It's a legitimate question. What can the fandom expect next? Week 4's sudden right turn and departure from three week normalcy requires some explanation. To be clear, the explanation has to go beyond "We took what the defense gave us." Really? So, why didn't Tony Romo throw for 500 yards instead of his customary 300? The Cowboys would have you believe there was no possible way to run the ball on the Redskins defense. "We played to the defense" is a plausible explanation without refute?
The days of hard-hitting and confrontational press conferences are greatly missed. Greatly missed. One can only assume that the wrath of Bill Parcells still reigns supreme in these parts. Apparently, the local media and beat writers are gun shy. Sheepishness when it comes to Wade Phillips? Come on. Anyone know where scribes can buy a spine? Jimmy Johnson was an intimidating podium figure too, but it never stopped the likes of Richie Witt and Mike Fisher from asking the controversial or pointed questions. Why? Because they had a job to do! There are a whole host of people out at Valley Ranch, media-wise, who are taking up space and stealing paychecks.
This commentary is not centered on media coverage, but it plays into the bigger topic at hand. That topic being "Cut the crap, and get to the source of the sorry-ness." Sorry-ness is a kind way of describing the offensive game plan and approach to Sunday's showdown with the divisional opponent. What was so different about the Redskins and their visit to Texas Stadium that required the offense to completely take on a new face and look? Suddenly the offensive line, Marion Barber and Felix Jones forgot how to run the ball? What the heck happened in last week's practices that transformed the Cowboys into a pass-only entity? And if the Cowboys are going with pass only; will someone please buy Terrell Owens a set of operational hands? Please.
It would have been golden to be a half-time observer within the Cowboys locker room. Not sure if it happened or not, but indicators are Terrell Owens was lobbying anyone who would listen or give him the time of day. Why anyone was listening is beyond comprehension, but obviously, someone was. How else do you explain the "forced" strategy exhibited right out of the chute in the second half? Was it not clear to a blind man that Owens had "wormed" his way into the game plan? About the only thing Owens didn't do was drop back to receive a punt or carry out water bottles during time-outs! The latter may have been the prescribed strategy as a water bottle carrier may have been the only thing Owens could legitimately hold onto. Impact player? Yes, but he has some very suspect hands.
If Owens was heard, and the coaching staff acquiesced, then the Cowboys have bigger problems than appear on the surface. This "I didn't get the ball enough" whining better start and stop with Week 4. The internal sheriffs need to ride roughshod over the self-indulgence right here and now. No one is saying the "former receiver" known as T.O. is resurfacing, but it bears watching. This thing could get out of hand rather quickly. Hopefully the "look at and listen to me" lid will be properly clamped down by player personnel. When players start to rise up above "team first," then the recipe for disaster has been brought to the stove.
Garbage like this can start to smell when a football team tries to get too cute, and that's exactly what the Cowboys tried to do Sunday. They went away from the basics. The question remains "Why?" but that isn't going to be surfaced by patty-cake reporting. Speaking of cute, there isn't a day that goes by that the TV series "Dallas" isn't loathed beyond comprehension. That show, while single-handedly, trying to erase all the post assassination perceptions of a great city did more damage than good. The glamour and glitz portrayed by the Ewing's immediately transcended over to the local professional football team, and multiple decades later, it's still more Hollywood than Hammer Time. This team remains cute and glitzy. Great TV. Good theatre. Always a story. It is also SOFT. Marshmallow SOFT.
Ask yourselves an honest question. Does this team strike fear in opponents? Serious, in-your-face, smack you in the mouth fear? Hardly. The offensive fire power may scare some, but the physicality and leadership scare no one! No one. This team, manufactured or not, needs a nasty disposition and personae. The truth is you either have it or you don't. Manufactured toughness doesn't exist in the NFL. It can't be taught, and it can't be coached. Too bad. On a never waiver scale, only a select few on the Cowboys roster exhibit the behavior and disposition sought. While not the only ones, Marion Barber and Jason Witten are two examples of the desired approach to this game. Yes, there are defensive players who possess the impact ingredients, but they don't show as readily as Barber and Witten display.
It may be there, but Sense of Urgency is a trait that's hard to find and see in this team. No, they're not quitters by any stretch, but statement making isn't one of their calling cards. And yes, it's only one loss in a very long season. This is not "throw in the towel" rhetoric by any stretch, but it is something to keep an eye on. Mental and physical toughness is what grinds a team through December and into the post season. It is completely unknown whether this team has that staying power. The coaching staff certainly doesn't resemble the needed traits. Like most observers, Wade Phillips passes the eye test for "nice guy," but does he have the "stones" to orchestrate demonstrative and definitive behavior in a team? Is there a killer instinct within? Sorry folks, don't see it. There is nothing in place which eases the concern of "Can they endure when it counts most?"
Thus, the #1 trait needed for a team with a ton of ability and physical skill sets, is in limbo and/or question. Leadership. The ability for an entity, in this case team, to be on the same page. Your ears are not failing you. Every talking head that covers the NFL has tabbed the Cowboys as the most "talented" team in the League. Yes, that accounts for something, but yet to be heard is, "They're the most disciplined and mentally-prepared" team in the League. They have the makings of a together and in-sync team, but the dynamics and outcome of the Washington game leave so much to be desired, and numerous questions and unknowns remain. Cowboys fans are never left with the comforting reassurance of "Don't worry, things are definitely under control." That feeling just does not exist. One is left with the impression that it is still a locker room built on egg shells, and the only hope is that all people are walking very lightly. This is football ladies and gentlemen. Save politically correct and cute for different forums and venues. The exact opposite is sought when it comes to Valley Ranch.
Four games in, the style of play is directly reflective of team personality. It's highly-contended, that's not a good thing. Talent and physical ability will take you only so far. There comes a time, or there will come a time, when these traits aren't enough to get over the hump. The hump in this case is a decade and a half of nothing! Absolutely nothing. Everything is measured in January, and the Cowboys have nothing to show for their participation in the last 16 years. Nada. Zippo. The Big Goose Egg. As the NFL is designed, nothing can alter the current state of affairs until January arrives, but what happens from now until 2009 is most important. The groundwork has to be properly laid to be in position to moisten the playoff drought. The first moistening agent is LEADERSHIP. If it's there, it needs to surface. If it's not there, it better be found. If it can't be found and surfaced, then 2008 will simply be a repeat of the transgressions which have existed for far too long.
This team must take on a personality make-over. One thing is for sure; the scrutiny isn't going away, so something has to give. It's time like these that wish the Ewing's were West Texas tough residents who didn't have a pot to you-know-what in!! They should have been poverty-stricken oil rig workers or wildcatters. They needed to live through drought, dust and drill bits. The Maybelline should have been swapped for Texas tea, black crude. Everything wrong with that damn show is just what ails Jerry's multi-million dollar assembly. Glitz and glamour may or may not put posteriors in seats, but they don't do a darn thing when it comes to setting a tone and winning championships.
Time to pitch pretty and adopt ANGRY. It's about time to win ANGRY.
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