clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A History Lesson

New, comments

Longtime regular Cowboy Bert offers a calmer perspective after the Redskins' loss:

Times were dark for the team. After a couple of years near the top of the league, the media had split in their opinions of them. The team drew intense national media attention, not all of it kind. Some, clearly rooting for the young upstarts and their coach, had predicted greatness sooner rather than later. Others, clearly not enamored with the teamsâ€â"¢ stars and coaching, almost openly rooted for their failure.

Against this background, the team seemed to slide backwards a step or two. Other coaches and teams had caught up with their schemes, it seemed. The coach, once deemed brilliant by the media, was now seen to have feet of clay. His play calling was suspect, predictable, unimaginative, and conservative. The game was passing him by. The players were overrated. The defense could no longer stop teams when it mattered. They were starting to lose some of the kinds of games they used to win. Some fans were getting disheartened, and the league was ready to put the team behind them and forget about them, like a bad dream.

The team came into the season filled with questions. Inexperienced players, and players at the ends of their careers obtained from other teams, along with a few remaining overworked team veterans, many of whom were also getting older. The media thought they had taken a step backward, talent wise. Everyone understood they would have to win at least 10 games to make the playoffs, but the team stumbled out of the gate, losing winnable games and making what should have been easy wins look difficult.

In week 9, already almost out of contention for a playoff berth at 5-3, they faced what conventional wisdom understood to be a must-win home game, against a division opponent they had dominated for several years, incredibly enough on Monday Night Football. The opponent had a few good players, but seemed out-manned. This was where the team could show what they had!

Inexplicably, they lost, not a close game, but 38-0, the worst team loss in recent memory. They were in disarray, looking completely inept on both sides of the ball. The coach could no longer coach. The team was unprepared. The players couldnâ€â"¢t play. They could neither make a first down, nor stop the other teamâ€â"¢s attack. The first shovels full of dirt were already on the grave in which they had just buried their season. The team would never be great, and the coach…

Then, an interesting thing happened. From the 5-4 start the wins began. Taking each game individually, the team started winning, close game after close game, then comfortably, against all comers, at home and on the road. They finished 10-4, and continued their run into the playoffs, while the team that had beaten them 38-0 finished an also-ran yet again. They were led by the defense, which at halftime of the next week's game began a streak of 24 consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown.

That team in disarray, the 1970 Cowboys, lost the Super Bowl on a last second field goal, before winning it all the following year. The St. Louis Cardinals, who beat them convincingly in that 38-0 pasting, made the playoffs in later seasons, but never got past the first round. That Cowboy team speaks to the truth that it matters less how the year starts than how it ends, that sometimes overcoming painful and embarrassing losses is what teams require, and that giving up on a season after a painful loss is something in which no fan should indulge, and which no team can afford. The good days may be just around the corner.