Expectations are a funny thing. If you really think about it, they dictate how we act and react to every situation in our lives. Coming into 2019, expectations were sky high for the Dallas Cowboys. Fans dreamed of a trip to Miami in February, and from the outside looking in, it seemed as if reaching that goal was attainable.
Oh how things can change in a matter of months. Today we sit just 11 days from Christmas, and many Cowboys fans would want nothing more for the holidays than for this team to put them out of their misery.
In the eyes of the outside world, the Dallas Cowboys are dead. Despite having three regular season games left to play, the masses believe Dallas is destined to fail and at best will limp into the postseason just to lose in the wild card round. Currently, one site has the Cowboys with a 53% chance to qualify for the postseason, but just a 3% chance to reach the NFC Championship game via playoffstatus.com.
For a team that was touted by many as having one of the most talented rosters in all of football, a 3% chance of making it to the conference championship for the first time since 1996 is extremely disappointing. The discontent with the Cowboys organization appears to be at the highest rate it has been in quite some time. Quite possibly the worst it has been in the past 20 years.
At the moment, everything that can go wrong, is going wrong for the Cowboys. But what if things changed? What if the Cowboys started playing like the team we all thought they were back in August? What if Ezekiel Elliott, DeMarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith, and Travis Frederick started playing like Pro Bowlers and All-Pros again?
What if the defense got some pressure on Jared Goff on Sunday and forced him to throw two interceptions? What if Dak Prescott led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter to spark a Cowboys come back win?
I know, I know, it is going to be hard to sell any optimism on a team who just made Mitchell Tribusky look like Lamar Jackson, but the talent we all knew the Cowboys possessed is for the most part still there. It is hard to relate football to any other sport, but I want to talk about the 2019 Washington Nationals for a second, a team I was deeply invested in.
Washington came into the season with World Series aspirations, but by May 20 they were 19-31, fourth place in their division, and had the worst bullpen statistically in Major League Baseball history. Their manager, Dave Martinez, was as good as gone, and from the outside the belief was that their season was over. Well as I am sure many of you know, the Nationals season was, in fact, not over, as they went on a Cinderella-like run, eventually winning the 2019 World Series.
You can’t directly compare the situation the Nationals were in to the Cowboys current state of affairs. Baseball is a much longer season and you have much more time to regroup, but the basis of the story is the talent never left the team, they just had to start playing like the team they were capable of being.
The ability to be a great team still lies within the Dallas Cowboys, no matter how dormant it may be at the moment, it still is there, somewhere. Don’t buy the narrative that this team maybe was not as talented as we all thought they were. Go put on film from last season and watch Jaylon Smith, Zack Martin, and Ezekiel Elliott play. Sure teams may scheme against them differently, but they didn’t forget how to play football and just suck all of a sudden, the peak ability still lies inside of them.
Forget the narrative that the team has quit on this coach. Jason Garrett has been the head coach in Dallas for now ten seasons, and despite all the struggles we have seen his team have, one thing they never do is quit.
Go back and watch the recent games the Cowboys have played. The defense is playing like one of the worst units in all of football, but it’s extremely lazy to say the reason they aren’t playing well is because they have quit. They are undisciplined, making mental mistakes, not sticking to their assignments sure, but every time they go out on that field they put their body on the risk, it is unfair to cite the reason for poor play as lack of effort.
Dak Prescott and other players have been adamant with their responses about if they believe the reason the team is struggling is due to quitting on their coach.
Dak Prescott when asked if players have checked out and quit on Jason Garrett: “That’s false. False as ever. This team is focused on right now, and that’s the only thing that matters. ... We believe in our coach, we believe in his message.” https://t.co/LFCw8eJ2BH— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 6, 2019
Now I realize the rebuttal to that can be, what is Dak supposed to say? But in my opinion, the struggles, particularity on defense, are not due to lack of effort, they are due to the opposite. When things are going so poorly like they are for Dallas at the moment, every one wants to be Superman. Every player wants to make the big-time play that rejuvenates the team and gets them back to being the team they want to be. This can cause players to be overaggressive, and try to hard to make the big-play, that the miss the layup play right in front of them.
Instead of trying to turn this thing around on one play, on Sunday, the Cowboys need to just try to go 1-0 on every play. This Rams team is not invincible. Jared Goff has thrown four touchdowns to seven interceptions in his last five games. Todd Gurley has only rushed for over 85 yards three times this season. Not saying they aren’t a solid team, but if the Cowboys can finally play up to their ability they can match up with this team and any other in the league.
A win on Sunday could do so much for the Cowboys momentum wise. If they beat the Rams, they will be hyped to go into Philadelphia and stomp the injury-riddled Eagles. Say you follow that up with a win over Washington in Week 17, then you are on a three-game winning streak heading into your home playoff matchup with the team you beat in that same round last season, the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle is 10-3 but has just a +20 point differential and has not beaten a team by more than eight points this season.
Could the Cowboys just as easily go out on Sunday, lay another egg and continue their free fall? Sure, but that’s not the only outcome available.
A great Cowboy once said, “Football is a meritocracy. You aren’t handed anything. You earn everything, every single day.” No one is going to hand the Dallas Cowboys the ladder to climb out of the hole they have dug themselves. But, if they are able to climb out of the grave many have already buried them in, and get a big win on Sunday, don’t stick a fork in America’s Team just yet.