IRVING, Texas – Tanking?
Are you kidding me, this notion of giving up, of not trying to win games for the sake of the future that is not promised to any of us? Like lose on purpose since the Cowboys' record is a sorry 3-8?
That's what t-t-t-tanking is?
The word is so repulsive to me it's hard to even spit it out.
Man, don't you know this 12th game of the season is being played on Monday Night Football, and there is a segment of you that would be cheering for your team to embarrass themselves on purpose before a national TV audience.
And for cryin' out loud the Cowboys are playing the Redskins, the Washington Redskins for the 111th time, and a true fan would thoroughly understand the bitterness that has existed between these two franchises since the beginning, 1960, when the Cowboys came into the league against the wishes of Redskins owner Preston Marshall.
Why unbeknownst to Marshall, original Cowboys owner Clint Murchison, who knew something about lobbyists in our nation's capital, bought the rights to the Redskins owner's beloved fight song, Hail To The Redskins, and basically informed him if he didn't vote to approve the Cowboys franchise then he would not be allowed to play that song.
Brother, you had better be careful who you throw that word around to, especially in these parts. Better not say that in front of Randy White. He might go Manster on you. Better not suggest that around Roger Staubach. If they'd let him, he'd go out there on Monday night to start in place of the once-again injured Tony Romo knowing his competitive spirit.
Charlie Waters? He'd probably get so worked up hearing that he'd have a conniption fit. And Drew Pearson? Well let me tell you this, several years after retirement in a fund-raising flag football game against the Redskins old-timers he was ready to go with one of those Skins after a collision in the end zone.
Man, that's when a rivalry was a rivalry, none of this wimpy stuff like signing your name on a locker room wall. Heck, before their 1974 meeting Redskins linebacker Diron Talbert stated for public record, none of this anonymous Tweeting or Facebooking stuff, this for actual ink print, "If you knock Staubach out, all you've got is that rookie facing you . . . that's one of our goals."
So Redskins linebacker Dave Robinson did exactly that, only to have that rookie, somewhat known as Clint Longley, soon to become known as The Mad Bomber, come in and beat the Redskins with bombs away, the final, game-winning one 50 yards to Pearson.
Hah, these days, the entire Redskins defense would have been suspended for the entire season. Ask the Saints.
Why this stuff was so intense during the 1970s and '80s and most of the '90s, we actually wrote a book chronically the 20 best games between these two most hated rivals. Why Nate Newton laughs to this day remembering the team landing in Washington during the 1992 season and exclaiming to the entire team on the plane, it was time for some "Capital Punishment!" Jerry Jones might have been new to the rivalry, but he's never forgotten that one, nor that the Cowboys only victory in the 1-15 season of 1989 – his first in the NFL – was over the Redskins or this need to know that Tom Landry's last coaching victory in the NFL during the 3-13 season of 1988 was over the Redskins.
Never failed. Seems as though any time one of the two teams was on a roll, the other stomped right on their toes, like in 1991 when the 6-5 Cowboys beat the 11-0 Redskins who might have gone undefeated that year on their way to a Super Bowl championship. Or the next year when the Cowboys had a chance to clinch the NFC East for the first time since 1985 at RFK in Game 14, only to fumble away the lead in the end zone for a 20-17 loss, infuriating Jimmy Johnson so much he suspended meal service on the charter flight back.
And there are those who would promote losing to these guys up there at FedEx Field come 7:30 p.m. on ESPN?
Plus, those misguided folks should take a moment to do some math. Look, there is no getting around the Cowboys are 3-8 and having won only once in the past 10 weeks. And that they are on the road where the first-place Redskins happen to be 5-1 this year.
But Redskins own just a 5-6 record. That's right, first-place at 5-6, owning the 11-game tiebreaker over the 5-6 Giants because a game better division record, though they have only played three so far. Big deal.
Why this is the first time in the history of the proud NFC East, at one point from 1986 through 1995 sending a member to the Super Bowl in seven of those 10 seasons (only San Francisco getting the way), that the division does not have at least one team with a winning record at the 11-game mark. Not a one. Worst 11-game status ever . . . ever.
That means at 3-8, then six losses from eight losses equals two, the number of games the Cowboys are out of first place with five games to play. Hey, who knows? Stranger things have taken place, the Carolina Panthers, as we pointed out last week, were 3-8-1 at the 12-game mark last year and went on to win four straight, finishing 7-8-1, winning the NFC South and a playoff game over Arizona. In fact, these very Redskins, the last time they won the NFC East, that in 2012, were 3-6 before going on an improbable seven-game winning streak, the final one over the 8-7 Cowboys to claim the division title.
Nothing is a given in this league.
Think about this: Beat the Redskins and the New York Jets beat the Giants in a dual home game for those teams and the Cowboys are only one game back – no matter what the 4-7 Eagles do – with four games to play.
How in the world could you even consider t-t-t-tanking at this point?
Also, what makes anyone think one of these other NFC East teams will go on a run? Only the Giants in the NFC East have won as many as three games straight this year, and they have lost their last two. The best the Eagles have done is two games straight, just like the Cowboys did to open the season.
And the Redskins? Why they have not won back-to-back games since Oct. 19-27 . . . 2014, when they defeated Tennessee and then the Cowboys when Romo suffered transverse process fractures. That drought encompasses 19 consecutive games. Oh, and if you believe in trends, the Skins won this past week. Ahem.
Hey, this is not suggesting the Cowboys will win five straight with Matt Cassel at quarterback since they are yet to win any without Romo starting since the final game of the 2010 season (Stephen McGee). Nor suggesting they even win four of the five.
But you got to try, right? You can't be afraid to find out, right? You can't be afraid to compete? If you're just not good enough, fine, you're not, and that might end up being the case with the Cowboys. But to give up? Throw in the towel when you have a fighting chance?
Hey, remember that final home game of the 1979 season when the Cowboys were trailing the Redskins 34-21 with 6:54 to play, the winner taking the NFC East, the loser unlikely to even make the playoffs. You would have walked out of Texas Stadium? Given up, thrown the towel in and headed home?
Why Randy White would have thrown the towel right back in your face that day, and might still throw a punch today at anyone suggesting the Cowboys throw this Monday Night Football game . . . against the, oh my gosh, Redskins.
In fact, speaking of throwing things, the late Harvey Martin threw a funeral wreath thought sent to the Cowboys by the Redskins during the week, the suggestion being the Cowboys were heading to their own funeral on Sunday, right into the Washington locker room that Dec, 16, 1979 day, landing in the middle of the team prayer after beating them despised Skins, 35-34 that Sunday afternoon with Staubach throwing the winning touchdown pass to Tony Hill with mere seconds remaining in the game.
As Harvey said, "They didn't like me, and I didn't like them."
That's what I'm talkin' about, good, old-fashioned football, when men were men and fans were fans.
"Monday Night Football, nation's Capital, as Nate Newton said, 'Let's give them some Capital Punishment,'" says Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talking about the significance of the game, the place, the rivalry. "So all that comes into play when we're up there."
Yeah, nothing wimpy about it.