Category: Cowboys (page 2 of 37)

Dirk Owns Dallas

The Big German owns Big D.

Dirk Nowitzki took out a full page ad in yesterday’s Dallas Morning News to say “Thank You” to Mavericks fans and to the city after 21 Hall of Fame years in Dallas. It’s a rare kind of letter from a professional superstar athlete of Dirk’s caliber. Humble. Grateful. Selfless. Sincere.  Reflective. Kind. Two DMN sportswriters have confirmed that Dirk worked on this letter for a couple of weeks; these are all his words; it’s not ghost-written. And you can tell it’s from his heart.

Dirk could run for mayor of Dallas and win it today. When it comes to Dallas sports, he’s in an exclusive club with Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. Staubach, of course, is in a class all by himself. He spent his entire career with the Cowboys, he won two Super Bowls in Dallas, he was a model citizen and team player, and he made his permanent home in Dallas when he retired. For the past 39 years and for the next 39 years, Staubach could run for Governor of Texas or the U.S. Senate and win it immediately. He’s that beloved in Dallas and throughout the state. Aikman also spent his entire career with the Cowboys , he won three Super Bowls, he was a model citizen and team player, and he also made his permanent home in Dallas when he retired. For some reason — somebody help me articulate this — it doesn’t feel like Aikman’s in the exact same category as Staubach. But he’s close. Right there with Dirk.

Mike Modano’s not in that class. He won a Stanley Cup as the face of the franchise with the Stars in 1999. Model citizen and team player, advocate for the sport and the city, but he finished his career in Detroit. And it’s hockey.

The very nature of baseball means nobody’s going to play their entire career with the Rangers. Plus, the Rangers have never won a championship. Nolan Ryan could be governor of Texas whenever he wants, but he doesn’t own Dallas. Jim Sundberg and Pudge Rodriguez could make the Dallas city council, but they don’t own the city. Besides, they played all their home games in Tarrant County.

Am I missing somebody? I think it’s Staubach, Aikman, Dirk. In that order. Does anybody else in Dallas sports belong in that group?



Lowering the Bar

The bar used to be really high for the Dallas Cowboys. Before Jerry Wayne bought the Cowboys in 1989, the longest the team ever went between league or conference championship game appearances was six years. That six year drought came in the last six years of Tom Landry’s tenure, from 1983-88. And it was the main factor in the sale of the team.

Prior to that, the Cowboys made it to the championship game almost every year. A divisional playoff win was a gimmee.

It took them five years from that initial expansion season to playing Green Bay in the NFL Championship game. They went from absolutely nothing in 1960 — they missed the draft that first season! — to playing the Packers for the league title in 1966 and 1967. Until Jerry bought the team, that was the second longest championship game drought in team history, those first five years!

They experienced a two-year drought from 1968-70. A one-year drought in 1974, another one-year miss in 1976, and another divisional round loss in 1979. They appeared in the conference championship game four straight years from 1970-73 and five out of six seasons in 1977-1982. In total, in the 29-years before Jerry bought the team, the Cowboys appeared in twelve conference championship games, never going more than six years in between appearances. The Cowboys were not just relevant, they were at the top. They were a dynasty. They were in every conversation. For almost 30-years, the Cowboys dominated the NFL. The championship always went through Dallas. The legitimate expectations were Super Bowl or bust every single season. The bar was high.

Then they suffered that longest ever six-year drought. No divisional playoff wins in six years. And it caused a panic. Tom Landry didn’t know what he was doing. Gil Brandt couldn’t evaluate players. Tex Schramm couldn’t keep up with the times. The league had passed the Cowboys by. It was time for wholesale change. Little tweaks wouldn’t fix what was broken. Everything needed to be cleared out. The owner, the coach, the GM, the assistants, the trainers, the scouting department, even Tommy Loy the Texas Stadium trumpet player! Everybody had to go. The entire culture of the whole franchise had to be changed. The Cowboys hadn’t been to the conference championship game in six years! It was the worst playoff drought in franchise history!

And it worked. With Jimmy Johnson at the helm, they turned it around. With his players and the culture he created, Johnson’s Cowboys went to four straight conference championship games. They won three Super Bowls.

That was 23-years ago.

The Dallas Cowboys right now are mired in a playoff drought that is four times longer than any other drought in the team’s history. It has never been this bad, it’s never even been close to this bad before. But I don’t sense that anybody’s panicked. I don’t hear the outcry. Somehow, the Cowboys are still the most valuable sports franchise in the world, they sell more merchandise than any other team, and that oppressive stadium is still sold out every week. Just making it to the divisional round is lauded by the owner, the coach, and the players as a great success. The expectations have changed. The bar has been lowered. The Cowboys are the Browns and the Bengals.



The Sorry Seven

There are seven teams in the NFL that have gone more than two decades without winning a divisional playoff game. Twenty-four NFL franchises have played in a conference championship game in the past sixteen years, one win away from appearing in a Super Bowl; seven have not. These seven are in droughts that range from 23-years all the way to 30-years and counting. These seven are mired in more than two decades of mediocrity and irrelevance. These are the worst teams in the NFL.

