From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:
Let us take a look at the first mailbag of the new year:
Question: I’m very frustrated with the way the Cowboys season ended Sunday against the 49ers in a six-point loss, not getting off a final play before the clock ran out. I thought it was a terrible way to see the season end. What do you think?
Answer: The Cowboys-49ers game was not a thing of beauty. It was a bad omen on the game’s very first play where Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory lined up in the neutral zone. It was very clear on my big TV screen that Gregory was offsides — the first of 14 Cowboys’ accepted penalties for 89 yards on the day. Let’s face it, Dallas played a very sloppy game (San Francisco also was not far perfect), full of follies (a delay-of-game penalty after a successful fake punt), misfortune, extremely bad clock management and questionable play-calling. On the final play at the San Francisco 41-yard line, the 49ers gave the no-timeouts-left Cowboys the middle of the field and QB Dak Prescott took the bait. However, if Prescott’s 17-yard dash to the 49ers’ 24 was instead an 11-yarder to the 49ers’ 30, Dallas would have had a few seconds left on the clock for a desperate chance on a Hail Mary pass to the end zone. I don’t know who called the high-risk final play, with Prescott rambling up field, but head coach Mike McCarthy signed off on it, and he has faced the music the past 24-plus hours. On a super talented-laden team loaded with play-makers on both sides of the ball, McCarthy is only 18-16 in his two seasons in Dallas. There are currently plenty of excellent head coaches on the market.
Q: Syracuse is only 8-9 overall and do you think the Orange can still make the NCAA Tournament?
A: There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, with 13 regular-season games left and a makeup with Georgia Tech. SU needs to have a productive rest of January and most of February to pile up wins and keep the losses at a minimum. Right now, the final three regular-season games are tough — vs. Duke, at North Carolina and vs. Miami. When a program, even if it plays in a competitive conference, reaches 16-17-18 losses in a season, it usually means a trip to the NIT, not to the NCAAs.
n From Dwight Perry’s column in The Seattle Times — Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, on Major League Baseball’s need for robotic umpires to call balls and strikes: “Human umps were fine in the old days. So were phone booths and stage coaches.”
n Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in college basketball: 1. Gonzaga; 2. Auburn; 3. Arizona; 4. Purdue; 5. Baylor; 6. Duke; 7. Kansas; 8. Wisconsin; 9. Houston; 10. UCLA.
Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at email@example.com