Dallas Cowboys: "America's Team" or an American Tragedy, Part III
The Dallas Cowboys of the 2000s are a far cry from a team filled with Hall of Fame caliber talent. The last twenty years of the Cowboys which take us to the present share a much deeper look into Dallas as a team that needs help more than anything. It seems that the Cowboys cannot get out of their own way and their hubris is what is bringing them into this state of dissimilation. More importantly, the Cowboys of the last two decades have set the sub-par standard that the Cowboys of the 1960s originally set. They have young talent but cannot seem to get into the Super Bowl Champion discussion quite yet.
2000s: Dallas begins to Collapse
Being a Cowboys fan in the 2000s is quite like being a Saints fan in the 1970s. The Cowboys could not win a damn thing and proved on many occasions that they could beat themselves more than anything. The 1990s were glorious, however, those players were gone now and what was left was an aging Emmitt Smith. The last remaining quadrant of a team that is known as one of the better collections of talent ever. 2000 began with Troy Aikman retiring. Michael Irvin had left the Cowboys in 1999 to pursue retirement as well. It seemed that glory was over and Dallas had to start from scratch again. After a failed experiment of promoting in house, Jerry Jones turned his attention to a retired Bill Parcells. Parcells had success with the New York Giants two decades earlier and was expected to lead Dallas out of the rut it had been in for only a few years at that point. Parcells lasted from 2003 to 2006 which ended in complete disaster as the Cowboys could not catch a break. Quincy Carter, their starter in 2003, was released after alleged drug usage. He was replaced by an aging Vinny Testaverde. The Cowboys took a massive defensive approach during the Parcells years which earned them players like Demarcus Ware and Marcus Spears but their offense had no pep. Drew Bledsoe was brought in 2005 to clean things up and the Cowboys were a mediocre team. Bledsoe kept them on track though. Parcells did not fair very well though as he was released in 2006. Replaced by Wade Phillips, the concept was simple, just win games. Phillips could not seem to do this either. However, Philips did have a solid Quarterback with Tony Romo. It seemed that Romo was always in the conversation for being one of the best in the league, but he always seemed to struggle late in close games causing this comparison to the greats to soon fade away. Amongst all these problems was another one that would not heal for a long time. Tony Romo needed weapons and Miles Austin and company were not cutting it. The attention of Jerry Jones turned to one of the best to ever play the game as Randy Moss was already signed with Oakland. His name became synonymous with trouble ever where he went and everything he touched turned to dust. Terrell Owens was his name but you may know him better as T.O.
Owens had proved in his prior experience that he was the best receiver the game had to offer. Moss had seasons of greatness and his high flying acrobatics was no match for the cornerbacks guarding him. Owens though had speed and used his rather short stature as a receiver to make defenses pay. Owens though was an off the field disaster. Another famous quarterback referred to him as “locker room cancer.” Owens himself was about one person, himself. Owens played for himself and was destined for the Hall of Fame. All he had to do was play the game the way Tony Romo would benefit and the Cowboys would have been fine. T.O. did not disappoint. He earned a Pro-Bowl appearance in 2007 and was the receiving touchdowns leader in 2006. It seemed that Dallas had found the right playmaker on offense to turn everything around. 2007 marked a playoff birth for the Cowboys but ended in a Romo disaster as he fumbled a potential difference making field goal. Dallas had done what the modern Cowboys always do. Defeated itself from within. Romo was heavily criticized during his tenure in Dallas and at times Owens came to his aide. Nevertheless, Owens was released by the Cowboys in 2008 for unknown reasons. His numbers were spectacular as he had 3,587 yards and 38 touchdowns in 3 seasons. 2009 began on a bang as AT&T Stadium was completed replacing Cowboys Stadium where Dallas had played for decades.
2010s: “December Curse”
In the words of the great Stephen A. Smith, when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, what can go wrong will go wrong. Well that hasn’t changed as the “December Curse” is living proof of this. The curse entails that the Cowboys go ahead to the playoffs in November and after Thanksgiving fall apart all on their own. In 2010, they were in contention for a playoff spot and fell like a ton of bricks, losing all 4 of their games in December. This ended in the firing of Wade Philips. His replacement was very similar to Tom Landry. He had been a Cowboy and had experienced the Cowboy way. Jason Garrett, who received much a roasting for his support of Tony Romo and loyalty to Jerry Jones, became the Cowboys new Head Coach in 2011. Garrett had played for Dallas as a backup to Troy Aikman. He came off in many ways, at least through the media, as a pushover. It seemed that the Cowboys were not his team to lead. He had a fine relationship with Tony Romo but it never amounted to any success in the playoffs. The Cowboys could not find it in themselves to win a single playoff game.
The years trickled on and the Romo disaster got worse. He was no longer playing at a high level and after multiple injuries decided that maybe it was time to hang it up. Playing his entire 13 year career with Dallas Romo ended up with 34,183 yards and a decent passer rating of 97.1, his future in the Hall of Fame is yet to be determined. Romo was a good leader for Dallas but simply could not get the job done. 2016 stands as era of the new Dallas Cowboys. In a draft that marked them with two notable picks Dallas was hell bent again on returning to the promised land. The first pick was Ezekiel Elliot, a phenom out of Ohio State. Elliot had a size that indicated that he could fit into a pass heavy offense but he was also a great rusher as well. His speed and quickness made him an effective part of the game at Ohio State. Elliot was not the only essential part of the Cowboys. Romo needed a replacement and they found Dak Prescott. Dak was a notable Quarterback from Mississippi State who grew up a Cowboy fan. Prescott was a dual-threat Quarterback that Dallas could use to throw deep touchdowns. Prescott has since not disappointed. Prescott has one playoff win and kept the Cowboys in the conversation. It seems that the Cowboys are heading to a Super Bowl contention. Yet, as usual they seem to fall. The Cowboys of 2018 fell victim to the “December Curse” as they lost a crucial game against Indianapolis that would have given them a first round bye. Yet, they were able to win thorough the divisional round but lost to the Los Angeles Rams. In 2020, the Cowboys are looking to make good on a recent franchise tagging of Dak Prescott. It seems that Dallas though is a media frenzy as they have in recent months had more off the field conversation than on the field. This is a standard Cowboy trait that occurred with T.O. There was more to the problem than simply T.O. but he was a part of that problem. Ezekiel Elliot has been an off the field problem for a variety of reasons as well. This appears to affect them off the field and is crucial to their success.
It seems that if we go season by season the Cowboys find themselves being more of a controversy than a successful football team. We again address this question that we began with, “America’s Team” or American Tragedy. It seems that the Cowboys are a little bit of both. The Cowboys won the hearts of America by playing on Thanksgiving and representing Texas sports. They are also a tragedy because the off-the-field headlines kill the vibe for their seasons. Dallas needs to figure these problems out and get them away from the field. It is expected that the 2020 Cowboys will not be Super Bowl champions but with COVID-19 it seems that anything is possible. We’ll simply have to see.