The Doomed Era for the Dallas Cowboys Continues
At halftime of the game where the Eagles showed up to play football and the Cowboys were more interested in playing dominos, an ad came on our local Fox station:
[The screen shows Tony Romo throwing a pass to Jason Witten in a 2007 game where the Cowboys came back to beat the Detroit Lions]
[Brad Sham, Voice of the Cowboys]: “And the Dallas Cowboys are the champions of the NFC East.”
Screen: That was then.
Screen: All that matters is now.
Yep. And at the time the ad was showing, the Cowboys were losing 27-3 at halftime against the Eagles. The ad was for season tickets to the Cowboys’ new stadium next year. For the sake of paying my mortgage, no thanks.
It has never been so bad for the Dallas Cowboys. The early days of the franchise were not this bad for the Dallas Cowboys. The late 1980s– even with a 1-15 season– were not this bad for the Dallas Cowboys.
Three consecutive times this decade, the Cowboys went 5-11, then they followed that with a 6-10 season two years later. Three other times this decade, the Cowboys have gone 9-7, even though in each of those seasons, the Cowboys looked poised to make a push towards the playoffs.
When the Cowboys haven’t been bad or excelling at mediocrity, we have the 10-6 season with a first-round playoff loss and a 13-3 season with a divisional playoff loss.
The franchise that had two head coaches in its first 34 seasons has had five in the past 15. And most want that number to be six as soon as possible, even though Jerry Jones has said it won’t happen.
The franchise that has enough stories to fill hundreds of books with stories of glory has been reduced to this after a loss that eliminated them from the playoffs (and, mind you, these are all stories from one day):
* “Pathetic. Truly pathetic.” – Clarence E. Hill, Jr., Fort Worth Star-Telegram
* Bradie James reportedly attacked a fan holding a sign critical of the Cowboys.
* Wade Phillips, denounced by the collective whole of the Dallas press for being too Pollyannish, says he’ll change. Nobody believes him.
* Stories emerge that Tony Romo collapsed in the shower after the game. More seemed concerned whether the Cowboys are going to use their franchise quarterback as trade bait.
* Players who weren’t collapsing in the shower were reportedly have a grand time on the flight back from Philadelphia, acting like it was the last day of school. Kind of like flying off to Mexico on the weekend before a playoff game? Maybe not.
* “If it was me, I’d get rid of T.O. T.O. got to go from the beginning. Right from the giddy up. I take one bullet and put it right in him. Bam!” – Cris Carter on ESPN.
Ugly doesn’t describe it.
Post Dynasty Blues
The Cowboys dynasty in 1990s really ended in 1997, when the team lost its final five games and finished 6-10. The two Chan Gailey teams that went to the playoffs in 1998 and 1999 were really part of the same era– and we should know that because they were undoubtedly doomed to failure. That’s what has happened in the Doomed Era.
Long droughts have happened to every NFL dynasty in the modern era:
Green Bay Packers
After winning the second Super Bowl and their third NFL title in three years, the Packers had four winning seasons in the next 25 years. And talk about mediocrity: the Packers in the 1980s went 8-8 four out of five seasons. This drought did not end until the Packers hired a coach named Holmgren and obtained a quarterback named Favre.
The Steelers of the 1970s won four Super Bowl titles in six years. But between 1980 and 1991, the Steelers finished 9-7 four times, 8-8 once, 8-7 once, 7-9 once, and they also had a 5-11 season and a 6-10 season. Those records led to four playoff appearances in 12 years. That drought ended with the hiring of Bill Cowher in 1992. And even though Cowher’s teams were largely successful, his career as a head coach was cluttered with playoff failures that did not end until the Steelers won it all in 2005.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers kept their dynasty going longer than any other team, winning five Super Bowls during a 13-year span from 1981 to 1994. Since 1999, though, San Francisco has had only two winning seasons and two playoff appearances.
Since 1997, the Cowboys have had six winning seasons, five playoff appearances, and no playoff wins. The Cowboys’ drought has already lasted longer than the one experienced in Pittsburgh, but Dallas still has not suffered the way that Green Bay suffered after its dynasty in the 1960s.
The Root of the Problem
Calls for Wade Phillips’ head are really missing the big problem, I think. Wade can go, and perhaps he should, but the Cowboys’ failures are symptomatic of an organizational problem. And that organizational problem is run by Jerry Jones. Some thoughts:
* When Bill Parcells resigned, exactly who was supposed to replace him? There was a good talent base here, but the team itself had never learned to win big games because Parcells largely failed as a head coach with the Cowboys.
* Can you name a successful organization where the team’s offensive coordinator is hired before the head coach? Imagine bringing in Bill Cowher with message, “Bill, you have to win us a championship or you will be considered an utter failure. And, oh yeah, you have to use the offensive coordinator we’ve already hired.”
* Wade Phillips knew what he was stepping into, and so he’s not an innocent party. But Jerry Jones apparently didn’t know any better, so he hired Wade to serve in a position where Phillips was going to win it all or be deemed an utter failure for not doing so.
* The 13-3 season in 2007 may be have been something of a fluke. The Cowboys got break after break after break in so many of those games, and until late in the season, nobody seemed to know how to expose the Cowboys. When the Cowboys were exposed, though, they lost their confidence, and the 2008 Cowboys did not know how to get that confidence back.
* The 2008 draft was really great by the Cowboys’ standards. The team had meaningful contributions from Felix Jones, Mike Jenkins, Martellus Bennett, Tashard Choice, and Orlando Scandrick.
* Recent free agent signings and other acquisitions made little impact. Pacman Jones needs to go away. Tank Johnson needs to go away. Zach Thomas seems like a good guy, but he was hardly the leader that we expected, and he reportedly is going to go away whether we want to keep him or not.
* So after a successful draft but less-than-successful acquisitions of talent, what does Jerry do? He trades a 1st, 3rd, and 6th to Detroit for Roy Williams, who played as well as your typical fourth or fifth receiver.
There is some hope that the Cowboys can put together a quality draft with their remaining picks, and perhaps the owner and some coaches can rethink their approaches and find some different result.
But what should really expect?
Expect that the Cowboys will continue to be doomed.