The Cowboys were who we thought they were, and wishing and hoping isn’t going to change that. Hope springs eternal in the beginning of every football season. This year, our roster looked solid and we brought in defensive geniuses Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli. Jason Garrett handed over OC duties to OL coach Bill Callahan. Things were changing, but it looked like for the better. Some unfortunate injuries happened during training camp, but that’s to be expected. The Cowboys come out of the gate and force 6 turnovers against the Giants in a closer-than-it-should-have-been win. The promise of turnovers from our new DC looked like a prophecy come true. We all walked on cloud nine, but we were more cautious now, because we repeatedly brought up last year, when we also beat the Giants to open the season and then laid a stinker in Seattle.
Our caution paid off. While we fought a tough game, we still dropped a disappointing loss to the Chiefs. There were some grumbles, of course. But we figured KC was a much improved team and we only lost by 1 point. We felt a lot better when KC whipped the Eagles later that Thursday, proving that we lost to a good team. In came the come-from-behind Rams, who had allowed big leads in both games so far in the season, coming back to win one and losing the other. We simply dismantled them, dominating every aspect of the game. Oh, my friends, how we rode on cloud nine that week! We hadn’t blown out a team in so long. This year was different. It had to be.
I felt some uneasiness as the 49ers blew out the Rams on Thursday night. The Rams looked like a very pitiful team. Was our dominating win just a mirage? So we went to San Diego, once again 2-1 for the 5th time since 2006, having lost the next game all 4 times so far. Yes, let me say that again: we lost the next game all 4 times. Once is an accident, two is a trend…we lost, again. Our stout defense collapsed, allowing 500 yards of offense and letting San Diego dominate the time of possession. Suddenly, the yards Eli Manning put up didn’t seem like it was just because of a prevent defense that may or may not have been used. Against better QBs, our defense might have a huge weakness.
So we’re 2-2. Again. 5th time since 2006 we lost the 4th game. Now the grumbles have become very loud. Posters like myself are pointing out the obvious: this team hasn’t changed. We know this is going to be another roller coaster season. There are dissenters out there, who stubbornly cling to the notion that we can’t judge this season yet, that this team is different. But we know better. Deep in our hearts, we know better. Why? Because once is an accident, two is a trend…
Let’s take a look down memory lane. We’re going back to 1996, the season after our last Super Bowl victory.
1996: 10-6 record, 1-1 playoffs
One last glory run for the triplets. We go 10-6, good enough to play in the wild card round. We stomp the Vikings for the last playoff win in the triplet’s career. We lay a stinker at 2nd year franchise Carolina Panthers. Yeah.
1997: 6-10 record
The Super Bowl era is officially over. We fall flat on our faces to finish 6-10.
1998: 10-6 record, 0-1 playoffs
A mini-resurgent year. Or not. Cowboys phone in the playoff game against the Cardinals, score only 7 points against a team they beat twice and scored 38 and 35 points against during the regular season.
1999: 8-8 record, 0-1 playoffs
Cowboys come out of the gate 3-0, stumble to a 8-8 finish and somehow get a wildcard spot. We get dominated by the Vikings, 27-10. The last playoff appearance for Aikman and Emmitt.
2000: 5-11 record
Aikman only plays 8 games that year, the last of his career. Though he now does his best not to be biased when he calls Cowboys games on Fox.
2001: 5-11 record
That season we started Quincy Carter, Anthony Wright, Clint Stoerner, and Ry-Ry-gah! Ryan Leaf. Yeah…
2002: 5-11 record
Good news. We only started Quincy Carter and Chad Hutchinson that year. Yippee!
2003: 10-6 record, 0-1 playoffs
Enter Bill Parcells. On the strength on the #1 rated defense in the NFL, we come out hot, going 7-2 before finishing 10-6. #1 rated defense, which had shut down Jake Delhomme and the Panthers earlier in the season, do what Cowboys teams do lately in big games, and that’s to not even bothering to show up. Carolina kicks our butt in the playoffs yet again.
2004: 6-10 record
Toke it up, Quincy. Playoff starting QB Quincy Carter gets kicked off the team in preseason, shocking everybody. Turns out the dude had a drug problem. Cowboys brass decides to trot out creaky Vinny Testaverde. Creaky Vinny leaks oil, and we finish 6-10 the season after making the playoffs.
2005: 9-7 record
Cowboys brass wheels Testaverde off to the retirement home. While there, they pick up new starting QB Drew Bledsoe. Ol’ Drew gets sacked nearly 50 times as he watches the butterflies. We miss the playoffs.
2006: 9-7 record, 0-1 playoffs
Enter stage right, Tony Romo. Bledsoe does what Bledsoe does best, puts on a ball cap and watches a superior QB lead his team to the playoffs. Red-hot sensation gunslinger Romo rockets the boys to 8-4. Cowboys start flexing in the mirror, Saints come in to Dallas and stomp us into the turf. We limp to 9-7 and barely reach the playoffs. Roll film, cue Romo’s botched hold. Season over.
2007: 13-3 record, 0-1 playoffs
Let’s take a moment to bask in this one glorious season. It’s the only one we’ve had since 1995. Moment over. Giants get red-hot in playoffs while Romo and Witten catch some rays in Cabo, Patrick Crayton takes money under the table to blow playoff game, season over.
2008: 9-7 record
Cowboys storm out to 3-0, reach #1 in many power rankings. Wheels come off, Romo misses 3 crucial games due to voodoo curse in Arizona, Birdman Brad Johnson can only muster one ugly win, the Boys stumble into Philly, needing to win to reach the playoffs. Eagles get the help they needed earlier in the day, go out and stomp us in the most shameful defeat in franchise history.
2009: 11-5 record, 1-1 playoff record
Finally, a playoff win! Only took 13 years. Good lord, 13 years? Cowboys stumble into the dreaded December, collect themselves, beat the 13-0 Saints, roar into the playoffs on the strength of back-to-back shutouts. We stomp Philly in the playoffs, and ride high into Minnesota. Defense misses the team plane, Oline get together to conspire to let Romo die, and the red-hot Cowboys fizzle out in Minnesota, 34-3.
2010: 6-10 record
Romo gets planted into the turf, shatters his collar bone. It hardly mattered, as the Cowboys were already 1-4 and on the way to 1-5. The team quits on Wade Phillips, who gets fired. Enter Princeton smarty-pants Garrett, Cowboys finish 5-3, costing us a good draft pick.
2011: 8-8 record
Romo has a career year, but still blows 2 costly games early in the season. Otherwise, Cowboys are 4-0 and building momentum. Terrence Newman becomes a human hurdle as the defense lets us down. We lose our 2nd Week 17 win and get in game.
2012: 8-8 record
Romo has his worst season as the defense takes up residence at nearby hospitals. We lose our 3rd Week 17 win and get in game as Romo has arguably his worst game.
So, when asked why I’m feeling so disheartened after just week 4, I will point to this. 130-130 since 1996. Can you believe that? Exactly 130-130. That is the very definition of mediocrity. 8-8 in the last 2 seasons. Yes, I still hold out hope for this year. But I don’t believe it. I’ve been on this ride way too many times.