I think the "underachiever" label has fit the Cowboys perfectly for many years. Can you think of the last season where our team did better than you expected all the way through?
13-3 was nice, but it was followed by a home loss to the Giants in the playoffs. The next season ended 9-7 sitting home for the playoffs, with the 44-3 debacle in Philly leaving a sour taste in everyone's mouth.
What about the season where we beat the Eagles in the playoffs to end our long playoff drought? Well, the next game we get absolutely crushed 34-3 by the Vikings in Minnesota. The rout seemed to carry over into the next season's 1-7 start.
The last time I think we overachieved was Bill Parcells' first year 2003, when he coaxed Quincy Carter and Troy Hambrick into a 10-6 record. But even then, we were toasted 29-10 by Carolina in the playoffs when Steve Smith ate up Terence Newman.
And if you go back before Parcells, well you have to go way back to our last Super Bowl to find a team that didn't underachieve.
So, I think it's pretty clear, the team has underachieved consistently for well over a decade.
How have we tended to underachieve? Turnovers, penalties, games where the team has seemed to quit, mental mistakes, prima donnas putting themselves ahead of the team. You name it. We've done it. It has become a kind of culture of the team, ever since Jimmy Johnson left.
I think Jason Garrett has a chance to change that culture. I think the changes on the offensive line may be the key. Instead of fat and happy "pro bowlers" riding on reputation, he's jettisoned three starters and replaced then with Phil Costa, an undrafted free agent in his second season, Phil Nagy, a 7th round rookie who didn't start his senior year in college, perhaps Kevin Kowalski, an undrafted rookie, and Tyron Smith, the 9th pick in the draft. Now Smith is not a reach. At his slot, he should expect to start. But Costa, Nagy, Kowalski, and Arkin? If these guys succeed at all, they will be huge OVERACHIEVERS. And these are not spot players who might make a special teams play. These are the heart of the offensive line.
So, if these guys pull it off, there is a distinct possibility it will start to rub off on the rest of the team to where perhaps some other guys will start to overachieve. And if you get that applied to an entire team, you start seeing a team like the Super Bowl NO Saints, or even the Super Bowl NY Giants, or the injury-riddled Green Bay Packers.
That's a lot to ask for, but can we at least once have a team that overachieves? And then see how far that takes them?
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