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by Mike Fisher    Mon, Jan 16, 2006, 12:20 PM

Assorted Cowboys observations while perched atop the Fish barstool:

* I have faith in Drew Bledsoe, assuming he's allowed to perform behind an offensive line made up of something more than has-beens and might-could-be's and never-was'es.

I have no faith, though, in Tony Romo -- because the Cowboys demonstrate that they have so little.

And I've lost all faith in the blue-chipness of Europe-bound Drew Henson, who once upon a time was the college equal of Michican teammate Tom Brady.

None of this is the fault of the athletes, by the way; to borrow from Bill, "it is what it is.''

The mystifying thing is how this franchise could allow itself to go three years without a backup QB. ... and how, due to Parcells' odd handling of the situation, there is the possibility that Dallas will go a fourth year with a lack of depth at the position that is literally unprecedented in recent NFL history.

* History will recall that because of the events that unfolded earlier in the final regular-season weekend -- the Cowboys were eliminated from the playoff picture approximately 100 minutes before the Jan. 1, 2006 kickoff at Texas Stadium -- Dallas missed out on a postseason berth when Washington lifted itself in with a come-from-behind win in Philadelphia.

History will be wrong. Twice.

The Cowboys didn't lose out in Week 17. The Cowboys lost out on six assorted other weekends, too. Weekends in Oakland and D.C. and Seattle. Weekends against the Redskins and the Giants and the Broncos. Those players that watched hotel TVs with dismay on Jan. 1 would have been better served funneling their anger, emotion and efforts into the previous 16 weekends.

And how is history wrong a second time?

Because the Cowboys didn't just miss out on a playoff spot; they missed out on a Super Bowl.

No guarantees here, but look at the NFC field as it opened: the favorite is a Seattle team that is not really any better, head-to-head, than Dallas. A Giants team that isn't better than Dallas. Chicago and Washington and Carolina and Tampa Bay, all teams the Cowboys either have beaten or can beat.

And look at the NFC title game now: Seattle, maybe without Shawn Alexander. Carolina, apparently without DeShawn Foster.

Yes, Cowboys fans, this could've been the year.

So Jan. 1 wasn't the fateful day; there were a lot of fateful days.

And a playoff berth wasn't all that was at stake; a Super Bowl berth was what was at stake.

* Attention, Cowboys: Kickers matter.

It matters that they aren't yelled at just because they're smaller than their teammates.

It matters that their head coach doesn't both the pronounciation of their names just because their less well-known than their teammates.

You don't fire a kicking coach and not replace him, then change out long-snappers three or so times, then change out holders a couple of times, and then change out kickers. ... what, six times? ... without the kicking game being affected.

Bill, find a kicker. And before I ask you to learn how to coach him (because you've done nothing in Dallas to convince us that you know how to do that), I ask you to at least learn the boy's name.

* Got a big rush out of Parcells, before announcing he was staying in Dallas, "challenging'' any person claiming to have knowledge of his job-related feelings to come forth. ... and then the ESPN cameras go to their own Chris Mortensen, who was that guy with that knowledge. ... and Mort kinda experienced Seinfeldian "shrinkage,'' right there on the Bristol, Conn., set.

Why didn't Mort back up his scoop? Why not muscle up and defend himself?

If you don't smell a Parcells-Mort conspiracy behind that whole story, your nose is as malfunctioning as Michael Jackson's.

* I made an issue of this in August (and got in a pissin' match with Jean-Jacques Taylor over it), and I'll do it again:

When next season begins, this offense will feature Bledsoe, Johnson, Rivera and Larry Allen, all at age 34. Is that too old?

Only if they aren't any good.

You're not bad if you're old.

You're old if you're bad.

* In my recent "Eight Simple Rules'' column about fixing the 2006 Cowboys, I mention acquiring acquiring a big-time, consistently great WR. I didn't mention any names.

Did I need to?

* You want evidence that Dallas' offensive line is a mess? In the Cowboys' last five games, Drew Bledsoe was sacked 25 times.

* And in another recent column, I continued my assault on all involved in the Hall of Fame process. Dallas rep Rick Gosselin is presently on trial around here, the crime: the shortage of deserving Cowboys in the Hall.

I don't need to be informed that some of the failures pre-date Gosselin, that Frank Luksa was formerly the rep. Nor does it help the matter to have some twist this anti-Cowboy issue into a pro-Fisher or anti-Fisher issue. The bottom line is this: I've had dozens of talks with Luksa about this, and he remains torn up over whatever he might've done wrong during the HOF "campaign-manager'' process. "I lose sleep over it,'' Frank tells me.

Meanwhile, Rick at best talks and writes as if he's far above "losing sleep'' over the Cowboys in the Hall. At best, he talks and writes as if he would not dare lower himself to being a Dallas rep (even though that's exactly what he is supposed to be). And that's "at best.''

"At worst,'' Gosselin is a voter openly on record as saying he can't even be bothered even making a case for Michael Irvin or Rayfield Wright.

And to me, that is indefensible.


* A mathematical equation: What's 10 times 10?

A tough 2006, that's what.

Next season's Cowboys schedule features traditional NFC power Philadelphia, a team capable of winning 10 next year. And scary Atlanta, a team capable of winning 10. And Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Washington, Washington again, the Giants and the Giants again.
It's impossible to forecast success and failure a year in advance; heck, in this NFL, it's impossible to forecast success and failure a WEEK in advance. But on paper, the Cowboys are scheduled to play 10 games against teams that might win 10 games.



* If you start 7-3, and you finish 2-4, and that's never happened before in Cowboys history, have you just participated in the worst collapse in franchise history?

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