Not long ago, I proposed that the defensive line will be the most important position group for the Dallas Cowboys in 2013. This was quickly followed by OCC showing his support for the secondary, KD throwing his hat in with the OLine, Tom insisting that the coaches were key, and finally Joey claiming that the crown belonged to the linebackers (notably absent are quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers/tight ends).
Each article certainly has valid claims to veracity, and the reactions in the comments seemed to go along with that pretty well. Of course, with the natural competitive spirit of us sports-loving types, we have to know: who won? Who was right?
We was correct. I were wrong.
That is to say: "We" would have won, if "We" had been an answer. Our submissions, however, each an "I," as in a part of the whole, were all wrong. Allow me, then, to submit to you some version of the 'right answer,' the 'We,' as I've introduced it.
It takes a team to win.
All of these story lines we've dreamed up are illusory, serving only to clarify our personal biases, not the outcome of a football game or season.
Non-winning outcomes only occur when you fail to outscore your opponent. This is a culmination of three disparate and yet interconnected outcomes. First, the offense failed to score sufficient points to win. Second, the defense failed to prevent points to an extent sufficient to ensure victory. Finally, the special teams both failed to prevent enough points and failed to score sufficient points to augment the offense.
Every single loss could have been prevented by better play in one or a combination of these areas.
Within the units themselves, also, there are these relationships. Romo can't get sacked if he's already released the ball, regardless of how bad the line is perceived to be. Every running play would be a touchdown if not for a failure of blocking by the offensive line and tackle evasion by the running back. Every receiving play would likewise be a touchdown if not for errors on the parts of the receivers and quarterbacks.
Everyone could've afforded to step up on every one of these occasions.
The defense is the same story. Every defensive play would be a turnover, if it weren't for the mistakes in execution. Every single play would end in a fumble recovery, if not an interception, if not a strip sack, if everyone executed their assignment with omnipotence.
And while we realize this is not a realistic standard, you also realize just how far from ideal the average football play, even when executed by the best teams, is. Every single player could have done more to contribute to any failed victory.
And yet, being humans, we aren't satisfied with simply qualifying the problem as indefinite within absolute bounds, and we proceed to invent more precise measures. We can thank that for our widely varied views on what one can reasonably expect from each player or group of players.
Ironically, these 'reasonable expectations' are at times quite unreasonable. We end up with twisted ideas that our quarterback needs to manufacture success with a 150-or-so quarterback rating nightly. Or that our wide receiver simply needs a high volume of targets, from which he will automatically generate two or three touchdowns per game (that's reasonable, isn't it, Dez?). Still others expect an offensive line that can push the entire front seven of an opposing defense backwards four yards down after down so as to make the running game a guaranteed success and negative plays a virtual impossibility.
As crazy as these arguments may sound (especially in my deliberately exaggerated portrayals of them), they are eerily resonant with the logic being used to justify many of the instant-success recipes often peddled in the lead-up to the draft.
And don't get me wrong. I fully support this. I don't want to go after a player with the expectation that he'll be merely sufficient - I want dominance!
Still, we need to maintain this understanding that we're often irrational when we wish to make realistic projections or evaluations. This is why the team as a whole - from 1 to 53, the practice squad, the coaching staff and the camp bodies, too - is the atomic element (read: indivisible unit) that will determine this team's success.
But, really, I'd still like to know - who won? Let us know in the poll and in the comments!