Cowboys Huddle-Up: Losing, Suspension, Tanner

ARLINGTON - It's Broncos-at-Cowboys tonight in the preseason closer. Does it matter if Dallas loses to go winless through exhibition time? Plus all the notes and quotes to get you caught up in Thursday Cowboys Huddle-Up!

THE LEAD STORY: Our DallasNews colleague David Moore recently pondered how significant it was for the Dallas Cowboys to win their final preseason game against the Broncos tonight in AT&T Stadium to avoid their fifth winless preseason in team history. Having an 0-fer preseason record does not bode well in Dallas, for none of the teams -- 1962, 1986, 1998, 2000 -- won a playoff game.

However, going winless in the exhibition games needs to be viewed through a lens that incorporates the rest of the league and not just through a local microscope.

Here are the facts.

Since 2000, there have been 30 winless teams in the NFL preseason. Only five of those 30 teams -- '00 Giants, '05 Colts, '09 Cardinals, '10 Colts, '10 Bears, and '11 Falcons -- went on to qualify for the playoffs that regular season. The other 25 teams struggled all season. Periphery teams in the "struggling" category include the '05 Chiefs and '08 Patriots, who finished with double-digit win seasons but were still unable to qualify for the highly competitive AFC playoff bracket.
Why Cowboys fans should remain hopeful about their team's chances to like the 5/30 is stability at the quarterback position. All five of the aforementioned teams knew who their signal caller was come Week 1, and all four starting quarterbacks -- Kerry Collins, Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, and Jay Cutler -- played 79 out of 80 games. A concussion held Cutler out of one game for Chicago in 2010.

Nonetheless, the point stands when examining the winless teams that finished with losing regular-season records. Eighteen out of the 25 playoff non-qualifiers started multiple quarterbacks throughout the year.

Now, about David's note about the '62, '86, '98, and '00 Cowboys: Every one of those teams started multiple quarterbacks, just like the mediocre to poor teams on our list. The '98 Cowboys are an oddity unto themselves because they did start another quarterback for the injured Troy Aikman and still made the playoffs, though they failed to win a postseason game.

If Tony Romo, who is admittedly 34 and coming off of his second back surgery in two seasons, can stay healthy during the regular season, a poor preseason record is rendered meaningless.
Romo won't play tonight, of course, in the 7 p.m. kickoff in a game featuring lots of big names on both sides that will sit. Peyton Manning and old friend DeMarcus Ware will wear ballcaps on that sideline; Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray will do the same on the home sideline.

This is a game to "get through,'' a job interview for the on-the-bubble guys, and in the cases of defensive starters like Mo Claiborne and Henry Melton, a chance to knock off rust from having done so little in camp.

But tonight's final score is not indicative of what Dallas will be once the real lights go on ... especially if Tony Romo is featured under those lights.

ONSIDE KICKS: The Cowboys anticipate Orlando Scandrick playing some against Denver tonight ... Our KD Drummond breaks down the Cowboys' recent cutdowns ... Henry Melton, 1-on-1 with us, on tonight and beyond ... ... Dez as a $100-Million Man? We've got you covered here ... Jason Witten jumped into a DeMarcus Ware conference call with the DFW media on Tuesday. "You're lucky we're not playing,'' teased Witten, representing Dallas' first-team offense." Responded Ware, jokingly, "You don't want to see me, man."
LUNCHTIME: The Cowboys Kickoff Luncheon was no place for big bragging on and no place to get a big deal done, either. ... The Cowboys are busy shuffling the back end of the roster, adding running back Phillip Tanner because the existing RBs are banged up or being held out of the Denver game ... and for another possible reason, as Fish breaks down here. and adding CB Jemea Thomas (see more on him here) because Mo Claiborne (shoulder) will sit tonight, too. ... Oh, and as long as the Cowboys secondary is in such disarray, Jakar Hamilton might as well go and get himself a four-game drug suspension to start the season. Which he has reportedly just done.

COWBOYS CRUNCHTIME: Anything that moves, we're on it. CowboysHQ discusses it all in great detail in our freshly-baked Cowboys Crunchtime Podcast here.

THE FINAL WORD: "The fourth preseason game was my life for a long time.'' -- Ex-QB Jason Garrett on this time of year as a football player.

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