With a 9-1 record, setting all kinds of records in the process, and led by a rookie quarterback and running back, one might think the Dallas Cowboys could be approaching the point where they get enamored of themselves, and slack off a bit in doing what is necessary to keep the team winning. A loss, under this theory, would wake up the team and get it to fight harder going forward.
This is Michael Irvin’s view, which he expressed on NFL Network and on 105.3 The Fan.
"Instead of a win, I'm really looking for a loss [on Thursday]," Irvin told 105.3 The Fan on Monday. "I need a loss in here on the way to the playoffs. To re-identify, refocus.
"I'm not saying they are not focused in everything - but I wouldn't have an issue with a loss and a re-shake. You want to handle this kind of adversity and get refocused. I don't want to go into the playoffs without that. Because then when you win 9, 10, 12 games you almost forget how bad it feels to lose."
Why does Irvin want the Cowboys to feel the sting of a loss now?
"You search yourself less in victory," he said. "We search ourselves deeply in defeat, because it hurts so much we want to make sure it never happens again. Victory, I look at with an overarching eye: Whatever happened, it worked. I want a searching of ourselves one time before the playoffs. 14-2 is a great record."
This is one way to look at things, and if the Cowboys do lose a game, one would hope they would refocus and come out stronger on the other side.
But a loss to Washington? This makes no sense, for several reasons.
First, Washington has gone 6-1-1 since they lost to Dallas in Week 2. Dallas has gone 8-0. If Dallas were to lose tomorrow, the only difference in record for the two teams since they first met would be Washington’s tie in London against Cincinnati. Washington would suddenly think itself the match for Dallas, and would have much more confidence should the teams meet again in the playoffs.
Second, all the other opponents on Dallas’s remaining schedule would suddenly have hope. This would apply doubly for the Giants, who sit only two games back of Dallas with a pending match in New York, where the Giants could gain first place in the NFC East with a win if they come in only a game back of Dallas.
Giving teams hope is not the best way to beat them. The better approach is to intimidate and demoralize them in advance. This has always seemed part of Bill Belichick’s approach, and it may explain why his Patriots teams tend to run up the score.
Third, a loss to Washington with five remaining games would put Dallas’s position as #1 seed in jeopardy if the Seahawks are able to run the table and Dallas sustained a second loss. Much better to face Seattle in the playoffs at home, if it comes to that, than in Seattle. A Super Bowl appearance could ride on it.
Fourth, does Irvin’s point even make sense regardless of its impact on other teams? Not really. Our own Tom Ryle pointed this out in the Hot Topic post earlier today.
Beyond all this, there is one thing the Cowboys also have working in their favor, and that is head coach Jason Garrett. He is the absolute king of focusing on today and yourself. And there is a lot of evidence that no other roster in the NFL is as bought into the message and philosophy of their head coach as Dallas. When the players speak, it is with one voice, and it is a universal echo of Garrett. They go into every game concentrating completely on doing their job, and right now, no team in the league is built as well as the Cowboys to do what they do: Wear down the other team and finish the game by taking over offensively.
In other words, there is no lack of focus in Dallas, and there is unlikely to be one. In Dak Prescott, the Cowboys also have a leader who lives by this crede. He knows he needs to get better, loss or win. A loss isn’t going to help him focus any more.
So, we love you Michael, and the three Championships you helped bring to the Cowboys. But on this point, you missed the mark.
What do you think?