FRISCO, Texas – Who is afraid of the Cleveland Browns?
The 0-8 Cleveland Browns, the ones who have yet to beat a soul this 2016 season, and only the 49ers in the past 19 games?
Well, let me tell you who: Dallas, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, New York Giants, Cincinnati, Buffalo, San Diego and the Steelers again.
You mean the Dallas Cowboys, too? Those 6-1 Dallas Cowboys, winners of six straight, owners of the best record in the NFC and second-best record in the NFL? The ones who have matched the franchise's best start to a season since the 1983 Cowboys went 7-0?
History tells us the probability of an NFL team losing all 16 games is quite remote. Almost impossible. Almost, that is, because in the previous 38 seasons since the NFL first went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, only the Detroit Lions in 2008 lost all 16 games. In fact, in the 17 seasons playing a 14-game schedule, only the first-year Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976 lost every single game, eliciting the comment from head coach John McKay when asked what he thought of his team's execution after a game during that 0-14 effort, "I'm in favor of it."
Oh, and if we need to bring this closer to home, in the 14 years of the NFL playing a 12-game season, from 1947 through 1960, only one team ever failed to win a game. That's right, your Dallas Cowboys, going 0-11-1 in their inaugural 1960 season.
So, chances are real, real good the Browns are going to beat someone this season. Just don't want it to be you.
And the Cowboys are the next team to walk that tedious tightrope, beginning at noon on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, where even the Chicago Cubs proved in the 108th year of their World Series futility you can't lose 'em all forever.
Already this year two teams have narrowly escaped the ignominy of losing to the Browns, who also lost the final three games of the 2015 season, making this losing streak 11 straight: Tennessee barely beat them in mid-October, 28-26, and the New York Jets just this past Sunday had to overcome a 20-7 halftime deficit to save face, 31-28.
It's going to happen because if you look around, the more you lose in the NFL the odds are the closer you are to winning.
And for proof, these Cowboys only need to knock the cobwebs off their now 57-year history. Go back to 1989, right? The first year of Jerry Jones' ownership. Guarantee you he remembers it, along with Stephen and Charlotte and Jerry Jr. and Gene.
Now obviously few others, if any, in the organization were around back then to experience that. Certainly none of the players. None of the guys currently on the coaching staff. But Cowboys national scout Walter Juliff remembers. He was there. Head trainer Jim Maurer was there, a graduate assistant then. Director of video Robert Blackwell filmed that season, he was there. And even equipment director Mike McCord was breaking his teeth with the Cowboys that very season as the poor sap trying to sell tickets, while his current assistant Bucky Buchannan was around since his dad was the equipment manager back then.
This ignominious season is something that is not documented among the historical memories all over the hallways out here at The Star. But Jerry, oh, he remembers. He remembers that 1-15 season quite well, often bragging in self-deprecating humor that his first NFL win as owner of the Dallas Cowboys was the only win during that 1-15 season of '89.
[embeddedad0]That's right, 1-15. The Cowboys were awful, Jones and Jimmy Johnson inheriting a cupboard bare, and what little was there was quite stale. I know. I was there. Saw every one of those 16 games, and after the first eight, thought for sure I'd be covering NFL history:
The first team to go 0-16.
Didn't happen, and this should have been a teaching point for Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett this week to keep his team grounded. The 0-8 Cowboys went to Washington D.C. on Nov. 5, so nearly 27 years ago this Sunday, and beat the Redskins, 13-3, shock treatment for the nation's capital.
The Redskins were 4-4 coming into the game. They were only two seasons removed from winning Super Bowl XXII and would win Super Bowl XXVI two seasons later. They had beaten the Cowboys in five of their last six meetings, including earlier that season, 30-7.
The closest the Cowboys had come to winning in those first eight games was a 27-21 loss in Game 2 at Atlanta. They had given up at least 27 points in the first seven games before losing to Phoenix the previous week, 19-10. Five times they had given up at least 30 points over those first eight games.
Oh, the jokes: Would the woman who lost 11 children please report to the press box. They're beating the Cowboys, 21-0.
Or: I left two tickets on the windshield of my car at Texas Stadium and when I came back there were two more.
Well, by time that Sunday night game was over, no one was laughing at RFK. The Cowboys had stumbled into a win when the Redskins thought this would be a great opportunity to get their Super Bowl XXII MVP quarterback Doug Williams, who was returning from back surgery, back in the saddle, making the mistake of thinking they were playing Southwest Scrub State. Ha, the Cowboys knocked them off, Steve Walsh at the helm for the injured Troy Aikman and Paul Palmer having replaced the since traded Herschel Walker at running back.
Of all people, Palmer rushed for 110 yards on 18 carries, and his 47-yard run set up the Cowboys only touchdown, Palmer's third-quarter 2-yard plunge to give Dallas a 10-3 lead. Unbelievably, it was the only game all season the Cowboys didn't get flagged for even one penalty. None. Actually picked off two passes. And needless to say, it was the only time all season the Cowboys held a team to less than 15 points, and even in that 15-pointer, they were shut out by the Giants, 15-0, on a frigidly cold Sunday at Giants Stadium, the third time they had been shut out that season.
Like how do you only gain 262 yards and win a game?
You know, it's the NFL, and the chances of losing every one of them is quite remote. Even Johnson understood the randomness of the victory, saying afterward, "The rocky days are not over for the Cowboys. But I'm happy to get the win. We're going to have a lot of wins over the next so-many years in Dallas, and it's good to get it started."
Herein lies the lesson: Redskins offensive lineman Joe Jacoby said of the embarrassing loss, "They played better than us. We were flat and looked past them because of their record."
The Redskins would go on to finish 10-6. The Cowboys, yep, they would not win another game that season and would win only one of the first four to start the 1990 season and just three of the first 10. That would be 4-22 from Sept. 10, 1989, to Nov. 11, 1990. And if you include the 3-13 from 1988, that would mount to major mediocrity, 7-35 over a 42-game stretch.
So yeah, these Cowboys better not get all snooty walking into FirstEnergy on Sunday. Plus, they haven't accomplished a darn thing – yet – other than to win as many games in the first seven this year as they did all of last season. And if they are listening to Garrett, all they had to think about today was "having a good Friday," not getting to 7-1 at the halfway point, matching the New England Patriots for the best record in the NFL.
Good Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays lead to good Sundays.
And with regards to Jacoby, the better team just doesn't come out "flat" on a Sunday and lose. The flatness, if you will, occurs during the week, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. That's where the better team loses games in this league.
The records say come noon Sunday the Cowboys are the better team. But they don't spot you beauty points before kickoff in this league. Cowboys defensive co-captain Sean Lee says the preparation this week was spot on, no slacking off.
On the other hand, who would have ever dreamed in a million years before the season ever began that after the first seven games of this 2016 season the Cowboys' biggest worry would not have been playing yet an eighth game without starting quarterback Tony Romo, but rather don't start eating the cheese. I mean, seriously. Or having to be reminded that on any given Sunday …
Well, the Redskins certainly weren't laughing late that Sunday night back in 1989.
But chances are great that some team is going to allow the Browns to have that last laugh. At least one before the season is over with.
Better hope the Cowboys had a good Friday.