Does anyone else miss the 90's Cowboys? Though I have learned quite a bit about the Cowboys of the 70's, that team was a generation before my time. I respect those teams, but watching old films and reading books isn't quite the same as living through an era. I grew up on the Cowboys of the 90's. To me it wasn't so much the three Super Bowl victories that made that team special. To me it was the swagger.
I liked it when the Cowboys were the "Bad Boys" of the NFL. That unit operated with a level of confidence that bordered on the edge of arrogance. The players on those 90's Cowboys teams didn't care how good you were, or what historic stadium you played in. They were going to walk right into your house, track mud through your living room, raid your fridge, drink your last beer, leave with your girlfriend and dare you to say something about it. They were fearless, and at times overconfident which came back to bite them a time or two. Still, those teams were too mentally strong to let the effects of a loss linger. Those teams were resilient, and there was no more frightening place to be on earth than on the opposite sideline from a Cowboys team coming off of a loss.
When Michael Irvin came out of the tunnel, profiling and punching downward, each punch felt like he was shoving down the lever on a dynamite detonator box. It has been said that on those 90's Cowboys teams Troy Aikman was the mind, Emmitt Smith was the body, and Michael Irvin was the soul. Michael Irvin was absolutely the soul of the 90's Cowboys. Irvin was flashy and demonstrative, but the fire in his eyes was genuine. Michael Irvin was not one of these new-age receivers who pretends to be a good teammate when the camera is rolling. Most of Michael Irvin's swagger came from the confidence he had in his own teammates.
The Cowboys of the 90's were just nasty. Erik Williams would throw down at the drop of a hat. Bill Bates was a kamikaze. Darren Woodson was an assassin himself. I don't care who you are, if Charles Haley lived on your block, you would tuck your chain in when you saw him coming. The Cowboys had an intimidating roster from top to bottom. The ‘Boys had a big nasty offensive line that couldn't wait to push your tired butt around in the fourth quarter. Big, tall wide receivers (Irvin and Alvin Harper), a big defensive line, big athletic linebackers. They were just a big, confident bunch of tough guys.
Deion Sanders was the epitome of swagger. The fact that Deion was accepting of the challenge of covering every team's top receiver man to man, every week says a lot about the kind of heart that Deion had. Nothing ever got me more excited than seeing Deion, moving about, looking like the Holy Ghost was about to burst out of his body as he awaited a punt. Deion Sanders had an uncanny knack for coming up with tide-turning, igniting plays when the Cowboys had to have them. Coordinators were afraid to kick to him, and quarterbacks at times ignored his entire half of the field. Even when he came in on offense, his presence was cause for panic on opposing sidelines. Though not a punishing tackler (I did see him blow up Curtis Martin once) Deion Sanders was the ultimate intimidator.
The 90's Cowboys were full of stars, but they also had a platoon of silent soldiers who just loved to do their job. For every star there was a Chad Hennings. There were plenty of guys like Jay Novacek, Darrin Smith, Daryl Johnston, Kevin Smith, or Mark Stepnoski. Guys like Kenny Gant and Billy Davis were menaces on special teams, who's game changing plays often went unnoticed.
While I don't see a Michael Irvin type of leader, there are some guys on this team who give me a 90's flashback from time to time. I see a lot of Erik Williams in Marc Colombo. If you jump on a pile late in Marc Colombo's view, it's on. Just as it was many times when Erik Williams played the same position. Colombo seems to be the bodyguard for the rest of the offense.
Marion Barber reminds me a lot of Deion Sanders. Two completely different positions, two totally different styles of play, but one common factor. Just like Deion, Barber's play ignites his entire unit. When Marion Barber pops off back-to-back pinball-like 8-yard runs, the whole offense wakes up. When Marion Barber is playing well, the offense is playing well. When the offense is playing well, the defense catches the virus, too. Marion Barber is the catalyst, and his fire is contagious.
Perhaps most importantly, the biggest similarity between these the Cowboys of the 90's and the current Cowboys is the fact that they are getting along. Tashard Choice's "slide" video showed me a lot of things. These guys are getting along, and they genuinely like each other. Maybe there is something to this whole chemistry thing. NFL players are professionals, and they are all expected to give maximum effort. But being a human, you are more inclined to give that last ounce of effort for a guy who has been to your house and eaten dinner with your family.
Right now we see our beloved Cowboys playing together. Last season they bled together. If they can just manage to achieve a little success together, we may have something special on our hands again very soon.