The League

Michael Kun
Author

Michael Kun

Co-author of The Football Uncyclopedia. He is also the author of six other books and is a practicing attorney.

Succumbing to the hype

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Before training camp had even started, more than a few national publications had predicted that the Dallas Cowboys would be playing in the Super Bowl in their quaint, unassuming little home stadium in February 2011. In fact, at this very moment I'm looking at the Sporting News Pro Football 2010 magazine, the cover of which proclaims, ">"SN's Super Bowl Matchup: Jets vs. Cowboys."

Well, that ain't gonna happen.

Oh, sure, the Jets might still make it to Super Bowl Roman Numeral Whatever, but you don't need to stick your neck out to predict that the Cowboys won't.

In case you missed it, they're now 1-7.

One-and-friggin'-seven.

While more than a few pundits thought the Cowboys were being overhyped this year -- after all, the only noteworthy change to the squad that was trounced by the Vikings in the playoffs last year was the addition of Dez Bryant -- those pundits still got it wrong. Maybe the Cowboys were over-hyped, but even those pundits saw the Cowboys as a likely playoff team. Even they saw the Cowboys as a potential Super Bowl team.

But no one -- and I mean, no one -- predicted that the Cowboys would start off 1-7. And if you claim you did, I demand that you submit to a polygraph.

No one predicted that the Cowboys season would be all but over by Halloween.

No one predicted that a team that played so well for so much of last year would play so miserably this year.

Yes, Tony Romo broke his clavicle. And, yes, losing your starting quarterback is a significant setback. But the team was playing woefully before that happened.

Tony Romo wasn't having his best season, and God knows those questions about his ability to play under pressure will persist for at least another year. But the Cowboys aren't 1-7 because Tony Romo wasn't at his best when he was healthy, and they aren't 1-7 because he was injured, either.

Tony Romo's clavicle doesn't explain how a defense that ended last year with a couple shutouts has been consistently rocked this year.

Tony Romo's clavicle doesn't explain an offensive line that's constantly being penalized at the worst possible moments -- has anyone forgotten the last play of the game against the Redskins? -- and isn't protecting anyone or opening up holes when it isn't being penalized.

Tony Romo's clavicle doesn't explain why the Cowboys' running backs seem to have given up on plays since Tashard Choice made a costly fumble just before halftime in that same Redskins game, fighting for meaningless yards and instead giving the Redskins an unexpected seven points when DeAngelo Hall returned the fumble for a touchdown.

Tony Romo's clavicle doesn't explain why the Cowboys' receivers seem to be short-arming passes when they're not volleyballing them to the nearest defensive back.

The Cowboys came out of the gate playing barely inspired football, and, against all odds and logic, they've appeared less inspired every week.

They only look enthusiastic when they're celebrating, and they're only celebrating when they shouldn't be. Twice they've received costly penalties for excessive celebrations in a season when they shouldn't be celebrating at all.

Did you see their game against the Packers on Sunday?

A nationally televised game where they had the opportunity to show us all that they weren't dead yet, that they were going to fight their way back into the playoffs for no other reason that they're the Cowboys, dammit.

"Yeah, we're 1-6," they could have said. "Remember that when we're 10-6."

Is that what you saw, a team dedicated to winning its last 9 games to try to force their way back into the playoff picture in a season where no one team in the NFC has really stood out? Of course not. In fact, was there a single moment when you thought the Cowboys even wanted to be on the field?

They've played listlessly since the opening week. They've looked unprepared or uninterested. There have been games -- like Sunday's -- when it looked as if they'd only learned there was a game an hour before kickoff. The fact there was a game appeared to be such a surprise that it's a wonder they even had their uniforms on at game time.

This doesn't just happen in professional sports.

A team doesn't go from being a playoff team one season to being the laughingstock of the league the next, with virtually the same personnel, unless there's something else going on.

I'll tell you what I think it is -- and this is just a guess from a thousand miles away. I think the Cowboys believed the press. They believed the hype. They were like the politician who's ahead in the polls so he stops campaigning, only to be knocked off on election day. The Cowboys believed they were headed to the Super Bowl. They believed it because they heard it. They forgot that they actually had to go out on the field and win the games to get there. They forgot that they have a target on their backs simply because they are the Cowboys.

When you continue to market yourselves as America's Team a quarter century after that was last true, when half the sports world predicts you're headed to the Super Bowl before you've played a game, and when most of your games are on national TV, do you know what happens? Teams get amped up to play you. They play with enthusiasm and with pride because they have a single goal -- to beat the arrogance out of you.

And guess what: they've done it. The Cowboys have no reason to be arrogant anymore. They are now one of the worst teams in the league, a team even the upstart Lions are looking forward to playing in a couple weeks. (Have you seen the Lions this season? They've lost a couple games they could have or should have won, but they're an inspired team.)

The Cowboys aren't going to go 1-15. They're going to win a few games, either because they'll play harder for their new coach or because their natural talent will make that happen regardless of their effort. They'll probably end up 4-12 or 5-11.

If they know enough to be ashamed of that, they'll come back with a vengeance next season and perhaps make the Super Bowl run they should have made this year.

But if they just assume that they'll be better next year, it could be more of the same.

By Michael Kun  |  November 9, 2010; 10:29 AM ET  | Category:  Coaching , Dallas Cowboys , Jerry Jones , Michael Kun , NFC , NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Comments

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... sorry, but I did predict all these things, and long before the season started. Earlier this year, I took a job in Boston, leaving behind my old job and supervisor in Albany NY. He was one of those unexplainable Cowboy fans, born and raised in upstate NY, never been to Texas, but a stinkin' Cowboy fan nonetheless. Before leaving for Boston, and being a Skins fan from birth (born in DC), I predicted everything that has befallen the 'boys this season. I told him I'd send an email with the subject line: "... how 'bout dem 'boys ..." after each Cowboy loss.

(taken from email sent him in October; I'll forward it to you upon request):

Subject: ... how bout dem ...

… just ain’t fun no more …

… do you believe now … let’s recap what I told you …

1) … dem boys will be sitting next to the Redskins at this years Super Bowl … check

2) … dem boys will never go to a Super Bowl with Romo and Philips …. check

3) … what do you think’s gonna happen if Romo gets hurt and Kitna has to play … check

4) … their secondary is suspect … check

5) … dem boys ain’t no better than my team … check


… sad … sad … sad …


nuff said


ps … I believe you owe me some money, right …

… yeah, I know … you don’t recall us having a wager …

… and, oh yeah, the season’s not over yet … right …


… say hi to Pete for me … and keep your head up (and pick another team to root for)

Posted by: drobbins2 | November 9, 2010 2:40 PM

@drobbins2....LMAOF!!!....you know each other?!?

Posted by: jinkymm | November 9, 2010 4:01 PM

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