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NFL Quick Hits: Romo, Dumervil and Draft Talk

+ There’s a large contingent that feels as though Jerry Jones has condemned his own team by handing Tony Romo a six-year, $108 million contract extension that includes $55 million guaranteed. And who could blame them? Romo is a competitor and a leader. Outside of missing 10 games in 2010 due to a shoulder injury, he’s durable and has eclipsed 4,000 yards passing in four of his last six seasons. He’s also 1-3 in the postseason and has a nasty habit of saving his worst effort for the most crucial of moments. How could any Dallas fan be okay with rewarding what essentially amounts to mediocrity? But survey the league. There are at least 10 teams that would gladly guarantee Romo $55 million if he could suit up for them. Jones is rolling the dice that Romo will eventually prosper in those moments that have ruined him in the past. He’d rather continue to invest in the undrafted gem that he signed in 2003 instead of starting all over again at the position next year. And maybe he’ll eventually be undone by his unwavering loyalty, but it’s not as if the Cowboys developed any Pro Bowlers in the years between Troy Aikman and Romo. For better or worse, Jones has pushed Romo and a large chunk of his money into the middle of the pot and said, “All in.” We’ll see if the gamble pays off in the upcoming years.

+ Did Elvis Dumervil just pass up his best chance at playing for a championship by not re-signing with the Broncos? Think about that for a moment. It’s not as if he took the money a la Mario Williams and become a hired mercenary for a bad team – the Ravens are the defending champions, after all. But the last franchise to win back-to-back Super Bowls was the Denver Broncos in the late 90s, which proves how difficult it is to repeat in the NFL. Thanks to Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh, Baltimore will continue to compete year in and year out. But if it weren’t for Rahim Moore’s mistake in the Divisional Round last season, the Broncos may have won it all in February. (One could certainly make the argument that they were the best team heading into the playoffs.) With Wes Welker now catching passes from Peyton Manning, the Broncos should be right back in the Super Bowl mix in 2013. While he may never regret the decision to leave the Mile High state (especially when you consider the manner in which things ended in Denver), it would be a bitter pill to swallow if Dumervil was forced to watch his former teammates compete for a title next year. And that may very well happen.

+ Buddy Nix continues to boggle the mind in Buffalo. He had to part ways with Ryan Fitzpatrick a couple of weeks ago because he made the bone-headed decision in 2011 to overpay Fitzpatrick for one month of quality football. But why sign Kevin Kolb to a two-year, $13 million contract? He doesn’t represent a clear upgrade over Fitzpatrick, who also would have been a fit for coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s “K-Gun” offense. Fitzpatrick often displayed poor footwork and mechanics but he was at his best when getting the ball out of his hands quickly and spreading it around to different receivers. Instead of throwing more money at the position, Fitzpatrick could have been the starter until Ryan Nassib or another rookie was ready to take over in 2014. It just doesn’t make sense although hey, we’re also talking about the same guy in Nix who passed up on Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson in the second and third rounds each of the past two years. Not much Nix has done over the past three years has made much sense.

+ The more film I watch on this year’s defensive tackle class, the more I like. Star Lotulelei is versatile in that he can play in multiple defensive fronts, can anchor and also collapse the pocket when rushing. Meanwhile, Florida’s Sharrif Floyd is massive at 6-foot-2 and 297 pounds, but he’s light on his feet and has the ability to be a double-digit sack lineman as a 3-technique tackle. One could easily say the same about Mizzou’s Sheldon Richardson, who is an athletic marvel and a player that spent a lot of time in the opposing team’s backfield last season. When you get past the top three, Ohio State’s Jonathan Hankins was considered the best defensive tackle prospect at the start of the 2012 college football season (until his play fell off the map as the year wore on), and North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams is athletic, strong, and shows burst off the snap. It’s a great year for teams looking for interior pass-rush help.

+ Geno Smith might be the biggest wild card in the first round this year. The Chiefs have expressed interest in him, but chances are they’re planning on drafting Luke Joeckel with the No. 1 pick. The Raiders could take him at No. 3 but they’ve also expressed interest in Matt Flynn, while the logical move for the Bills would be to wait until the second round and nab Doug Marrone’s former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib. (This after signing Kevin Kolb to a two-year, $13 million contract over the weekend.) If Smith goes in the top 10, my best guess is that it’ll be to Arizona at No. 7. There have been so many smokescreens surrounding the Cardinals over the past few weeks that you would think the entire state of Arizona is on fire. But I’m not buying their interest in Matt Barkley, whose best fit is in a West Coast offense. He simply doesn’t have the arm strength to run Bruce Arians’ offense efficiently, and neither does Carson Palmer (whom the Cardinals have expressed interest in as well). Smith is far from an elite quarterback prospect, but he does have enough arm strength to challenge the seam at the next level. That’s vital in Arians’ system.

