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A Mess Called the Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys is the biggest brand in the National Football League. A team that generates millions in revenue by selling tickets (over 90,000 fans/game) merchandise and player appearances among other sources of income. What this team does not generate as consistently are good results.

Also known as America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys are out of Playoff Contention with two games left this season, even thought they belong to one of the weakest divisions in the league. For them, making it to the playoffs was still a chance for the Cowboys in the NFC East.

They were going into Saturday Night’s game against the New York Jets with a record of 4-9 and only three games to go. The Dallas Cowboys were going against an 8-5 team that even with that record can´t afford to lose if they want a Wild Card option. The game was played in Arlington at AT&T Stadium, but this season has been as bad at home as it has been on the road for Jason Garrett’s team.

Some things have changed in this team ever since Dez Bryant’s controversial “no catch” call in last year’s playoff game against Green Bay. Up to that point, the Cowboys were considered a serious Super Bowl candidate shocking rivals left and right. They had finished the regular season with a 12-4 record  including a big win against Seattle at Qualcom Stadium.

From almost reaching perfection in 2014 to a complete disaster in 2015, here are some of the things that may have gone wrong this year. Injuries, bad play calling, poor trades and new hires and locker room problems. Here we will try to break down each one.

Injuries

The injury that definitely shaped the season for the Cowboys was Tony Romo’s back injury. The Easter Illinois graduate got injured in the second game of the season against Philadelphia. The team was able to hold on to the lead they had already built in that game to start the season 2-0.

The problem was that without Romo, Brandon Weeden did not hold the pressure and the team began to fall apart. Even bringing Matt Cassell (11 seasons in the NFL) to the team in order to replace Romo was not a solution. The franchise quarterback had to come back and win against Miami so they could face Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers on Thanksgiving Day. Bringing Romo back early seemed like a good idea after the game in the Sunshine State, but proved to be costly when he got injured again against the Panthers.

Romo ended his season with 3 wins and one loss, but at that point, the uphill battle for the Cowboys was already huge. Cassel has so far started in seven games and only won one. Against the Jets, he was dismissed early after some mistakes that put the Cowboys in a tough situation. Now, he is not expected to come back, letting Kellen Moore take over from here on out.

Lance Dunbar, drafted as a free agent four seasons ago, was looking for his breakthrough season. The University of North Texas record-man has never been Garrett’s first option as a running back but has responded in a positive way whenever he is asked to step on the field. Dunbar averaged 13.4 rushing yards in only 13 attempts. His season ended in week four due to an injury.

Other players that did not have much luck healthwise this season were Gavin Escobar. The latest victim of an injury that was just ruled out for the season with a torn Achilles in the fourth quarter on Saturday against the Jets.

Dez Bryant has not been completely healthy this season. His struggles began when he got injured against the Giants the first week of the regular season. He then missed six games and did not score his first touchdown of the season until week nine. So far he only has three, while last season he ended with 16 before going into the playoffs.

These three are just a few of the victims to injuries this season. The team has had to use their second a third strings in many positions, up to their fourth in the QB spot. At the same time, Sean Lee is still healthy 15 weeks into this disastrous season.

Bad Play Calling

The record that the Dallas Cowboys currently hold could make us think that there is no talent in this lineup but there is. Last season, with many of the same guys, things were not going as bad. This season, the approach has had to change constantly due to the different QB’s that have been used. Many interceptions have been thrown and sacks against Romo or anyone in his place are becoming a common thread.

Last year, DaMarco Murray set a new rushing record with 1,845 yards in a single season, leaving Emitt Smith’s 1,773 rushing-yards record behind. Now that DaMarco has gone with the Philadelphia Eagles, the entire team has only rushed the ball for 1,669 after 14 games adding up the work of seven players.

The throws by the QB’s have not been as accurate this season as they had been last season by Romo. Jason Witten just passed the 1,000 catches mark and continues to be the man with the safest hands this season. 70 receptions for 643 yards and two touchdowns have him ahead of Cole Beasley, Terrence Williams and everyone else. On another note, Dan Bailey has been almost perfect this season , scoring 28 of 29 field goals he has attempted this season from any distance. It was thanks to him that the Cowboys beat Washington on the road and continued with a chance late in the season.

