From the Sidelines: The NFL’s high-profile soap opera

Published 12:44 am Saturday, December 27, 2008

So the last episode of Dallas airs Sunday. No. It isn’t the one where everyone is left wondering who shot J.R.? It may, however, be the one where wonders who is finally going to get rid of T.O.

Seriously, forget ESPN Classic or the NFL Network. Replays of this season’s Dallas contests, complete with post-game press conferences, should air on Soap Net between One Life to Live and General Hospital.

There were tremendous expectations surrounding the team as it headed into the season. They were the odds on favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. And after Tom Brady’s week one injury, they catapulted to the top of many people’s list of likely Super Bowl winners.

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Now, 16 weeks, numerous injuries and countless frustrations later, the Dallas Cowboys sit in a must-win situation.

Tony Romo and Company have to go into Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and beat the division rival Eagles in order to get into the playoffs.

The only good news for Cowboy fans is as follows. First, Dallas still controls its own destiny. And secondly, this may be the first time all season that the drama revolves around a game rather than the locker room.

But it is hard to feel bad for Dallas. Didn’t Jerry Jones lay the groundwork for all this when he made the decision to bring in “The Player” in the first place?

Terrell Owens reputation for ripping quarterbacks and dividing locker rooms was as well-publicized as Barry Bonds’ affinity for pharmaceuticals. Yet, against the wishes of his then head coach Bill Parcells, Jones made the move.

It has been hard to argue with Owens’ on-field production prior to this season. And, in all honesty, he had been on his best behavior in Dallas.

Still, everyone knew that it would merely be a matter of time before he erupted.

So, sitting on one ticking time bomb, Jones opted to add others. First, he brought in Tank Johnson, who, admittedly has become a model citizen in comparison to many of his teammates.

After Johnson was in the fold, Jones added Adam “Don’t Call Me Pacman Because I’m Turning Over a New Leaf” Jones. So, after missing all of last season with a suspension, Adam Jones (not to be confused with the Baltimore Orioles outfielder), joined a locker room with more than its fair share of misfits and castoffs.

But the Cowboys were winning, so no one said too much about the proverbial elephants in the locker room.

So Jerry Jones, ever the gambler, decided to add to his collection of prima donna wideouts when he traded for Roy Williams (not to be confused with the Roy Williams who plays safety for the Cowboys or the one who coaches basketball at North Carolina).

So the talent had reached incomparable levels.

Then came the injury to Tony Romo and, with it, Dallas’ down swing. After he missed his obligatory handful of games while Jessica Simpson nursed him back to health (again, hard to feel sorry for these guys), the Cowboys reached a new level of disrepair.

Owens began clamoring that he wasn’t getting the ball enough. And the drama was set in motion.

Owens criticized Romo and eventually accused him of having secret meetings with star tight end Jason Witten about ways to keep the oft-disruptive receiver out of the offense.

Then things escalated even more. There were even reports of the wide receivers calling a meeting with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to voice their concerns.

All of this transpired while the team’s offense limped along without the services of star running back Marion Barber III.

Mix in there the absences of guys like Roy Williams the safety and Terrance Newman due to injuries. Take away first-round pick and dynamic playmaker Felix Jones and lose a few games at midseason for Adam “Okay Maybe This Is the Same Old Leaf” Jones, and you have a 9-6 team that is in a win-or-go-home scenario.

So now that’s all out of the way right? Well, maybe not.

Reports broke Friday that Roy Williams the receiver is unhappy with his role in the offense.

The Texas native and Odessa Permian High School alum is frustrated that he has only 194 yards receiving on a paltry 17 catches since being acquired from the Detroit Lions in a deadline that saw the Cowboys ship away their first, third and sixth-round draft picks.

So there is no confusion, let’s get this straight. Williams is traded from the Lions, who are about to go 0-17, to a team that is one win away from making the playoffs. He is then signed to a five-year contract that pays him $45 million.

Again, it is becoming more difficult to really feel bad for these guys.

On the eve of the biggest game of their season, the Cowboys have shown a complete inability to shut everything out and just play football. And, fittingly, the entire season comes down to a must-win contest against the same team that cut Owens for similar antics in March of 2006, four days before Dallas inked him. How’s that for circularity?

So the next episode of “Dallas” may not feature anyone named “Ewing.” And it probably will not have cameos by Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Victoria Principal, but it is all about a wealthy, self-destructive family that can scarcely seem to get out of its own way.

And if the Cowboys should lose Sunday? Well, then the real drama begins.