They are incompetent in the front office. They have no real strategy or long-range plans. They act by whim and “gut.” They keep average-caliber players too long and sign over-hyped free agents too fast. They get out-picked in the draft and out-coached on the field. These seven teams are the only seven teams that haven’t won a divisional playoff game in more than two decades. They have not appeared in a conference championship game in more than 20-years. They don’t demonstrate that they have any idea how to get to a Super Bowl. These seven NFL teams are universally recognized as terrible messes. Laughingstocks. Pitiful. Sorry.

Cincinnati Bengals
Washington Redskins
Detroit Lions
Cleveland Browns
Miami Dolphins
Buffalo Bills
Dallas Cowboys

Three other teams are in 16-year droughts. You could add them to the list of sorry NFL franchises that have no clue how to win a championship — Tampa Bay, the Raiders, and the Titans — but does that make you feel any better? These are the sorry teams, the ones nobody takes seriously.

The Cowboys are not in the same class as the 49ers, Bears, Cardinals, or Eagles. They’re not in the same category as the Chargers, Ravens, or even the Jets! They’re with the Bengals, Browns, and Lions. They belong with the Redskins, Dolphins, and Bills.

Jerry Wayne has apparently written Jason Garrett into his family will; in a few days he’ll get a multi-year extension. Jerry will “Romo” Dak Prescott and start him at quarterback for eleven more years. The coaching staff is expected to remain fully intact; nobody’s getting fired or moved. They keep telling us it was a successful season. They keep telling us they see a lot of positives to build on. They keep telling us the team plays hard and never quits.

Well, if you’re in the same class as the Bengals and Browns, I guess that’s OK.



23 Years and Counting…

Rams 30, Dallas 22

Tap the Brakes

I heard the broadcasters say the word “dynasty” before the players even got off the field. Not Troy, not Joe Buck; the studio guys on Fox and on ESPN. I heard it twice. Two different versions of “The Cowboys are building a dynasty” in reference to the “Triplets,” which I also heard twice.

Whoa, slow down.

Yes, Ezekiel Elliott is a monster of a running back. He runs hard, he picks up blocks, he catches passes — he’s for real. And the whole Cowboys offense runs through him. Amari Cooper is a really good receiver. He runs better routes than anybody who’s played for Dallas in the past twenty years, he’s got a knack for finding the open spot in a zone, and he makes tough catches look easy.  And both of those players make Dak Prescott better. Dak is a decent passer, his legs keep the defense spying and guessing, and he seems to give everything he’s got every week.

But “dynasty?” Shouldn’t the Cowboys win one divisional playoff game since 1995 before using that word?  Since when does a Wild Card win for any other team elicit this kind of hyperbole? It’s like these analysts haven’t watched any Cowboys games in the past 23-years.

And “Triplets?” Troy, Emmitt, and Irvin won three Super Bowls and are in the Hall of Fame. Dak still turns the ball over at the worst possible times, Cooper has played in Dallas for less than half a season, and Elliott needs another twelve years and 14,000 yards and 130 touchdowns before we start comparing him to Emmitt.

Now, let’s acknowledge that the Cowboys are stocked with some legitimate talent and are really fun to watch right now. That defense is stout. That front seven is solid. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch absolutely fly to the ball. Nothing happens on offense without Elliott but, with him, they’re going to be in every game until the fourth quarter. Cole Beasley is clutch. Gallup is fast. Cooper is open. But Dak is a problem. He still misses wide open receivers, he still holds the ball too long in the pocket, and he still turns it over. I don’t think the Cowboys can win a divisional playoff game with this current version of Prescott under center. I also have questions about the reliability of their kicker. But the main concern ought to be at quarterback.

There’s a reason the Cowboys are seven-point dogs to the Rams on Saturday.


I’ve heard people say they just can’t get excited about tonight’s national championship tilt between Alabama and Clemson.  Another rematch. The same two teams. Like watching the Bills in four straight Super Bowls. Some people are not looking forward to the game.

What?!? Are you kidding me? There’s plenty to be excited about; let me count the ways.

~ These are clearly the best two teams in the country. Can you name any team that’s better? This is #1 versus #2! This is precisely what you and I argued and begged for the past 40-years! This game decides the true undisputed national champion!

~ It’s not like the Bills. Clemson’s beaten Alabama in this setting. And nobody will be shocked if they do it again. The Tide winning is not a foregone conclusion.

~ Tua’s story is fascinating. He’s going to have 400 friends and family in attendance at Levi’s Stadium tonight.

~ Rooting against Nick Saban.

~ If Alabama wins, Elaine takes first place in our Central office football poll; if Clemson wins, Mark takes the top prize.

~ It’s the last time I can justify eating nachos before baseball’s Opening Day.

~ Waiting for the moment Hunter Renfrow inevitably makes the huge play.

~ Watching history as one of these teams becomes the first team in college football history to finish a season 15-0.

~ Rooting against Nick Saban.



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