Black Friday has never been more appropriately named. The Dallas Cowboys lost their eighth game in nine tries. Tony Romo suffered a second broken collarbone in one season after only seven quarters back. It would be very difficult to picture the day being worse for Cowboys fans.
So, with the already tenuous season basically leaping full force off the ledge and into the abyss, the sights turn to next year and, naturally, to next year's draft. Sitting outside Valley Ranch, it seems obvious that the thing to do is play some younger players, see what they have to offer, and let the draft pick rise as the season continues down the drain. While people are already pointing out that Dallas remains only two games out of first place and that they have two games head to head with the division leader yet to play, it seems obvious that the "we're not mathematically eliminated" card is not only a massive stretch of credibility, but is, in fact, likely to go away completely at the next loss, which could come as early as this week.
Yet I do not believe you will see Dallas "losing for Lynch" or "goofing for Goff" or [insert clever alliteration here]. Dallas has a very important reason to keep their sights set high.
As I have been saying through most of this losing streak, there is not one consistent thread of blame to be found here. Every aspect of the team has had its shining moments and its horrific meltdowns, including the again-defunct Romo. When losing is a habit, rather than a specific recurring issue, replacing someone does no good. The team has to find its mojo and learn how to play complete games again. Winning is never as simple as it seems, but it truly is a matter of persisting through and overcoming a series of defeats. It takes practice-- not just practicing your craft during the week, but practice overcoming actual adversity on the field of strife. The team must regain its confidence. It cannot do so while losing games. They need to take all of the games they can get, regardless of some fantastic, mathematical playoff hope.
Don't misunderstand, the rest of the NFC East is bad enough I could actually see it happening, but it's a fool's hope to pin anything on it. The team's ability to fight must be there without the playoff hope or they won't win their next game anyhow and render that moot.
And, truthfully, we've already seen that the team knows this. They have shown us who they are. Most Dallas fans, I imagine, turned off their TVs (if they hadn't already thrown a remote through the screen) at the sickening sight of Tony Romo lying on the ground not moving late in the third quarter. Being the die hard fan that I am, I swallowed the bile rising in my throat, and fatalistically watched the rest of the game with a deadness and disappointment that could match the most cynical "hater" you could imagine. In for a penny, in for a pound, and I will watch as long as they will play. And play they did. The Romo-less Cowboys actually managed a touchdown and a blocked field goal as the game ran down. They were meaningless in a 33-14 rout, but that's the entire point: the Cowboys kept playing because that's who they are.
Garrett's RKG is first and foremost a football player. They love the competition. They love each play for the chance to test their mettle against the very best. They love the victories, but, in an odd way, they must love the failures, too. Players that don't feed on their failures don't get back up after being punched in the mouth. In the NFL, one thing is certain: you will be beaten (the 1972 Dolphins still stand as the exception that proves the rule). Only those who can face that defeat and return to play at their highest level achieve success in the NFL. Whatever else these 2015 Cowboys may be, they are football players, and football players play football. It really is as simple as that.
So even if they continue to lose. Even as their draft status climbs and the criticism mounts and the blame is thrown, come week 17 in AT&T Stadium, you will see this team fighting. It's who they are.
And, if you're honest with yourself, even those who do want to tank must admit, it's better that way. No one wants to boo Dez Bryant as he throws up the "X" or complain that Sean Lee just cost us draft position with a pick six. We want our boys to fight, and we want them to win that fight because to us, they are the good guys. And the fan in us does not want to calculate, it wants something to cheer about.