Danny White Predicts A Cowboys 'Mystery Year'

ARLINGTON - Will Danny White be disappointed if his Cowboys are again a .500 team? Quite the contrary. 'I think we'll take 8-8 and be happy to have it,' the former quarterback/punter said - an understated remark that fit in well with Wednesday's Kickoff Luncheon.

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Danny White answered a reporter's question Wednesday about the Cowboys' past three consecutive 8-8 seasons and what to expect for 2014.

"I think we'll take 8-8 and be happy to have it," the former quarterback/punter said.

White, who was in town at the club's annual Kickoff Luncheon benefiting Happy Hill Farm to accept the 2013 Tom Landry Legends Award, gave his thoughts on the 55th season of Cowboys football.

"This is such a mystery year," White remarked.

The former 1974 third-round Cowboys draft pick isn't just an alumnus of America's Team enjoying retirement. White works as a radio analyst for Compass Media Network's season-long coverage of Cowboys football. He follows the team as close as any other commentator.

Said White: "A lot of ifs this year. You look at their roster at the beginning of the year in the past, and they were as good as anybody on paper. But then the injuries kicked in, and it was one position. It was the defensive line or the linebackers or the defensive backs. And it was just unbelievable. I've never seen anyone with the bad luck with injuries as the Cowboys have had."

According to Pro Football Outsiders, Dallas lost 67.9 games out their players due to injuries, ranking 17th in their Adjusted Games Lost metric. Using the same stats, the Cowboys lost 26 games along the defensive line, finishing only ahead of Chicago at the bottom of Pro Football Outsiders' list.

Still, Arizona State's pride and joy passer sees bright spots with the current Cowboys.

"They have some young defensive players," White said. "It's kind of a reclamation project with Henry Melton, Bruce Carter -- these guys come to play."

Carter flashed signs of talent last Saturday in Miami. Observers will have to wait for tonight's preseason finale against Denver in AT&T Stadium to get a glimpse at Henry Melton, a free agent acquisition from the Bears.

"They've got to get guys healthy. That's the biggest thing."

The 1982 Pro Bowler joins teammates Drew Pearson and Roger Staubach, along with a slew of other fan-favorite Cowboys greats, to accept the Tom Landry Legends Award. White, who played his entire 13-year career for Landry, gave the credit to the Cowboys coaching legend, his teammates, and also Frank Kush, his old college coach at Arizona State.

Meanwhile, his low-bar outlook on this year's team matched nicely the approach the Joneses took to the day's events. The Cowboys Kickoff Luncheon is annually a chance for owner Jerry Jones and his team to proudly strut its stuff. But here was demonstrated a rarely-before-seen effort to manage expectations in every regard.

“You know that we have an uphill battle this year,” Jones said, speaking not only to the audience but also to his team. “But most of you had an uphill battle when you came to camp. And some of you have absolutely rose to the occasion. Some of you are taking the challenge on.”

Coach Jason Garrett spoke in a similar fashion, declining to make predictions or promises except that his team would "fight."

The low-key approach - arguably born of three straight 8-8 seasons and a wounded defense that enters 2014 looking undermanned, as White noted - even extended to public conversation about Dez Bryant contract talks. Bryant declined comment and COO Stephen Jones said, “We’re working on it. ... They’re either done or they’re not done, and it’s not done.”

Jones did express optimism about an eventual extension that would make Bryant a "Cowboy for life.''

“Obviously, we think the world of Dez and that’s what we want," Stephen Jones said. "He wants that, so we just got to work hard at it.”

"Hard work." "Fight." "Uphill battling." These aren't the usual "Super Bowl-or-Bust"-style catchphrases that served as themes to previous Cowboys Kickoff Luncheons in the Jones Era. It could be the result of a lowered bar of expectations. Or it could be a time of Cowboys humility ... and maybe that's not all bad.

No bragging on this day and no monster 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 adding CB Jemea Thomas (see more on him here) because Mo Claiborne (shoulder) will sit tonight, too.

Modest moves. On an unusually modest day. ... and one CowboysHQ discusses in great detail in our freshly-baked Cowboys Crunchtime Podcast here.


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