It was a good Sunday to be a Cowboys fan. Or at least to be a fan of some Cowboys. Okay, to be precise, former Cowboys.
But, hey, beggars can’t be choosers at this time of the year.
Good news: Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the cheating Patriots aren’t going to the Super Bowl. Better news: DeMarcus Ware and Wade Phillips are.
The former Cowboys head coach who was canned after a 1-7 start in 2010 is going back to the NFL’s championship game as the defensive coordinator of the top-ranked Broncos’ defense. And the best pass-rusher in Cowboys’ history is finally going to a Super Bowl … as the Broncos’ best pass-rusher.
What we have on our hands here is another Pudge Rodriguez fiasco.
Citing what they projected to be a catcher in steep decline, the Rangers released Rodriguez in 2002 at age 30. What did Pudge do afterward? Merely played 10 more seasons, earned three more Gold Glove awards, made four more All-Star teams and, oh yeah, won a World Series with the Marlins.
Like Pudge, in the wake of his age-and-injury-related release Ware is having good years on the verge of a great accomplishment.
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Because of a combination of his inflated salary, declining production and ornery back, the Cowboys cut Ware after the 2013 season. He missed three games that season, failed to make any game-changing plays as the Cowboys limped to an 8-8 finish and lost an NFC East Championship Game to the Eagles, and produced a career-high six sacks (down from 19.5 two years earlier).
I didn’t complain too harshly when the Cowboys cut him. They had salary-cap issues at the time and, like them, I was convinced he was running on fumes. I figured he’d bounce around with a couple teams but the next time we’d really see him was when he returned for his Ring of Honor induction.
But, nope, he ain’t done.
Ware has 17.5 sacks for Phillip’s Denver defense the last two seasons and on Sunday made crucial fourth-quarter plays to allow the Broncos to hold off New England and win the AFC Championship. The back problems persists (he missed five games this year with spasms), but finally – in his 11th NFL season – Ware is finally going to the Super Bowl.
How good was Ware in Dallas and how difficult has it been to replace him? He’s still the franchise’s all-time in sacks with 117. The closest active Cowboy is Orlando Scandrick, with 9.5.
It’s easy to root for Ware. And, yep, even Phillips.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.