Fans of the Dallas Cowboys are likely to be experiencing some strong emotions about the team, none of them positive. In the wake of the 33-27 overtime loss at the hands of the despised Philadelphia Eagles, the outlook for America's Team this season runs the whole gamut from almost completely hopeless to totally hopeless. Although it is only halfway through the schedule for Dallas, it is time to face reality. There is no need to put this off any longer. To help you with this, here is a quick guide to dealing with the five stages of grief over what is now a lost season for the Cowboys.
Denial. Don't waste your time concocting various convoluted scenarios for how the Cowboys can win out the rest of the schedule and leap over the rest of the division to get into the playoffs. First off, it's never been done before, and there is no Emerson of the NFL to change that to consider it solved. No team has ever gone from 2-6 to make the playoffs since the 16-game schedule began in 1978. And it is hard to argue that the Cowboys are gong to be better than the Eagles or the New York Giants even after Tony Romo gets back on the field. Those two teams both look to be getting better as the season progresses, and given the myriad ways that Dallas has found to falter over the last six games, there is no guarantee that Romo is the magic solution to turn this into the team we once thought it would be this year. The flaws that have shown up are much worse than we were able to imagine back in August. Yes, injuries played a huge part, but the problems are deeper than just that. There will be a lot of work to be done in the offseason.
Anger. This is sports. Teams win and teams lose, and in the NFL, luck, or random chance, if you will, plays a bigger part than in any other league. If you think the front office, coaches, and players are not doing everything they can to try and win, you are wrong. They are not going to get it right every time, and fans tend to overestimate the skill and talent of their favorite team's roster while downplaying that of the opponents they face. Any anger you feel is generated by how wrong you were in your expectations, which largely derive from forgetting that the NFL is an 8-8 league. The rules are designed to make it that way, and there are only a very few franchises that can sustain success for more than a season or two. In 2014, a whole lot of breaks went in Dallas' favor to get them to 12-4. This year, almost every one has gone against them. It is what it is. Let the rage go. Firing coaches and cutting players will not get back a single one of those losses, and the coaching staff now is largely the one that found so much success last year. And you know that the ownership is not going to change in any way.
Bargaining. There is only one thing you really have here, and that is your loyalty to the team. If this disaster of a season is leading you to want to change who you support, you are welcome to. Just do so quietly, and don't hang around to try and drag down those of us who have been through it all before and understand that things seldom work out as well as we would wish.
Depression. What you need is some perspective. Sports are entertainment. In every game, there is going to be a winner and a loser. Over time, most teams go through cycles. Right now, the Cowboys are in a severe swing of fortune, which has happened to a lot of other teams. Once you get to the final stage, you can let go of the gloom and doom. Look around the league. While Dallas is in a terrible stretch, it is just this season (at the moment). There are other franchises that have been suffering for years.
Acceptance. Once you quit desperately looking for some way to climb out of this hole, you can relax and start watching the games to try and figure out what should be done to improve for next year. The draft is coming, when all fan bases look for things to get better (although about half are going to be disappointed yet again). There are also going to be some decisions made about who to keep from this season, and one of them is coming when Romo is brought back from IR. They aren't going to hang onto four quarterbacks, and it looks pretty obvious who will be the odd man out - and there conceivably could be two who leave, although that is less likely. After that, the team has to figure out who can help the team and who is not worth the trouble of keeping. That is a topic for other posts, and there will likely be many.
One thing that is almost certainly not going to happen is tanking the rest of the season. It is far more important to stop the losing before it becomes a part of the culture. Jason Garrett, Romo, Dez Bryant, Orlando Scandrick, Jason Witten, the offensive line, and others are not going to stand for that. Given the teams left to play, Dallas will likely be scrambling to get five or six more wins, but they will fight for every game. If a miracle should occur and they find themselves still in the hunt in the last game or two, then you can have a little hope. But it would take a literal miracle, so for now, the best thing is to put that out of your mind and focus on what steps the team might take to improve its chances for 2016.
It is far better to rip this one off all at once rather than prolonging the agony. Put the blue Kool Aid back in the cabinet until later. The must-win games have come and gone. To see a season of such promise come crashing down so rapidly is very hard to deal with, but we can get through this. Most of us were here to survive 2010. Hopefully the next turnaround will not take four years.