Can the Snake Bitten Cowboys Get Over the Hump

by John Furgele

I always chuckle when it says, “Jerry Jones:  Cowboys owner, president and general manager,” because he is only qualified to be one of those—the owner.   But, it’s Jones’ team and if he thinks he can president and general manage better than others, then so be it. It’s his team and he can do what he wants with it.   I’m not sure Cowboys fans agree with me, but it is what it is.   I am surprised that Jones, who presided over the team of the 1990s with three Super Bowl titles wouldn’t want help to get back to the NFL mountain, but once again, that’s not my call.

Jones keeps saying that coach Jason Garrett is safe and I believe him because Garrett is a coach that he can control, a coach that won’t take the spotlight away from him like Jimmy Johnson and even Barry Switzer did.   This is a not a knock on Garrett, nor a knock on Jones.   As owner, Jones has to find a guy that he can work with even if the results are mixed.  Imagine how Jones would have handled the Mike Shanahan/Robert Griffin situation had he owned the Washington Football Club?   Washington owner Daniel Snyder is often compared to Jones, but in reality, that’s not fair.  Unlike Jones, Snyder is rarely quoted and further unlike Jones, he has a guy in Bruce Allen who handles the football operations.   But, like Jones, Snyder will have the final say as to whether Shanahan stays or goes at season’s end.

All this said no one is really sure as to what to make of the Dallas Cowboys.  Are they a good team?  It seems like every year, the last game of their season is an all-or-nothing affair.   Last year, they lost their finale at Washington and failed to make the playoffs.  In 2011, they went to New York in a win or go home game against the Giants and lost.   They lost to a Giant team that finished 9-7 and then went on to win the Super Bowl. Did that mean they were close or far away from the title?   This year, they’re home against Philadelphia (9-6) with a chance to make the playoffs again.   They come in with a less than glossy 8-7 record and needed a miracle fourth and goal from the 13 to beat the aforementioned Washington Football Club last Sunday to get to that 8-7 mark.

Are the Cowboys on the cusp or are they simply a mediocre team in what really is a mediocre league?  The NFL can sell parity all it wants and as long as the games are competitive and multiple teams have a chance to make the playoffs, the league will continue its soaring popularity.   The Cowboys can kick themselves for missed opportunities this year, but so can 10 other teams.   Look at Pittsburgh; they came out of the gate 0-4, but now have won seven of 11 and at 7-8 have a longshot chance to make the playoffs.   Even the 6-9 Buffalo Bills can point to three or four games they could have won.  They had New England on the ropes in week one, dominated Kansas City at home with their third string quarterback, gave a game away to Atlanta and so on and so forth.   I hate to do the what if, but maybe next year, they win those games and are sitting at 9-6 with a game to play rather than 6-9.   Give the Cowboys credit though because they can sell mediocrity.

For some reason, luck doesn’t seem to be on the Cowboys side.   As mentioned, they’re in the hunt every year, but they’re in the hunt with 8-7 records.    Every team always points to the one game that they let slip away and if excuses were candy and nuts, we’d all have a very happy Christmas, but the loss at home to Green Bay is really puzzling.  That said, and you can’t play the pre-determined outcome scenario here, even if the Cowboys had won that game, they’d be 9-6, the same record as the Philadelphia Eagles, and this Sunday’s game would have the same win or go home consequence.   And, Jones is smart enough to know this, that’s why he doesn’t make a big deal about it.  Fans do, but even had they won, then lost to Philly, they’d be 9-7 and out of the playoffs rather than 8-8 and out of the playoffs.

Tony Romo is a polarizing and puzzling figure.   When he wins, the pundits call him a top ten talent.  When he loses and throws that costly pick at the end of the game he’s the guy that can’t win the big one.   The latter is true, picks or no picks, Romo has not won a big game in his pro football career.   There was the bobbled snap on the field goal attempt that would have beaten Seattle and the home playoff loss in 2007 against the Giants that would have kept the Cowboys at home for the NFC Championship Game and of course the season ending losses at New York and Washington.

One had the feeling that this year might be different.  This year, the Cowboys are at home, but now, Romo is injured with a herniated disk in his back.   If he plays and the Cowboys win, he will be a hero; if he plays and they lose, they will say that Garrett should have not played him.   I’m sure the Eagles are expecting him to play, a Willis Reed like situation, but only time will tell.   The Cowboys aren’t a very good football team, but at home, I sort of liked their chances. Unfortunately, he won’t play and for Romo, another report card with a mark of incomplete.

The owner, president and general manager of the team tooted his own horn Tuesday by stating for all to hear that “we gave Kyle Orton $10 million over three seasons for situations like this one and we expect good things from our well-paid backup quarterback.”  Jones negotiated that contract and if Orton plays —and wins—Jones will certainly and in a way rightly so, take a bow for acquiring the man who lost his starting job to Tim Tebow, who was bypassed for 41 year old Jon Kitna when the Cowboys went looking for a third string quarterback.

The Dallas Cowboys might not be America’s Team for its won-loss record, but they do make for exciting Week 17 drama, don’t they?

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