Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Cowboys Can't Go Wrong No Matter Who Is at QB

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterOctober 19, 2016

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 16: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys scrambles in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 16, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Even during a bye week, the Cowboys' quarterback situation has people talking. And speaking of talking, we have a few ideas for Vontaze Burfict's latest football transgressions. 

1. Dak or Romo? It Doesn't Matter

One longtime AFC general manager made a point to me in the last few days that few people have considered when it comes to who should start in Dallas once Tony Romo is cleared to return. 

"It doesn't matter who the Cowboys' quarterback is," he said. "That offense is set up right now so any swinging d--k could run it."

Alrighty, then. He's not alone in his opinion.

Why are so many bullish on Dallas? There are a few reasons.

First, said the GM and a handful of other longtime front office executives with whom I spoke, the Dallas front office has built one of the NFL's best offensive lines. Not just for this season. Not only of the past few years. But of all time. We in the media don't see it that way, the general manager said, because there's no version of Nate Newton with a buoyant personality calling attention to the line.

Second, added this general manager and others, running back Ezekiel Elliott might end up being the best rookie runner in league history. "He's having the best season any rookie runner ever has," said the general manager. "Better than Jim Brown's or Eric Dickerson's or Barry Sanders'."

Not statistically, the GM admits. He means in terms of pure impact. He's likely not wrong.

So, combine one of the greatest offensive lines of all time with one of the most effective rookies of all time and, this GM explains, you get a situation where very few quarterbacks would fail. Consequently, either option will work for the Cowboys at quarterback.

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 16: Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys throws during warm ups before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 16, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

If the Cowboys go with Prescott, they will still win. If they go with Romo, they will still win.

Romo's injury history has become irrelevant. If he were to regain the starting job and get hurt again, Jason Garrett need only turn to Prescott, who has led Dallas to a 5-1 start.

And if Dallas decides to stick with Prescott, and he somehow falters, then all Garrett has to do is go to a veteran whose team is 78-49 all time when he starts. It's a win-win.

The only potential negative of switching back to Romo, according to the general manager, is the loss of valuable playing experience for Prescott as he prepares for the inevitable—being named the Cowboys' regular starter, perhaps as soon as next season.

So, Prescott or Romo?

It truly doesn't matter.


2. Let's Just Call Him Vontaze Dirtfict from Now On

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 16:  Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots and Vontaze Burfict #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals exchange words in the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium on October 16, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty I
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Vontaze Burfict has made the NFL's job easy when it comes to determining if he should receive a suspension for his disgraceful play last Sunday against the Patriots.

Take a look at the first Burfict cheap shot from the Patriots game. He went right for Martellus Bennett's knees. It's clear as day. Well, at least to rational human beings. (There were a lot of Burfict defenders on my Twitter timeline.)

But in case that wasn't enough for you, here is another cheap shot, where the Bengals linebacker appeared to step on a player's foot deliberately.

Remember, the NFL suspended Burfict three games for a nasty hit on Antonio Brown last season.

"There's no place for that, man," Steelers guard Ramon Foster said this week on The Fan Morning (via CBS Pittsburgh). "To continuously do itone or two times, OK, I get it, but every single time? A stake has to be driven into the ground on this guy and I'm not sure what they care about, touchdown celebrations or player safety, but something has to be done. If you look an inch or two inside, if he goes more on [Bennett], that guy's out for the season or at least for a longer [period] of time. With the leg stomp on LeGarrette Blount, that guy has a wife and two kids. He's trying to make his way in this league.

"It's frustrating to continue to see that go on. For one, I just can't understand the mentality of him, and two, those are the same things that he's been doing for a while. But the low hit on [Bennett] was insane."

Foster added that he "also saw another clip where [Burfict] and [Rob Gronkowski] got into it. He did the same exact thing. He stepped on [Blount's] leg and his shoe came off. And I'm looking at him like, 'Yup, that's the same exact move that he's done to me too.'"

The record suggests Burfict doesn't care about whom he hurts. Or whose careers he could end. He is out of control and has been for some time. And the league needs to make a serious statement.

If the NFL is going to go after players for overinflated footballs or for shaking their ass after a touchdown, then it has to show what Burfict does is far worse.

Make the punishments hurt. Suspend him the rest of the season, and if the union fights it, let them fight it. If they win, at least you tried.

But a stronger message must be sent. This far, no further. Keep him from cheap-shotting other players. The sport is already violent enough.


3. Bidding War for Romo, Rivers on the Horizon?

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 09:  Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers looks on during pregame warm ups prior to playing the Oakland Raiders in an NFL football game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 9, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by T
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Trading Tony Romo would create a massive salary-cap hit for the Cowboys. The same would likely be true for the Chargers if they were to trade Philip Rivers. But teams always somehow, someway make these things work when they want to.

A handful of teams are in desperate need at quarterbackthe Jets, Browns, Bears and 49ers among them. Several team officials told me they believe both Romo and Rivers could be traded.

The 36-year-old Romo, one team official suggested, could fetch a mid-round pick "but not much more because of his injury history and age." The same official thought Rivers, 34, could net a second- or third-rounder. Rivers reportedly has a no-trade clause, per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport (via NFL.com's Kevin Patra), but those things can be worked out as well.

No deals are imminent, but with Prescott's arrival in Dallas and San Diego's state of misfortune, it may only be a matter of time before both players are shipped out. If there are helpful assets to be acquired, the Chargers and Cowboys might as well explore the market.


4. Stay Out of Larry Fitzgerald's Way

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 17:  Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals runs after the catch against cornerback Buster Skrine #41 of the New York Jets in the first quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 17, 2016 in Glendale, A
Norm Hall/Getty Images

This is where I always get in trouble with Steelers fans: whenever the topic of the NFL's best receiver comes up.

