Cowboys, Vikings, Cardinals implode

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First it was the Cowboys and Vikings, followed by the Bengals and Titans. Now, the Broncos and Cardinals have joined the NFL’s list of imploding teams.

As the folks in NASCAR like to say when a car’s engine fails: “They blowed up.”

While the race to the Super Bowl couldn’t be much more wide-open, the stuff happening at the other end of the standings has been just as compelling.

Coach firings in the recent past, or imminent for the near future. Quarterback controversies, tantrums and scandals. Dissension and discord.

And Randy Moss.

Except for the Broncos, all of those teams were expected to contend for titles. Dallas, Minnesota, Cincinnati and Arizona were defending division winners entering 2010.

All they’ve contended for this year is who can be the most dysfunctional.

_DALLAS: Even as Jerry Jones dreamed about his team playing in a Super Bowl it was hosting, the Cowboys were falling apart. Wade Phillips’ nice guy approach didn’t work with the fat cats Jones created by loading them up with big contracts and high praise. The offensive line was shaky and leaky, then quarterback Tony Romo got hurt because his teammates couldn’t protect him.

The secondary couldn’t cover, well, Phillips and Jones if they suited up and ran patterns.

But the owner stood by his man until successive humiliations against Jacksonville and Green Bay.

Things have gotten better with Jason Garrett elevated to head coach, although the damage for this season already was done.

_MINNESOTA: If you think it was ugly in Big D, try this. The Vikings were one successful play from the Super Bowl last winter. Hoping to take it at least a step farther, they persuaded 100-year-old Brett Favre to try it one more time despite his achy limbs, even dispatching three players to Mississippi to bring him north.

When the passing game stagnated because of Favre’s reluctance to commit and the lack of a deep threat with Sidney Rice hurt, they traded a third-round pick to New England for former Minnesota standout Moss. He lasted all of a month, enough time to disparage a team caterer before being released in a move that split the team even more.

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