One big meme on this blog seems to be the difference between "optimism" and "realism." Obviously, many of us are fans and let our enthusiasm run ahead of what we realize is likely. (Nobody really is putting money on the Cowboys in the Superbowl this year.)
Yet it is also true that a number of voices seem overly skeptical of the Cowboys organization--our drafts, our general manager, our quarterback, etc. Granted, last season was a good year to prove the detractors right; 6-10 is a pretty abysmal record. But some of the same voices seemed to be "calling out" the Cowboys in previous years with winning records. If you say a team sucks often enough, I'm sure you'll hit one year when they underperform and you look like a genius--if we ignore the seasons when, with a bad O-line and a bad secondary and plenty of penalties, the Cowboys went ahead and won games.
There's a certain deceptive plausibility in predicting that a team will not be terrible, but just average. Fan in Thick and Thin (my favorite blogger here) makes a big deal about his "optimism" in predicting a 2-win increase this season over last season. Statistically, however, most 6-10 teams with a history of winning seasons tend to bounce back the next year. It ends up that 8-8 is pretty much the norm for such teams, not a statistical anomaly. Moreover, JG's record so far with this team is better than even, so an 8-8 season means JG gets worse, not better.
Admittedly, we don't know where we will be shredded; the preseason is not a perfect predictor of the future, and all of our new pieces are (by definition) new. But I have a 3-part challenge for all of the "realists":
1. Take a hard look at the top-10 offense we have consistently put up (yards, points, yards-per-attempt) and tell me whether you can really make the case that we got worse. (Yes, it may take a while for the young offensive line to gel--but as FiTaT has been pointing out, JG has largely been able to overcome his offensive line woes to put up stellar numbers game after game. Do you really think the line got worse this year?)
2. Take a hard look at our defense and ask whether it is worse than average. I'm not arguing that it's the great, dominating force that we all (especially Ryan) wish it were, but do you really think that our pass rush or secondary (with Elam replacing Ball) are below the 50th percentile in the NFL? Put differently, start thinking about the teams that you think will be harder to score on than the Cowboys. Sure, there are better defenses--but do you really think this is half the league?
3. With a top-10 offense (certainly) and a top-half defense (probably), wouldn't 8-8 be an anomaly? I understand that this is a rebuilding year, and that there are teams that will beat us. Yet I challenge the "realists" to explain to me, in realistic terms, why this team does not go at least 9-7 and have a real shot at the playoffs. It doesn't make sense to just point to a weakness here and there without any context at all (e.g., the fact that other teams also have similar weaknesses).