Since Jason Garrett took over as the Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys in the middle of last year, I have hoped, prayed, wondered and shouted aloud about whether he can change the culture in Dallas. After all, he was a player sitting in Valley Ranch meetings when Jimmy Johnson was there and by all accounts, studied just as vigorously to be a head coach as he did to be Troy Aikman’s back-up. There have been times where it seemed as though he did a complete 180 with this group. The reports that he has made the locker room and dress code more strict and the overall professional attitude change of this team have been a few significant changes he has made in his time as the head coach. Unfortunately, the play seems to only be slightly changed on the field. You will hear me say this all year long (no matter how good or bad the Boys play); the Cowboys front office came into this season with a rebuilding mentality. However, it is still disappointing that when they have chances to win, they still lack the quality in the clutch to get it done. It is easy to blame Tony Romo because he intermittently gives the fans a reason to and he is the most visible player on the most visible franchise in sports. But know this, the reason the Cowboys have been underperforming is because Jason Garrett has not brought them all the way around that 180 degree turn.
This Sunday is his chance to show Dallas and the rest of America, that he has brought this team closer than we all may believe. A win on Sunday will not spell a playoff berth for the Dallas Cowboys, but it WILL end the season of the Philadelphia Eagles. That is the difference in this rebuilding team and a team that is championship-ready; in a word, RUTHLESSNESS. Jerry Jones refuses to admit Dallas is rebuilding, and I can understand why. Cowboys fans will never accept that word. I KNOW that they are because I believe what my eyes tell me. I will, however, concede my theory if the Cowboys go in and ruthlessly destroy Philadelphia on Sunday. The Cowboys, individually, are not as talented as the Philadelphia Eagles. Fortunately, this game is not built on individual talent. Championship teams not only win but also destroy their enemies and annihilate any hope of them winning. They pounce on every opportunity to terminate the weak. They attack until the lesser teams are dismissed from contention.
This Sunday is a must-win game for Philadelphia. They beat a poor Washington Redskin team to snap a 4-game losing streak. They sit at a disappointing record of 2-4 and alone in the basement of the NFC East. If they beat Dallas on Sunday, they begin a winning streak and are poised to make a run towards the post season with all of their confidence available and their city behind them as they crawl out of the bottom of the NFC East. If they lose, especially if they lose big, their season is over. Their city will turn on them, the locker room will divide and their 5 losses through 7 games of the season will be too great to overcome with New England, both New York teams, Chicago and a re-match with Dallas on their remaining schedule. Your Dallas Cowboys have a chance to end the Eagles’ season. The question is this: Are the Cowboys ruthless enough to do it?
All championship caliber franchises have crushed enemies in their wake. The 2008 Steelers beat the Ravens 3 times on the way to their 6th Lombardi Trophy. Seemingly, the only team the Ravens could not beat was Pittsburgh. The 1999 Titans WERE the only team the Jacksonville Jaguars could not beat, going 14-2 and losing in the playoffs for the third straight time to Tennessee. Even the mighty Eagles of the late 1980s and early 1990s, who routinely humiliated Dallas at every chance they could, were no match for the championship resolve of those Jimmy Johnson led Cowboys in the post season. The Cowboys beat them twice on the way to Super Bowl titles in 1992 and 1995 and the Eagles never won a playoff game under Buddy Ryan. The Cowboys were talented, yes, but more than that they were in a RUTHLESS pursuit of their goal. They had an unmistakable resolve to win and were not going to let anyone intimidate or beat them. When it came time to win or go home, each one of those teams had the mental resolve to end their rival’s opportunity at a dream. THAT is what I mean by ruthless.
I do not believe the Cowboys are there yet. I believe they can beat Philadelphia but I do not believe they have the mental toughness to walk into the “Linc” and whoop the Eagles up and down the field for 60 minutes. They sure have the talent and the opportunity will present itself at some point on Sunday night. One of the players that will have an opportunity is DeMarco Murray. Tashard Choice has been cut to make room for Bruce Carter’s spot on the roster, so Murray will have every opportunity to show Cowboys’ coaches and fans that last Sunday was the real deal. He is going against the 23rd-ranked rush defense whose linebackers are below average at best and whose coordinator is a career-long Offensive line coach. Murray will have the opportunity to rush for a lot of yards and end the game/season of the Eagles. What would be more demoralizing for Philadelphia than for their most hated rival to walk into their home field and run up and down their defense for 150-200 yards rushing on the way to effectively ending their season? The same is true for the other side of the ball. The Cowboys #1 ranked rush defense will play the Eagles #1 ranked rush offense. Something has to give in this battle. Again, what would be more demoralizing for an already limping team than for the Cowboys to snuff them out at home? I do know this, the Cowboys of recent years have not had anywhere near the mental toughness to get done a job like this. If we are talking a Wade Phillips led team, this game is going to be a Cowboys’ massacre on prime time television.
Tonight, we will find out how far Jason Garrett has come with this team. We will find out how they handle a little bit of success and a great opportunity to demoralize, humiliate and RUTHLESSLY embarrass a hated rival.
The table is set. Let’s see if the Cowboys can endanger the Eagle and bring it back to Dallas for dinner. Anyone else hungry?