I have written before that "The Cowboys Cult of Christine'' is a powerful thing, for a number of reasons. But after Sunday's loss to Atlanta, I also wrote that cult members were about to get their wish, in terms of Christine Michael being allowed to be in a "competitive environment'' come Wednesday's practice.
And voila! For the first time in his month-long Cowboys career, Christine Michael on Wednesday was allowed snaps with the first-team offense at a Valley Ranch practrice.
And maybe now, the "powerful thing'' can be his running style.
Up until Wednesday the Texas A&M product acquired by Dallas in a cheap eve-of-season trade with Seattle never, in those three weeks with the team, took a snap with the first-stringers. But his popularity among fans never waned.
Why is it that it never waned?
And what has changed?
Let's do "The Cowboys Cult of Christine'' first. There are a handful of factors here. To wit:
1. It's the Cowboys. Every hangnail produces a report ... and even when there isn't a hangnail, it doesn't stop the click-baiters from reporting that there is.
2. The Cowboys no longer employ DeMarco Murray. So ... isn't somebody better than the RBs who have helped Dallas start 2-0? Somebody? Anybody?
3. Michael was a second-round pick before Seattle dumped him to the Cowboys for a conditional seventh. So he has some pedigree. (Of course, using that logic along, present backup Darren McFadden is better than everybody, because he was a high first round choice.
4. The Aggies. They love their guys. It's blind and admirable and passionate love. but it's ... blind. (Not unlike the Boise State Devotees who can't believe that Kellen Moore is "only'' the No. 2 QB right now in a stripped-down version of the Dallas QB room. And by the way: As of Wednesday, they are getting their wish, too, as Moore is holding off Matt Cassel.)
5. The most popular football player in town is often the one who doesn't play. This phenomenon usually unfolds in the case of a backup QB. (I covered the Broncos when Denver fanatics hoped that stupid John Elway could be replaced by Gary Kubiak.) Here, it's happening to a fourth-string RB.
So we clamor for "news,'' for "another DeMarco,'' for "pedigree,'' for our "home-town hero,'' and for "grass that is greener.'' We also clamor for a Matt Forte trade, and Cowboys Premium subscribers at a few bucks a month now are on the very inside of that tale.
And then ... despite the FACT that Christine Michael -- despite talents that might just make him the best fourth-string running back in the NFL -- IS A FOURTH-STRING RUNNING BACK ... We see a photo from last Thursday's practice.
The photo above. Which, at first glance, seems to tell an inside story: That's Weeden in jersey No. 3. He's the first-team QB with Tony Romo down. That's Michael in jersey No. 30. Michael is taking a handoff from the starter and therefore ...
THE COWBOYS CULT OF CHRISTINE is rewarded! All is righteous and all is just!
Joe Randle remained the chairman of the committee last week, as he's always been. McFadden was his backup. Lance Dunbar was again a key contributor in sub-packages, and McFadden was, in a sense, his backup, too. I've contended ... This group of RBs will perform better when this elite O-Line performs better. And that while Michael good enough to play on their level, and might someday, that was all waiting on when one of the other three a) underperforms, b) is injured or c) finds himself embroiled in a legal or behavioral dispute.
So that photo above from last week? All Michael is doing in that photo is taking a handoff from a QB in pre-practice drills. He was not in the gameplan for Sunday's game against the Falcons. ... but then came a loss to the Falcons in which the running game, numbers aside, was imperfect.
And on Wednesday? Christine Michael finally got non-scout-team air to breath.
This doesn't mean he's beaten out Randle. Or McFadden. Or Dunbar. It doesn't mean somebody gets benched. It doesn't mean Dallas dressed four RBs at New Orleans on Sunday. It doesn't mean there is a definitive shuffle, though again, if you are paying attention you knew of the possible shuffle.
There is competition in the backyard at Valley Ranch. "The Cowboys Cult of Christine'' is having a moment ... because Christine Michael finally got one, too.