I know that for as good as Hines Ward was as a receiver, he was a tireless worker as a blocker. Ward should be in the Hall of Fame. I get it.

But when covering Ward, I noticed he got a number of blocks when defenders weren't looking. Not all, by any stretch. But enough to give him a reputation for the approach.

In my view, Larry Fitzgerald is the best blocking receiver the sport has ever seen. I've never covered a receiver who took so much pride in it. Not solely crack-back blocks. Or sneaky ones. Just man-to-man, you and me, I'm going to beat you.

This isn't to say Fitzgerald never blindsided anyone, but unlike Ward, Fitzgerald takes pride in facing his blockers and beating them when they're looking. His unique talent in this area was on full display Monday night against the Jets, as it has been all season. In sum, he's an offensive lineman in a receiver's body.


5. Idiots...

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 10:  two fans fight during the season opener of an NFL football game between the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 10, 2012 in Oakland, California. The Chargers won the game 22-1
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

There isn't much the NFL can do about fights outside of its stadiums. Buffoons gonna buffoon. But that type of ugliness is a threat the NFL has been battling.

I've been told repeatedly from team marketing people that these fights captured on video add to the perception that stadiums are unsafe, which can lead to people staying home. Or being turned off from the NFL overall.

They add that technology has become both greatly beneficial to making the stadium experience better but also slightly problematic. While stadium wireless networks allow people to use their smartphones, a crucial draw for today's fans, those same phones become ready recording devices for any altercations in and around the stadium.

And still, buffoons gonna buffoon. Unfortunately.


6. Seattle's Main Man

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 16:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks passes against the Atlanta Falcons at CenturyLink Field on October 16, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

This past week, Russell Wilson became the third-fastest player in NFL history to reach 50 wins. In 69 career games, the Seahawks quarterback is 50-19. The only players to get there in fewer games were Ken Stabler (62) and Tom Brady (65).

Yes, his success is symbiotic. Wins are a team statistic, and Wilson had a lot of help getting to those 50, particularly from one of the greatest defensive units of all time. But he's still not given enough credit for his role in the Seahawks' rise. Some truly get it. Some don't.

Decades from now, we will look at Wilson as one of the most influential signal-callers of his generation. And to those who don't get it now, you will.


7. The Stats Keep Coming for Drew Brees

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 16:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints pass the ball against the Carolina Panthers druing a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 16, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The career numbers Brees is amassing are some of the more stunning we've ever seen. Let's pause for a moment, take a deep breath and examine what he's doing.

Last Sunday against Carolina, Brees threw for 465 yards, marking the 15th time he has thrown for at least 400 yards. That's the most ever, edging past Peyton Manning's 14 games of 400-plus yards. 

Brees likely has several years left in his career, so he could continue to build on that record. That's stunning.


8. Jeff Fisher Has Talking Heads Talking

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 16: Head coach Jeff Fisher of the Los Angeles Rams watches his team against the Detroit Lions during first half action at Ford Field on October 16, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

In discussing the scrum between the Rams and the Lions on the last play of their game Sunday, NBC's Rodney Harrison torched Los Angeles head coach Jeff Fisher. While Harrison is, ahem, one to talk considering the past history between the two, he and his studio teammate Tony Dungy both made an accurate point.

"Jeff Fisher-coached teams play tough, but they also at times play cheap," Harrison said. "I was on the other end of that. I tore my knee up because of a cheap shot from one of his players. It happens every single year, and we seem to talk about it every year."

Added Dungy: "This is something that is not done in the NFL. The game is over. This is not the time to show you are a tough guy."

Harrison and Fisher hate each other, but Harrison's experience as a player offers some insight, albeit tinged with personal animus. Dungy's support, however, adds some weight to Harrison's criticism. Dungy has no personal beef with Fisher, so he presumably was speaking with some sense of objectivity.

In other words, I don't think this is the last we've heard about Fisher's tactics.


9. Some Sage Advice for Cam Newton

As someone who likes and admires Cam Newton, his press conference the other day, in which he abruptly left after about two minutes, was not the way to handle things. And we all know he's had his issues at press conferences before.

It's not catastrophic. It's not going to cause the Earth to spin out of its orbit. But Newton doesn't seem to understand what his actions are conveying.

Harrison offered some of the smartest advice on this issue I've seen anyone state or write. Newton should read it and heed it.

"If I was Cam Newton's teammate, my advice to him would be...the way you conduct yourself in these postgame interviews is not for the guys like Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Greg Olsen," Harrison said. "It's for the younger players...When you're going through adversity, they look up to the leaders. You have to be able to conduct yourself. Front-runners get excited and they pump their chest when you are winning. But when you go through adversity, you have to be that same confident young man and stand up at the podium, answer the questions and be professional. I think that's the thing that is missing with Cam."


10. The Brett Favre You Didn't Know

MORRY GASH/Associated Press

Jeff Pearlman's Brett Favre biography is masterful for a lot of reasons. But getting into the details about Favre's feud with Aaron Rodgers is where I was truly impressed with Pearlman's reporting (jealous may be the word). He uncovered facts about the Favre-Rodgers relationship that many of us in the media tried to get but couldn't.

One of the more striking things about the book (and you can read some of it in the above-linked excerpt) is it shows that, yes, Favre was a jerk. A massive jerk. That much we suspected, but we never quite had all the details.

What I didn't know was that some of the fault for the initially cold relationship between the two Packers quarterbacks lay with Rodgers, who comes off as cocky and a tad snarky. The first time he met Favre, he called him "grandpa." Rooks don't call vets grandpa. Especially Favre.

Pearlman is a friend, so I'm biased. But for a book this good, I'd be singing its praises no matter who wrote it.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.


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