Despite being in First Place in their division as of this writing, for the first time in their history the Dallas Cowboys are irrelevant. Never have they gone an entire decade with absolutely zero tangible success to show for it and while I am a die-hard, blue blooded, grape Kool-aid drinking, long-live-the-Dallas-Cowboys fan I have simply gone beyond the gut-wrenching agony of dreams destroyed to being numb from disappointment.
In the 60s they went from 0-11-1 that first season to infamy at the Ice Bowl in less than a decade.
In the 70s they battled with the Pittsburgh Steelers for supremacy, showing up at five Superbowls.
In the 80s they were bridesmaids to the 49ers and Redskins but were never counted out.
In the 90s they were the best and worst of everything the NFL stood for: arrogant and hedonistic but champions just the same.
Since 2000 this team has chewed through three head coaches, at least a dozen starting quarterbacks and produced a grand total of four playoff games, three wildcards and one division round, all losses. The shortest comparisons since the NFL/AFL merger to that are these:
56 Playoff appearances up to now, six ahead of #2 Pittsburgh.
20 Division Titles, one more than Pittsburgh who has been around 27 years longer.
14 NFC Championship games, including four in a row in the 70s and 90s plus a three-peat in the 80s.
8 Superbowl appearances and five Lombardi Trophies, one less than Pittsburgh.
Simply amazing, and more than that, amazing how much money has been spent along with high hopes and great expectations set in the past ten years…for one division title. The team anthem "The Boys are Back in Town" started playing in 2003 when Bill Parcells took Quincy Carter and company to a 10-6 record after three straight years of 5-11 under Dave Campo. Overall, though, a better soundtrack might say "Couldn't Get it Right."
The practice facility roof collapsed this past summer and permanently disabled one of the staff which I instantly took as an omen for the current season given how poorly the last campaign played out. That anemic effort included an embarrassing final game at Texas Stadium against Baltimore and The Humiliation at Lincoln Field against the Eagles. Here we are in December of 2009 and sitting on top of the division at 8-4 with four games left against two fierce division leaders, a vicious wild card hopeful and a bedraggled but proud division rival always itching for a chance to knock Dallas off its playoff pedestal and high horse in general. I predicted 7-9 for the Cowboys at the start of the season; 8-8 and out of "The Dance" again is entirely possible.
Through it all Dallas has had one Owner/G.M. who's famous meddling fired a legend and built a dynasty before turning the factory from one that cranked out championships to the league's version of a different G.M. Like that once all-powerful brand the Cowboys franchise is a shell of itself with an onfield product mocked by some, feared by none, unwanted by others and unconditionally believed in by fewer still.
The truest and best thing that can be said is that Jerry Jones has always and will continue to try and find the perfect storm, that magical winning combination everyone associated with the team wants, expects and now desperately needs. But history is stacked against us: there is a revolving door at the front office which feels like a prairie wind from all of the savant coaches and savior players who have come and gone either to greatness at cable networks and other franchises or have flamed out in the lap of excess and presumed privilege or inglorious retirement.
The ones I truly feel sorry for are the Jason Whittens, Demarcus Wares and Marion Barbers of the team, upstanding private citizens with the work ethic of a Paul Bunyan or John Henry. They, like other marquee players before them, have performed, entertained and inspired fans and peers at the highest level for nothing up to now. If their skills do not abandon them first then their salaries will eventually expose them as less and less valuable in the unforgiving long-term reality of every human enterprise that demands fresh legs for less money.
This season isn't over yet and I believe that the Dallas Cowboys will rise again. I know they will. I'm just putting all of my hopes in the next decade because here, at the close of this one, other than the emperor's new clothes all we have to look back on is the phenomenal house of cards that Jerry built to match.
Move over Washington, and stop hogging the sofa!