New coach, but the same old troubled Cowboys

On The NFL

August 16, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

The Dallas Cowboys can no longer use Bozo the Coach as a scapegoat.

When the Cowboys went from America's Team to America's Most Wanted the last couple of years, Barry Switzer, given the Bozo the Coach nickname by one of the New York tabloids, got much of the blame because of his laid-back style.

When Chan Gailey, the former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator, was hired to replace Switzer, things were supposed to change.

Although Gailey's play-calling, especially in the AFC title game last year, has been suspect at times, nobody questioned he was a straight arrow who would hold the players to a higher standard.

"The end of the dream will be that we were champions with class and character," he said when he got the job.

It turns out it may be difficult for any coach to bring class and character to the Cowboys. They may simply be a dysfunctional team.

Gailey was helpless when the latest controversy -- the neck wound suffered by Everett McIver in what the team described as "horseplay" in the team's dorm -- started swirling.

It didn't take long for fingers to be pointed at Michael Irvin. There were reports he stabbed McIver with a pair of scissors during a fight and then paid McIver a figure in the high six figures -- a deal brokered by owner Jerry Jones -- to cover it up.

Of course, denials were issued by all parties. And it must be noted that less than two years ago, Irvin was accused of sexual assault by a woman who later admitted she made up the charges.

But the fact the Cowboys have refused to give any logical explanation for the incident has fueled speculation that the Cowboys are covering up for Irvin because they don't want him thrown in jail for violating his probation. After Irvin's no-contest plea to a cocaine charge in 1996, the judge warned that even the slightest violation would bring a 20-year prison sentence.

The cover-up probably will work. After all, as long as McIver claims it was an accident, neither the league nor the police can take action.

Gailey, though, winds up the loser. He's coaching a team that can't avoid controversy.

It's almost sad to see him try to avoid questions on it.

When a New York reporter tried asking him three times about it recently, he had three non-answers.

"I'm not going to talk about that. I've said all I'm going to say."

"I think it's a family matter, and we'll handle it internally. That's really all I'm going to say about it. You can ask questions and we can sit here for hours -- no, we can't because I have to go to work. You can ask, but I'm not going to talk about it. I'm just not going to talk about it."

"You know what I'm frustrated about? You asking about it when I said I'm not going to talk about it. That's what I'm frustrated about."

Later, at a news conference, he said: "In any profession, people just happen to write about ours, but in any profession, there are issues that come up that you have to deal with. I knew there would be issues here. The key is to deal with them and go on."

The Cowboys will go on -- until the next incident happens.

Negotiating games

There are only three first-round draft picks unsigned, and it's no surprise that Eugene Parker represents one of them, Andre Wadsworth of the Arizona Cardinals.

Last year, Parker represented the fourth, fifth and sixth players in the draft -- Peter Boulware of the Ravens, Bryant Westbrook of Detroit and Walter Jones of Seattle -- and all three missed camp.

Parker usually doesn't make deals for high draft picks until it's almost time to collect those regular-season checks.

That's why it was almost comical when Wadsworth announced he'd go back to college and sit out the season. Curtis Enis, the fifth player chosen in the draft, by the Bears, also said he might sit out, although he didn't mention going back to college.

Wadsworth and Enis overlooked the fact that no first-rounder has sat out a season in the free agency era. It doesn't make sense, because it would cost a player a year in his bid toward free agency.

Bob Ferguson, the Cardinals' vice president, poked fun at Wadsworth's "threat."

"All players should get their degree. He said he's enrolled. But you know, there are correspondence courses. If he's going back to school, God bless him. I think it's an honorable thing," he said.

The way the current system is set up, the clubs have the leverage until the players become free agents. It then switches to the players. The players have to be patient until they become free agents.

For example, Errict Rhett now admits it was a mistake to hold out at the start of his third year of a four-year contract in Tampa Bay.

Then there's Jermaine Lewis of the Ravens, who's not happy the team is forcing him to play for the $238,000 minimum in his third year because he says the Ravens told him they'd take care of him if he produced when he signed a two-year deal as a rookie.

But Lewis didn't consider holding out. "We're not going to shoot ourselves in the foot," said his agent, Ray Anderson. "We understand the realities of the business."

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