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Dallas Cowboys Must Find Pride Before They Find Success

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Many want Coach Wade Phillips fired. If the players don't change their ways, a coaching change won't do any good.
Many want Coach Wade Phillips fired. If the players don't change their ways, a coaching change won't do any good.

Usually at this time I'd be submitting to you my film review of Sunday's game. I'd break down the individual player performances and trends from the game and do my best to dissect why the Dallas Cowboys won or lost the game. Yet against the Vikings, much as it was against the Titans, the Cowboys didn't lose another backbreaking game because of scheme or playcalling or X's and O's coaching. This was a game lost -- once again -- because of bone-headed penalties and mistakes that were made at the absolute worst times throughout the game.

The Dallas Cowboys didn't lose to the Minnesota Vikings; they flat-out handed them a win. And I'm getting sick of seeing it. Sick of the penalties, sick of the excuses, sick of the mistakes and sick and tired of devoting my emotion and pride in a group of players that apparently possess none of those traits themselves.

I'm sick of it all.

Perhaps what is most frustrating about watching the Dallas Cowboys self destruct is that it's coming at a time when the team just across the parking lot is displaying all of the traits of a winning team.

The Texas Rangers aren't the most talented or experienced team in the MLB, but they are a team that believes in itself and its ability to win games each and every night. You have players that that play for one another and that over the course of the season have formed a bond that is near unbreakable; this is a bond that has driven the Rangers to the American League Championship Series and has them just two wins away from the World Series.

While the Dallas Cowboys are falling apart at Cowboys Stadium, the Texas Rangers are proving that talent isn't what wins you games -- it's an inherent pride in yourself and in each other, it's the heart to fight through adversity and the ability to bear down and focus when the game is on the line. The Rangers aren't perfect; they make mistakes. Yet they don't make excuses and they hold each other accountable for the mistakes that are made. More importantly, they learn from the past and build upon it for future games.

Would I be just as disappointed in the Cowboys if the Texas Rangers weren't currently displaying every trait the Cowboys are so obviously and desperately missing? Of course I would be. Yet I realized on Sunday just how far this team has fallen in my heart when I wasn't completely broken by the loss. I didn't have to put myself into a shell and ignore football for the rest of the week because the Cowboys lost.

If the Dallas Cowboys didn't care about whether they won or lost, then why should I?

If the Dallas Cowboys didn't have pride in the way they played the game, then why should I?

If the Dallas Cowboys didn't have faith in themselves to win games, then why would I?*

*Don't get me wrong. I am still a die hard fan. I will still spend my money on jerseys and hats and tickets to games both home and away. I will always be a fan of this team through the good times and the bad. Don't worry about that.

If the Dallas Cowboys were 1-4 because they were a bad team, then perhaps I could deal with it. Yet a team with Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Jason Witten, Felix Jones, DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Terence Newman, Jay Ratliff and Gerald Sensabaugh cannot be considered a "bad" team. They haven't even played like a bad team, dominating the Titans and the Vikings for long stretches of the games until a simple mistake at the wrong time dooms them in the end.

The penalties are what hurt the most.

The interceptions are certainly frustrating, but when Romo has only thrown one "true" interception that didn't bounce off someone first then I can at least afford him one mistake now and then. Those of us that expect Romo to be absolutely perfect are deluding ourselves and placing way too much pressure on the quarterback. He's going to make mistakes; the trick is for Romo not to make more mistakes than the team can overcome. The Cowboys, over the course of a game, should be able to overcome an interception now and then. The Cowboys should be good enough that one key third down that isn't converted won't doom the team at the end of the game.

I've always believed that a single mistake should never lose a team a game. If we are trying to blame a loss on one play, one mistake -- then the rest of the game went drastically horrible as well. That these mistakes are penalties and not necessarily blown coverages or bad playcalling is what is dooming this team and that is what is most frustrating of all.