Poor Trades and New Hires 

Letting DeMarco Murray go was probably the biggest mistake Jerry Jones and his staff made before the season began. Making Dez Bryant wait until the deadline to sign a new contract has also affected the man in his health status this season and lack of rythm in some games.

Greg Hardy was brough in with the stamp of a bad boy due to problems of domestic violence. He had to miss the first four games with a suspension and has not made that much of an impact on the field. Terrance Mitchell has not been given much playing time in his first season with the Cowboys but has two interceptions in six games played.

While the defense was a huge problem early in the season, they have been able to do better in the latter stages of the season. The team has thrown a total of 19 interceptions and has only intercepted seven balls. A total of 27 sack against 29 from thier opponents. The Cowboys have had a total of 266 first downs by 279 from the teams they play against.

After a great 2014 season, the Cowboys sent six players to the ProBowl in Hawaii. That was the most players sent to the all-star game since 2010. By the way that things are looking this year, having one player make the trip to the Pro-Bowl maybe more than enough.

Locker Room Problems

The Dallas Cowboys are heavily scrutinized by the fans and even more by the media. They all want to know what is going on with the Boys every second of every minute. The coverage that the Cowboys get when they are doing good is huge, where there is controversy, it is even bigger and it does not stop even in situations like the one they are going through now.

Throughout the season, it has been reported that some players have breakouts against teammates and the media itself in the locker room. By NFL Rules, after almost every practice, the media has access to the players. Some like Dez Bryant are tired of it and have gone on a rant about the job done by the press.

Late in the season, the Dallas Cowboys organization sent out a press release with new media guidelines which prohibitted many of the things done by the several media outlets. No tweeting during practice times, no recording with cellphone cameras and no one could use Periscope while they were on the practice fields nor in the locker room. Only the Baltimore Ravens are said to have adopted such measures, which might seem extreme for some and needed by others.

Game Over and Start Again

Losing to the New York Jets at Jerry World was the last thing that the Cowboys wanted to experience in a season where despite all their problems, they had a chance to make an epic comeback. Jason Garrett, the eighth coach in Cowboy’s history may have a lot of explaining to do after the season ends. The history of this team, requires it to be back at a Super Bowl rather sooner than later.

Seasons with negative records are becoming a common thread in the record books for Garrett’s team. What happened in 2014 was a great season with many things to brag about, this and many other seasons have been some Cowboys fans may want to forget. On to the next one, but the mentality that there is always next season needs to change.

America’s Team has not won a Super Bowl since 1995 and  now, 20 years later, we don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Will the change from Valley Ranch in Irving to their new facilities in Frisco bring a change? Will Jerry Jones change his mentality and bring a new coach? Will the scouting team and the front office make the right decisions in the upcoming NFL Draft? Will injuries continue haunting the Cowboys?

The answers to these and more questions will be solved next season. For now, Cowboys Nation has to hold back their tears and see how other teams fight for the Super Bowl that will be decided in San Francisco at Levis Stadium. Time for the Dallas Cowboys to start thinking abou Super Bowl LI.

*Stats from NFL.com and DallasCowboys.com

Indian Wells is ON

Most of the best tennis players in the world do like getting some time off but when Indian Wells comes around, there is no other place they rather be. The tournament that celebrates its 40th anniversary, runs from March 9 to the 22 at Indian Wells, California.

It is one of the few non-Grand Slam tournaments where the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) collide throughout the year. So it is one of those rare chances to see the best of both genders battle it out on the tennis courts. This year, on the men’s side, 18 out of the top 20 players were registered to play. In the women’s side, only three out of the top 20 are not in the mix.

The weather in not expected to disappoint. California, unlike the east side of the country, is warming up quickly around this time of the year. The weather, the atmosphere and the high level of tennis displayed throughout the two weeks of competition surely invites any tennis lover to stay tuned.

SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF LAST YEAR

The tournament, that was originally staged in Arizona, made a brief stop in Florida for a few years before coming back to the west coast. It was until 1987 when both men and women were invited to participate. What you could find fascinating about it, is that the complex in which the tournament was played grew around the idea of adequating a La Quinta Hotel to a place for tennis to host its biggest stars. The organizers at that time already envisioned the success it has today.

In 2000, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden opened its doors. Changes to the venue are constantly made, but the essence of the tournament remain the same. Attendance for the event keeps growing every year. In 2014, 431,527 people witnessed what went on. The main stadium seats around 16,100 fans and it is not unusual to see it sell out. The complex has a total of 20 practice courts and nine stadium courts. It was voted as ATP Masters 1000 Tournament of the Year in 2014.

