"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it"
For us to fully understand where we are at this point of 2010, I think it might be a good idea to remind us where we were in 2008. That was the last time Tony Romo left the team because of injury (3 games). Because this team like every team in the league will lose games in a number of situations, but I find it almost shocking how Romo - a guy who some suggest is not a good leader - leaves the team and suddenly, the effort is not where it should be.
We are starting to build a track record here:
October 19, 2008 at St Louis. The 2-14 2008 Rams would never score more points (34) in any of their 16 games. They would also never allow fewer points (14) than they did on that day against the Cowboys who were playing their first game without Romo who broke a bone in his hand the week before in Arizona. The history books will record how dreadful Brad Johnson was (and he was) and not remind people how it looked like the rest of the Cowboys did not even hop on the airplane. Luckily, I still have my notes from that ridiculous day :
Let's take you back to the blog that day:
”Adversity doesn’t build character; it reveals it” – Daryl Johnston, On Fox Sunday in St Louis
As someone who can often find something positive to say while everyone else seems to be going all negative, I am here to report to you that DeMarcus Ware looked pretty good again. And… that…is…about…it…
There is no way to put a remotely positive spin on yesterday. Playing a team that is not very good in that they had scored fewer points AND allowed more points than any team in the NFL, the Cowboys were competitive for roughly the first 10 minutes. They were severely beaten from one of the field to the other in such complete and devastating fashion that I think we can all agree that there is a real concern that the 2008 Dallas Cowboys may already be dead and gone.
How did it go so south, so fast?
How could a team that is trying to play without its starting QB look so unprepared? And while unprepared is one concern, looking uninspired is ever worse. I think you can quite honestly call into question the mental ability for this team to overcome even the slightest adversity in its life.
Under Wade Phillips, when everything is going well, this team looks like world beaters. But the first time something is not perfect, it sure looks like this team cries for its mommy. The best email I have received since the game has ended reminded me of what these Cowboys resemble: The Mavericks in the playoffs of 2007. Here they were, the best team in the NBA, and many people’s pick for the NBA title. But, adversity hit, and they proved they had no ability to respond under tough times – and therefore the very average Golden State Warriors looked like a team that could not be beaten. And now, the Cowboys reveal the same frustrating trait. They appear to be frontrunners. When the going is good, so are the Cowboys. But, if they get punched in the face?
It is one thing to get beaten by St Louis. It happens, although it shouldn’t. But not to be competitive? The look on everyone’s face, and the emotional void that was demonstrated on the field yesterday is a very bad indication of this team’s guts. In the pregame show, I called the game a classic “gut check”. Well, we checked, and we found no guts.
Wade Phillips is lost. This team has Barry Switzer II running the team. I hate to knee jerk here, but are you kidding me? After all of the chaos on and off the field, that is how the team shows up to play? How is that not a direct reflection of the coaching staff’s ability to coach them up when Romo cannot be counted on to save the day? But let me get this straight: If I get rid of Wade, I have to promote Jason Garrett? If anyone has to share as much blame as Phillips, isn’t it his 2nd in command? Sorry, but if Jason Garrett is the answer right now, I am not sure what the question is. All Jerry would be doing there is shaking up the team by showing them they just got a coach fired. Of course, with this group, I wonder what effect that would have.
Again, that was not from 2010. That was from 2008 - the last time we saw these guys look as if they quit. The last season in which Wade Phillips' job security was called into great question because his band of millionaires stopped competing for him. The season ended in 44-6 in Philadelphia. 99% of the Cowboys fandom would have fired Phillips before he got back to the team plane in Philadelphia. I include myself in that group. But, Jerry Jones would not do it.
So, now that Jacksonville has rolled in and out of Texas in a manner that has shocked their own players and fans about the ease of that mission, we need answers. And we need to start by cracking open the chest of the Cowboys organization and see if we can find the heart.
I want you to know that I very much prefer to examine the game from a strategic standpoint and try to uncover the football reasons why one team wins and one team loses. But, sometimes, you look at all the evidence and see that one team is playing hard and the other team is going through the motions. When that happens, there are very few elements of the game that are worthy of our time. If the guys aren't going to compete like professionals (twice in 6 days!) then where is this thing headed? I think you know.
"it was embarrassing the way we played today. I thought we would come out and play with a lot of passion, but we didn't. Our team didn't play with enough passion and enough effort and enough fortitude to really compete in this game", said Wade Phillips. "If you play with enough passion you will execute better."
Wow. Wade Phillips said that??? Yes. He basically called out the heart and guts of those who are trying to get him fired.
Many years ago, when I first arrived in Dallas in 1998, I was introduced to a sports theory that I had never heard in my first 26 years of life. It was from my colleagues at the Ticket, the Hardline. The Hardline back then would talk about the 1990's Cowboys who had won many rings through the lens of a theory called "Super Bowl or Bust". The idea is this: After 3 Super Bowls, the Cowboys' team knew what a Super Bowl Champion looked like, felt like, and played like. If that group of guys were in the running for the Super Bowl, everything was perfect and everyone did their job. But, in years where the Super Bowl was a dream that kept fading as the season went along (take 1997 for instance) the team would gradually collapse into a pile of rubble.
Those teams were up for playing for the big prize, but as a collective group, they could see no real appeal to playing hard to get to 8-8 after they had won their Super Bowls. Whether that theory was true of those players, I am not sure. I was watching the Cowboys of the dynasty from 1,000 miles away so I do not have enough to say what happened in 1997. But, the Hardline saw what they saw.
Anyway, I tell you about that theory to try to explain what we have seen the last two weeks. Sure, the Cowboys were losing games in Washington and in Minnesota that were also losses, but they were certainly not because of a lack of fight. Further, I want to admit that if the Cowboys were up for the fight yesterday there is no certainty that they were going to be able to beat the Jaguars. The Jaguars may not be anything special in the AFC, but they do look like a reasonable opponent by NFC standards.
But, when Tony Romo gets hurt - both in 2008 and 2010 - this team seems to lose its passion. They seem to get a "Super Bowl or Bust" attitude that looks contagious. If they cannot compete for the Super Bowl, then why compete at all?
What a sorry way to go about representing your organization.
To bring this full circle, though, why should today be any different? If they quit in St Louis in 2008; And then quit again at Giants Stadium; and then again in Philadelphia and nothing happened to the leadership of this team, why would it start now? No price to pay for quitting? And, if they quit last Monday in the 3rd Quarter against the Giants, and then quit again on Sunday against Jacksonville, why should we A) be surprised and B) expect changes of consequence? The types of changes we see are of the small variety - a healthy scratch of Chris Gronkowski, for instance, will not rattle the cages of those who live in mansions. The types of changes this organization really needs will go largely unadjusted - a massive overhaul of how this organization sees its own way of doing business.
Football is not about the stadium. It is not about the HD Jumbotron. Not about the training camp moving from port to port. Not about the 60 Minutes piece being shot during a game in which your franchise is burning up in flames. It is about the 45 guys who are lucky enough to wear the Dallas Cowboys' star on their helmet competing and executing to the best of their ability and representing a proud franchise properly.
We are not seeing that. And the man running it all is apparently not angry enough to make those massive changes.
Until he does, the X's and O's are deck chairs on the Titanic.