season), 25th in opponents' drive start and 29th in punt coverage. Same thing they'd been all year.
One more touchdown and they win 24-21 and all is forgiven. Perspective is totally changed. Wade Phillips is a playoff winner and Tony Romo is Joe Namath.
Give the Giants some credit. As a culture, we don't like to credit the other guy when our team loses. As the former great Cowboys guard Blaine Nye used to say, "It's not whether you win or lose. It's who gets the blame." But the Giants did what they had to do, including out-coaching the Cowboys in the second half with their blitzes. They played better. Wade Phillips is wrong. The best team did win, at least that day.
Our problem in Cowboys Nation is partly a sense of entitlement. This is a franchise with five Lombardi trophies. Its supporters expect excellence. So, by the way, does its management, and this is a very good thing. You want high standards every day. Then you get the regular season you got, and we all believed more and better was coming.
But in the NFL, as in life, you don't get it by believing. You get it by doing. You get it by combining talent with preparation and hard work. The part no Cowboys fan wants to hear is that this team wasn't good enough in those areas. Either not enough talent or the wrong kind of preparation or not enough hard work.
Regular seasons put you in position to start over and re-achieve. This team missed that opportunity. It's one they may get again next year, or may never have. It depends on luck and what they learn. That's why they're so disappointed. You're disappointed because your team is not going to the Super Bowl. They're disappointed because they know this team will not be the same.
It's already different, with the departure of Tony Sparano. In coming days he will take other assistants with him. Jason Garrett will do whatever is right for him. Then Jerry Jones must refocus the direction of the team and find new players to replace the ones he loses or doesn't choose to keep. It all begins again, and it's hard, and this team had a chance and they let it get away. That's why they're disappointed.
But please do not come down this hallway and say the 13-3 meant nothing. That's not what you were saying while it was happening. You were cheering and fawning and buying jerseys. And you should have. This was a wonderful, wonderful season with a particularly rotten end. It did not mean nothing.
Now it's up to the Big Cheeses to make sure it still amounts to something.
"What is defeat? Nothing but education; nothing but the first step to something better." . . . Wendell Phillips
"Victory brings obliviousness; defeat, attentiveness." . . . Mason Cooley
It damn well better, Mason. It damn well better.