It has come to this. We truly no longer know what to count on or where to turn.
I want to tell you everything will be all right, and tell you why. But I don't know what that means. With every fiber of my being, I want to talk about politics and sociology and global relevance, but restraint will be shown. You don't want it, and the ones who need reaching don't feel reachable. So none of that here today. You're welcome.
Trying to be fan-comforting, or reasoning, feels equally futile. No one wants reason, only scalps. Never truer the words of former Cowboys' All-Pro guard Blaine Nye: It doesn't matter if you win or lose. It matters who gets the blame.
Early this week, my radio brought me the words of a man I consider a friend, one who I respect and admire. His words were that if the Cowboys don't win Sunday in San Francisco, the season is over and it is time for them to tank. Nor does it seem for a second my friend is alone in his view.
These sentiments leave me breathlessly puzzled. For one thing, we do all understand, do we not, that the 49ers have set a modern-era record for the most consecutive games lost by a margin of three points or fewer? To consider them incapable of winning a game at home against an average team ignores facts.
So does the notion that the season is over with one more Dallas loss. By that reasoning, the 49ers' season is already over, yet we are suggesting they might beat Dallas. How could a team whose season is over win a game? There is a lapse in the logic here somewhere.
If we mean a certain number of losses diminishes a team's chance to win a championship, then yes, absolutely. Incontrovertibly true. But season over? After six of 16 games have been played? At the risk of being overly dramatic, what are we teaching our children?
And tanking? Let's put my friend alone in a room with Sean Lee and Jason Witten and Tyron Smith and Tyrone Crawford and a real tank, "Tank" Lawrence, and have him tell them that.
Tell a child struggling in a class before midterms to give up, that it makes no difference what you do the rest of the way. Just walk away, this year is over. Because that's what you're teaching.
You want patriotism and wrapping yourself in the flag? Tell a woman or man who has ever been in uniform that if a fight is not going your way less than halfway through it, quitting is the best option. The whole notion of quitting, of not doing one's best every single day, is abhorrent and antithetical to anything that has to do with self-respect and character.
(Aren't you glad we're not talking politics and sociology this week?)
Sorry. If you want quitting and tanking, you came to the wrong place. But we can look at what needs to happen coming out of this bye to make the Cowboys' season more enjoyable for everyone.
PLEASE STOP THE RUN. If there's anything this year's Cowboys are worse at than last year's, this is it. The rules today make it hard enough to stop an acceptable passing game. If you let a team run the way the Cowboys have in their three losses, you severely hurt your chances to win. (I was going to say you leave yourself hamstrung, but the way the last couple of months have gone, I hesitate to mention hamstrings.)
Sean Lee coming back will help for sure. But if stopping the run depends solely on Lee, he's underpaid and this team doesn't have problems, it has issues. I don't think there's one single thing going wrong. When you watch tape, you see defensive ends and outside linebackers getting caught up inside and leaving the edge open too often.
Scheme? Communication? Players playing poorly? Probably all three. Coaches, fix it. This trend will be injurious to your well-being.
RUN IT WITH WHOMEVER. The Cowboys' running game has been okay. Not great and certainly not what it was last year. Ever so many reasons for this. If you don't think this team misses Ron Leary and Doug Free, you're nuts.
Doesn't mean things can't improve, or *won't * improve. It just has not been consistent.
It would also be naïve to suggest Ezekiel Elliott is not at all affected by the circus that is his life. That's part of the equation. On Tuesday of this week it appeared Elliott's suspension might begin this week. But it might not.
Time to leave that at the doorstep. If he's there, pound him if you can. If he's not, we've all seen Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris play. And Rod Smith. They're good. Use them. This is still a running team. If it can't run, it will have trouble winning.
COACH WITH CREATIVITY.One of the greatest weapons the Cowboys offense had a year ago was Cole Beasley. Another was Jason Witten. This year, teams have played them differently, especially Beasley. Additionally, the problems on first down have led to big problems on third down, which affects Beasley and Witten.
Here's hoping the offensive coaches have used the bye time to tweak the plays and formations they're using, to try to improve first down, which hopefully will lead to improved third downs. Fans and media, coaches all, are quick to scream when they don't think Dez Bryant is involved enough. And he should be. But if this staff is really on it, they'll find ways to put Beasley and Witten in position to help move the chains.
Past that, two things: One, fans just need to exercise patience with the defense. It was never going to be at full peak before midseason, and that was before Lee and Anthony Hitchens were injured. David Irving has been back to help the line one game, and the three rookie defensive backs missed too much training camp and preseason time with hamstring injuries. Let them grow and jell.
And for everyone who wants to give up because they don't see a trophy in sight this week, maybe recall the words of a former Cowboys third-string quarterback. The guy was only going to play if two other people got hurt badly. But no one outworked or outprepared him. Why, a reporter once asked? Why do you work so hard for no apparent reward?
"I do it," Jason Garrett said, "for the inherent value of the experience." That's another reason you don't quit. You keep grinding because you're given that chance.
Season over? I don't know what your calendar says. Mine says game number six.