Bumpin' Barry deflects blame for his blunders

January 16, 1995|By KEN ROSENTHAL

SAN FRANCISCO -- Let's start with the official. Jimmy never bumped an official. Never took a 15-yard penalty to thwart a drive with his team trailing by 10 points in the fourth quarter of the NFC championship game.

Barry did that yesterday.

That, and a whole lot more.

Barry's team committed three turnovers in the first five minutes. Barry's team trailed 21-0 before the first quarter was half over. Barry's team ran when it should have thrown, and threw when it should have run, but you know what?

It was all someone else's fault.

Yes, Bumpin' Barry couldn't stop pointing his finger after yesterday's 38-28 loss to San Francisco.

At the 49ers and the NFL for the muddy field. At the official who wouldn't call interference on Deion Sanders. Maybe even at his defensive coordinator, although no one could really be sure.

Bumpin' Barry was semi-incoherent, and he kept raising his voice and lowering it, like the televangelist he was meant to be. Jimmy was never like this. Jimmy won two Super Bowls. But Jimmy upset Jerry, and Jerry wanted Barry, and now it's a Texas-sized mess.

Jimmy, wipe that smile off your face. Jimmy, it's not that funny.

Jerry Jones asked for this, and he's going to get it. Once, the Cowboys were identified by Jimmy Johnson's hair. Now, it's Barry Switzer's spleen. Boy, is Jerry going to get it -- and he XTC can't just use Emmitt's sore hammy as an excuse, either.

"If anybody's going to get the blame, it's me," Jerry conceded. "There'll be speculation that we would have won if Jimmy would have been here today.

"That speculation is there. People can take their shots. When I made the change, I knew it was a long shot that I wouldn't get criticized for this at the end of the season. It was a long shot we'd go back to the Super Bowl."

It was a long shot, but the Cowboys went 12-4 in an off year, then crushed Green Bay in their playoff opener. Barry said their play in the opening five minutes yesterday was "flat comical . . . Keystone Kops." But you know what? They still had a chance to win the game.

Heck, with 6:07 left, they had just crossed midfield, and were heading for a touchdown that could have pulled them within three points. Of course, that's when Barry bumped an official, bumped him with his left hip, bumped him to demonstrate what Sanders did to Michael Irvin.

Barry was still upset over a 33-yard interference penalty in the second quarter that led to a field goal and a 24-7 San Francisco lead. But this wasn't Oklahoma, where Barry could intimidate officials who tried to keep him from running it up on Kansas State.

"Sure, it's a mistake," Barry said. "I gave them 15 yards. I contributed to us getting beat. We win together, we lose together.

"But," Barry said, his voice booming, "if they make the call, we get the ball down there. And I promise you, we score. It's a 35-38 ballgame."

Promises, promises.

Jimmy kept his after guaranteeing a victory over the Niners in last year's title game. But Barry can't even guarantee the Cowboys will call the right plays.

Early in the second quarter, they faced third-and-10 on the San Francisco 12. A touchdown would have moved them within 21-14. It was an obvious passing situation -- and Emmitt ran a draw for 2 yards.

Now, Barry doesn't call the plays, mind you -- he's Mr. CEO. But the run looked even more foolish when Chris Boniol missed a 27-yard field goal -- a field goal Barry said his special-teams coach didn't even want to attempt, such was the treacherous condition of the field.

"It's a disgrace to play a championship football game on a field like that," Barry shouted. "Why didn't they [the league] do something about that? Take over. Make sure everyone has the opportunity to play the best game that could be played. That's ridiculous."

What should the 49ers have done?

"They could have re-sodded the thing," Barry said.

Why didn't they?

"We were told they didn't want to."

Those wily Niners -- they played on a different field.

"I was told they couldn't find dry sod," Jerry said. "There was none available." The Cowboys should bring their own the next time they visit Whine Country.

"I think it's sour grapes," 49ers team president Carmen Policy said. "I think the field was better than the field Chicago played on [last week], but they were classy enough to acknowledge they got beat.

"For two years now, we've lost to Dallas. I don't think you heard a whimper out of us. I think it's time for Dallas to recognize we've got the better team."

Perhaps, but the Cowboys out-gained the Niners, 451-294. The difference was their five turnovers. In the previous two NFC title games, with Jimmy as coach, they didn't commit one.

Still, this went beyond turnovers.

Just before halftime, Aikman threw three straight incompletions rather than run out the clock and settle for a 10-point deficit. The Niners took over with 30 seconds left, and Young hit Rice for a 28-yard touchdown, making it 31-14. "Really smart," is how Barry described the one-on-one coverage on Rice, without elaborating. He also criticized John Jett for the 23-yard punt that put San Francisco on the Dallas 39. "The kicking game killed us," he said.

The kicking game, the elements, the officials, the turnovers.

The coach.

Back in the locker room, Jerry said he wouldn't second-guess his decision to change coaches, wouldn't second-guess Barry's stupid penalty, wouldn't second-guess anything.

Eventually, he'll come to his senses.

Jimmy, wipe that smile off your face. Jerry might be calling soon.

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