The tournament is scheduled around the halfway point between the Australian Open and the Roland Garros. The ATP follows it with the Irving Classic and the Miami Open which is also in the schedule of the WTA. Players don’t seem to care about the jet lag that comes with trying to make it to California. They all want to be there as it is a great opportunity for developing talent to show what they are made off.

There are many storylines that will be unfolding at this tournament. One that might catch most people’s attention is Rafael Nadal’s return to action after a long injury break. The Spaniard has shown fans, time and time again he can come back from almost everything. Novak Djokovic is the man to beat as he is the reigning champion. Watch out for Kei Nishikori who is Nick Bollettieri’s favorite student at the time. The Japanese player has won 10 out of his last 11 games since the Aussie Open. Roger Federer reached the final last year but is not expected to do so this year. While Andy Murray is also going through at hot streak, experts don’t see him getting past the quarter-finals and give Novak the win before he even plays a game.

On the women’s side things always tend to be a bit more exciting. Serena Williams should not have too many difficulties reaching the final and most likely to win it. She has not played at this Open since her win in 2001. Victoria Azarenka wants to get back to being the #1 player in the world. How bad does she want it will be judged on how she does in this venue. While injuries seem to be her biggest concern, her fighting spirits is her biggest weapon. Based on how the brackets are set up, she could face Maria Sharapova in the third round. That would be a big test for both of them prior to reaching the final stages of the tournament. I believe Sharapova has a clear advantage by the way she’s been playing lately. Watch out and don’t underestimate Caroline Wozniacki, she has talent and just ran the New York City Marathon. Never underestimate a marathoner. She can have one of those weeks where even Willams would not want to be in front of her. It all depends on how she warms up early in the tournament. The women’s side is always more unpredictable that the men’s side.

Last thing I’ve got to say is that you must keep up with what happens at Indian Wells. I can already tell you will like what you see.

Postseason Cowboys

The accident waiting to happen has not happened this season for the Dallas Cowboys. Without Jerry Jones making the calls and letting his staff, lead by Jason Garrett do its job, after 16 weeks of football action this means the Cowboys are going to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Unlike the past three years, Dallas did not have to wait until the last game of the regular season to learn its faith. By winning all but three games up to this point last night at AT&T Stadium they clinched not just a ticket to the postseason but the NFC East division title.

America’s team has been unbeatable on the road but they have had their fair share of struggles when performing in front of a home crowd. They opened the season with a loss against the 49’ers and since then only the Arizona Cardinals, the Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles have made it clear that they do wanted to mess with Texas.

That did not matter much now, since after losing to the Eagles in Thanksgiving, Romo has been on beast mode and done everything he can to take his team to where it stands today. After the Eagles lost to the Redskins on Saturday it was only a matter of a win against the Colts to seal the deal. They obviously came out on top with a dominant 42-7 performance over Indianapolis.

It was a record-setting night in Jerry World and it had nothing to do with ticket sales. The over 90,000 spectators were in to see the boys #finishthefight. Emitt Smith was sitting in the V.I.P. box with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and “hoping” to see DeMarco Murray beat his record of rushing yards in a season. With having surgery done in his left hand just days before the game it was a surprise to see Murray on the field. At the end of the day he was 29 yards shy of it.

The one that did get a record was Tony Romo. The quarterback had just another one of those nights that are hard to believe from a QB that had been struggling with his games in December his whole career. He completed 90% of his passes (18-20), he did not throw a single interception while the Colts had two. He passed the ball for 218 yards which has him now as the franchise all-time leading passer with 32,971, putting him in the record books over legendary Troy Aikman.

At the end of the game there were many reasons to smile about in the locker room. The victory, the playoff spot, and being so close to getting their first shutout of the season and against a team that had scored in every regular season game since 1993.

It was also a special night for coach Jason Garrett who now has 40 victories with the team since he took charge in 2010. He is now showing why Jerry has kept him for a long time after losing decisive games against the Giants, Redskins and Eagles the past three seasons. For the man that once was a player and is now leading the organization to the spot in history it deserves, this is the reflection of the work done in all past three seasons and not only the past 15 games.