+ If Manti Te’o falls out of the first round, it’ll be because of the current value for NFL middle linebackers – not because of his fake girlfriend or one miserable game versus Alabama. Just as he showed in the months leading up to the national title game, he sifts through traffic well, he plays downhill, and he’s an instinctive player. But this is a pass-happy league and if Te’o is going to play middle linebacker in a 4-3, he’s likely to come off the field on third downs. Middle linebackers simply don’t hold as much value as they did 10 years ago, which is why a player like Alec Ogletree may come off the board ahead of Te’o. Ogletree is a knucklehead who ran into off-field issues at Georgia, but he’s also a former safety that can run and cover. Assuming he develops at the pro level, teams won’t have to take him off the field in nickel situations. There’s a lot of value in that attribute, more so than a prospect that is a true thumper in the running game that has his limitations in coverage.

+ With all the talk surrounding Tavon Austin this year, one receiver that should be getting more attention is Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton. He has good size, quickness, and pass-catching ability. He doesn’t drop passes, he’s smooth in and out of routes, and he shows a willingness to block. Unlike Austin, Patton lacks top end speed, doesn’t separate and he didn’t make much of an impact as a return man in college. But he was productive in his two years with the Bulldogs and he has great intangibles. Prior to the 2011 Poinsettia Bowl, he gave a $300 Best Buy gift card (which was one of his bowl gifts) to a child from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Some team in the second round is going to get a solid player on the field and a high-character person off it.

+ Some team is either going to hit a grand slam with LSU’s Barkevious Mingo or they’re going to strike out looking. I fear there’s no in between. He’s a freak athletically and he could potentially be a headache for opposing teams as a designated pass rusher, but he’s really lean and may not hold up against the run. He also wasn’t overly productive at LSU and arguably wasn’t their best pass rusher, either. (That would be teammate Sam Montgomery.) If he can’t defend the run and he can’t set the edge, will he be worth taking in the first round based on his upside as a pass rusher? Bruce Irvin was, but the Seahawks also used him appropriately (i.e. as a DPR). When Irvin had to start versus the Falcons in the Divisional Round last year because of the injury to Chris Clemons, Atlanta ran right at him because he couldn’t set the edge in run support. Then again, he also finished with eight sacks as a rookie and there are plenty of teams that would kill for similar production. It’ll be interesting to see which ones will be willing to give up a late first-round pick in hopes of acquiring that same kind of output from Mingo.

+ The Dolphins just signed an underrated player in Brent Grimes. Assuming he’s healed from the Achilles injury that robbed him of nearly his entire 2012 season, he’ll upgrade a secondary that was often torched last year. He’s small but he’s technically sound and often the best athlete on the field at any given time. Granted, in signing him to a one-year, $5.5 million contract they overpaid for his services, especially considering he’s coming off the injury. (The cornerback market has also been weak this year.) But Miami got a quality player nonetheless.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Jason Garrett to be named Cowboys’ next head coach?

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett walks the sidelines during the first quarter of their NFL football game against the New York Giants in East Rutherford, New Jersey, November 14, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Clarence E. Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is reporting that Jason Garrett will likely be named the Cowboys’ head coach on a full-time basis. But the announcement can’t happen now because Dallas must adhere to the Rooney Rule and inteview at least one minority candidate.

With an open process, Super Bowl champion coaching free agents such as Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher and Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, if he is let go, would certainly be associated with the Cowboys job.

But it’s very clear inside Cowboys headquarters that Garrett is the man for the job.

He has long been a favorite of Jones’ dating to his days as a backup quarterback on the Cowboys’ Super Bowl title teams of the 1990s.

And in guiding the Cowboys to four wins in seven games since taking over for the fired Wade Phillips after Dallas’ 1-7 start, Garrett has proved to Jones that he is more than just a bright offensive mind. He has shown to be an effective leader who can run the team and get players to respond to him.

The hiring of Garrett would also allow Jones to continue business as usual as the general manager and top personnel decision maker on the team.

The smart money was always on Garrett. Because it’s the Cowboys, people assumed that Jones would go out and hire a big name. But don’t forget that Garrett was handpicked by Jones, so the Dallas owner wasn’t going to groom him and let him succeed elsewhere. Plus, as the article points out, Jones wants to remain as general manager of the team. If he hired someone like Cowher, he would likely have to concede a lot of his power when it comes to personnel decisions, which he doesn’t want to do.

Update: The NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi is reporting that it’s a done deal: Garrett will be retained as head coach. The ‘Boys managed to interview wide receiver coach Ray Sherman to comply with the Rooney Rule, so they’re all set.

