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#pounditWednesday, January 19, 2022

Stories by Steve DelVecchio:

Mike McCarthy blames Dak Prescott for final play against 49ers?

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy has maintained that the final play the team ran in their loss to the San Francisco 49ers was the right one, but he has since shared some interesting new information about it.

McCarthy spoke with reporters on Wednesday about Dak Prescott’s infamous quarterback draw. He said the Cowboys called a pass play but Prescott changed it to a run. McCarthy said he agreed with the decision from Prescott.

One report this week claimed offensive coordinator Kellen Moore called the draw play and McCarthy agreed. According to McCarthy, it was Prescott’s decision. Again, McCarthy insists he feels it was the right one.

It was somewhat surprising to hear McCarthy openly reveal that Prescott was responsible for the play. He then took things a step further, saying the one thing the QB should have done differently was get down after 10 yards.

The Cowboys got the ball trailing 23-17 with 32 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. They needed to go 80 yards for the winning touchdown, and they reached the San Francisco 41-yard line with three straight completions. They then ran the QB draw with no timeouts left. Prescott rushed for 17 yards and quickly handed the ball to his center. An official bumped into the lineman and was unable to spot the ball in time for a spike (video here).

McCarthy said Prescott was right to hand the ball to the center, as that is the way the Cowboys practice the play. Some say Dak should have given the ball to the official, but McCarthy noted that the center can spot the ball and just needs the official to touch it quickly afterword. That is technically true if the center puts the ball in the right spot, but that did not happen in this case. The official had to move the ball back, which took more time off the clock.

McCarthy also maintained that 13 seconds was the threshold for being able to run the draw play successfully and still having time for a spike. The Cowboys had 14 seconds when the ball was snapped. One former NFL quarterback has a different interpretation of the situation than McCarthy.

Very few people believe the Cowboys made the right decision, but McCarthy stood by it. He also opened Prescott up to a lot of scrutiny by revealing that Prescott checked out of a pass play and should have gotten down sooner. It’s unclear how Dak will feel about that.

Photo: Oct 3, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy on the field before the game against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Raiders player explains why Rich Bisaccia was better for team than Jon Gruden

The Las Vegas Raiders were 3-2 when Jon Gruden was forced to abruptly resign over his leaked email scandal. Very few people gave them a chance to contend after that, but interim head coach Rich Bisaccia navigated through an incredibly difficult season en route to a playoff berth. At least one Raiders player believes Gruden’s departure actually helped the team.

An anonymous Raiders player told NFL insider Michael Silver that he believes the team played so well down the stretch because they didn’t have Gruden pushing them.

“We didn’t have Gruden grinding us late in the year,” the veteran player said. “Gruden would kill us, and we would fall apart. The reason this team played so well down the stretch is that Rich listened to the players and took it easy over the back half of the season.”

The Raiders won their first two games after Gruden stepped down. They then dealt with another major scandal, as wide receiver Henry Ruggs was involved in a drunk driving accident that killed a woman. Las Vegas won just one of its next six games after that before turning things around to reach the postseason.

All of that reflects well on Bisaccia’s leadership. He has already proven he can get players to buy in during difficult times, which is no easy feat in the NFL. There may be something to what the anonymous player said, too. As Silver notes, the Raiders finished 2-4, 1-5 and 2-5 in their previous three seasons under Gruden.

Derek Carr and other Raiders veterans have been outspoken in endorsing Bisaccia for the full-time head coach position. There have been indications that owner Mark Davis is targeting a much bigger name, but Bisaccia has certainly built a strong case.

Photo: Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden takes the field before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles GM reveals team’s plan for Jalen Hurts

Jalen Hurts had a game to forget in his playoff debut against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, but all indications are that it did not change the way the Philadelphia Eagles feel about him.

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman told reporters on Wednesday that Hurts has done enough to earn the starting quarterback job heading into 2022. He said the team wanted to see Hurts “take the bull by the horns” this year and they feel he did that. Roseman added that it is up to the Eagles to give Hurts the pieces he needs to succeed.

Those are fairly strong comments from Roseman. He could have just as easily said something cliche like the Eagles are going to “evaluate all their options.” Instead, he expressed full confidence in Hurts.

Hurts went 23/43 for 258 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in Sunday’s 31-15 loss. It should be noted that he was playing through an injury, but he did not look ready for the big stage. Despite that, Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni had nothing but positive things to say about Hurts after the game. That sentiment appears to be shared throughout the organization.

Photo: Oct 3, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) runs off the field after loss against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Troy Aikman rips Cowboys coaches over 1 specific mistake against 49ers

The Dallas Cowboys could have done a lot better with all phases of the game in their loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, but franchise legend Troy Aikman feels they really fell short in one particular area.

CeeDee Lamb, who had more than 1,100 yards receiving during the regular season, caught just one pass for 21 yards in the 23-17 loss to the Niners. He was targeted five times. During an appearance on 96.7 The Ticket in Dallas on Wednesday, Aikman ripped the Cowboys for failing to identify that San Francisco was playing single coverage on Lamb and challenging Dak Prescott to throw Lamb’s way.

“I hate going back to (when I was playing) because nobody cares, but what I see around the league, it’s not just Dallas, I’ve seen it with a lot of teams, a lot of these offenses want to scheme things,” Aikman said, via Jon Machota of The Athletic. “The coordinators, it’s all about scheme rather than (saying), ‘This corner is playing soft. He’s scared to death.’ Just run the route tree. Run a dig route. Run a curl. Run anything. You’re going to complete the pass whenever you want.

