When Searching For A Defensive Standout To Fill Cowboys Needs, It’s OK To Search Far Afield
According to recent transcripts, Jerry Jones is overflowing with resolve this off-season to remedy a lack of intestinal fortitude on his football team. No, not even he of the rose-colored glasses and the sallow complexion is bothering to deny the obvious, specifically that the Cowboys’ postseason dreams were undone this past January by a nameless defensive unit which ran out of gas.
Speaking on 103.3 FM in Dallas, Jones appeared to have his springtime spending list checked, balanced, and certainly prioritized. “If I have a chance to bring in one of those premier pass-rushers, one of those war daddies that takes two to block, if I have a chance to get a player like that, I would,” said Jones.
Which available player – be it in free agency or in the draft – personifies this “war daddy” that Jones alludes to? When Jones first made the statement several weeks ago, pundits immediately leaped to the conclusion that the Cowboys owner was indirectly referencing DeMarcus Ware, a former Cowboy All-Pro pass-rusher who was set to test the free-agent market after a three-year stint in Denver, before announcing his retirement earlier today.
Longtime fans, on the other hand, began hearkening back to the days of Bob Lilly, Jethro Pugh, Lee Roy Jordan, Cliff Harris and those other underpaid administrative assistants of a Doomsday judicial system that first carried the Cowboys to prominence.
So why when everybody else was busy dreaming of one-time Cowboy greats did I discover a personal reluctance to think of anybody but Ted Simmons?
Perhaps it will interest the reader to know that the answer has nothing to do with the presence of Jerry. Despite my inclination to do so, and despite his deserving nature, I just can’t bring myself to blame Jerry for every unanticipated event on this earth. That, after all, is what we have politicians for, isn’t it?
March, you must understand, can be a strange month in the world of sports. It can be a season of mental metamorphosis, when in one’s deliberations of football their mind invariably wanders to the game of baseball. Call it spring fever, if you will, an incurable epidemic that seizes a mind intent on conjuring up some former image of defensive brilliance and leaving it instead boggled by a scene that is purely offensive to the sanguine promoter of fair play.
Ted Simmons was a fiery, fiercely competitive catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals during an era when the National League’s Eastern Division was regulated annually by the mighty Pirates of Pittsburgh. Nearly two decades before he would ever accept a front-office position with the Pittsburgh franchise, Simmons hated the Pirates with a passion that told of long frustration.
It was in the fall of 1974, with the regular season fast winding down, that Simmons and the Cardinals found themselves in a nip-and-tuck race with Pittsburgh. The fact that every game mattered down the stretch meant that Ted was as touchy as a sitting hen, willing to lash out at anyone and everyone. Even the lowly Cubs.
The date was September 22, a cozy Sunday afternoon inside venerable Busch Stadium, where a large crowd was enjoying the spoils of a 5-5 game in the top of the ninth inning. The Cardinals had gone to their bullpen, bringing in ace reliever Al Hrabosky. The move was popular with the home faithful, who cheered loudly in anticipation of another shutdown inning. However, Hrabosky’s presence on the mound was something less than desirable for Bill Madlock, the Cubs’ leadoff hitter in the inning.
Hrabosky had an irritating routine between pitches that witnessed him amble halfway to second base, where he then would argue inaudibly with himself for a few moments before returning slowly to the mound and placing his foot on the rubber. On this occasion, Madlock thought it prudent to return the favor. So when Hrabosky looked in for the signs from Simmons, Madlock abruptly left the batter’s box and walked nearly halfway to the dugout, where he turned his back on the field, knocked some dirt from his cleats, and graced himself with some silent mutterings.
With the afternoon wasting away at the hands of Madlock’s parody, home plate umpire Shag Crawford ordered Madlock back to the batter’s box. Madlock, along with Cubs manager Jim Marshall, offered their voices in protest.
Rather than burn any more daylight, Crawford instead signaled for Hrabosky to proceed. Hrabosky threw at the unguarded plate, and Crawford called a strike – a correct call, according to the rulebook. Upon receiving the toss from Simmons, a delighted Hrabosky immediately fired another pitch, just as Madlock and the on-deck hitter, Jose Cardenal, both leaped into the batter’s box. Crawford signaled “No Pitch” and turned toward the pair of batters to address the situation.
But before Crawford could hardly get a word out, Simmons was there to provide the strong arm of the law in full force. Leaping up out of his crouched position, Simmons punched Madlock in the face, an action which emptied both dugouts.
Asked afterwards what Madlock had said to him that provoked such measures, Simmons replied, “He didn’t say anything. I didn’t like the way he was looking at me.”
In that moment, there is no doubt that Ted Simmons fell somewhat short of the lofty standards often linked to model behavior for the average citizen. But it must also be acknowledged that Simmons also displayed all of the characteristics commonly associated with a premier NFL defender. (Obsessively competitive. Quick on his feet. Temperamental. And an innate sense of knowing when to seize the upper hand by delivering an iron fist.)
Had Simmons been born to a later generation, it is a personal belief that he would have grown to be a standout defensive end, and not to mention a perfect fit for what currently ails the Dallas defense. He, more than anyone else on the free-agent market at this date, possessed the desire, ability, and willingness to deliver his competition the proverbial knockout blow.
If not figuratively, then certainly literally.
And that, my friends, while not showing an abundance of brains on his part, would at least mean that Simmons showed a capacity for coming through in the big game and the big moment, a trait that was noticeably lacking from the Cowboys’ defensive unit when they last were on the field.