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News » Has America's Team become the NFL's nightmare?

Has America's Team become the NFL's nightmare?

Has America's Team become the NFL's nightmare?
Excuse me for asking, but I haven't checked the newswires lately. Have the Dallas Cowboys signed Cedric Benson? Are they bringing back Michael Irvin? Did they sign Michael Vick, then declare that Vick needs a "family support system," so they will sign his brother Marcus, too?

The Cowboys have been America's Team for three decades. Now it seems like they're building America's Most Wanted's team.

It wasn't enough for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to bring in Terrell Owens when Owens was considered the most selfish player in the NFL. He had to bring in serial gun nut Tank Johnson. Then this spring, he acquired cornerback Adam (nee Pacman) Jones, who has been arrested six times. Clearly, Jones is a man who believes in seventh chances.

The Cowboys are not the only team to employ players with questionable backgrounds. Every team does it. And I'm not saying the Cowboys have more designated Problem Guys on the roster than the average NFL team. What makes the Cowboys different is that these are all high-profile players — their question marks are in big, bold type.

And it makes you wonder: If the Cowboys win the Super Bowl, will commissioner Roger Goodell wince when he hands Jerry Jones the trophy?

Goodell has presented himself as the Law-And-Order Commish. He is the guy who gave Pacman and Tank lengthy suspensions; former commissioner Paul Tagliabue never would have done that.

A few years ago, Ray Lewis went from murder suspect to Super Bowl MVP in a 12-month span. But that was different. Lewis was only technically a murder suspect; it was a legal tactic to get him to say what he knew. And Tagliabue never made Lewis a public example.

You just know that Goodell would rather say his favorite sporting event is the World Series than congratulate Adam Jones on winning the Super Bowl. America is a land of redemption, but it is also a place where image is everything. And that would be a tough image for Goodell to swallow.

If the Cowboys think they can win with some questionable characters, maybe that's because they have done it before. Their 1990s dynasty was well known for having a raucous, and sometimes illegal, time off the field. For that matter, Al Davis' Raiders always took pride in being on the wrong side of prison bars.

Anyway, the most interesting part of the Cowboys' experiment is not that they don't care about off-field issues. We're used to that. The most interesting part is that they don't care about if you think they don't care about off-field issues.

They don't care about the image. And maybe that's where they differ most from Goodell, because the commissioner is clearly worried about his league's image.

The Cowboys realize that if they win, all will be forgiven. That is generally true in sports, especially true in professional sports, and really, really true in pro football.

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If an NBA contender signed the equivalent of Tank Johnson and Adam Jones, that team would be ridiculed around the country. But when the Cowboys do it, the team's reputation stays mostly intact. Sure, people wonder if it will work. But the heat is focused on the player, not the team.

Can this work? Can Wade Phillips — who has never won a playoff game in six seasons coaching three franchises — guide this team all the way to the Super Bowl?

Stranger things have happened. But I know this much: From the moment training camp opens, the Cowboys will be one of the most compelling stories in recent NFL history.

T.O. was right: Getcha popcorn ready.

And if you're the commissioner, cover your eyes.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: June 30, 2008

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J'Vonne Parker Name: J'Vonne Parker
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