If you are upset to the point of having your day ruined about the Dallas Cowboys having to mount a late drive to come from behind and win against a Minnesota Vikings team that has only been able to muster one win this season, and that against the 2-6 Pittsburgh Steelers, then you need to read this.
It could be so much worse. For all the talk about the problems the Cowboys are having and how the coaches and owner cannot get things right, things this season have not gone nearly as badly as they could. And I'm not talking about the fact that the team is 5-4 and alone in first place in the NFC East. I'm talking about bigger, more important things. Things that should make you glad to be a Dallas fan this year, and maybe to take a little stock of your priorities.
Jason Garrett is having some issues in getting over the 8-8 hump that we are so very familiar with, but he is making the team relevant to the very end of the season. And he is not in the hospital.
The past week, two NFL teams had their head coaches unexpectedly suffer issues that may keep them off the field for some time. John Fox of the Denver Broncos was taking a break during the bye week, when he suffered chest pains, and now he has had heart surgery to repair an aortic valve. From some reports, he was aware he had a problem, but thought he would be able to put the surgery off for a while.
In other words, Fox probably was putting himself at some risk of permanent damage, or even death, because he was a typical guy aggravated by being in football, and didn't want to bother with taking care of his health. Macho guys are all too tough for that. He was on a golf course when this happened. Not to be overly dramatic, but he could have died. I'm not saying there is a lesson here, but wise people learn.
Even more shocking was the sudden collapse of Gary Kubiak at halftime of the Indianapolis Colts - Houston Texans game on Sunday night. He is still being evaluated, but a heart attack has been ruled out, and the information that has been released indicates that there is concern that he may have been close to having a stroke.
Ignore, for a moment, the impact of this on the respective teams. Both have experienced former head coaches in Jack Del Rio and Wade Phillips (and please refrain from the jokes about Wade for a moment). Consider, instead, the fact that both men may have fallen prey to the considerable stress involved in being a head coach in the NFL. The rewards may be tremendous, but it is a horribly consuming profession. I caught a bit of a Scott Van Pelt interview with Herm Edwards on ESPN radio, and Edwards was making the point that a head coach in the NFL never really has time off. He is always thinking, obsessing even, about how to win more games. Because that is all there really is. Win, or lose the job, the money, the prestige.
Next time you are screaming for a coach to be fired, remember that for a moment.
These issues are bad enough, but both men are getting excellent care and have great chances for complete recovery. They will probably make it back to the sidelines. Happy endings may prevail.
It doesn't look like there will be any happy endings in the state of Florida, home to arguably the three most dysfunctional franchises in the NFL. The Jacksonville Jaguars have been seen as the absolute worst team in the league since before the season started, and they have assiduously striven to live down to everyone's expectations. It seems highly unlikely that the team will remain in the Sunshine State for long, with Los Angeles and London both seen as likely places to relocate. Persistent rumors are that the owner is just fine with those ideas, which makes it rough on real Jags fans. Fortunately, they are a small group.
Tamba Bay is trapped in a season that is almost as bad, despite nearly upsetting the Seattle Seahawks in their own house. And unlike the Jaguars, whose ineptitude is all pervasive, the Buccaneers have one primary cause for the sad state of their franchise: Head coach Greg Schiano. He had completely failed to adapt his college head coaching style to the needs of the NFL and the players he now is trying to lead. Indications are that he has already lost the team, and letting the game in Seattle slip through their fingers may be the last nail in the coffin - although arguments are already being made that the coffin has been finished, polished up, and is waiting with the lid wide open. When you are a franchise in dire need of a better quarterback after having literally run off your former starter (Josh Freeman, if you don't want to follow the link) and have a real chance to get the number one pick in what appears to be a quarterback rich draft, just letting the season run its course under Schiano makes a little sense. It just must be hell on the players, who are proud men, and by many reports, much more talented than their record indicates.
And then there is the bizarre case of the Miami Dolphins' Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. Personally, I would never in a million years have expected a bullying case to revolve around a couple of 300+ pound NFL offensive linemen, but amazingly, that is exactly what we are being treated to. Martin, a second-year player, left the team last week, and as a result, the incredibly crude and racist comments made to him by Incognito have been revealed to the public. Incognito has been indefinitely suspended. A brief review of his history indicates that this is just the latest in a long series of antisocial acts on his part. Now the Dolphins have roster issues and questions about how this could happen with no one on the staff knowing there were problems brewing, and may have left lingering effects to handle as well.
Compared to these things, a 5-4 record, questionable decision making by the coordinators, and some outbursts by Dez Bryant just don't seem all that major. And remember that the media is going to do all it can to make issues in Dallas look bigger and keep them alive as long as possible. Yesterday, during the highlights of previous games on Sunday Night Football, all the shots were of plays during games. Except during the highlights from the Vikings-Dallas game. When, with no comment or explanation, they showed Bryant standing on the sidelines. It was the only shot like that I saw in the entire segment.
Read into it what you will. We are fans of the Dallas Cowboys, and the larger NFL world really wants our team to fail. It is not the best of things, but when you step back and gain a little wider perspective, things are not so bad as a Dallas fan after all.