This was an easy week to be pessimistic about the Dallas Cowboys. The first half of the season concluded with the second gut-punch loss of 2013 (Denver, the other), arguments over arguments on the sideline, and a general malaise permeating through the fan base’s collective consciousness. The Cowboys, sitting at 4-4, were good-but-not-good-enough.
They lost (again) in the most Cowboys way possible. If you’re a fan that follows this team closely, you were cursing the announcers as they started talking about Dallas going to 5-3 while there was still time left on the clock. You could feel the game winning Detroit drive about to happen.
That’s just how fan bases think when they get used to losing close games time and again. And only the team can change that.
Right now, I’ll admit, there isn’t much evidence that this year’s Cowboys are going to stop the mental torture. As I covered last week, the Detroit game was their chance to prove they are a good team. Well, that didn’t happen. You cannot say Dallas is an above average team when they’ve only won against St. Louis and the rest of the bad teams in the NFC East. Winning against Minnesota would be nothing to brag about either.
So what hope can we have as fans? How can we reasonably believe there is a chance for this team, one which is looking so far like every other team Jason Garrett has ever coached, to make it to the playoffs?
You’ve gotta listen to the players.
In his post-game press conference, Romo was asked how the team would be able to move forward after such a crushing loss. His response implied that the team’s personnel would make the difference:
What you do is you grab a bunch of people and you put them on your football team who have the ability to, mentally, understand that there are gonna be good games and there’s gonna be bad. You’re gonna play well, you’re not gonna play as well. You’ve gotta come back the next week and be at your best, and uhm, that’ll start during practice. If you let that hangover it’ll creep into the season, as it gets later, and each game, the next one coming up, and our football team has a bunch of guys in my opinion who care about each other, stick together, and are competitive and mentally tough individuals who will go back to work. And they’ll get better. And it’s the only approach that you really can take.
When asked if he’s seen that hangover happen in the past:
Yeah…but I think this football team is different than five, six…four years ago.
Translation: Under Jason Garrett, we don’t let these things get to us.
Now, granted, the Cowboys have had a lot of practice dealing with gut wrenching losses during the Jason Garrett era. And he contributed towards many of those losses with poor clock management and game strategy down the stretch. But for all his flaws, he may be on to something with his “Right Kind of Guys” approach. Remember, you can’t overhaul a roster in a season. This year, his 3rd, is when a patient person would expect things to come together. And, yeah, it’s not looking so hot right now. But the players believe in his personnel strategy.
Need more proof than Romo? Here’s Jason Hatcher’s response when presented with a statistical critique of the Cowboys’ much maligned Defense:
I’m not worried about where we fit in, 32 (the Cowboys are ranked 32nd in the league, giving up 422.5 yds/game), doesn’t matter to me at all…We’re getting turnovers. We’re doing what we’re supposed to do. It will all fall into place. It will work itself out. We’ll start putting some wins together.
Just what I see in the guys…I don’t like to look back on last year, but just looking at if we lose a game like that (last week at Detroit) we would’ve packed it in. We don’t have those guys like this on defense or on this entire team. That’s what makes me have faith; just the guys we have. They just want to win for each other and we’re a brotherhood. We’re just going to continue to play until the end and I think we’ll be in a good situation come late December.
Let’s hope Hatch and Romo are right about the mental qualities of the players on this roster making the difference. For the sake of your heart and mine.