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Mac Engel, who covers the team for the Fort Worth Star Telegram, joined Bill Littlefield.
BL: You recently noted that during training camp, SI's Peter King tweeted "Gonna be a long year in Dallas." I assume at the time the feeling wasn't the team would be playing well into January?
[sidebar title="Geometry Lessons" width="630" align="right"] Last season, coach Jason Garrett had the Cowboys doing some unusual summer drills.[/sidebar]ME: No, I think anybody who's been around this team for a decent amount of time — especially back in August — what they saw coming were too many questions with a defense that did not appear on paper to be good enough and a quarterback who was coming off two invasive back procedures within the span of about seven or eight months in 2013. And it all looked too fragile. So for the Cowboys to be playing as well as they are now — nobody saw that coming.
BL: You have also suggested that, oh my Gosh, owner/general manager Jerry Jones deserves some of the credit here. Why is that true? And why is it so hard for Cowboys fans to acknowledge that possibility?
ME: People don't like it because they want to view him as a bumbling idiot/fool. It may be appropriate in certain instances but in this particular case, if you're the general manager — which his title says — and you have signed off on the drafting of certain players and the hiring of certain coaches, if it goes well, you get credit. And if it doesn't, you get killed. Well, right now it's going well, so he has to get some of the credit.
And in this particular case, in the draft room, it got out that he really wanted to draft Johnny Manziel, the quarterback from Texas A&M, and he listened to his coaches, he listened to his son, Vice President Stephen Jones, and they all said, "We've got a quarterback. Let's draft an offensive lineman." They did it, and the results have been outstanding.
BL: Now we probably shouldn't get ahead of ourselves here. The Cowboys' season still relies on the health of quarterback Tony Romo, who, as you mentioned, had back surgery twice. How's Romo looking?
They've become more known for being popular than they are known for being good, and now they're known for both.Mac Engel, Fort Worth Star Telegram
ME: Better each week. You know, he's 34. He's taken a lot of hits in his life. But he's moving really well, and the Cowboys, because they can run the ball effectively now, are asking him to do less than at any point in his career — other than maybe 2006 when he was a starter for the first time and his head coach was Bill Parcells. Now with a running game that can run the ball better than other team in the NFL, they don't have to look to Tony Romo to be Superman. He can be really good. And if they can continue to do that then they should continue to be an effective team throughout the rest of the regular season and perhaps, maybe into the playoffs as well.
BL: Cowboys running back Joseph Randle was arrested this week for shoplifting. Randle recently confessed to you a rather alarming love of shoes, but shoes were not on the list of things he's alleged to have stolen. Is Randle's arrest of concern in Dallas?
ME: No, I don't think so. You know, when you're 5-1, everything's great. He's a backup running back. He's a nice guy. But certainly a stupid thing to do. He makes half-a-million dollars. You'd think you could cover with half-a-million dollars a pair of boxer-shorts and cologne. Money's just not going as far as it once did.
BL: This falls under the category of, "You can't make this stuff up."
ME: No, and that's the best part about the Dallas Cowboys, and I mean that with all sincerity. They've become more known for being popular than they are known for being good, and now they're known for both, which is really dangerous because when this team is good, they become a monster. And right now I think the head coach is doing everything he can to keep this, not necessarily under-wraps but at least on an even-keel so it doesn't become the Kardashians or even more than it already has.
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This segment aired on October 18, 2014.
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