The Dallas Cowboys are now 0-2, suffering another incredibly frustrating loss by a touchdown or less. The panic button has firmly been pushed now and the wagons are going to be circling around Valley Ranch all week long.
Anyone brave enough to watch national sports coverage this week will find countless stories on whether Wade Phillips' job is in jeopardy, what rash decisions Jerry Jones might make, the issues in that may or may not come up in the locker room and basically a general glee about things as the Cowboys wallow in the face of an overhyped team fall disastrously flat on their face to start the season.
The most frustrating thing about all of this? We knew it was coming. All of the issues we covered ad nauseum in the offseason and throughout training camp have now reared their ugly heads here in the past two weeks. Lack of a running game? Check. Poor game planning? Check. Lack of offensive chemistry? Check. Poor play from the safeties? Check. Penalties and sacks at the worst times? Check and check.
It's all been there and for the fans it appears that the team we witness go 11-5 last season and finally win a playoff game has actually, somehow gotten worse. This is essentially the exact same team, with the exact same coaching staff, as last season and we barely recognize them. Or perhaps we recognize them all to well.
In any case, it all amounts to a hole to start the season that is going to be near impossible to climb out of.
Anyone that knows me or has read my work over the past three years knows that I am an optimist; I choose to always look at the positive and to see what good can come out of any bad that happens. It's not always possible to find the good within the bad but I try my best. What I don't do is let my optimism blind me from the faults that exist on the teams I love. I am a true fan through and through and will support and defend each and every player and coach until it's absolutely impossible for me to do so, but I also am able to realize when change is needed.
Unfortunately that change that everyone is hoping for won't come anytime soon. Barring an unforeseeable 0-6 start, Jerry Jones will not change his head coach in the middle of the season. He never has before and I don't see that happening at any point this season. We aren't going to see any drastic personnel changes anytime soon. No changes in the front office nor any admission of give-up or second guessing until it's absolutely the final straw in what has to be a lost season.
There is no need for this team nor this organization to just give up. I understand the fans must be screaming for a restructuring, a new coach, a brand new coaching regime that can come in here and do what none has been able to do since 1995. Yet there is no need for any wholesale changes, not at this point of the season and certainly not because of an 0-2 start. In this age of parity in the NFL, where the course of a season can change in a heartbeat, nothing is over until the math says it is.
This team still has time to pull itself away from oblivion, to scratch and claw their way back to where we all had hoped they would be. It's only week two and while history says the odds of making the playoffs after losing the first two games of the season are near impossible to overcome, there is nothing that says the season is over.
What we all have to do, including this football team, is this:
Forget about the Super Bowl. Forget about the playoffs, the hype, the media scrutiny, the anger from the fans. Forget about all of that pressure that is weighing you down and just focus on the task that is staring you in the face. You can't think about what the ramifications on the season are going to be after losing the first two games; focus on climbing out of the hole you've dug by taking it one, small step at a time.
It was painfully obvious, watching the Cowboys today, that this is a team not having any fun. This is a team without a true identity as they struggle with the pressures of living up to the lofty expectations set forth by the media, the fans and themselves. Any outside media that visiting training camp this season gushed about the serious nature of the practices, the intensity of the camp and the quiet confidence the team possessed. At the time we took that for a team that wasn't cocky or overconfident and just focused on getting the job done. Instead, it turns out that this was a team that was struggling to lift up to the expectations of a season that was supposed to end with the Super Bowl.
We've seen this before, this team falling short while facing heightened expectations. In 2008 it was a locker room mess and an obvious overconfidence that did them in. In 2010 it appears that this is a team playing it safe and playing tentative, exposing the insecurities of being told how great you are while worrying about living up to such lofty goals.
There are so many things going wrong right now it's impossible to pinpoint one true reason for failure. This isn't a team that is losing because of one single failed element; instead this is a team that is losing as a team -- defense, offense and special teams combined. This shared responsibility for these losses is disheartening to witness but at the same time it's also a bit encouraging.
This team isn't losing because of lack of talent. This team isn't losing because of lack of hunger. This team is losing because it lacks an overall identity; the Dallas Cowboys can't find one true common goal amongst every player on the team that can be shared as individuals and turned into overall success on the field.
I watched an offense today that lacked any sort of fire and any sort of attitude; perhaps it was the absence of a running game or the apparent lack of comfort in Tony Romo's game. I mentioned that during last week's game against the Redskins that this was an offense that seemed unsure of itself at best and completely discombobulated at worst. It's purely because of the raw talent on this offense that Romo and the Cowboys can move the ball up and down the field.
This lack of an identity on offense bleeds over to the rest of the team as well. We witnessed the Cowboys get grossly outcoached today but we also saw a defense give up plays in big chunks like we haven't seen in a very, very long time.
All of this can change, however.
The Cowboys will show their true heart next week in Houston. The Cowboys will be playing a team that has a good defense and a downright scary offense and right now all signs point to a very hefty loss. If this team truly believes in itself, if this is a team that is intent on proving they have pride in what they do then we will witness a brand new Dallas Cowboys team taking the field a week from now at Reliant Stadium.
There are going to be issues that the Cowboys will be dealing with all season that will be tough to overcome. The lack of depth at safety reared its head today as did the lack of an ability to establish any sort of running game. The kicker has already made two brutal mistakes this season and it's going to be a source of contention all year long. Yet despite all of this, the Cowboys are capable of pulling their backs away from the fire and piecing all of the pieces together from the worst start of Wade Phillips' career.
We have very lofty expectations for the Dallas Cowboys and when viewed objectively, sometimes we expect too much. For a team with this much talent at nearly every position, however, there's a great reason will expect so much. This is why it is so painful to see a team with as little fire as the Cowboys showed today in what we all know could -- and should -- have been a much different game.
All is not lost but the outlook is dire. It's a tough task to ask a team to take the field and to play loose, to have fun and just do what they do best while also knowing that a loss likely dooms the season. That's the task ahead of this team now and while this is certainly not the way we envisioned the 2010 season taking shape, this is the reality we are faced with.
It's put up or shut up time. Forget the hype. Just go out and play some damn football.