Being a fan of the world’s most valuable sports franchise is weird. It’s sometimes difficult to differentiate how much of the ever-present drama that surrounds the Dallas Cowboys is a result of something inherent with the franchise — the stench of the cocaine/boob-job glitterati that seems to infuse itself into its very foundation, say — or if it is simply a magnification of the mundane due to the Galactus-sized space the organization occupies in sports journalism. (For those with a less comic book-tainted adolescence, Galactus “The World Eater” is a Marvel villain who is so gigantic he survives by devouring entire planets.) Would the suspension of a right tackle dominate headlines for an entire week if said tackle suited up in Jacksonville instead of Big D? Would that same tackle also carry the bizarre trivia bullet point that he was a first-round talent who fell through the entire NFL draft because he was (unjustly, as we now know) rumored to be involved with his girlfriend’s murder? Nah, probably not. Only here in the city of neon-outlined glass towers and trucks bigger than motor homes.
Ye olde chicken or egg comes to mind. Do the media over-cover Dallas because the team is ginormous or because the team is, y’know, actually super-dramatic? This past week was an especially thespian affair for America’s Team™. From the headache-inducing technicalities over the La’el Collins suspension to defensive end Randy Gregory’s COVID-caused unavailability to the devastating news that his partner on the other side of the field, the Cowboys’ best defensive player, Demarcus Lawrence, broke his foot in practice and will miss up to eight weeks, or, if you are the only other human besides special teams coordinator John Fassel who cares, safety Donovan Wilson missing the game due to a nagging groin issue, the conflicts were well-established in the first act of the play and the characters set in motion against them.
Heading into their Week 2 matchup with the upstart Los Angeles Chargers (always San Diego in my heart), the Cowboy (that’s right: “Cowboy”) were with no shortage of obstacles to overcome. Yet somehow they managed to succeed, despite the best efforts of two buffoons donning headsets on the Dallas sidelines. It was an exciting back-and-forth game that showed both offenses seemingly unstoppable and marching up and down the field only to mire themselves in the red zone once there, whether by penalties and turnovers, in the case of the Chargers, or by sheer inefficiency on Dallas’ part. The Cowboys were just able to steal one on a last second 56-yard kick by much-maligned Greg Zurlein to win 20-17, turning last week’s goat into the hero.
The notable thing about that kick was that it shouldn’t have been as long as it was. On third and three, with 33 seconds left, the bench bosses decided to just let a full 29 seconds run off the clock and kick from the Chargers’ 38 instead of trying to run a play to either get a first down or, at the very least, shorten the kick. Perhaps above all other obstacles, injuries to starting wide receivers, defensive ends, and safeties, and suspensions to O-linemen included, the biggest obstacle the Cowboys overcame was their own coaches. Coordinators Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn are both exceptions to this denouncement. Both are demonstrating they have the skillset to neutralize the dumbfounding in-game decisions by Head Coach Mike McCarthy and his Wormtongue-ing special teams coordinator. (Again, for my less nerdy readers, Wormtongue is a character from The Lord of the Rings who is an advisor to King Theoden, poisoning his enchanted mind with duplicitous consultation.)
Dallas definitely got some help by the zebras. There was the game-changing phantom sack of Justin Herbert in the fourth quarter by Micah Parsons — his first career sack, garnered while playing defensive end for the first time since high school in place of the missing Lawrence and Gregory — and a pair of Chargers touchdowns called back due to penalties. But I’m of the opinion that a team makes its own luck. When you hear the phrase “learning how to win,” I think this is really what it’s referring to. The breaks just tend to go a winning team’s way.
And after what I’ve seen in the first two weeks of the season, this looks like a winning team. They’ve shown adaptability, resilience, and just mud-in-the-eyes toughness. With MVP-caliber quarterback play and a defense that shows a Mr. Fantastic-like pliability (Mr. Fantastic is the leader of Marvel’s … oh, never mind), a team can go far. I’m not saying this year’s Cowboys are the 2019 Chiefs, but it’s a Kansas City blueprint they are following. Big things could be in store for this franchise if only the coaches don’t keep screwing it up.