*Music accompaniment: “When It’s Over” by Sugar Ray*
So it’s all over. No more positive memes, “We can beat anybody”, or any other fanatic rhetoric that takes place when your team is in the playoffs. There is no solace or perspective to be had when your team is on the losing end of a playoff loss. Most adversaries come from fans whose teams watched the playoffs as we all did. We spend so much time fighting off the “L’s” and trolling that we don’t take the time to look back at the season for any positive reflection. Only one team can be crowned champion at the end of the year, and with the NFL having a one-and-done playoff scenario, there can be no off-games.
In the case of the Dallas Cowboys, we fully expected them to make it to the NFC Title Game at the least. The Cowboys were having a dream season in which their rookie quarterback and running back were surpassing the expectations that most rookies would have on a high-profiled team. After Tony Romo went down early, Dak Prescott was looked at to be the “Alex Smith” or “Chad Pennington” for the Cowboys offense. The offensive line took control as the Cowboys wore down defenses week in and week out behind the running of rookie Ezekiel Elliot. Things were riding high with each win, but the question remained, “Can Prescott and the offense pass their way out when the time comes?” With each 17 for 25, 221 yard game, the rumblings of Tony Romo echoed throughout the media as Dez Bryant was relegated to an average receiver by his standards, but the Cowboys kept on winning. Overshadowed by the glamour positions was the Cowboys defense. During the offseason and training camp, the defensive front-seven was plagued by injuries and suspensions. With a secondary that was lacking playmaplaymakers, it was felt the defense would struggle mightily. With an offense that was run-based and efficient with protecting the ball, the defense was able to pin their ears back and not be put in positions to always have to cause turnovers to be effective. Even when the Cowboys gave the fans and media wins, there seemed to be a longing for more; which would be a high octane passing game. Against the Packers, the Cowboys showed their true promise. They were tested like we all thought they would be, and they were in the perfect position to prove all of the doubters to be wrong. I suppose we can nit-pick the decision to clock the ball on first down, or go man coverage on those final defensive drives; But Why? It was a hard fought game between these two games and Aaron Rodgers and their offense won it in the end on a pass that seemed improbable to complete at that point in time. Just as Eli Manning’s pass to Mario Manningham down the sideline against the Patriots or the muffed punt by 49ers return guy against the Giants: Sometimes the other team beats you and there’s not too much you can do about it.
We know the playoff numbers, we know the Divisional Playoff record when having a bye, and we know the heartbreaking losses the Cowboys have suffered over the past few years. So what’s next? A healthy Dez Bryant would be refreshing. A dominant offensive line seems to be in order for next year as well. The receiving core is in tact, and all fans are expecting the playbook to become more explosive as Prescott adds reps and this season’s experience to his repertoire. What about Jerry Jones? Jones is, and will be the wildcard for this franchise. Will he and the fanbase be happy with this year instead of focusing on the results? Will they be inclined to build their defense through the draft or will they put that “Cowboys Glitter” on the free agent market? Only time will tell, but time has told us that the NFL waits for no one team. For every Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots, there’s a Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinal season lurking around the corner.
Hey Cowboys fan, be happy. Be happy that for the first time in a few years the quarterback position has upside instead on injury risk. Be happy that the running back isn’t a late-twenties free-agent to be. Be happy the defense isn’t aging and can improve. Be happy you aren’t the Giants and have an aging quarterback or a coach with a porn-stache. Be happy you aren’t the Eagles and are trying to replace player personnel that was wrecked by the previous regime. Be happy you aren’t the Washington franchise and have to pay your average quarterback 20+ million a year, or have a coach the still seems like he doesn’t grasp post-game interviews.
What I’m really saying is: Be happy you did better than the Giants, Eagles, and Washington. That’s what you wanted right? Bragging rights.