It is over the twenty-four hour point after the latest Dallas Cowboys debacle. The Sturm und Drang has been raging as expected. I have sampled the comments, but to be quite frank, I cannot stay with them for too long.
This is a game that you can't point to anyone doing something terribly wrong. You can't blame Jason Garrett for clock management, since the worst thing that happened involving the time at the end of the game was Mario Manningham dropping a sure touchdown that would have given the Cowboys a minute and a half and two timeouts to work with. There were mistakes, certainly, but they were spread throughout the team, and most of the people who made those mistakes also make very good plays at other times. The standard complaints in all the threads just ring hollow this week.
I just know that when Tony Romo and Miles Austin missed the connection on the pass that would likely have put the game away, I felt a heavy certainty that the game was done at that point, and the Giants were going to win.
This is the reality of the Cowboys this year. They are just not quite good enough, or just bad enough, depending upon your viewpoint. All the wishful thinking and Kool Aid drinking will not change that. This is a team that could have pretty much locked up a playoff spot by now, but it just hasn't. It is a team that, according to the clear evidence of the same thing happening three times now, is just not ready this year.
More cold, hard thoughts after the jump
It is so easy to get your hopes up, especially when there have been moments that gave us such hope. The near misses early in the season. The four game winning streak. A couple of blowouts. Some surprising stars emerging. Add in the fact that we all want to see the good, and hope the bad is not really as bad as it is, and our hopes can start to soar with the slightest provocation.
Then, no matter how tenuous the basis for those hopes may have been to begin with, we are crushed when reality sets in and we see the team fall short again. And the rage begins. People want to find a scapegoat, a silver bullet. Fire Rob Ryan. Fire Jason Garrett. Impeach Jerry Jones (for lack of any other action we can take against the owner). Get rid of Tony Romo. Trade our future Hall of Famers. Mortgage the future for next season. All of which, once you stop and think, don't seem very workable. After a while, all the threads seem to just be going round and round, with no progress anywhere.
But sometimes there are nuggets of wisdom (or, to put it slightly differently, I find someone who sees things the same way I do, which obviously means they are perceptive, informed, and very learned). I came across this comment in one of the threads:
if people are really honest, we all knew the defense had serious problems in talent and that the offensive line would struggle. So guess what? The defense has serious talent issues and the offensive line has struggled. Fire all the coaches you want, you still have to go out next year and get better talent.
I know that right now simple reality is not what most of the fans (or even us writers) want, but you can only deal with fantasy so long. Every year, 12 of the 32 teams in the NFL make the playoffs, leaving 20 on the outside looking in. And this year, it is not at all certain that the Dallas Cowboys are one of the 12, or in any way deserve to be. They certainly seem to lack something, especially at the end of games when the team needs to collectively stand up and make plays.
Maybe that something is a few more really good football players. And maybe it wouldn't hurt to have an offseason to work with what you have, and bring in the new talent that will come out of the draft.
Maybe the truth all along was that turning around the train wreck that was the Dallas Cowboys circa 2010 was too big a job to do in one season, a season that just happened to follow the NFL Lockout.
When you are sitting in front of your television watching another horror story unfold, helpless to change anything no matter how much you yell at the screen, you have a little difficulty being rational and considering how much better things really are. Right now, although things have gotten worse the past two weeks, the Cowboys still have a realistic chance of running the table and getting into the playoffs. Not a great chance, but it is still possible. That is a far cry from where they were exactly one year ago.
And if they fail to make the playoffs, then are they not what a lot of us said they were? (Any resemblance to a beer commercial there is not deliberate.) This team had many holes at the end of the 2010 season. The draft did a lot to fill some of the holes. SOME. There were only so many draft picks, and so much cap space to work with.
If the team continues in the meltdown mode and does fail to make the playoffs (like 19 or 20 other teams will certainly do), then we have to ask if there is reason to hope for the future. I would vote yes. The offense has a lot of answers in place, as I think the Giants game showed. The team looks good at wide receiver, the quarterback is excellent, we will be in good shape at running back if DeMarco Murray can come back from injury next year, and maybe most of the pieces are in place for the offensive line. Kevin Kowalski looked like a legitimate center last night, and we all know how well Tyron Smith has progressed.
The real limiting factor seems to be the inability of the defense to get a stop late in the game. Everyone assumes that this draft is going to address the defensive problems. I think a couple of pass rushers and a couple of cornerbacks might make a huge difference. But that is in the future.
We want to win now. It hurts so much because they keep getting so close. We aren't fans of the Indianapolis Colts, just marking time until we can use the first pick in the draft. And we aren't followers of the Denver Broncos, winning games for no logical reason whatsoever. We are the fans of the Dallas Cowboys, the team that is the center of the media spotlight no matter what, and we all think this team should be in the Super Bowl every year.
Ain't gonna happen. The league wants parity, and by and large, that is what it has. It is likely going to take another season, or more, to build a real contender in Dallas.
Yes, I know, that is getting close to the end of the window for Romo and DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten. What are we going to do?
We'll do what fans do. We will hope for the best, we will cheer like mad, and try not to throw things at the TV that will break it when things go bad. And then we will wail and gnash our teeth and demand blood after bad games.
I am not a betting man. If I was, I would not put any money on Dallas running the table and making the playoffs.
I am a fan. I will be cheering like mad for it to happen. And that, really, is all we can do.
This is where we should have seen we would be. It is disappointing in some ways. But it should not be a surprise.
Meanwhile, GO COWBOYS! That fat lady ain't sung yet.