That's the case for the Cowboys over the course of this entire season and it's what doomed the Cowboys against the Vikings. A pass interference on Miles Austin negates a 70 yard touchdown, when he never needed that shove to get open. A pass interference called on a simple tug of a jersey on a pass that was near uncatchable, negates a key third down stop by the defense. Another excessive celebration call -- no matter how tacky -- once again gives the opposition prime field position directly after a long touchdown drive. A silly holding call negates a stunningly great punt return. Defensive holding. Offsides. False starts. All completely worthless penalties that occur throughout the course of the game, adding up to a Cowboys team that can't get out of it's own way.

Think about this: Despite all of the issues of the first half, the Cowboys went into half time up 14-7 and in complete control of the game. They had the momentum and had apparently resolved the early mistakes that were made to start the game.

Yet the Cowboys allowed the Vikings right back in the game, blowing kick coverage and allowing Percy Harvin to tie the game at 14-14 just a few seconds into the third quarter. Just like that, the Cowboys had lost the momentum, lost their composure and at that moment that's when they lost the game.

Watching that game against the Vikings over again is one of the most frustrating things I've ever had to do since joining BTB. There is absolutely no reason why the Cowboys shouldn't have won that game. The defense was able to contain the Vikings offense, when not fighting against a short field, and while the multiple passes to running backs in the flat were maddening the offense was able to move the ball against a very good defense.

The Cowboys dominated the game at times yet certain very crucial mistakes -- on offense and defense -- were just too much for the Cowboys to overcome. This has been the story of the entire season up to this point, a team losing because it can't focus enough to get out of its own way long enough to actually win a football game.

The Dallas Cowboys aren't losing because of a lack of talent. They aren't losing because of bad playcalling or poor clock management or mismanaged personnel. This is a team that lacks the focus, drive and personal pride necessary to win football games on a weekly basis. To give the Cowboys credit, they haven't completely unraveled as a team. There isn't an (open) locker room dissension, no finger pointing in the media and at the very least -- love them or hate them -- they're sticking by their coach.

There are many who believe that the only way the Cowboys can start winning again is if a coaching change is made. Wade Phillips and his easy going, non-judgmental and soft-spoken ways have apparently turned his team into a group of players that have zero pride and zero interest in showing focus from one week to the next.

Yet a coaching change will do nothing for this team if the players don't find a way to find pride within themselves. I talked to Daryl Johnston about this at length last week and he was adamant, stating this over and over again, that the problem with the Dallas Cowboys right now isn't the coaching -- it's the players. There is nothing the coach can do if the players don't have pride in themselves and the way they approach and play the game.

You know you are struggling as a team. Think about what you are doing on that field from one moment to the next. Don't grab a player by the shoulder pads and sling them to the ground. Don't grab a player's jersey as he's jumping up for a pass. Don't do a flying leap over your teammate after he catches a touchdown. All of these mistakes could be prevented with simple focus and pride in your own, individual performance.

The Cowboys are capable of turning this season around and at least walking away with their chins held a bit higher than they are right now. Perhaps a midseason coaching change would send enough of a shock through the organization that the player temporarily respond, but a coaching change is also a sign of giving up. A coach needs an entire offseason to implement his strategy, his overall approach and his own personality into the team to truly make a difference and change the direction of the team. With the Cowboys still having the ability to make a difference, to turn things around and try and save the season -- some how, some way -- there is nothing a change at the coaching position can do that the players can't do themselves.

Many want a change just to get Wade Phillips and his demeanor off the sideline and out of Valley Ranch. T he team has taken on the coach's personality and now it's affecting the team's week by week mental performance.It doesn't matter if the coach screams and yells, benches players, fines them, cuts them or holds their collective hands through each and every team meeting and practice.

None of that will matter until this team, as individuals and as a group, finds that pride that drives them to succeed every day, every week and every game. Until then, we will continue to watch a woefully underachieving team struggle with not beating itself in each and every game.

I'll still be there watching, however. Week in and week out.