When you’re a team that’s this bad, time has a funny way of ballooning into what can feel like eternity. No one enjoys dwelling in infamy, but boy can it feel impossible to escape life’s bottomless pits once we've descended downwards into them.
That’s the perfect encapsulation of the Dallas Cowboys 2020 season.
It’s been complete and utter treachery on both sides of the football - and when you’re a fanbase with expectations as high as Cowboys Nation, their actual performance can feel like a Mike Tyson-like punch to the gut.
But this isn’t the first time in recent memory that the ‘Boys have collectively stunk up NFL fields on a seemingly weekly basis.
Opposing offenses vs. the Cowboys' defense this season: pic.twitter.com/CnHbkIppSo— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) November 3, 2020
Perhaps, though, a glimmer of hope can be found moving forward from the squad’s current wreckage when we recall their unraveling in what was poised to be a particularly special year for D-town: 2015.
Dallas has employed four different starting quarterbacks at the midway point of this year’s dissipation: Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert.
The last time they even came close to that number: the aforementioned year.
And the list of names that headed their charge may come off as strikingly familiar: Tony Romo, Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden, and Kellen Moore (yes, that guy who currently calls plays for the offense).
The season itself was supposed to be a charming follow-up to the ‘Boys near NFC Championship appearance in 2014, had they been able to squeak by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Most folks remember that brouhaha as simply the “Dez Bryant game” - which can be summed up agonizingly with one recurring image of #88’s destitute facial expression after being stripped of what he thought was surefire touchdown grab.
So vengeance was Dallas’ for the taking heading into to the ‘15 campaign.
Or so they thought.
Early odds-makers set their sights on the 10-12 win mark in preseason expectancy wagers, and most - if not all forecasts projected them to be dogmatic rulers over the NFC East.
They were just removed from a dominant 12-4 voyage that welcomed the blunt extradition of their conference foes, while Tony Romo (who posted one of the best TD-INT ratios of his career at 34-9) and Dez Bryant had fused their chemistry to near astronomical levels, and DeMarco Murray serenely choo-choo chugged his way to one of the better rushing seasons in Cowboys history.
And don’t get me started on the offensive line.
Everything was ripe for the taking - until it wasn't.
Preemptive bets can’t hold a candle to inopportune injuries, and despite the lofty predilections, physical reality proved turbidly more potent.
2014’s would-be hero was the first to face its cold unfairness.
Dez Bryant was sidelined with a broken foot in a Week 1 matchup with the NY Giants, before his quarterback ruptured his clavicle the following week.
Then started the hapless domino effect. Brandon Weeden was the wide-eyed next man up thrust into a starter’s role, before poor play and one too many interceptions prompted a trade from the front office.
Enter Matt Cassel, whose surprise 2008 emergence to guide the Pats to an 11-5 record in Tom Brady’s absence was demiurgic enough to warrant formidable praise around the league - and for the Cowboys to request his services in hopes of rekindling his past magic.
Age had long sucked the big-play ability from Cassel’s arm though, and he too was shelved after the ‘Boys slid to a 1-7 mark under his helm.
Moore started the last two garbage-time matchups. Like the man who’d come before him, a spotty Moore tossed more interceptions than he did touchdowns, effectively dwindling the games’ lack of relevancy to complete nothingness as they exhaustedly crawled to the finish line.
The year would be Cassel and Weeden’s last in D-Town. Romo’s as well - at least, as a starter. Moore’s name remains at the forefront of Cowboys news.
So things could've only gotten worse the next year, right? Ehhhhh.
Unless 13-3, first place in the division and a playoff berth qualified as “worse” than what I just described. And both 2016 and next season will have one constant in common: Dak Prescott.
While it’s so easy to resign ourselves to pessimism as time drudgingly wears on in this season of unfortunate events, every dark night has a brighter day.
The past only solidifies that stamp for proof. Which means the future - although it may not be feasibly foreseeable - has brightness to look forward to.
Cowboys nation: stay the course.