running backs coach Anthony Lynn, recently fired as the Chargers head coach, as his offensive coordinator. The two first met in 2005 when Lynn, the former NFL running back, was a Cowboys assistant. Here is his other trend: Hiring former NFL players as assistants, including Lynn, Glenn, Mark Brunell (quarterbacks), Duce Staley (assistant head coach/running backs), Hank Fraley (offensive line) and Antwaan Randle El (wide receivers). Short Shots: An early report popped up Wednesday claiming the NFL would first like to knock out the new TV rights agreement that could be as much as $100 billion over 10 years before setting the 2021 salary cap that definitely will decrease this year, but no further than $175 million and possibly as much as $185 million … Know that resulting bump in future caps would certainly help the Cowboys and Dak Prescott work out that long-term deal both, to me, desperately need – the Cowboys for cap purposes and Dak for security purposes coming off his now twice repaired ankle … Fist bumps to former Cowboys kicker Chris Boniol, former secondary coach Todd Bowles and former Cowboys defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers, all three earning a Super Bowl ring in Tampa Bay’s victory over the Chiefs on Sunday. For special assistant Boniol and defensive coordinator Bowles, this will be their second rings, Boniol kicking for the Cowboys in 1995 when the Cowboys won Super Bowl XXX and Bowles starting at free safety with Washington that 1987 season when winning Super Bowl XXII. For Rodgers, the Bucs defensive line coach, and what a performance that line had, this is his first … Continuing the nearly year-long practice of adapting to COVID-19, the Bucs celebrated their Super Bowl championship Wednesday with a socially-distanced boat parade on the Hillsborough River along the Tampa Riverwalk … Might not be good news for former Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey (2011-2017), who in his third season this year with Minnesota connected on just 15 of 22 field-goal attempts (68.2 percent) and missed six of 43 extra points. The Vikings signed kicker Greg Joseph, having spent this past season as an insurance kicker on Tampa Bay’s practice squad … Never underestimate being an insurance kicker this past season – just ask Cowboys punter Hunter Niswander, who ended up punting awfully well in his eight games after Chris Jones landed on injured reserve needing abdomen surgery.

And this week’s last word goes to Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, memorializing long-time NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer, who passed away on Monday at the age of 77 after having spent 21 of his 31 years coaching in the NFL as a head coach, growing a coaching tree the size of a redwood. McCarthy began as one of Marty’s mere twigs, entering the NFL after his four-year start at the University of Pittsburgh with Schottenheimer in Kansas City. McCarthy followed former Cowboys offensive coordinator/Pitt head coach Paul Hackett from the college ranks to the Chiefs in 1993 as an offensive quality control coach.

“If it wasn’t for Marty Schottenheimer, I wouldn’t be saying this because I wouldn’t be where I am today,” McCarthy said. “Marty gave me my first NFL opportunity in 1993, but it was so much more than that. He gave this young coach a road map for life. Marty’s fingerprints can still be felt all over so many things I do every day as a coach. But it is what he taught me as a man that I’ll be forever grateful for. …

“Marty exemplified strength and passion, which wasn’t always in your favor. Anyone who worked for Marty will attest, you’ve never had your ass chewed until Marty Schottenheimer did it. I’ve still got the scars to prove it – and for that I am forever thankful. I know the impact he’s had on so many of us, and the legacy he leaves behind will always be felt.”

May he rest in peace.



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