Jerry Jones “mad as hell” about Cowboys’ situation

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is seen on the sidelines before the Cowboys game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on September 12, 2010. The Redskins defeated the Cowboys 13-7. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

Jason Garrett didn’t help his chances of earning a full-time coaching gig with the Cowboys’ after his team blew a late lead to the Cardinals on Christmas night. The Cowboys had scored a touchdown with under two minutes remaining in the game to make the score 26-24, but the Cardinals managed to get into field goal range and kick a game winner to pull out a 27-26 final

It didn’t help Garrett’s cause that the ‘Boys missed an extra point after their final score or that their defense gave up a 4th-and-long on Arizona’s last possession to help set up the game-winning field goal.

Following the game, Jones was asked whether or not the loss would affect Garrett’s chances of earning the head job on a full-time basis.

“That’s not something that I’m even thinking about right now,” Jones said. “I’m mad as hell and I know all of our fans are. That’s where that is.”

The response isn’t surprising. What do you want Jones to say? That he’s happy his team blew an opportunity to win a game when they came back from a 21-3 deficit? Of course he’s going to be mad. And saying anything definitively either way on Garrett’s future with the team wouldn’t be a prudent move on Jones’ part either. You’re not going to disqualify a guy after one loss and you’re certainly not going to sing his praises either.

Jones will take his time making this decision. He was asked by Deion Sanders on the NFL Network pre-game show whether or not he would consider Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden for the position and Jones point out that (I’m paraphrasing), “No head coach that has won a Super Bowl has ever won another one with his second team.”

Does that mean that Jones isn’t considering Cowher or Gruden? Of course not. But who knows what’s going on in Jones’ head right now. He needs time to digest everything and go from there.

Jerry Jones: Romo will be ready to play in Week 16.

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 8: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks with Tony Romo  on the sidelines against the Cincinnati Bengals during the 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium on August 8, 2010 in Canton, Ohio. The Cowboys defeated the Bengals 16-7. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Per the Houston Chronicle

Asked if Romo would be ready for the Cardinals, Jones said: “In my opinion, he will be.”

“I want to do anything we can to win those games. (The decision) will be based on what gives us the best chance to win,” Jones said. “And, when he’s ready to go, he’s going to be ready. I shouldn’t be concerned about additional injury to his shoulder.”

“And, when he’s ready to go, he’s going to be ready.”

Wow, profound.

I’ve advised fantasy owners to feel comfortable cutting Romo, especially when the Cowboys were truly eliminated from the playoff hunt. Even if they were in position to make the playoffs, why would you replace Jon Kitna, who would obviously be playing well in that scenario?

I think it’s irresponsible to bring Romo back to play two games. As recently as last week, the quarterback was experiencing considerable pain, and collarbone injuries are known to recur, so why risk it? Romo isn’t a rookie — he doesn’t need every single snap from an experience standpoint, so why rush him back?

Regardless, if Jones has his way, Romo will be under center in Week 16 in a great matchup with the Cardinals. If you have a roster spot, go ahead and stash him for a week or two and see how things play out. He might be useful.

Firing Phillips the right decision for Cowboys

Whether it’s Wade Phillips or Jason Garrett that finishes out the rest of the season as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, the team isn’t going to the playoffs. But Jerry Jones’ decision to fire Phillips on Monday isn’t about making the playoffs.

Jones needed to send a message to those that will be around past this year that the lack of effort and execution that the Cowboys have displayed this year won’t be tolerated. Not all of the team’s problems are because of Phillips, but the head coach is always the first one on the chopping block when things fall apart.

You always hear about how Phillips is a players’ coach, but most of his players stopped playing for him weeks ago. I don’t think there’s any question that Phillips can coach in this league, but obviously the players stopped responding to his methods and Jones had no choice but to let him go after the embarrassing 45-7 loss in Green Bay on Sunday night.

Without Tony Romo, Garrett’s chances of succeeding are fairly slim. But he won’t be measured on wins and losses over the next eight weeks – he’ll be measured on how the players respond. If they quit on him like they quit on Phillips, then Garrett may be searching for a job after the season as well.

Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden’s names will be brought up repeatedly over the next two months in connection with the Dallas job, but consider this: No head coach has ever won the Super Bowl with his second team. Bill Parcells (Giants/Patriots), Dan Reeves (Broncos/Falcons) and Mike Holmgren (Packers/Seahawks) all got close, but they couldn’t pull the feat off. That’s not to say that Cowher or Gruden would be bad choices to replace Phillips, but Jones needs to at least consider bringing in someone fresh.

It’ll be interesting to see not only whom Dallas hires at the end of the season, but also whether or not Phillips will get another head coaching job next year. He may have to settle for a defensive coordinator position after what transpired with the Cowboys this season.

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