We've all heard the adage, "Denial is more than just a river in Egypt."
We are at the quarter mark of the NFL season. That leaves three quarters to go, for the math challenged among us, led by Your Humble Correspondent. Nothing has been decided. In fact, very little has been established. Yet Cowboys Nation is full of people with ankles sprained from leaping off the bandwagon. Building ledges are growing overcrowded. Assumptions have been made and judgments cast.
By the way, this is not a uniquely Dallas or Cowboys phenomenon. In my childhood, back in the Paleolithic Era, my uncles regularly gathered around my grandmother's radio (Yes, radio. Don't judge me.) and screamed epithets at and about George Halas at every Bears' foible. On the plus side, their team gave them plenty of opportunities to invent new curses. The point is, they were never happy, and they couldn't wait to get together for the next opportunity to be miserable.
Maybe long-suffering Browns or Jets fans have been numbed to a lack of artistic success. Everyone else wants to know who to blame RIGHT FREAKIN' NOW AND WE WANT THEM FIRED. Cowboys fans, in my experience, are among the very best ever at this.
To be sure, the Cowboys have some problems. To suggest anything else would be to be in denial. Remember the remonstrations of my colleagues Babe Laufenberg and Kristi Scales. Babe says just because you can identify the problem doesn't mean you can identify the solution. Kristi says a problem without a solution is an issue. From this angle, it can't be proved yet that the Cowboys have issues.
One of their problems is that this is not 2016. Every year and every team are different, but fan (and media) expectations rarely reflect that truth. We saw what you did last year, and we expect you to double-down this year (if last year was good, of course). The fact that it doesn't work that way is no satisfactory response.
There hasn't been enough season yet to know what we're looking at. Admittedly, when a team loses as thoroughly in every area as the Cowboys did in Denver, it's a cause to raise a red danger flag. But then Denver just handled Oakland. Yes, but it was at home. When Denver went on the road, they lost to Buffalo. Yes, but Buffalo just beat Atlanta. But they lost to Carolina, who just won at New England.
Clearly this can mean only one thing: Buffalo is playing Carolina in the Super Bowl.
And you know what? They might. Don't think so, but they might. And that gets us back to the fact that we're just getting this season started. We don't need short-term panic. We need a long view. And that's not just a city in East Texas.
Anyone who thought the Cowboys' offensive line, still the strength of their team, was going to be the exact same while replacing two of five starters just doesn't get it. The two new starters have had some shaky moments. That's caused some shaky moments from the three all-star incumbents. And if you think those guys forgot how to play, you're as wrongheaded as the people who thought the two veterans who left would not be missed.
A lot of things have been ragged. Not horrible. Ragged and inconsistent. Communication between the quarterback and the receivers. Quarterback accuracy. Run blocking. All works in progress. All growing pains. But why would you *assume *that after four games, you have seen the warts and they are who the team is? Why would you *assume *improvement won't come? The season is a quarter old. So in human terms, it's like 20 years old. You were all fully formed and set at 20? Please.
That doesn't mean all of the problems will be solved. But why would you give up on three-quarters of a season?
And on defense, it never made sense that this team would have established itself before the second half of the year. David Irving is just coming back. Damontre' Moore has been visible in the two games he's played. You can see Jourdan Lewis and Xavier Woods becoming major league players snap-by-snap, right in front of your eyes. Lewis basically missed all of training camp. Woods missed almost all of the preseason. You still haven't really seen Chidobe Awuzie.
Also, as the aforementioned Mr. Laufenberg reminds me all the time, if you want me to tell you who's going to win, you have to tell me who's going to play. If you don't think the Cowboys missed Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens against the Rams, we have nothing to talk about. It's not an excuse. That was still a game Dallas could have won, but they're not as good without those two players.
This week or after the bye, the likelihood is they'll both be back. It makes a difference. That's why teams want to find good players. Good players are better than average players or bad players. They make the difference in the game.
Don't misunderstand. This is not going to be an easy road for the Cowboys. They have really good teams ahead on the schedule. They might not get all their problems solved this year. If they don't, and if they don't make the playoffs, it will be really disappointing.
And it will not be a federal crime. If they get enough of their problems solved to be a contender, there will be reasons that happened. If they don't there will be reasons for that. But calling for benchings and firings and beheadings and panic in the streets? That seems an odd way to enjoy a sport, something that's supposed to bring you enjoyment.
If you only get enjoyment if your team wins the championship, that's your problem, not theirs. You have to play a season out and THEN make your judgments about what happened and why. There's too much season left to be in denial, and also too much not to take a long view.