“(Michael Irvin) would’ve had 10 catches at halftime if they played us the way they played CeeDee lamb in that game. … The game is not that difficult. If I’ve got a great player at wide receiver and a corner is playing him single coverage, throw him the ball. He’s going to win most of the time.”

Some of the blame for that falls on Dak Prescott. Even if the coaches weren’t calling Lamb’s number frequently enough, Prescott and other great quarterbacks almost always have the freedom to change a play based on what the defense is showing. If Lamb could have had as many easy catches as Aikman says, both Prescott and Dallas’ coaches should have recognized that.

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore certainly did not call their best game. They made a massive mistake on the final play, but the issues ran deeper than that. Aikman’s criticism helped highlight some of what went wrong for his former team.

Photo: Nov 21, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys former quarterback Troy Aikman attends the NFL game between the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arians fined by NFL for smacking Bucs player in helmet

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians drew some attention on Sunday for swatting one of his own players in the helmet, and the NFL has made it clear that they did not approve of the way the act.

Arians has been fined $50,000, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

Arians walked onto the field and smacked safety Andrew Adams in the helmet during the second half of Tampa Bay’s 31-15 win. The coach confirmed after the game that he was trying to prevent Adams from picking up a penalty for pulling players off the pile after the whistle. You can see the video here.

Some people were bothered by Arians’ actions and found them to be poorly timed considering the circumstances surrounding Antonio Brown’s recent departure from the Bucs.

Adams did not pick up a penalty, and the Bucs went on to advance to the Divisional Round. Arians’ wallet, however, is now a bit lighter.

911 calls from Malik McDowell arrest describe disturbing scene

Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Malik McDowell is facing multiple charges in the wake of his latest arrest, and the 911 calls from the incident describe a very troubling scene.

McDowell was charged with public exposure of sex organs, aggravated battery of an officer and resisting an officer with violence in Deerfield Beach, Fla., on Monday. Police responded to the scene after several people called 911 to report that a naked man was walking around outside their respective buildings. One of the buildings was a children’s school.

In audio of a 911 call that was obtained by TMZ, a woman who was very rattled told a dispatcher that a man was walking around “totally naked” in front of her building. She could be heard telling an employee at the school to get the children into their “safe places” for lockdown.

“You’re going to go into lockdown,” the woman could be heard telling someone. “You’re going to have to take these kids into the bathroom, OK? Yes. One-by-one.”

Two other callers also called 911 to report the same incident, and they were told police had already been dispatched.

TMZ also released a video that showed McDowell naked and handcuffed while talking with police.

Police say McDowell attacked an officer when they arrived at the scene. The Browns issued a statement on Tuesday saying they have been made aware of the “very concerning incident and arrest.”

McDowell made his NFL debut with the Browns this season despite being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2017. He never played for the Seahawks due to a combination of injuries and off-field issues.

McDowell has been arrested multiple times. He was booked for driving while under the influence and then disorderly conduct in 2017. The 25-year-old was also arrested and tasered during a traffic stop in 2019.

Photo: Oct 31, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Malik McDowell (58) celebrates after sacking Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (not pictured) during the first half at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady makes surprising admission about favorable treatment from refs

It has been said for years that Tom Brady receives favorable treatment from NFL officials, but we can’t remember him ever admitting it. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers star was surprisingly honest when the topic arose this week.

Brady and the Bucs benefitted from a questionable roughing the passer call (video here) early in their Wild Card win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Many people immediately chalked the flag up to Brady receiving preferential treatment. However, it should be noted that roughing the passer was only called once on a Brady hit during the regular season.

During the latest episode of his “Let’s Go!” podcast with Jim Gray, Brady discussed the perception that he gets more calls than other players. He said that is not true with roughing the passer, but he surprisingly admitted that he may get away with more taunting and unsportsmanlike conduct than his peers.

“I do know that they probably let me get away with a lot of unsportsmanlike conducts,” Brady said. “You know, talking smack to the other team and talking smack to the refs when I don’t think I get the right call. I’m kind of a pain in their a– if you don’t already know that.”

Brady is right about that. There have been numerous occasions where he was seen screaming the face of an official. Other players might not get away with it, but Brady usually does. That is undoubtedly a product of how many years he has played and how much he has accomplished.

We even saw Brady on the right side of an unsportsmanlike conduct call in the Super Bowl last year, so at least he acknowledges it.

Photo: Dec 26, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) warms up before the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Favorite emerges for Giants head coach job?

The New York Giants are in the process of searching for a new general manager and head coach, and it sounds like a legitimate possibility that they could take both from the same organization.

Buffalo Bills assistant general manager Joe Schoen is one of the finalists for the Giants GM job. The Giants announced on Tuesday that they had completed a second interview with Schoen. If Schoen does get the job, he may have one specific head coaching candidate at the top of his list.

Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has already interviewed for multiple head coaching jobs. According to SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano, he is “very high” on Schoen’s list and would likely be the favorite to be named New York’s next head coach if Schoen gets the GM job.

Daboll has been the OC in Buffalo since 2018. He has been credited with helping to develop Josh Allen into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He would make sense as a candidate for the Giants, who want to do the same with former first-round pick Daniel Jones.

This isn’t the first time we have heard Daboll connected to an NFL head coaching job. He has also interviewed for the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears jobs.

Photo: Sep 12, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll looks on prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports