Well here we go, another LOOOONG season for us Cowboy fan(s). This little quote about sums it up...
Struggle being the understatement of the year. At least we're not Bungals fans."We've got a lot to do here," Parcells said. "This is a struggle. Obviously, I can tell this year is going to be a struggle."
DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer
August 22, 2003, 3:49 a.m. (CDT)
PITTSBURGH - This was supposed to be first game to showcase the Cowboys starting quarterback for the regular season.
But while Bill Parcells entered Thursday's game here in the Steel City without naming an official starter, and said his decision should come early next week, it appears Quincy Carter could be closing in on winning the job.
Carter started his second consecutive game and looked sharp, leading the team to a touchdown in his three series. Chad Hutchinson also drove the offense into the end zone on his third drive, but did have another fumble, a reoccurring problem for the second-year quarterback.
In the end, Parcells seemed most despondent his team couldn't hold on to a fourth-quarter lead, giving up a late touchdown and two-point conversion to fall to the Steelers, 15-14, in front of 58,099 at Heinz Field.
"I was hoping we could hang on and get that one," Parcells said after the loss, which drops the Cowboys to 1-2 in preseason. "I think coming in here and getting a win would've been a big step for us. But we gave a couple of big third-down conversions there at the end. It comes down to making plays. They made some plays and we didn't. I thought we had a good chance to have the game in hand. But I really wanted to come in here and convince this team they could win on the road. I know they haven't been doing that very well."
The Cowboys are just 4-20 in regular season road games the past three seasons, but were controlling the Steelers most of the game. Leading14-7 with 9:01 to play, the Cowboys let Pittsburgh drive 65 yards in nine plays, ending with an 18-yard touchdown run from Dante Brown on a fourth-and-one play. The Steelers had no interest in overtime, electing to attempt a two-point conversion. Rookie third quarterback Brian St. Pierre hit Wes Ours for the conversion and the Steelers' first lead of the night.
The Cowboys then went with Clint Stoerner at quarterback, hoping they would at least get in field goal range with less than five minutes to play. But the Cowboys picked up just one first down before Stoerner was sacked on fourth down (fumbling) to give the ball back to the Steelers, who promptly ran out the clock.
"This is a great football town with great football fans," Parcells said. "I really thought it would be good for this team to come in here and win this one. But I did see some positive things. It wasn't all negative. We've got some things we need to work on though."
As for the quarterbacks, Parcells said he wanted to wait until after viewing the film before making his final decision. With just one preseason game to play, Parcells has said both the Steelers and the Raiders, next Thursday's upcoming opponent, would be good challenges for the starting quarterback and the entire offense, as well.
But he has to name a starter first, and while neither Carter nor Hutchinson has clearly out-played the other, Carter has received more snaps, especially in the last two games and hasn't turned the ball over the past two weeks.
Against the Steelers, one of the NFL's top-ranked defenses the past two seasons, Carter completed 8-of-12 passes and made good decisions under pressure. On his third and final drive of the night, Carter engineered a 13-play, 74-yard drive, which included three third-down conversions, one of which a nifty 12-yard run by Carter near midfield. The Cowboys had another third-and-four from the Steelers 8, when Carter hit Joey Galloway with a quick pass, allowing the receiver to tip-toe his way into the end zone for the first score.
"I thought we were able to do some good things on that drive," Carter said. "We moved the ball around. But we've got a lot of work to do. We didn't get it done as much as we needed to.
"We lost the football game. That's really what I'm concerned with. I can't control the quarterback situation. It's not up to me and all I can do is go out and work on my own game. I've been saying the same thing now for about three, four weeks."
And hopefully for everyone, an answer will come soon.
"I'm going to look at the film and I'll let you guys know probably at the beginning of next week," Parcells said of naming a starter. "I wanted to give Quincy about 20 minutes and I told Chad I wanted him to get a look at their defense a little bit and put him and let him go. He got the better part of about three quarters."
While Carter got just three series in the first half, Hutchinson's numbers weren't much different after his first three series. The second-year quarterback didn't move the ball well in his first two drives, but helped engineer a 12-play, 73-yard drive, which ended on Adrian Murrell's 3-yard touchdown run. On that drive, Hutchinson connected on passes of 12 yards to tight end Tony McGee and then fired a 15-yard strike to Terry Glenn, setting up the touchdown three plays later.
But Hutchinson completed just one more pass in his next two drives, and was sacked twice behind the second-team offensive line, fumbling once. Overall, Hutchinson completed 8-of-16 passes for 82 yards.
While the Cowboys remain unclear at quarterback, running back might be murky, too.
Murrell, a nine-year veteran signed two weeks ago to give the team some depth at running back, made his Cowboys debut, rushing six times for 24 yards, mostly coming on just two drives in the third quarter.
But Parcells, who coached Murrell one season in 1997 with the Jets, didn't seem too surprised by his new running back's performance.
"Not really, I know the player," Parcells said of Murrell, who came to the Cowboys weighing 222 pounds, but has already dropped nearly 10 pounds. "We just have to get him in shape."
Parcells said he's not opposed to using a running-back-by-committee system, which would likely involve both Murrell and current starter Troy Hambrick, who had just three carries for -1 yard. Hambrick did provide some help in the passing game, catching two passes for 17 yards.
"It's a little frustrating," Hambrick said. "You want to go out there and establish a running game, but we couldn't really do that. But you can't get discouraged. You just have to keep working at it. I have confidence things will come around."
The Cowboys started Tyson Walter at left guard, ahead of Larry Allen, who had been practicing with the second-team unit. Allen did not travel with the team Wednesday afternoon because of a personal matter, joined the team later that evening and eventually replaced Walter to start the second quarter.
Parcells said not starting Allen had nothing to do with the All-Pro guard not accompanying the team to Pittsburgh.
So with training camp and now three preseason games complete, the Cowboys still have plenty of questions to answer, especially on offense. Expect a starting quarterback to be named this week, but running back might stay a mystery until after Thursday's preseason finale against Oakland.
And as for Allen, the Cowboys would be happy to have him return to the starting lineup, but ongoing ankle and conditioning concerns are forcing the team to prepare Walter to start, if needed.
"We've got a lot to do here," Parcells said. "This is a struggle. Obviously, I can tell this year is going to be a struggle."
Something Parcells likely knew before the start of camp, but lingering uncertainties on offense are only enhancing his concern.