Silence of Cowboys' attack roars

Second-guessing Gailey grows in volume after losses to Eagles, Giants

October 22, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

There's trouble in Big D with a capital D and it rhymes with disaster.

At least it's a disaster by the Dallas Cowboys' standards when the team loses back-to-back games by 13-10 scores to the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants.

It's easy to forget the Cowboys are still 3-2. In Dallas, all they're talking about is that the offense has produced two touchdowns in the last 28 possessions.

"I think there's some frustration, sure," Cowboys coach Chan Gailey said.

No doubt about that. Gailey's being second-guessed by everybody from Terry Bradshaw to Emmitt Smith.

Gailey apparently will be roasted by Bradshaw on Fox's pre-game show Sunday.

Bradshaw, who lives near Dallas, said he can now say what he really thinks about the Cowboys because he has a new barn.

"A couple of years ago, I was on 'em [Cowboys] real hard until somebody shot my prize horse. But now I've got a new barn. I can hide the horses. So I'm going to have some things to say this week," Bradshaw said on his radio show.

Nobody knows whether Bradshaw's horse was really shot, but he then went after Gailey's offense.

"It's boring. It's not going to work. It's not best suited for Troy Aikman and if the truth were known, Troy has to hate it," he said.

Bradshaw feels Gailey doesn't throw the deep ball enough.

Smith checked in with a different theory. He doesn't think the offense is boring enough. Being a running back, he wants to run it more.

"There are times when you've just got to grab the bear by the throat and say this is what we're going to do. We're going to stick to it for right now until we get a handle on things. Then, once we get a handle on things, maybe we can expand," he said.

Smith wants more first-down runs instead of having a first-down incomplete pass that leads to second-and-10. He got the ball seven times against the Giants in second-and-long situations and wound up with 24 yards on 25 carries.

Smith had a plea for Gailey. "You know what our strengths are, what our weaknesses are. Put us in a position of strength and let us go out and win. Help us win," he said.

Gailey seems to have gotten the message.

"We will be more simplistic in our game plan," he said.

The real Cowboys problem is probably overreaction. In Dallas, the Cowboys are always under the microscope. They're not a dominant team anymore, but then there are no dominant teams in the NFL.

Both losses came on the road and the Cowboys may have been overconfident in Philadelphia, where they lost Michael Irvin. And the Giants' defense is one of the better ones in the league.

The real problem may be Irvin's loss. The Cowboys are so short at wide receiver that they've brought back Alvin Harper, who's been out of the game since Nov. 30, 1997, when Washington coach Norv Turner released him.

Harper is still ticked at Turner. He was annoyed he had two catches that year and virtually invited Turner to release him at the time. He said, "Release me, you're not going to play me. I can go be a statue somewhere else."

Harper's signing shows how desperate the Cowboys are that they're willing to give him a chance in midseason even though he's not in top shape. Maybe Harper can still play against the Redskins' defense, statistically the worst in the Smith league.

In the opener, Aikman threw five touchdown passes as the Cowboys rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat the Redskins, 41-35.

The Redskins' offense won their next three games, but impatient owner Dan Snyder wanted defensive coordinator Mike Nolan fired at the bye week. Turner compromised by bringing in a retired coach with good credentials, Bill Arnsparger, to help Nolan.

The defense rebounded in the 24-10 victory over Arizona last Sunday night, but the Cardinals don't have a very good offense and it got worse when Jake Plummer broke a finger.

In Dallas, where a two-game losing streak is considered a crisis, Gailey concedes there's a sense of urgency about this game.

"There better be," Gailey said. "Something is wrong with us if it isn't."

The Cowboys figure to find out Sunday just how much is wrong with them.

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