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Spagnola: Saturday Night History Bubbling Over


FRISCO, Texas – Saturday night fervor will be ignited before some 93,000 at AT&T Stadium by an abundance of history.

Cowboys-Lions, 7:15 p.m. with both teams contributing at a historic rate.

Some of that history would be considered ancient for many of those no more than 40 years old when waking up the ghosts of Super Bowls past from the '90s and from what might even be considered medieval ages of the '70s.

Some of that though might be considered modern history, and on both sides of the field, with the Lions already having accomplished something not seen in Detroit since 1993, having clinched their first division title and trying to win a franchise single season record 12th game never accomplished in their now 90th season, going all the way back to 1934.

And while the Cowboys are trying to go 8-0 at home for the first time since 1981, they too are inches away from breaking an individual record belonging to a former player expected to be watching in person if this indeed happens.

All this besides the playoff ramifications for the Cowboys this 2023 season, knowing they must break their first two-game losing streak since the Thanksgiving week of 2021, knowing at 10-5 if they are to have any chance of catching the 11-4 Philadelphia Eagles with two games remaining for the NFC East Division title they must win both games and then hope someone, anyone, Arizona or preferably the Giants, beat the Eagles over the final two games.

"Saturday night, there's a lot on the line," Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy says. "Two teams potentially playing for the second seed.

"There's a lot of juice going into this game."

Let's start with the historic electricity former Super Bowl winning head coach Jimmy Johnson's induction into the Cowboys hallowed Ring of Honor at halftime is causing. First, just Jimmy's presence at AT&T Stadium. There will be three former coaches and 23 former players returning for the long-awaited honor being bestowed on the guy along with owner Jerry Jones resurrecting a struggling franchise, not only losing games at an uncommon pace, having gone 17-30 over the previous three seasons before their arrival, the longest losing stretch since the first five seasons (1960-64) in club history. And the longest stretch without qualifying for the playoffs since the franchise first playoff appearance in 1966.

Then 13 of the members of the Ring of Honor, that includes the likes of Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Drew Pearson, Randy White, Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson, will be there. Jimmy's star quarterback Troy Aikman will be in attendance, too, since the Hall of Fame quarterback will be in the Monday Night Football broadcast booth doing Saturday's game at home. All coming to honor their coach who turned around the franchise not only losing games but also hemorrhaging money by the millions.

Of course, after the disastrous rebuilding 1989 season, going 1-15, the Cowboys narrowly missed the playoffs in 1990 with a 7-9 record, at the time the six-game improvement the largest one-year improvement in the NFL. Then the winning began, in 1991, and so did the playoffs, the Cowboys putting together six consecutive playoff-winning seasons, back-to-back Super winning seasons (1992-93).

And like relationships sometimes go, Jerry and Jimmy parting ways the end of March 1994, we tend to remember the good times more than the bad times. But all is right now.

Now for the modern history. Please comprehend the budding greatness before our very eyes of wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, the next in a long line of No. 88s. CeeDee has a career-high 109 catches with two games to play, just three catches short of breaking Michael Irvin's franchise record of 111 receptions in a single season set in 1995. Anyone want to bet against CeeDee not finishing the Detroit game with less than three catches?

And Irvin, Hall of Famer and one of those 13 Ring of Honor members present, will be at AT&T Stadium, and they might have a hard time keeping him off the sideline cheering Lamb on. Ancient history in many minds colliding with current history almost assuredly.

Now Lamb says breaking the record will only be meaningful if the Cowboys win the game, "Then it will mean a lot more." But just think about the magnitude of this record-breaking performance this season, able to outdistance any of the other No. 88s in this select club, and that would include Hall of Famers Irvin and Pearson, with a third Cowboys wide receiver in the Hall of Fame, Bob Hayes.

Remember, they don't just hand out the No. 88 to just anyone, Dez Bryant the last of the select group to wear the number before Lamb's arrival. But it was Michael telling me recently when discussing Lamb that the most present of the bunch is the "best No. 88" of all of them.


Because Lamb not only has the ability to lineup outside like the rest, but also inside, too. Plus, the Cowboys don't mind handing the ball off to Lamb on end arounds, as they did in the loss to Buffalo for a touchdown. Yep, Irvin is Lamb's biggest cheerleader, on and off the air.

"We have plenty of conversations," Lamb admits, saying he hasn't heard from Irvin this week, but pointing out when he might expect to hear from him, Lamb saying, "Only a matter of time" on Wednesday.

"Just for starters as soon as I got in, he took me in, obviously wearing the number, helping me understand the legacy, and as I was going on throughout this process, the good and the bad, and he's always been in my corner giving me tips, and obviously when he comes in the locker room shows love, unconditional.

"Shoutout to Mike for that."

Then it was pointed out Michael would be at the game, so no need to call letting Mike know he broke the record, CeeDee said, "Oh then, yeah, we going to celebrate together."

Yep, as you can see, will be a very historic night at AT&T Stadium with all Jimmy's boys coming in to pay homage to their head coach going into the Ring of Honor. There will be a press conference before the game with Jimmy. There also will be a reunion with all those players and his assistant coaches making the trip. And a lot of reminiscing with all those 13 Ring of Honor members present at the game.

Those long-ago ghosts won't be getting much sleep.

But now the present-day Cowboys would like nothing more to start creating memorable ghosts of their own if they can manage to win.

As owner Jerry Jones points out the Cowboys "will do whatever it takes to win the game."

And if they do, then Saturday night certainly will be alright for winning.

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