Ah the start of Training Camp! Where hope springs eternal and there is nothing but optimism about the Dallas Cowboys and the upcoming season.
This year is no different. You can feel the excitement among the fan base. We may not have gotten all the moves we had hoped the organization would make, but they appear to have filled some key holes. Many of the injured starters from last year are returning in good shape. That instantly makes us better, right? Even though the team added only one key player – a rookie center – there seems to be an expectation that the offensive line will be improved and that we will have a much needed running game. The new Monte Kiffin defense will solve all the defensive struggles. Callahan calling plays will erase the head scratching, pass heavy play calling of Jason Garrett that more often than not moved the ball up and down the field but became catatonic in the red zone.
Top to bottom this is a talented roster. It may not have much depth, but there is a lot of front line talent. If we can stay healthy…If our defense is better…If we have a running game…If we can protect Tony Romo…the parade goes on.
And, so, once again Cowboy fans get lulled into this dreamlike state of euphoric expectation. “This is the year! We can finally throw off the shackles of underachievement. Our time to laugh in the face of all the haters is coming soon”.
Like a faithful dog that has been beaten too often and too much, I return with unconditional love for my Cowboys master. But, I do it cautiously remembering the painful past while at the same time hoping this year will be different.
So, like an intervention, I am cautioning all Cowboys fans to be optimistic, for sure, but learn from the past. “Remember December!” if you need a rallying cry.
After being swept by the Giants in 2011 including the critical season-ending game where they went on to the playoffs and we stayed home, remember how exciting it was to win the 2012 season opener on national TV in MetLife stadium? Did we not all think we were Super Bowl bound then? We’d finally beaten our rival and started the season on a positive note. We finally got to rub it in the faces of the obnoxious Giants fans we all know. Great times. For a week…
The Cowboys fell back to earth with a painful thud the very next week in Seattle as we were destroyed 27-7 – a game that wasn’t as close as the lopsided score. True, Seattle ended up being a much better team than anyone anticipated. But the Cowboys went on from there to barely squeek by a mediocre Tampa Bay team and would then lose 4 of the next 5. That stretch included an embarrasing showing on Monday Night Football against the Bears where Tony Romo would throw for over 300 yards but also had 5 costly interceptions and 2 pick 6s. The first half of the season saw us sitting on an abysmal 3-5 record. To their credit, the team rallied to post a 5-3 record in the second half of the season despite significant injuries but there were few “quality wins”. There were overtime wins against Cleveland and a depleted Steelers team at home and a sweep of the lowly Eagles but every game was a struggle. Tony Romo, aka “Mr. November”, finally had one of the best Decembers of his entire career. But, that included some untimely errors – the 2 interceptions in the first 2 series of the season-ending Redskin game for example - that the team could not overcome.
The year before wasn’t a whole lot different – same record but the team did at least dominate a few opponents. Well, for 3 quarters at least. Cowboys fans watched in horror as the team squandered double-digit leads against the Jets and then against the Lions. They sat at 4-4 at the midway point in 2011, had a nice run in November, and then lost 4 of 5 in December including being swept by both the Eagles and the Giants to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs once again. So close, yet so very, very far away.
So, here we are again feeling pretty good about the upcoming season. New draft picks. New free agents. New coaches. I’m right there with the rest of you. But, let’s be careful. As you look ahead at this season, there are some obvious challenges – like another very tough run of December games – but there are also some trap games. Games that on paper at least the Cowboys should win if not dominate – week 2 against the new Andy Reid-led Chiefs, week 4 against a rebuilding Chargers team, and a Thanksgiving match up at home against the Raiders. Odds are very good that they surprise us by losing some of those games while winning some of the obviously tough ones. It’s just what this team does.
At the end of the day, they will have to find a way to split with their division rivals and win at least 9 or 10 games along the way to have a reasonable chance at the post season.
Like that scarred, under fed dog in the yard, I will continue to hope for some sort of kindness or affection from the Cowboys. Faithful to the end, I’ll be here regardless. A word of warning to the idiot Giants, Eagles, and Redskins fans around me – I bite and at certain times of the season I’m sure I am rabid, so tread carefully. Let’s hope this is truly the year the Cowboys throw their loyal fan base a bone. Or, better yet, BACON! Go Cowboys!!