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21st Century Dallas Cowboys Failures
As a child growing up in the early 1990s, I became accustomed to what i considered to be reliable truths that never let me down. Whether that involved the Power Rangers always defeating Lord Zedd and his boneheaded minions or Cocoa Crispies giving me the right amount of chocolate to give me that extra boost, as a means to help me make it through those tough Monday mornings before school. However, the one thing that I not only hoped for but expected most of all was the Dallas Cowboys being championship contenders.
Growing up in the heyday of the dynamic trio of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irving, I see now that I was spoiled, as was the rest of Cowboy Nation. The regular season was just a formality and their record at the end of the regular season didn't matter, as come playoff time they performed beyond the experts expectations. Three Super Bowl victories and countless memories along the way was our reward for being loyal followers of the team. Like all teams, they had their ups and downs but for the most part their successes were in multitudes, with the failures being blown off as nothing more than an off year.
Like all things, success couldn't last forever, as the 21st century was nearing and with it the unknown, as the Cowboys that brought about Dallas' golden years were beginning to age and were no longer the players they used to be. Michael Irving's early retirement and Troy Aikman's many concussions led to the breakup of America's Team and with it an era of failure that would wreak havoc on the Cowboys' brand.
The last great memory for me and many other Cowboys fans came on a Sunday in 2002 when Emmitt Smith surpassed Walter Payton's rushing record but even that seems like a distant memory now. He was the last of the big three still remaining and his departure brought about a search for a running back that would last for over a decade.
Back in the 90s it appeared that the good times were here to stay but come the 21st century the Cowboys fell upon hard times. Three, 5-11 seasons from 2000-2002, followed by a brief hope of better days brought about by the young upstart Quincy Carter and a playoff appearance, followed by two more years of mediocrity brought Cowboy Nation back to a sad reality. Inconsistent quarterback play had been the Cowboys achilles heal since the departure of Aikman. Each season presented a new challenge for whoever was playing behind center, making a team known for iconic quarterbacks seem out of place with the lackluster performance they were getting from that position.
The football gods once more showed favor towards America's Team in the second half of a loss to the New York Giants in 2006. Then quarterback Drew Bledsoe was replaced with a little known backup by the name of Tony Romo. From the moment he stepped on the field he gave the Cowboys new life and the position that had doomed them for so many years was now their strength once more. That year they once again earned a wildcard birth with the opportunity to cause some trouble in the playoffs. Unfortunately, bad luck once again presented its ugly face on a fumbled chip shot field goal that would have clinched them a ticket to the next round.
For the next three years high expectations proved to be misplaced as they squandered their chances to rekindle their glory days with two early playoff exits. Terrell Owens and Tony Romo proved to be a fearsome combo but the lack of a run game destroyed any chance for success. Coaching changes didn't make any difference as the Cowboys suffered four straight losing seasons, three 8-8 seasons in a row. To make things more heartbreaking for Cowboys fans is that for three straight years they lost their final game of the season, eliminating them from playoff contention all three years.
With the release of Demarcus Ware and the injury of middle linebacker Sean Lee, the 2014 season looked grim. Many analysts even predicted them to have one of the worst defenses in NFL history. However, the Cowboys have found a new identity as a complete team with a healthy Demarco Murray and a gem of a receiver in Dez Bryant. Their defense has at times bent but never broke. While Tony Romo has presented himself as an MVP candidate. A 11-4 mark has Cowboys fans seeing a reincarnation of Irving, Smith and Aikman but no Cowboy's fan will celebrate until the final whistle of the final regular season game. For far too long we have had victory snatched away from the jaws of defeat. We have quiet faith,with outward doubt. Although, there is a sense that our time is once again upon us and that a championship banner is within our grasp.