Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE
Fans of the Dallas Cowboys are a bit emotional about the disappointment of the 2012 season. The sense of entitlement surrounding the team should get a lot of the blame for that.
The Dallas Cowboys are reputed to have a sense of entitlement about them. I think the evidence is pretty clear. Reasonably talented players are seen to be all-world when they wear the Star. A good draft pick is seen as evidence of brilliance, with no consideration for all the other teams making draft picks out there, some of which are even better. There is just a belief about the team that any time the silver and blue takes the field, it should win. The coaching staff should be able to call a better game, the players should be able to make all the plays, and nothing can possibly stand between the team and the Super Bowl. It is always to be expected, just because they are the Dallas Cowboys, the team everybody always looks up to. It is a foolish attitude that needs to be torn out by its roots.
Oh, wait a minute. You may think about now I'm talking about the players for the Cowboys.
Wrong, my friends. I'm talking about fans.No matter how badly things went the previous year, no matter who takes a look at the team from a non-Cowboys fan perspective and says they aren't very impressed, we expect the team to be ready to win. Or we expect any problem from last year to be immediately and completely fixed this season. We think that if someone is head coach of the Cowboys and he does not deliver results, namely playoff appearances and championships, right now, he must be fired for incompetence. I mean, how can he not succeed? He is coaching the Dallas Freaking Cowboys! Anybody can coach them to a Super Bowl, right, Mr. Switzer?
Well, not these days. This is the salary cap NFL. The era of parity in a league that was to some degree reconfigured just to keep Jerry Jones from building a New York Yankees-style football dynasty. The Cowboys can no longer overspend their way to success. And they are very unlikely to get another draft pick bonanza like they managed in the Theft of the Century, otherwise known as the Herschel Walker trade. No, barring the arrival of an Andrew Luck or a Doug Martin, which is always hard to predict, the team is going to have to build for success incrementally.
There are people who made the argument before this season that the Cowboys could be a better team than they were in 2011 and still have a worse record. I think it can also be argued that the team is better in some areas this year than last year, despite the won-loss record. It still has some problems, most notably the offensive line and a depleted safety group. This looks like the second year in a row the plan to fix the offensive line has not worked out as well as was hoped. And safety was impacted badly by injuries, which has disrupted the ability to use the new cornerbacks to press the receivers as much as they should.
To reformulate a familiar expression, feces occur. Sometimes the vagaries of chance align in your favor, and sometimes old Lady Luck spits in your face. During the Atlanta Falcons game, I watched the DeMarcus Ware hit on Matt Ryan that popped the ball loose. I remember thinking just a split second before it happened, "Bet it bounces to a Falcon." Because that pretty much sums up the luck for the Cowboys this season, at least as I have seen it. When there is a bounce that can go one way or another, it seems to go the other way.
Additionally, no matter how carefully you evaluate talent, how analytically you lay out your strategy, sometimes it just doesn't work the way it should. No one can know for sure how draftees will work out. There are almost always a couple of first round busts, and anything past round two is no better than a 50/50 shot of having any value at all. Churn is essential to find as good a roster as you can, and it is questionable that there are enough good players to go around at any given time. That's why injuries can be so hard to deal with. Dallas lost a potential superstar in linebacker Sean Lee for the season. Oddly enough, he has not had as big an impact as the loss of Barry Church at safety, or Phil Costa at center, and DeMarco Murray going out at running back is the biggest problem of them all.
I remember some discussion going on a while back in a comment thread. I don't remember the participants, other than one was a BTB regular, and the other was from another site. The visitor was arguing that we were way overvaluing our new players. With the clarity of hindsight, he had it exactly right. Some of the new players have been pretty good, others have been disappointing, and some have just not worked out for one reason or another.
There is a lot of discussion to be conducted about what should and should not be done to make the Cowboys a better team. I vote for letting Garrett continue building the team his way, trying a new playcaller for the offense, possibly Bill Callahan, letting Tony Romo work the no-huddle more, and praying that Jerry Jones resists the urge to take a more active role in the decisions that should be made by the coaching staff. You are welcome to argue for or against those ideas, and to propose and defend any of your own.
We knew the offensive line, the most complex unit to get right, was a hot mess coming into the season. Many feel that Dallas has a couple of elite wide receivers, but that argument is based on some really shaky ground. While Miles Austin and Dez Bryant have made some great plays, neither has established the consistency to be called elite. Potential is meaningless until it is realized. Tony Romo is good, but without an effective running game, he is handicapped and he is not good enough to overcome that. This is a team with two legitimate stars and future Hall of Fame players, DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten, surrounded by some good and not so good teammates. There are about as many flaws on the Cowboys as you will find on most NFL teams, which means they are kind of average.
We tend to buy our own hype. It is part and parcel of being the fan base for America's Team, the NFL's most lucrative franchise. As Cris Collinsworth said during the Atlanta Falcons game, it doesn't matter how well or how poorly the Cowboys are playing, you have to pay attention to them. That sums it up. Dallas has the past trophies. Everything that happens here happens under one of the brightest spotlights in pro sports. It is hard not to get sucked into all that. And I, for one, would rather be optimistic. Every team starts the season undefeated.
Now, we are mired in the NFL doldrums and it is time to re-evaluate. Things are not totally hopeless, but they don't look good. And this edition of the Cowboys has some major issues, including talent, scheme and in the front office. They are both unique and similar to what any franchise having a rough time has to deal with. The question becomes whether we should show a bit of patience, or lean towards demanding the team be blown up and rebuilt. Just to give a hint, you can expect a bit of the former from Jerry Jones.
"You've got to look at (Garrett's) short tenure as our coach as well as his potential for the future," Jones said on his radio show. "That's a combination that's worth looking at real good. Yes, I made a coaching change with a coach in here that'd only been here two years, Chan Gailey. I regretted it. That was not the thing to do at the time."
This was a team that probably could not be fixed in a couple of seasons. It may still take longer than we would like. And it may all fall together very soon, possibly with the upcoming game at the Philadelphia Eagles, who have an issue or two themselves. However it turns out, it would be wise to remember that it is not as easy as some think. However it goes, I plan to be here. After all, even the Cleveland Browns still have fans. Sometimes I'll hoist some Kool Aid. Right now, I'm just taking a deep breath, and hoping the coach at the next game who is about to be fired is wearing green.