The Cowboy’s Crossroad

By PFC Writer Bradley C. Davis

As if being the number one seed in the NFC and losing in the divisional round of the 2007 playoffs hadn’t left a bad enough taste in the mouths of everyone in Dallas, somehow the Cowboys managed to end the 2008 season on an even more sour note.

Before they had played their first game fans and analysts alike had already handed the 2008 Lombardi trophy to the Cowboys, even as questions circled during the off season, everything from the rationale of signing Adam “Pacman” Jones to the age-old question, “How long until the Dallas Cowboys win another playoff game?”

The mood quickly changed, as did the questions being asked, after going into their bye week having just lost to the New York Giants 35-14 and going just a dismal 2-4 over their last 6 games.  The post bye week return of starting quarterback Tony Romo did liven the mood, after missing 3 games with a broken pinkie finger on his throwing hand.  This 3 game stretch came right in the middle of the season and included a 35-14 loss to the Giants.  Romo’s return the next game against the Washington Redskins would prove to have come not a moment too soon.  The Cowboys were 5-4 and needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and it appeared Tony Romo was up for the challenge.  Romo put the Cowboys in perfect position, leading them on a 3 game winning streak against the Redskins, the 49ers and the Seahawks.  Going into the 16th week of the season, all the Cowboys had to do was win the final game at Texas Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens and they would be in the playoffs.  The Cowboys did not win that game.

However, as if everyone else in the league wanted to see Dallas in the playoffs, the teams that needed to lose in order to keep Dallas’s playoff hopes alive did indeed lose…a second chance.  This time it was week 17, the final week of the season, and all the Cowboys had to do was beat the Philadelphia Eagles… unfortunately, after an unpredictable string of events, all the Eagles had to do was beat the Cowboys and they would find themselves in the playoffs.  In case you didn’t have the stomach to watch the whole game, the final score was Philadelphia 44, Dallas 6.  Now don’t let the score fool you, the game wasn’t that close; the Eagles could have easily beaten Dallas 70-0.  But don’t let anyone ever tell you Andy Reid, the coach of the Eagles, is not a merciful man.

Herein lies the reason the Cowboys didn’t make the playoffs this 2008 season; they lost in the divisional round of the 2007 playoffs.  I know this may seem a little too obvious to even point out, but think about it…the reason the Cowboys didn’t win the Super Bowl this season is because they didn’t win the Super Bowl last season.

For example, this team had every single major impact player it had last season with a couple of key additions – Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins, through the 2008 NFL draft; “Pacman” Jones, through a trade with the Tennessee Titans; and Roy Williams, who netted $45 million to leave the Detroit Lions and line up opposite one of the most feared receivers in the National Football League, Terrell Owens.  So this team that clinched the number one seed in the NFC the season before and picked up more speed and talent during the off season than any other team should simply get to skip the regular season and walk into the playoffs, right?

Wrong.  They lost in the divisional round of the 2007 playoffs, remember?

As my therapist would ask, “What’s the deeper meaning behind the statement ‘The Cowboys lost in the divisional round of the 2007 playoffs’?”  To which I would reply, “That’s a good question.”

Perhaps head coach Wade Phillips and his “Aw, shucks” attitude is just too calm to spark
any fire in his players.  Maybe his personality is too soft to control T.O.’s mouth or the fame
of his quarterback, Mr. Jessica Simpson.  Maybe owner Jerry Jones’ decision to allow HBO into their training camp to film the show “Hard Knocks” was a mistake…I have a feeling more fans watched the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ show on CMT.  Or maybe, just maybe, there is something to this “Curse of December” for the Cowboys.  I know there are more than a few Boston Red Sox fans who would agree with me; however, the Red Sox have managed to win in the playoffs within the last decade or so.  Maybe it was none of these things, and maybe the Dallas Cowboys are in a perfect position to make a serious run at the Super Bowl trophy in the 2009 season.

Maybe not.  They lost in the divisional round of the 2007 playoffs, remember?

The question the Cowboys now face is whether or not they should jump ship.  Despite the lack of success on both sides of the ball this season, is it worth starting from scratch with a new team of coaches?  Would these players perform better for a coach that has proved he can win in the playoffs?  After all, Phillips struggled as head coach in Buffalo prior to his struggle in Dallas.

What I’m getting at is the 2009 season for the Cowboys will be an important one for this group of players.  Although we can rest assured Jerry Jones and his Cowboys will certainly make some sort of splash in the off season, I do believe all of the impact players will spend at least another season in a Dallas uniform.  This is what makes this question so difficult to answer.  With a team as talented as the Cowboys you have to wonder if it is more important for the players to be happy or for them to receive the discipline which they might need a little more than that team down the road with fewer egos.

Think of this way: if you were paint the walls in your apartment red but halfway through you decided you didn’t like the color, would you just use a different brush?  You would buy a different color of paint, right?  If the Cowboys continue to use the same color paint, their walls are going to be red.  Since the end of the season nothing has changed with the coaching staff save the addition of special teams coach Joe DeCamillis from the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Owner Jerry Jones has verbally committed to keep the rest his coaching staff in place.

I understand that when you’ve put together a team as talented as the 2008 Dallas Cowboys, you don’t concern yourself with the details; you know, the little stuff, like solid coaching.  With all their impact players returning and healthy and Wade Phillips leading the charge, the Cowboys should be in a perfect position to make a serious push in the playoffs during the 2009 season.

But they lost in the divisional round of the 2007 playoffs.