If the regular season ended today things would not look so nice for the Cowboys as they would most likely be playing the Cardinals  (11-4), one of the few teams that can brag about beating the boys this season. If the accident waiting to happen does not happen there is a big chance we could see the Dallas Cowboys back in the Super Bowl on February 1st at the University of Arizona

From a Joke to Formula 1

I am trying really hard to put into words what this week meant to me. In my short career I have worked at Cowboy’s games, UFC events, NBA Playoffs. At the end of the day none of them come close to the United States Formula 1 Grand Prix.

This week was a dream within a dream which will be impossible to forget. Working at a Formula 1 Race is by far the best job in the world. I came back to the United States thanks to F1. The way it all began was kind of a joke. I was looking for tickets to come to the United States Grand Prix in Austin as a fan but without a job it was hard to afford. I tried looking for freelancing jobs that could send me there but that also did not work. I had been wanting to go to this race for the past two years but it just wasn’t happening. I then had the idea of asking a friend, that had worked there the year before if she was going back, unfortunately for her, she wasn’t. Then as a joke I asked if I could take her spot. Before I knew it I was being contacted by a german tv station to help out at the USGP. I did not think twice, and said yes to the offer no matter the conditions.

I knew I was heading to a big event but many times the expectation I have of something does not live up to its hype. Formula 1 definitely lived up to it and even surpassed it. Here is why.

The first day was pretty simple with the exception of buying groceries for about 40 people, it took forever but we got it done and then headed to the circuit where I saw where the media outlets from around the world were setting up. Then went up to the tower that overlooks the where you can see the whole circuit. It is an iconic part of the Circuit of the Americas I got to experience without making a long line. The next day the highlight was going for a run around the circuit. I’ve ran around the “Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez” a few times but this is a much more complex race track. More curves and more hills where turn one is by far the hardest one even for the cars but once you get up there the view is great. It was a short run but I loved every step of it.

On thursday I started to meet some of the drivers as I realized I had access to the paddock. That when I was starting to really realize when I was getting into and it would just get better. Just that night, since I was working for a german tv station we got to do an exclusive interview with 4-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. Even though I did not understand what was going on during the interview (all in german) I was just happy to be there.

On friday I spent most of my day in the van driving the crew around the circuit and barely had a chance to see the F1 cars in action but I did get to meet even more pilots that day and walk around the pits while the teams were getting ready for the second round of practice sessions. At that moment I knew this was already better than what I expected to do this week and I still had the two most important days ahead of me. I had heard a lot about the low sound that the cars make this year since they have downgraded to a V6 engine and have a 100 kg limit on fuel for every race. I remembered well how in the French GP of 2006 I was barely able to hear a thing after the race but this time my ears never popped no matter how close I could get.

Saturday was a bit more hectic as it was the first time the station would broadcast live so everything had to be done quick and in time. Traffic started to become an issue as more people were coming to COTA. That day the highlight was meeting Pamela Anderson, one of the VIP guests at the race and someone who was really easy to talk to and approach. At the end of the day out of nowhere I met Nico Hulkenberg who was riding his bike while his mechanics ran around the track in a small race for media and F1 entourage I was not aware off. This was done at the same time as the paddock girls rehearsed the routine for the national anthem ceremony. Now the countdown was on for the big day.

Having to buy groceries at 8 am was the start of probably the most exciting day in my post-college life or probably my life. I headed out to the track a few minutes before 10 and made it there around 10:30 thanks to me avoiding a close to one mile line to get to the circuit, if not I probably would have been in line for about another hour. I unloaded the car and then headed to the paddock to help out the production crew and later on we went into the track for the driver’s parade. It was an awesome experience to have all the drivers walk right in front of me. Then walked along the pit lane while mechanics were making the final touches on the cars. Continued with going to turn one to watch the beginning of the race and then to the hospitality suite of Mercedes. For the next hour I walked around the track to see the race from different points and just before the race was over I had the chance of seeing the finish from the Mercedes garage. It was just the icing on cake that was needed to make it an almost perfect week which was slightly damaged when Sergio Perez was out after the first lap.

Things slowly unwinded from that point on, but it was just the right moment to think about everything that went on in the past six days. I was and still am at a loss of words to say how I really feel about it. I knew it really happened since it is now a thing of the past but something I will remember for a lifetime. I went to heaven and came back, I lived in a fantasy world for six days that I will never forget for as long as I live. All I know is that I am beyond lucky to have this on my resume from this point on. It was a job that definitely took me further than I could ever imagine.

