I admit it. They got me. Over the years, I’ve fairly successfully conditioned myself into never having expectations. If there are three things that literally everybody knows it’s that falling toast always lands butter-side down, the melting point of the post-transition metal Flerovium in a vacuum expressed in Kelvin, and the fact that the Dallas Cowboys have not flirted with an NFC championship game, much less a Super Bowl, in nearly three decades. Accepting this last fact, why would anyone be dumb enough to expect any given year to be any different than the preceding 27? Yet they got me just the same.
Despite the conditioning I’ve endured like that creepy, masochistic, melanin-deficient priest in The Da Vinci Code, lashed mercilessly with year after year of heartbreaking failure and mediocrity, I allowed my (in hindsight) selective recollection of a fool’s gold 17-game regular season convince me that this year just might be different. High-scoring, home-dominant, defensively flashy, with several players performing at All-Pro clips, and the least daunting path to success ahead in several years — it was all laid out. What a fool to believe. I can hear the dulcet blue-eyed soul of Michael McDonald mocking me now, “Only to realize it never really was.”
It’s been more than a week since I watched my favorite sports team, one I’d been suckered into believing had so much promise, fall butter-side down in front of the whole damn football world. The veil was removed, Capone’s vault was empty, and the emperor had no clothes. And all at the hands of a seemingly innocuous 7-seed Green Bay team.
To all who watched, the 48-32 final score is anything but indicative of the game. The tilt was over at the two-minute warning in the first half when a regular season MVP-candidate Dak Prescott removed his mask to reveal the panicky playoff Dak underneath and threw an unforgivable pick-six to put the Packers up 27-0 and ultimately ice the Cowboys’ 2023 season.
I will contend that, among an ever-mounting list of candidates, this is the most embarrassing loss the Cowboys have suffered in my history as a fan. Every aspect of the franchise shares responsibility. From the head-in-the-sand roster-building approach in the offseason when the front office tried to simply paint over glaring vulnerabilities highlighted by last year’s playoff ass-whooping, to Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s and Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn’s bewildering respective game plans heading into the contest and their stubborn lack of in-game adjustments when it was obvious the plans weren’t working, to the performance of every single player in all three phases of the team on the field — everyone collectively crumbled at once.
The epic collapse elicited a level of shock that would make John Waters gnash his pencil-mustachioed, oversized teeth with envy. Regardless of the passage of nine days, it’s still sitting with me. Like a previous night’s Never-Ending Pasta Bowl® at a rural roadside Olive Garden, it’s an immovable rock in my gut.
Naturally, immediately after the game, the bloodlust was up among fans. Someone, hell everyone, had to pay! The head coach, the DC, the quarterback, the equipment manager, and that livestock vet-cosplaying sideline doctor in the 10-gallon hat! However, Cowboys nation will have to continue to release its bottled rage by punching drywall and throwing remotes through flatscreen TVs because as of this writing, they’re all coming back (unless, of course, that doctor will be busy tending to blue-ribbon Angus heifers).
Hop aboard the bandwagon. We’re running it back!
While you recite to yourself the “definition of insanity” that is often falsely attributed to a certain wild-haired German-born physicist, let me go ahead and explain to you why they’re doing it anyway: They don’t have a choice. That’s right. They’re stuck.
Replace McCarthy with a better coach? Fat chance. No decent coach in their right mind is ever going to come here to play yes-man to the Trumpian-ego’d Jerry Jones. Find a new quarterback? Nope, not that either. Dak is on the hook for $60M against the cap next year and has a no-trade clause. So not only will he be under center next season, he’ll likely be extended and be throwing interceptions in playoff games for the next four or five years. Well, maybe Dan Quinn will satiate our need for vengeance? If only because he leaves to be a head coach somewhere else. Hate to break it to you, but that’s probably not going to happen either. His options are thinning, and time is running out. Looks like his inability to handle hard-running offenses and to get stops when the team needs them have dulled his former brilliant shine. Perhaps the Wild Card game has put 28-3 back in the minds of his potential landing spots.
So, sorry. They’re all back. And you know what? You will be, too. Because what are you realistically going to do? Not watch? Yeah, right. You might keep the moralistic high ground for the next several months by maybe only half paying attention to the draft, or even actively ignoring OTAs, but I’d put up my middle child (obviously not the first-born or the youngest) that come kickoff time Week 1 in September, you’ll be donning your Parsons jersey in your living room with a tall boy in one hand and a blue, star-emblazoned foam finger on the other to watch our local football Sisyphus start to push that rock back up the hill. And I will be there, too. Because I’m an even bigger fool than you. We’ll all be there to stand in place while that rock inevitably rolls right over us on its way back down.