By now, you've probably heard the fact the if the NFL has a work stoppage after next week's deadline, it will be the first one since way back in 1987. That was a long time ago, but not so long ago that voices don't echo from that distant past.
One of our own, Everson Walls, offers a cautionary tale about the unintended consequences of a work stoppage. Now, the one back in 1987 was was a little different. One, the players went on strike instead of being locked out. Two, that one cost games in an actual season, something we haven't gotten near yet in this particular battle.
Still, Walls relays the ways things can spiral out of control, and the way - he believes - it wrecked the late 80s Dallas Cowboys. To be fair, the Cowboys of the late 80s were already beginning a downward trajectory, but Walls is adamant that the 1987 strike season forced the 'Boys to hit rock bottom.
Since the players were on strike, the owners and upper-management at teams decided that bringing in replacement players was a good idea. And according to the history presented by several sources, the Dallas Cowboys and Tex Schramm led the way. The Cowboys are labeled "scab central" by Walls, and once the replacements started showing up and the games were being played, the Cowboys player unity started to crack.
"It became black vs. white," Walls said in a telephone interview, "old vs. young. Superstar vs. ordinary player. It all felt apart. It was chaos in our locker room."
"That signaled the end of the Cowboys in the 1980s," Walls said. "Tom [Landry] couldn't handle complicated player relationships or race or the problems of social status in a locker room. He was a good, old boy from Mission, Texas.
"When we came back after the strike we were a shell of a team. We went [3-13] the next year. That group never recovered."
I hear what Walls is saying, and he would know a lot about that period because he was the Cowboys player representative to the union. I do think he's somewhat over-estimating the effect all of that had on Tom Landry's job status, the Cowboys were a middle-of-the-pack team getting worse by the time they hit 3-13 in 1988. And probably nothing could have saved Landry from Jerry Jones giving him the boot, unless the Cowboys had been on a serious roll when he took over the team.
Walls' point still has validity behind it. These kind of things can have consequences in ways never thought of when they begin. We've already had some discussion about what a long work stoppage could mean for the Cowboys.
Jason Garrett is beginning his first offseason as a head coach and would dearly love to have a full one to start implementing his way of doing things. Rob Ryan is a brand new defensive coordinator for the Cowboys and will need time to teach his brand of football to the defense. Mike Woicik surely covets a full offseason to put in his strength and conditioning plan. The development of players like Dez Bryan would benefit from an offseason once removed from his rookie one. Tony Romo hasn't played football in a while, he needs time to get un-rusty. The list goes on.
Given all that happened, given his belief that the 1987 strike destroyed the Cowboys, Walls still has a message from the past for the players of today, and that message speaks to his status as a union representative.
"Stand your ground," he said. "No matter what, stand your ground."