From 'Horrific Mess' to Important Win

IRVING, Texas -- Are the Cowboys a "mess''? The Fox pregame show spent a full and seemingly-endless seven-minute segment on Sunday morning essentially discussing one thing: Whether or not your Cowboys are a "mess.''

All the ladies and gentlemen on the panel gave muscular opinions, and all of them were essentially in agreement.

Yeah. They are a mess.

Terry Bradshaw stumbled awkwardly through his assessment before finally getting to his points that typified the studio show's collective view:

"This is a football team counting the playoff game last year are 5-6, that's five six, um, that's five losses right there. … five wins and six losses last 11 games. … that's horrific. … There's not a player on that team that will take that team by its throat. The head coach is no Chuck Noll. Chuck Noll instilled fear in every one of us. There's no way we would play like this team is playing. No way that would that happen.''

There are assorted problems with all of this. Allow me to outline:

Problem No. 1: Our friend Terry (a Dallas-area resident, frequent guest on my radio show over the years, and up-close-and-personal Cowboys watcher) is engaging in loopy hyperbole, dangerous speculation and revisionist history.

No. 1 A, the loopy hyperbole: While the Cowboys' record going into Sunday's home game against the Bucs was indeed 5-6 in their previous 11 outings, 5-6 is hardly "horrific.'' "Disappointing''? "Troublesome''? "Crappy''? Sure.

"Horrific''? If 5-6 is "horrific,'' I'd sure hate to be 4-7.

No. 1 B, the dangerous speculation: The insistence that Dallas lacks locker-room leadership – which was a talking point for Bradshaw, Howie Long and Michael Strahan, who thinks the Cowboys need somebody who runs up and down the sideline telling everybody it's "going to be OK'' (?) – is almost slanderous. I'll tell you the interview I'd like to see: One of these dudes looking Ken Hamlin or Jason Witten or Bradie James or Greg Ellis or Tony Romo or Terence Newman or Andre Gurode or DeMarcus Ware or Zach Thomas right in their eyes and accusing them of lacking leadership skills.

Go ahead. I dare ya.

It's a silly cliché, and I easily dismiss it: A team loses, so. … they must lack leadership! Yeah, that's the ticket! Funny thing: Dallas is now quarterbacked by Brad Johnson. A non-leader? Hmm. … that's not what they think in Tampa Bay, where a few years ago his personality was a driving force in the Bucs' Super Bowl title.

No. 1 C, the revisionist history: Chuck Noll never "allowed'' his talented Pittsburgh Steelers teams to lose? Really?

The truth: After the Noll/Bradshaw-era Steelers won their fourth Super Bowl (in six years) in 1979, the '80 team went 9-7 and didn't make the playoffs. The '81 team went 8-0 and didn't make the playoffs. In the next three seasons, as Bradshaw transitioned into retirement, Noll made the playoffs but totaled a 1-3 record. Noll then coached seven more seasons. And made the playoffs once, going 1-1. And having losing seasons in four of those seven years. And closing 51-60.

Wade has been on a 5-wins-in-11-games pace for 11 game weeks.

Chuck went on a 5-wins-in-11-games pace for SEVEN YEARS!

Horrific!

Noll is in the Hall of Fame. He's a legend, and more accomplished coach than Wade Phillips, and his four Super Bowl wins mark a collection of achievements Wade will of course never match in Dallas. But let's not ladle on the silliness here: No matter what it seems from the rosy angle of Terry Bradshaw's rear-view mirror, Chuck Noll's Pittsburgh Steelers didn't win 11 games out of every 11.

And no matter what it seems from the perspective-free microscope Wade's Cowboys were under going into Sunday, a situation that can be easily and universally characterized in the morning as a "mess'' can just as easily be cleaned up with a win.

Cowboys, 13, Bucs 9.

At this moment, it matters not who calls Dallas' defensive signals. The head coach? The defensive coordinator? Coach Jerry? Somebody did a fine job orchestrating a defense that limited Tampa Bay to just three measly FGs.

Nor does it matter, at this moment, that Dallas' offense is severely handicapped by being quarterbacked by Backup Brad. The silver lining is that when Nine-Fingered Tony Romo returns in a few weeks, the Cowboys' true problem will be solved. In the meantime, the Johnson-Cowboys gameplan is pretty much based on hoping the other team commits four or five first-down-giving penalties. Thanks, Tampa Bay.

Before the game, Fox's Jimmy Johnson said, "They're a mess. They're a mess.''

Before the game, Fox's Curt Menefee said, "It's officially a Cowboys Crisis.''

Before the game, Fox's Terry Bradshaw said, "Horrific.''

Three hours later, the Dallas Cowboys are halfway through the NFL campaign and are 5-3. Not all that horrific, really. And loopy hyperbole, dangerous speculation and revisionist history should now be behind Dallas in the standings.

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