Monday, November 8, 2010
We've Never Seen Anything Like These Cowboys
The 2010 season has, quite simply, been the worst Cowboys season of their 51. Two other poor campaigns come to mind: 1960 and 1989. However, there were no expectations for either of those squads. In 1960, the Cowboys were a first-year expansion team with some former Giants assistant named Landry coaching them--they were expected to go 0-12, and they went 0-11-1. 1989 was Jerry and Jimmy's first year--they were expected to fall on their faces, and they did, going 1-15.
2010 is different. This team was thought by many--locally and nationally--to have the most talented roster in the NFL. This team was picked by many--locally and nationally--to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 45 at the Deathstar. The Cowboys strutted around training camp like the cock of the walk. Wade Phillips was noticeably relaxed and overconfident. Stephen Jones confided in those who would listen that "we really have something special here." So how did it go so wrong? For me, it all started back on the second weekend of this calendar year.
January 9th, 2010: Mission Accomplished
Dallas 34, Philadelphia 14. The Cowboys win a playoff game. Wade raises the "Mission Accomplished" banner. He gets the monkey off of his back. So does Romo. So does the rest of the team. And, because they have a head coach who doesn't know how to drive a team or demand excellence from a team, they think they've arrived.
From that point forward, they put it on auto-pilot. They thought they had figured it out. They thought they would follow a natural progression upward. Never mind the fact that Minnesota beat them one week later 34-3--they saw that as a small speed bump on their road to next year's title. The organization was so impressed with itself for winning a playoff game that they forgot to do what any champion does: work harder in the face of success. This year's training camp was a joke, and everyone noticed except for Wade.
I believe that I can make a solid argument for Wade being the worst coach in Cowboys history. First, we eliminate Landry, Jimmy and Barry, because they all won Super Bowls. Campo? Terrible record, but he had awful rosters to work with. Parcells? Never won a playoff game, but rebuilt a bad team into a good one. Gailey? Got a team in demise, unlike Wade, who got a team on the rise. Plus, Wade was the head coach for Jerry's most disappointing moment as owner (the playoff loss to the Giants in '07), most embarrassing moment as owner (the 44-6 loss to Philly in '08), and the most embarrassing season he's ever presided over as owner (2010). Jerry said all of that, not me. Wade was brought in here to take the franchise to the next level up. Instead, he's dragged it down to it's lowest low in 51 seasons.
An Enema, Please
This franchise is a mess. We all know it starts with Jerry admitting he's Al Davis and stepping aside. But, we also all know that will never happen. Modern medicine and extreme wealth will keep Jerry alive for at least 30 more years, and he's not going to give up his GM title until he croaks.
Getting rid of Wade and getting a taskmaster head coach in place is step one. Letting that coach evaluate talent is step two--along with revamping your scouting department (how silly does it look now that they told us in '09 they were drafting for special teams?). Unless Jimmy or Bill has been in charge, the talent evaluation has sucked. Too often they look at athletic ability only and ignore the fact that the player might have a low football IQ (Felix Jones), might not be very tough (Mike Jenkins), might be more interested in making rap videos than playing hard (Marty B), might be more interested in celebrating mundane plays than focusing on the big picture (Igor Olshansky). It's got to change
As our buddy Mike Lombardi always tells us, the best teams are honest with themselves about their talent. But that won't happen around here as long as Jerry is in charge of the talent.
Jerry has a huge decision to make in the next few months regarding his next coach. Paul Sullivan writes in his new book "Clutch" something that I think directly applies to Jerry. He says "You cannot be clutch when you are making business decisions to advance your personal standing--or get revenge for being slighted." Since the day Jerry fired Jimmy, this is what he's tried to do--prove to people that he can build a champion without Jimmy's help. Prove to people that he's a football man. Prove that he can evaluate talent. Prove that he can juggle everything that people say he can't. Get revenge on the people who have slighted his abilities as a GM. He makes his business decisions based on advancing his personal standing--in other words, his ego.
That ego is responsible for poor talent evaluation now coming back to haunt them. That ego is the reason the most uninspiring and underachieving head coach ever was hired four years ago. That ego is the reason the Cowboys are now the laughing stock of the pro sports world. Have we ever seen a team, in any sport, with such lofty expectations turn into such a joke so quickly? No, we haven't. The Cowboys are making history of the wrong kind. The sad thing is, Jerry has no idea why.