In a society longing for instant gratification, obsessed with maximizing returns from minimal investments, and requesting representatives to increase entitlements, the wails after the latest Dallas Cowboys game are hardly novel. As always, following the Cowboys is not something for the uninformed, meek, or irresolute.
"This is the same team as last season!"
The words echo as if shouting up from the depths of an unascendable pit. In contrast, the Cowboys sit at the apex of the division, with only three NFC teams boasting a better record. Dallas will unequivocally visit Chicago and New Orleans: Seattle may be on the horizon, as well as mentioned later in this opus.
Hinting at post season success for a Cowboys fan requires circus-like verbal agility in order to balance blasphemy with hope. The tight rope upon which fans teeter may span up to 16 or 20 games. An ever increasing chasm beneath the high wire swells with each passing contest.
As advised, the timid need not endure the character revealing journey. The rewards are scarce and the commitment is great: the opposite of what most in this society seek.
But for those that began this expedition years ago, the steps fraught with disappointment, the tests of Herculean proportions, and the Shakespearean-like tragedies littering the excursion have tempered the souls akin to the metal of a fine Samurai sword. The strength of the weapon is derived from the arduous process providing the flexibility of the material.
It is a process of change.
This team is not the 2012 iteration. Through two games, this Cowboys team is running more plays (135 plays in 2013, 114 plays in 2012 through two games), blunting the rush attempts of the opponents (21 fewer rush attempts through two games for 100 less yards yielded), and controlling the ball for an average of almost nine minutes more per game than their rivals (in 2012, Dallas possessed the ball for almost the same as its first two opponents).
Takeaways have increased six-fold, scoring has increased by over 40 percent (including one more offensive touchdown scored), red zone opportunities have doubled, and penalties have decreased by almost 40 percent in comparison to last season. Romo is completing over 70 percent of his passes and has thrown fewer interceptions despite throwing 22 more passes than last year while leading an up tempo attack.
The Cowboys have become less explosive, as the average yards per play have plummeted by more than one and a half yards. Romo's passes are slightly more than two yards shorter per attempt despite the excellent completion percentage.
This team is in the midst of a significant metamorphosis. The Cowboys are experiencing evolution with the associated pains.
It is a process of growth.
Change rarely occurs spontaneously. It is a process. In order to develop into a successful team, the Cowboys will require time.
Improvement rarely happens in a smooth, linear progression. Missed blocks will occur as the offensive line establishes a rapport. Errant passes will pepper the field as receivers, tight ends, running backs, and the coordinator familiarize themselves with the nuances of the offense as executed by the quarterback.
In sports, practice is paramount. With the limited time allotted under the new collective bargaining agreement, the sixteen game schedule serves to fulfill rehearsal requirements. Where a team starts is relatively irrelevant given the potential and expectation for improvement throughout the course of the season.
Playoff teams from last year such as the Redskins and the Vikings are desperate to improve immediately before this new season becomes a tragedy. The Giants and Steelers are minutes away from wandering aimlessly through a season that offered hope on Labor Day. Even the mighty 49ers face the pressure to improve in order to compete against the Seahawks for the division title.
San Francisco, Washington, and Minnesota are all currently last in their respective divisions. Green Bay and Atlanta are the other playoff teams from 2012 that are not in the lead for their division after two weeks. All hope to improve over the course of the next 15 weeks of the season.
Conversely, Dallas is still leading the NFC East despite dropping a game against an AFC foe on the road. The Cowboys will navigate the remaining fourteen games while, "trying to stack good practices on top of each other," in order to facilitate the gradual process of change.
If the Seahawks continue to demonstrate excellence, the road to the Super Bowl my run through Seattle. Abiding by the process may help the Cowboys play them in the playoffs.
How delicious the symmetry of defeating the Seahawks in Seattle to reach the Super Bowl. The team would transcend from the fumbled snap to a potential penultimate championship triumph. What a marvelous indicator of change.
It is a process towards success.