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Monardo: NFC East fails to live up to potential (Nov. 7)

Joseph Monardo | Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The NFC East has been praised as one of football’s best divisions in recent history. This year, however, the division has been defined by two significant failures: The Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles are both 3-5.

They say everything is bigger in Texas. Maybe that’s why the Cowboys are a colossal failure. Perennially one of the NFL’s most talented teams, the Dallas Cowboys are consistent only in their shortcomings. After dropping Sunday night’s contest to the undefeated Falcons more predictably than Romo botching a hold against the Seahawks, Big D’s playoff hopes are barely breathing.

Jerry Jones’ fantasy team has a top quarterback, dangerous receivers and running backs, one of the league’s best defensive players in DeMarcus Ware and several big-money cornerbacks. An injury to DeMarco Murray offers some small excuse, but it has become clear that the whole represents less than the sum of its parts. Much less, in fact. At this point, the public should cease to be confused as to how the Cowboys fail to get it done with such talented players. Spectators should instead wonder why anyone should think Dallas will ever get it done.

There are some teams fans expect to win, even in close games or when trailing (e.g. this year’s Falcons squad, or the New York Giants come January). Dallas is basically the opposite of that. Led by Tony Romo, who no matter his success will never escape his reputation as a bungler of the big moment, America’s Team is always a safe bet to blow the game.

The solution: Blow it up. This team will never be a winner. Jerry Jones should trade Romo and Dez Bryant and rebuild his franchise. It doesn’t matter who he gets to replace his quarterback under center, Jones just needs to change the energy of the organization. As for Dez Bryant, the Pro-Bowl talent is more trouble than he’s worth. And, barring a miracle playoff run, Jason Garrett is already as good as gone as head coach.
No less successful in the win column this year, the Eagles do not have the major institutional problems found in Dallas. Well, maybe they do, but just not to the extent of the Cowboys. Philadelphia has plenty of problems, most notably on the offensive line.

Few would have thought Michael Vick could ever arouse sympathy from the public, but after watching him occupy a pocket that shrinks faster than the polar ice caps, how could a witness feel anything but? In fact, witness is the right word because what Vick’s offensive line has done to one of the league’s most dynamic players is almost criminal. They have robbed him of his ability. He doesn’t have time to throw. He doesn’t even have time to escape the pocket.

Injuries have decimated the Eagles’ big uglies, but there has to be something Philadelphia could do to give the Michael Vick Experience a fighter’s chance. Vick has made his share of mistakes this year, but when looking at his face during Monday night’s loss to the woeful Saints, the national audience saw a man bewildered. He is beaten down, and the team that features LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Nnamdi Asomugha is nearly beaten out of the playoff hunt as well.

For Andy Reid, this year’s failure almost certainly spells the end of his time in Philly. However, unlike in Dallas, the quarterback should stay. If the Eagles can fix their offensive line Vick has a chance to return to all-world form. If they cannot, then who else in the world is better suited to run away from pressure? For anyone who promotes the benching of No. 7, imagine Eagles rookie quarterback Nick Foles crumbling to the ground as the front line swallows him up play after play.

Both the Eagles and the Cowboys have set the bar high in recent years. This season, they just aren’t living up to it. For Dallas, this year confirms what has become an undeniable systemic failure. For Philadelphia, the problem isn’t quite as obvious. But it may be a whole lot easier to fix.

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.