February 22, 2009
By Donald Starver
This week I was reminded once again why we, as Steelers fans, are a very fortunate bunch.
The Steelers have been one of the most successful organizations in the NFL for the past 40 years. They have won more Super Bowls than any other team. Moreover, even when they don’t win the Super Bowl, they are almost always in the playoffs.
Sure, we’ve had down years (e.g. the Cliff Stoudt years), but for the most part, the Steelers are almost always competitive. Even when they don’t make the playoffs or win their division, the Steelers rarely embarrass their fans. And unlike teams like the Cincinnati Bengals (Bungles), Detroit Lions, and Oakland Raiders, the Steelers are NEVER the butt of jokes.
Contrast that with the other team that vies for the title of “most popular team in the NFL”, the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys (along with the 49ers) have won the next most Super Bowls in NFL history (5 Super Bowl championships). They were once given the title “America’s team”. Yet, in their recent history, the Cowboys have given their fans little to be proud of. America’s team? Many Cowboys fans wish they weren’t Dallas’ team.
The Cowboys may be the biggest band of underachievers in the NFL. Each of the past two years, the Cowboys have had twice as many Pro Bowl players as the Steelers. In 2008, the Cowboys had 12 of their players in the Pro Bowl, while the Steelers had only 6. This year, the Cowboys had 6 Pro Bowl players compared to the Steelers’ 3. Yet despite their star-studded roster, the Cowboys have achieved little. They haven’t won a playoff game in over a decade (since December 28, 1996). They failed to even qualify for the playoffs this year. Meanwhile, this year’s Steelers team, which had the toughest schedule in the NFL and included only 3 Pro Bowl players, managed to win the Super Bowl.
Since 1990, the Cowboys have had six different coaches (Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, Bill Parcells, and Wade Phillips. None of them lasted more than 4 years. The Steelers have had two coaches during that same period.
The Cowboys are known for signing troubled players. Terrell Owens, Pacman Jones, and Tank Johnson were all welcomed with open arms by Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones. None of those players would have been welcomed by the Steelers, where character is just as important as talent.
The Cowboys are like a soap opera. The most important news stories about them usually stem from their off-field exploits. Terrell Owens doesn’t think he’s getting the ball enough (surprise, surprise). Pacman Jones gets into trouble at a strip club. Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson are breaking up. Terrell Owens doesn’t like his coaches. Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson are back together. Jerry Jones calls Marion Barber “soft”. Pacman Jones gets into trouble at a strip club. Business as usual with the Dallas Cowboys.
Now, Jerry Jones has added another storyline to the Cowboys’ soap opera. Jones has placed a gag order on his coaches. They are not allowed to talk about Cowboys affairs to the media. Only Jones himself is allowed to make public statements pertaining to the Cowboys.
Can you imagine that? The head coach is not allowed to talk about the team. Totally bizarre.
When reporters in Indianapolis for the scouting combine approached Cowboys’ head coach Wade Phillips on Thursday, he said, “Can’t talk. Against the rules.”
Jones says that the reason for his new mandate is that too much inaccurate information about the Cowboys was being written.
“Where I’m coming from here, I just want to make sure you’re not getting bits and pieces of information,” Jones said. “That’s not doing anybody any good and you’re not making accurate reports.”
Jones doesn’t think that he is undermining the authority of his head coach, Wade Phillips, by not allowing him to talk to the media, even though all NFL coaches speak to the media while at the Combine.
“It’s well known that relative to our personnel decisions who makes that decision,” said Jones, who has had final say on personnel matter since purchasing the team 20 years ago. “All I’m trying to say is basically that’s where you need to go to see where the status of that decision is. That’s where you need to go. That’s what we’re trying to avoid. What’s happened this off-season, there’s been a lot of misinformation.”
The ironic part of this whole story is that Jones has only placed the gag order on his coaches. He has not issued a gag order for his players. So big-mouthed players like Terrell Owens can continue to say whatever they want, and divide the Cowboys’ locker room, with no negative repercussions. This story would almost be funny, if it weren’t so sad.
Can you imagine Dan Rooney putting a gag order on Mike Tomlin or Kevin Colbert, and telling the media that they needed to talk to him if they wanted information about the Steelers? Neither can I.
But the Rooneys aren’t Jerry Jones. The Steelers aren’t the Cowboys. And I am extraordinarily grateful for that.
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