I had someone from another blog ask me recently what I expected from the Cowboys this season. I told him that any record from 6-10 to 12-4 would not surprise me. Some of the possible results in that range would be disappointing, but not surprising.
Most seasons I have had pretty well defined expectations for the Cowboys. They were usually pretty optimistic (sometimes wildly so), but always I had a narrow range of wins that I expected. Not in 2011. This year, I look at this team as the last hours run down to the kickoff of the New York Jets game, and I have no idea what I am really looking at.
At least Sunday night we will finally get an idea of what this team is. I am hoping it is good news, but even if things look a little grim, I will be glad to find out. The tension is killing me.
Last time I counted, seven starters for 2010 are not even with the team. One position, fullback, is now a part time job for the tight ends to cover. Exactly one of the offensive line positions is manned by the same person as at this time last year, and we all know about the emergence of the Yuglies. Meanwhile, a whole new defense has been installed under Rob Ryan. And all this is happening under the Cowboy Way of Jason Garrett.
This might be an incredible triumph for these players and coaches. It might be a noble but difficult struggle all year long. It could also be a spectacular crash and burn.
We won't know the entire answer after the final gun sounds on Sunday, but for the first time we will have seen the Cowboys play a real football game after all the changes. No longer will we be basing what happens on past records and best guesses. The analysis will start, and they will be based on facts, observations, and video streams.
I am not going to make any predictions about wins or losses. I am going to say one thing about this season:
This is a turning point for the Dallas Cowboys. It will set the course of the team for the next decade. The NFL came up with a new CBA this year, and it provides ten years of stability, which is, I believe, about perfect for the Cowboys.
That, I suppose, is a statement of optimism, of this being the Season of Hope. It means I do not believe that this team will really crater. I just don't see that happening under Jason Garrett, not with the offensive skill players and all the RKGs that the team has. But saying the team is not going to crater does not mean they are going to have a winning season. What I am saying is - I don't think that this team will react to adversity by quitting. I think they will give their best effort on the field, and if they don't win, they will know they are going to win in the future.
About the massive changes taking place, know this. Jason Garrett has just shown his players how much he believes in them. Time after time he has made it very clear that he is going to play the best man he has at every position. That is as unequivocal a vote of confidence as you can get. When those players go out and line up, they all know they are not there on reputation. They are there, every time they go on the field, to prove they belong there.
So far the team seems to be responding to this with enthusiasm. There is a fire in the belly that certainly was not there last year, and that I don't think has been there for years. I think on both sides of the ball, the Dallas Cowboys are going to go out and start slobberknocking some people. They may not always win, but at the end, the other teams are going to know they have been on the field with a bunch of hard-nosed football players.
Along the way, there are going to be some surprised people. I think they will find out that there is leadership on this team. That a defensive roster that has a lot of the same players from last year is not at all the same. That Rob Ryan does have a plan and knows what he is doing. That Jerry Jones can make some good decisions, mostly by knowing which ones to leave to someone else. And that there is a reason we talk about the Red Headed Genius.
But this is all couched in this air of uncertainty. I think this team has a lot going for it. Many out there don't see it at all the same. They see may question marks, and quite frankly think the Cowboys are in for a rocky year. Like I said, I will not be surprised if the record at the end is not much improved from last year. But I would not be surprised to see the win total double, either. Where many see problems, I see potential that can seize the opportunity.
Until the games get going, though, it is just my opinion. I am ready for this to get started. I am ready to see what they can really do. I am ready for the journey towards certainty.
It has been said that uncertainty is a great crippler, that the greatest fear is the fear of the unknown. I am ready for the rest of the NFL to again Fear The Star.