IRVING, Texas – Seriously?
This is what a season that began with so much promise – so much hope that a return to the Super Bowl 20 years after the franchise's last of eight appearances was arguably deemed possible – has come to at the halfway point?
Not sure how you guys do it. How so much piling on the Star you can take, especially when at times the piling on is precipitated by the Star alone, more so than current events. But then this is what players are told comes along with the privilege of playing for the Dallas Cowboys.
All you do is out front and personal. Yours is an open book. Always.
But man, what an unusually openly volatile week or three.
The Cowboys are 2-6.
The Cowboys have lost six straight games.
The Cowboys are in last place in the NFC East, and only three teams have worse records in the NFL: San Diego and Cleveland at 2-7 and Detroit at 1-7.
The Cowboys are tied for dead last in the NFL with a minus-9 turnover differential.
The Cowboys are dead last in the NFL with only four takeaways.
The Cowboys are …
And that probably would be enough to stomach, right?
Ah, but there is more.
There has been the release of starting running back Joe Randle, his refusal to go back into the Giants game having more to do with precipitating that than the impending suspension by the NFL, which, by the way, waited until he was released to deliver the punishment. Turns out it was really no more than a slap on the wrist since he is not on a team and was suspended four weeks, not the four games that would have taken money right out of his pocket had he been.
There has been the constant public scrutiny of defensive end Greg Hardy, along with his social media-fueled responses that has every TV Boomer or even some opposing players publically admonishing him for initially being convicted of a misdemeanor and sentenced to only probation for what is portrayed as a heinous crime.
Then this, Dez Bryant, blowing up in the locker room on Thursday. He was initially irritated by a column written about him, and was then further so by a reporter in the locker room tweeting a very one-sided account of what took place. Dez very emotionally confronted him about, and had to eventually be walked off by his teammates and head coach.
And, of course, the misguided conclusions that this is the natural fallout of a six-game losing streak, frustrations boiling over in the locker room and then the head coach having to spend 4 minutes, 45 seconds of a 5:15 press conference on Friday discussing the incident. Playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at noon (CST) Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., took the third-row back seat.
So you wanted to be a head coach, did you Jason Garrett?
"One of the best things about this team is they come to work, they come to work on Wednesday, they come to work on Thursday and Friday, and they come to work and play on Sundays," Garrett said when sifting through the aftermath of Thursday's combustible locker room encounter. "What we need to do is find ways to win football games, and do the things necessary at the end of games to win football games.[embeddedad0]
"When you look back at the last month and a half, it's a focused football team, it's a determined football team, it's a hard-working football team. It's a team mentally tough and keeps battling. We just have to do the things necessary to win games."
Thus, the bottom line. Still. Win games.
Arguing with reporters doesn't get in the way of winning games, and frankly, so what. We've all been yelled out. Probably even cussed out for something we've written or said. One of the occupational hazards of the business.
Heck, I remember Jerry Jones getting into me bad in 1989. But who cared? You guys wanted to know what else was involved in the Herschel Walker trade, and it was my job to tell you.
I remember offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet so mad at a question I had asked that my intern holding the mic kept retreating farther away as he yelled and screamed. But who cared? You guys wanted to know why Quincy Carter was not starting in the second preseason game that summer.
And even Bill, jumping me in training camp at the Alamodome for asking him a question while he was supposed to be off limits while walking off the field from practice. Who cared? You wanted to know if Bill Parcells was mad at Larry Allen for not practicing that day.
Sometimes we get in the line of fire.
OK, the Dez deal happened. I understand, and when there are pictures and sound, well, that's becomes a social media bonanza. But wonder if anyone bothered to shoot him Friday sitting at his locker, casually talking with myself and a couple of guys about athletic shoes and various other subjects. Good mood. Big smile on his face. Laughing. Sure didn't detect frustration boiling over. He had said his piece.
As one player told me, "Outsiders don't understand what happens inside here."
As bad as all this commotion and losing seems, and it's never good to have the longest losing streak in the NFL so far this season, and the team's longest since losing seven straight to close out the 1-15 season of 1989, it ain't over until it's over. And I understand the unenviable position the Cowboys have put themselves in. Not good.
But still, the Cowboys are only down two games in the loss column to the NFC East-leading Giants. And as one very clever person tweeted me the other day, what's the difference between 5-4 and 2-6 and if those records were turned around and the Giants were 8-1 and the Cowboys were 5-3, meaning 2.5 games back is 2.5 games back no matter what the record is.
Plus, the Cowboys have Tony Romo eligible to return this coming week, and from all signs he indeed will be back, coming off injured reserve/designated to return and into the huddle next Sunday in Miami if no unforeseen circumstances occur. And Dez will be playing in his third game back from the foot injury this Sunday, with another week of practice with Matt Cassel, who he had never previously practiced with prior to that Seattle game.
But on the downside, Sean Lee is out for this Sunday's game, that second concussion in a five-week span too much to overcome in the concussion protocol tests. And all I know is, at halftime with Lee on the field against Philadelphia, the game was 7-7. After he sustained the concussion during the Eagles' first possession of the third quarter, Philly scored a touchdown that drive and then went punt, field goal, field goal, touchdown with Lee in the locker room to win the game in overtime.
So here is the deal: Do not worry about those so-called distractions. Do not worry about frustration from losing boiling over. The Cowboys basically have these next three games to decide their fate. Need to win all three, but got to win at least two of them. That at least would get them to 4-7 with five games remaining after Thanksgiving, and then, you never know. Because betting you no one else in the East wins out or gets to 10 wins. I mean, the Giants still have to play New England, Carolina, Minnesota and Philadelphia. The 4-4 Eagles have yet to play New England, Buffalo, Arizona and, of course, the Giants.
As Bill used to say, you know who you are after Thanksgiving, yes, the third of these next three games.
Good, since there is no evidence of this Cowboys team checking out just yet … no matter that exhaustive laundry list of potential reasons to leave.
Battle on, you guys.