PHILADELPHIA — When Browns lineman Myles Garrett bonked Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph on the head with Rudolph's own helmet, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey pounced on Garrett and commenced to pounding Garrett's head and fired off a kick to the helmet, to boot.
This was the proper reaction.
When Jon Bostic tried to decapitate Andy Dalton as Dalton slid to protect himself at Washington on Sunday, his linemen watched as Bostic blithely walked away. Wide receiver Amari Cooper, who witnessed the incident from 20 feet away, grabbed his helmet like a Southern damsel overcome by the vapors.
The proper reaction? Bostic at least should have been accosted and upbraided, if not assaulted and upended. You defend your teammates, and you damn sure defend your quarterback, because he's the guy who gets you paid. Cowboys players don't seem to know that, or they don't seem to care. The rest of the football world took notice.
From Richard Sherman to LaDainian Tomlinson, current and future Hall of Fame players were mortified by the milquetoast response from the so-called America's Team. Sherman on Thursday said on Cris Collinsworth's podcast that Bostic never would have made it to the locker room if he'd hit Tom Brady like that.
Tomlinson, a native Texan who preceded Dalton at TCU, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Wednesday that it was "appalling" that Dalton's teammates did nothing after Bostic "crossed the line."
"I guarantee you — I guarantee you — on any one of the teams that I played for, if that happened to any one of the quarterbacks, we don't really care what's going to happen after the fact, but in that moment somebody has to pay for that."
Bostic was penalized and ejected and will assuredly receive a $15,000 fine for hitting a defenseless player, along with a strongly worded letter from NFL discipline czar Jon Runyan (whose current job is the height of irony considering he was such a nasty Eagle when he played). Bostic is not expected to be suspended, though Dalton, who suffered a brutal concussion, seems unlikely to play Sunday night.
This is what the Dallas Cowboys are without Dak Prescott: A group of well-dressed, overvalued mercenaries with neither the will nor the notion to protect one another. Prescott is the leader of this group. Without him, they are lost. This is what visits the Eagles on Sunday night.
I spent seven days in Dallas last year, and in that month (or so it felt), I observed firsthand that the Cowboys revolved around three entities: narcissistic owner Jerry Jones, overwhelmed head coach Jason Garrett, and a charismatic quarterback in Prescott.
Only one was up to the job, and so the Cowboys wilted down the stretch in 2019. Jones replaced Garrett with Mike McCarthy, the Packers coach who wasted Aaron Rodgers' prime, and was one of the few downgrades available. As you might expect, the leadership dynamic changed not a bit.
Asked about his players' response to the hit, McCarthy replied, "That was definitely probably not the response you would expect," then clammed up.
Incredibly, inexplicably, Jones said on his weekly radio show Monday, "Sometimes you aren't aware of what happened on a play."
Remember when Jerry used to be a tough guy? Guess it starts at the top.
Because Dalton's teammates saw it. They just lacked the heart, and other portions of anatomy, to do anything about it.
Cowboys end DeMarcus Lawrence recognizes the continued absence of grit. He called the club "soft," with a vulgar adjective, after a Week 4 loss to the Browns, then said the Cowboys need to "fight" and grow a "stronger backbone" after they lost at Washington last week.
The only backbone strong enough to carry this team broke his ankle three weeks ago.
"Dak is the only guy who can hold that team together and get them to stay on the same page," Tomlinson told the Star-Telegram.
If that's true, then it's over. The Cowboys, now 2-5, easily could go winless the rest of the season. The first-place Eagles are 7 1/2-point favorites. Next up: the Steelers.
And Maurkice Pouncey.
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