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Cowboys FanPost Of The Week: Sacred Cow Tipping

Rob Ryan disputes the common definition of "clutch."
Rob Ryan disputes the common definition of "clutch."

Heya, BTBers. Its time for the newest installment of the FanPost of the Week. In weeks following a Cowboys loss, as might be expected, the FanPost section is filled with a combination of rants, calls for firings of coaches or changes to the depth chart and--usually after the sting of the loss has worn off--some objective, level-headed assessments of what happened.

This week was no different--but in reverse. Curiously, many of the FPs I read immediately after the game were of the "hey, New England is a good team; no shame in losing to them on the road" variety. This led me to wonder whether we, as a community of fans, had become enlightened zen masters or merely given up. But then, the invectives, to the tune of "Garrett is a terrible playcaller" and "the defense choked on the Patriots final drive" began to trickle in, and the precious balance of objectivity and irrational passion that characterizes fandom was restored. Whew, what a relief.

One of the reasons for my relief was that it would allow me to reward the more objective FanPosts, which I had done two weeks earlier, after the debacle against the Lions. In that FPOTW, I employed a lot of block quotes from FanPosters work in service to a larger point that they--and I, in choosing them--tried to make. The Cowboys win or lose as a team, not because of a single player or even a single series. This idea will be reinforced by and reflected in this week's selections. As I know you are all chomping at the proverbial bit to see who's taking home Rabbies, I'll get to our top FanPosters.

This week's winner, and so much more, after the jump...

Our first honorable mention goes to one of my favorite BTBers, a guy who makes fairly regular appearances in this column: 5Blings. This time around, Blings authors a post comparing this group of Cowboys players to the 1990 team. That squad, as the graybeards amongst us happily recall, went 7-9 but radiated a promise that they would more than go on to fulfill. As Blings so eloquently puts it:

I saw that same thing in 1990. They lost some tough games where they were clearly NOT ready for, pardon the pun, prime time. But in those losses, I also saw a group of players that had become the embodiment of its head coach. He was unyielding. So were they. He was hardnosed. So were they. He was all about learning what it took to win. So, we would later come to find out, were they.

Indeed, I remember this feeling well, Blings. I was living in San Diego at the time and took the train (yes, the train; there was an Amtrak stop in the Anaheim stadium parking lot!) to see the Cowboys play the Rams, pulling out a 24-21 victory at the end of a back-and-forth contest. It was one key step in their learning how to win close games--and realizing that they could. That victory was the start of a four-game winning streak that brought Dallas to 7-7 and the brink of a playoff spot. With a game coming up against those same Rams, it seems fitting to recall this history--and to hope that history repeats itself. I know I could use a four-game win streak right about now...

Our next honoree is another chap who regularly graces the FPOTW pages. In fact, he's the reigning FanPoster of the Year: Fan in Thick and Thin. This week, Thick has cooked up two juicy morsels for our delectation. In the first, he reviews the Patriots contest, offering his usual set of refreshing, outside-the-box conclusions; in the second, he offers a fascinating take on interceptions. Thick reviews the interception rate data that suggests that picks are the LEAST consistent QB performance category from year to year. This suggests that picks cannot be placed solely on the quarterback's shoulders; otherwise, most QBs interception rates would fluctuate only slightly. So, Thick opines, "the lesson is that teammates have a material impact. If you think Dallas should be gunning for a 2% interception rate," he concludes, "its takes a team effort." In other words, Romo's interception rate will fall as soon as Dez Bryant learns to run precise, reliable routes. Good stuff, as always Thick!

Now, to this week's winner. NYHorn, come on up to the stage and get yer Rabbie! In the latest edition of his "DYRC" column, Horn takes on the notion of intangibles, attacking what he terms the "Sacred Cow of Clutchness." I found a lot of his points to be compelling, but what really got me was the following, which I feel that I have to cite in its entirety:

After we lost to the Lions I posited a question: Would you be more upset if we lost a game 20-17 and Tony Romo threw a pick-6 in the first half, or if we lost by the same amount and Tony Romo threw an interception in the last 5 minutes. I was surprised to hear that people really did believe the former scenario was preferable to the latter scenario. Football is an aggregate game. Throwing a pick-6 is going to hurt equally no matter when you throw it.

But NYhorn, you may protest, don't you believe that it is more essential to throw better in the last quarter because the game is so close and the game hinges on a single play? No I do not. If the game is that close in the 4th quarter this reveals an inability of the Offense, Defense, or Special teams to significantly extend the game to where a single horrific play by one of the three groups will not ruin it. In the case of the past couple of losses the blame is significantly skewed towards the Offense. In the Jets game, the blame was equally on the defense for keeping the Jets in the game, and on the offense for committing 2 turnovers.

For fans of a team that has now played 11 straight close games, this is an absolutely crucial point. In the emotional throes of a painful loss (and what close loss isn't painful?), its human nature to assign blame to the most recent input. But this isn't reasonable. As Horn points out, there are many negative plays from the first 45 minutes of a game that contribute to its being close enough for a play or two to decide it in the final frame.

To wit: why hasn't Romo's first quarter interception received the same level of hand-wringing that his fourth quarter turnovers have? Horn suggests that the only difference is when it happened, and reminds us that all of them--and all plays--should be considered equally. And if we do can make this mental leap, then it will become clear that a win or loss happens over a full 60 minutes, and must be assigned (as FiTT says of picks) to the entire team.

In a two-week stretch that can easily lead to myopia, both Thick and Horn remind us to take the long view. And that's FPOTW-worthy, in my book.

Thanks to all--and keep on postin'!

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