For years, anyone who wrote or talked about the Dallas Cowboys did not have to engage in any actual thinking. They just repeated one of the many available memes about the team:
- The team/Tony Romo always chokes.
- Jerry Jones is a buffoon and the worst general manager ever to exist in the history of sports.
- Jerry can't resist the big, splashy free agent signings.
- They fall apart in December.
- They are terrible in the fourth quarter.
- Jason Garrett is incompetent and just Jerry Jones' puppet, and he is getting fired anyway.
- Dallas will never run the ball effectively, relying solely on the passing game.
Most of these were accepted blindly almost everywhere (Blogging the Boys is proud to have always been an exception, looking deeper and seeing how inaccurate many of these were). But then came the 2014 season, and one by one, the memes fell. A team built intelligently through the draft and cost-effective free agent signings started winning big. It used an offensive line built mostly of first round picks to become a smash-mouth. ball-control, run first team. With a more effective Romo, Dallas started closing out games, and then sealed the deal with a dominant run in December that saw the Cowboys score 38 or more points every game. They came back repeatedly, but refused to let other teams wrest the lead from them late. And the much maligned defense held up its end of the bargain with key stops and takeaways.
So now, with the first playoff win by the Cowboys in five years, the predominant stories are about all the good things the team has done, from Jerry Jones down to the last man on the roster, right? The great seasons had by Romo, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, rookie Zack Martin, and the rest of the offensive line surely got all the press. Or maybe the comebacks of defenders whose careers were thought to be all washed up like Rolando McClain, Anthony Spencer, and Bruce Carter would be played up.
Come on. This is the Dallas Cowboys. And they are being written about by the national media now that they are one of the last eight teams standing. You know there would be a new, negative take on things.
Here is an example of how the new meme goes, taken from one of the articles in Rabblerousr's latest news link post.
But this gets back to the core idea that the Cowboys are all flash while the Packers are the proletariat of the NFL. That won't necessarily have an impact on who wins Sunday's game, but the dynamic is interesting, especially when we're talking about "mojo" or karma in relation to that little engine that could and a Goliath that benefited from several botched calls in order to reach this point. (Emphasis added.)
That's the new take. Dallas didn't build this. They had it given to them by the referees. It wasn't a gutsy performance on the field with some aggressive, even fearless play calling by the coaching staff. It wasn't the culmination of four years of Garrett's process, or the result of all the hard work put in by the players, many of whom are performing better than anyone expected. It was handed to them.
I'm not going to rehash all the reasons why that is wrong, since it has been done so well already, like this article and this one, both by our own Dave Halprin, which detail why one awkwardly handled penalty did not really determine the outcome of the game. There are numerous other explanations of this, both here at BTB and other places where actual thought and analysis are applied to the game. Still the belief that a picked-up pass interference flag and a missed holding call or two are the only reasons Dallas won their Wild Card matchup with the Detroit Lions permeates coverage of that game and the coming Divisional Round contest against the Green Bay Packers.
It represents a clear disbelief in a team that was widely predicted to regress from the string of 8-8 seasons since Garrett became head coach. His laughable ideas about going for hard workers with good football character rather than big name prima donnas could not possibly pay off, and he only got the job because he is a pet of Jerry Jones. Those are ideas that seem difficult for so many to let go. I don't know if it is unadmitted anti-Cowboys bias or just lazy reporting, but you see this in so much coverage. It almost is like there is an attempt to take away any sense of accomplishment for the victory, because in so many eyes it was not really earned.
And Dallas has no hope of getting out from under that perception in the next game if they win. (I want to say "when" , not "if", but, goatmouth.) A Cowboys victory will be attributed not to anything that the visiting team does. It will be because the brave, noble, handsome, exemplar of a quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a tear in his calf muscle. Just as one commentator stated that the Lions would have won the game if the pass interference call had not been picked up, everyone will focus on how Dallas could never have overcome a healthy Rodgers, since he is the best quarterback in the league right now, leading a clearly, overwhelmingly superior team to the Cowboys, as evidenced by the Packers having a 12-4 record while Dallas has only managed to go 13-4 . . .
OK, don't let a little thing like the facts get in the way of the conclusions already drawn. Rodgers is just a better player than anyone else on the planet right now. It is inarguable, because the media says he is. And if he was just healthy, there would be no need to play the game. Even all beat up as he is, he still has an excellent chance to beat Dallas, because they always . . . uh, well, they will resume their choking ways. If not, a Cowboys win will just be so unfair, because Rodgers clearly deserves to advance after overcoming his injury. All Romo had to deal with was a broken . . . OK, it's just unfair, everyone says so.
Be prepared. Even when it is great to be a Cowboys fan, it still isn't easy.