, Port Arthur, Texas

October 21, 2012

West Sunday column: Cowboys or UT, which team is bigger underachiever?

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR —  Given the ongoing struggles of the University of Texas and the Dallas Cowboys, the following questions won’t be easy to answer. But they fairly scream to be asked. So here we go.  Which of the above-mentioned teams, given that their talent levels exceed those of a high percentage of the teams they play, has been the biggest underachiever the past two plus seasons? Which team is the most poorly coached, the Longhorns or the Cowboys? Who is out of a job first, Mack Brown or Jason Garrett? And finally, which decision maker — Texas AD Deloss Dodds or Cowboys owner/GM/coach Jerry Jones — is most difficult to stomach? Tough questions, indeed. So what do you think? My answers will be at the end of this column. There will be clues along the way . . . Along those lines, kudos to the Austin American Statesman’s Kirk Bohls for opening thoughts in his Sunday column following Oklahoma’s demolition of the Longhorns. “Mack Brown’s got it down pat by now,” wrote Bohls. “Lose by a lopsided margin to Oklahoma, this time by 63-21. Grovel in front of fans and media. Claim such a disgraceful performance is unacceptable. But what does that mean? Smaller pay raises. Another coaching staff shakeup. Boot-camp mentality. Depth chart shakeup.” Yeah, Kirk that pretty well covers it . . . All that was missing at the Cotton Bowl last Saturday was the equivalent to the greatest flyover sign of all time. UT fans surely remember the expression of disgust over Dodds’ ridiculously bad hire of John Mackovic in the mid ‘90s. “Dump DeLoss and Flush the John,”  implored the aerial banner while another OU beatdown was in progress.

For maybe the first time since he’s been Houston’s defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips’ defense will be under a critical microscope this afternoon against the Baltimore Ravens. On the heels of a six-touchdown assault from Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, the Texans defense will again be under siege from the Ravens’  Joe Flaco. With its already vulnerable defense chewed up by injuries, Baltimore’s only chance is to turn Flaco loose and hope to engage the Texans in a shootout. It could happen, too, unless the Texans get a lot more pressure on Flaco than they got on Rodgers, and their running game controls the ball like Dallas’ did last week. Flaco comes in leading the NFL in pass plays covering at least 25 yards (18) and is third in yards gained per pass attempt (8.09).  It doesn’t help the Texans’ chance that their best cover corner, Daniel Manning, is slowed by a groin injury . . . Jamaal Charles and the God-awful Kansas City Chiefs have a much-needed bye this week. Charles got banged up pretty good last Sunday by a Tampa Bay defense that took advantage of backup QB Brady Quinn’s inexperience by constantly playing eight in the box to slow down the former Memorial star. Considering how pitiful the Chiefs are, it’s amazing that through six games Jamaal was leading the NFL in rushing yards (591), combined rushing/receiving yards (716), most rushing yards in a game (233), longest run from scrimmage (91) and most yards from scrimmage in a game (288) . . . Every week, Sports Illustrated’s main NFL writer, Peter King, hands out a “Goat of the Week” award for the player or coach responsible for the biggest blunder. Dallas’ Jason Garrett was a most-deserving winner, after the Cowboys’ 31-29 loss at Baltimore. King hammered Garret over his team’s inept clock management. Somebody also needs to hammer him over Dallas leading the NFL in penalties per game. Wasn’t this the guy who was supposed to be strong on discipline?

Bridge City’s Matt Bryant seems to fly under the radar when the NFL’s top field goal kickers get mentioned, but he’s certainly not underappreciated in Atlanta after a booming 55-yard game winner with one second left last week. It was his second game winner in three weeks. The only knock on the 36-year-old Bryant has been his range, but the 55-yarder cleared with plenty to spare. After leading the NFL in percentage of field goals made in 2011, he’s right at the top again, having made 13 of 14 (92.8 percent) . . .  Earl Campbell was the epitome of the workhorse running back in the NFL, so it makes sense that Campbell has been asked to narrate a feature on ESPN’s Sunday NFL countdown on how the running back position has evolved from heavy-duty runners like him to more of a running back by committee. Two of the backs spotlighted in the feature are Houston’s Arian Foster and Baltimore’s Ray Rice. They, of course, will be facing off today at Reliant Stadium . . . Port Arthur has made three contributions to the running back position in the NFL — Jamaal Charles, Joe Washington and Tom Smiley. In case you may have missed it, Smiley, who played for Lincoln and Lamar, passed away Oct. 10 at age 68. Tom, who attended Lamar the same time as I did, was a good guy, was quite a character and could be really funny at times. He was a second round draft choice of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1968 and had his moments as a rookie. In what was a short NFL career, he also played for Denver and Houston.

LU basketball coach Pat Knight’s famous father, Bob Knight, who is expected to be the feature speaker at the Cardinals Tip-Off Banquet, was in the news on two fronts this past week. First, ESPN announced that it was shifting him from doing commentary on its Big 12 telecasts to working SEC games. That, of course, raised eyebrows because of his obvious dislike for Kentucky coach John Calipari and the fact he went through a stretch last year where he wouldn’t mention Kentucky by name. Although he’s somewhat smoothed things over with Kentucky fans, ESPN did say it wouldn’t assign Knight to any of the Wildcats’ home games. Second, an Associated Press story out of New York said Knight has put up his three NCAA championship rings from Indiana and an Olympics gold medal to be sold at a sports memorabilia auction. It’s not out of financial duress, but reportedly to fund the education of his grandchildren . . . Quickest way to put a smile on Pat Knight’s face is to ask him about last year’s Cardinal scoring leader Mike James. The talented James, who had some disciplinary and personal issues while at Lamar, signed with Portland, Ore., based agents, apparently bought in to behavioral seminars they put him through, landed a contract to play in a professional league in Croatia and is off to a blazing start. James was named the Player of the Week for two games in which he averaged 22 points, made 15-of-22 field goal attempts and hit 4-of-6 treys. “I’m really proud of him,” said the LU coach. Another of the stars of Lamar’s Southland Conference Tournament champions, Anthony Miles, is playing for a team in Holland.

USA Today came out Friday with a list of the most overpaid athletes and to nobody’s surprise fast-fading New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez was atop the list. More interesting in these parts, however, was that former Houston Texans’ No. 1 draft pick Mario Williams was No. 2. Williams, after signing a six-year, $100 million free-agent contract with Buffalo, has not been anywhere near the impact player the Bills thought they were getting. He’s managed only  3.5 sacks, or six fewer than Houston’s J.J. Watt . . . If the alarm bells were not ringing loud and clear at Texas this week, they should have been following starting safety Kenny Vaccaro’s remarks to the Associated Press. “Three or four guys are really playing hard, and some guys aren’t playing hard,” Vaccaro said. “It’s causing a cancer on the team. If we’re ever going to be anything decent, everybody’s just got to play  hard.” Yikes . . . And now for one man’s answers to the really tough questions raised earlier in this column. No. 1, the University of Texas is a far bigger underachiever than the Cowboys because of how it dominates college recruiting year after year. No. 2, it’s a tossup as to which team is the most poorly coached, with a slight edge going to Texas. Both Mack Brown and Jason Garrett lose games because they get outcoached and outmaneuvered and because of questionable decisions. No. 3, Brown will be out of a job first for two reasons. There are plenty of fat cat UT alums who would willingly take care of his $3.5 million buyout. Plus, Jones will be slower to pull the trigger because Jason is his boy genius and to fire him would be to admit how foolish it was to hire him in the first place. No. 4 is no contest. Nobody in sports is or ever has been more difficult to stomach than Jethro?

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at