Standing next to a legend. Niki Lauda.
Standing next to a legend. Niki Lauda.
Running on the track was definitely a highlight.
Running on the track was definitely a highlight.
A picture with Nico Rosberg was probably one of the highlights.
A picture with Nico Rosberg was probably one of the highlights.

Changes at the Speed of F1

When the 2014 Formula 1 Season started in march there were big changes to what we were used to see before. For the first time in a very long time Sebastian Vettel wasn’t the winner and he still hasn’t managed to be on top of the podium with less than half the season remaining. The sound of the new engines was widely criticized by fans which now creates part of its power by a Energy Recovery System. On the bright side we have seen a tougher competition among the whole field with the exception of the Mercedes Benz drivers who have won all but three races of the season so far.

Ferrari has not been the same team ever since Michael Schumacher left the team. They have not lived up to its name and Stefano Domenicali resigned from his position as team principal of the Ferrari Formula One team on mid-august. Marco Mattiacci, former president and CEO of Ferrari North America replaced him. Fernando Alonso has done more for the team than what his car has to offer. The two-time world champion has repeatedly performed at a world-class level but will not be with the “Cavallino Rampante” starting next season. Four-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel is about to make his move to Ferrari official any minute. Alonso could be going back to McLaren.

I’ve been following Formula 1 for a bit now and I can assure you that this one has been the most exciting one. Besides Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo being the only three pilots who have won races this far, the battle for second to 23rd place is always up for anyone. Mexican driver Sergio Perez is having his best season. He finished third in Bahrein and has been able to rack up some points in nine races currently sitting on the tenth spot overall. Esteban Gutierrez had a strong finish in the 2013 season, but the changes to his car have not been positive and so far he has no points, either has his teammate Adrian Sutil. Hamilton leads the board just ten points over Rosberg.

Just to show how tough these drivers are, they have endured extreme temperatures in places like Singapore and a close typhoon in Japan. At the first one Danii Kyvat and Kevin Magnussen reported burns and dehydration during the night race. That was nothing compared to what happened in Japan. The race started under a yellow flag due to the heavy rain. After a short pause it resumed and it was impressive to see how short of a visibility range drivers had along the course while still driving over 200 km/h.

The race was about to end when Adrian Sutil lost control of his car on turn 12 and crashed with a safety wall. There was a provisional yellow flag issued (which should have resulted in the safety car immediately). One lap later Jules Bianchi lost control of his Marussia in the same exact spot. The result was him crashing against the crane that was lifting Sutil’s car at around 160 miles per hour. it took a while for the press to know what was going on since there was no video of the incident.

What should have been a week of celebration in the wake of the first Russian Grand Prix ever, has been a week where Bianchi is fighting for his life in Japan and all the attention is on increasing an already tight security around Formula 1 plus really knowing what happened in what is surely Bianchi’s last lap ever as a F1 driver. Some experts say that race should have not even happened under the conditions it was raced in.

Sergio Perez at the Japan GP under heavy rain conditions. (Force India)
Sergio Perez at the Japan GP under heavy rain conditions. (Force India)

But now Russia is set to host a Grand Prix. Next year Mexico will have the return of the highest category in automotive racing come to a city where many stories were written. Austin is setting itself as one of the driver’s favorite places to race at with just two years in existence, the rumor is New York could be next and it could actually be a street-circuit and not on an actual track. You can already tell safety will be made an even higher priority from now on at old and new circuits.

Safety measures are bound to change, but what spectators around the world hope that does not change is the excitement of the current F1 season. Many of us were tired of the dictatorship that drivers like Vettel and Schumacher had at every race. If Bernie Ecclestone wants more fans to tune into F1 activities, a season as exciting as this one should be a common situation.

But for now lets just hope Jules Bianchi survives a horrifying incident. #ForzaJules

Viewer Discretion is advised to watch this link containing the crash of Jules Bianchi.

Top 5 Drivers: 1) Lewis Hamilton, 2) Nico Rosberg, 3) Daniel Ricciardo, 4) Sebastian Vettel, 5) Fernando Alonso

Top 5 Constructors: 1) Mercedes, 2) Red Bull, 3) Williams, 4) Ferrari, 5) Force India

Races to go: 4 (Russia, United States, Brazil, Abu Dhabi)