Cowboys vs Packers: Meltdown in Jerryworld
After watching the Dallas Cowboys blow a halftime 26-3 lead, at their home in the most jaw-dropping sports building on the planet, to the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers, my first instinct was to go out and buy a Tony Romo replica jersey. I would douse it in something extremely flammable, set up a video camera, and capture the joy of igniting the #9 and watching it burn. Upload the video to YouTube and I could just about guarantee a billion hits.
But buying the jersey would just end up putting another dollar in Jerry Jones' pockets. So, I believe I speak for millions of Cowboys fans on this, no thanks.
As a lifelong fan, I have supported the Cowboys from the days of Roger Staubach through Danny White, to the late lean years of the Landry era, right through to the present. So I'm no fair-weather fan. I supported them when they went to Super Bowls and won, when they went to Super Bowls and lost, even when they were 1-15. Their only win that year was against the Redskins. And it was sweet. When egos drove three-time Super Bowl winner Jimmy Johnson* away and Jones brought Barry Switzer in to replace him (knowing full well how much most Texans hate Switzer) we still stuck by the Boys.
The current Cowboys team is a collection of pretenders owned by an ego attached to a greasy grin. Jones builds his gaudy stadium with its giant TV screen and hasn't bothered to assemble a coaching staff or a team that's capable of stringing more than two wins together at a run unless they have lost the previous three. This is a team that was once a contender year in and year out. The star meant something. America's Team. Always glamorous, and always able to back up their swagger with winning seasons and deep playoff campaigns. Champions.
They were champions often in the early Jerry Jones years. But he has clearly lost the plot.
Now over the past dozen years or so the Cowboys are .500. Mediocre. Never great, never the worst, always among the most frustrating.
These Cowboys aren't the perennial bottom-feeders that fans love even without having a faint trace of hope. This Cowboys team is cruel. It must surely hate its fans. On paper, Jones assembles one of the most talented teams in the NFL. It has the chance to run away with a weak NFC East but keeps blowing games week after week. It builds up massive leads only to squander them. It plays well against good teams but loses by one point, or three. It makes you think they have finally gotten it together. It dominates for half a game. It strides and runs hard and shoots from the hip and looks downright dangerous. Then it falls apart in the most appalling ways imaginable.
In this particular game, the Cowboys built up a huge lead by halftime. Then they made an almost winless backup quarterback look like Troy Aikman and Tom Brady combined. Against the Packers they got pass happy in the third quarter when they could have sat on a 19-point lead with a sustained drive on the ground. A couple of drives that featured a patient ground game and a couple of first downs each could have deflated the Packers and ended the game, even if the Packers scored touchdowns in between.
Anyone could see that the clock could become the Cowboys' twelfth man when they had half a game to play and a 23-point lead. Well, anyone but the Cowboys play callers. The Princeton-educated genius head coach, Jason Garrett, and his brain trust decided to throw throw throw their way to a drive that lasted 6 nanoseconds and gave the Packers a short field. What was 26-3 at the half was suddenly 29-17.
For most NFL teams, a 12-point lead in the second half is enough to see out a win. But the Dallas Cowboys aren't most teams. Did Princeton and his brain trust learn anything from getting pass-happy and allowing the game to tighten up and the momentum to shift to the visitors? As a matter of fact, did they learn anything from the epic second-half meltdown against Detroit in October 2011? They surrendered a 24-point second half lead in that one, because when they should have played the run to seal the game, they went pass-happy, committed turnovers, forgot how to play defense, and lost.
They did not learn anything from any of that. They did pretty much the same stupid thing again. With 4:17 to go and a 36-31 lead, the Arkansas Charlatan's Cowboys get the ball back. The Packers had to have a touchdown. Running back DeMarco Murray was having a good day. The Cowboys' injury-ravaged defense had proven that it had all the stopping power of a soaked Kleenex. So the Cowboys simply needed to eat the clock and put maximum distance between the Packers and their goal line. A field goal would probably have sealed the win. The Cowboys' kicker is pretty good too. This was a situation full of no-brainers.
So they run the ball, right? That's what anybody who has ever seen a game of football would do. That's what anybody with a lick of common sense would do. Run left. Run right. Burn up the clock. Wear out the opposing defense. Get a couple of first downs. Force the Packers to use their timeouts. Kick a figgie if you have to. Close. Out. The. Game.
Unless you're the Jerry Jones Cowboys. The Jerry Jones Cowboys got pass-happy again, and Romo was intercepted with 2:50 to go. From that moment forward there would only be one outcome. The pitiful Cowboys would shoot blanks and lose.
And they did. Final score, 37-36. In their remaining two games, their opponents have to figure that spotting this Cowboys team four touchdowns will just make the fourth quarter a little more interesting for them, and a little more cruel for whatever Cowboys fans bother to watch the horror show.
The team that has been a mediocre .500 for more than a decade stands at 7-7 -- mediocre again.
Here's something I still cannot get my head around. If you're calling the plays, you call run. But if you're the quarterback and the coach calls pass, you have checkdowns. You can read the defense and check out of a pass into a run in most situations. In that second down situation, Murray was in the backfield. A checkdown to a run should have been the call. So Romo is no less guilty here than Garrett, and Garrett is no less guilty than Romo. One or the other should have had the sense to realize, "Hey, a couple of run plays here should put us in a good position to win." Even if Romo and Garrett can't figure this out, Jones claims he knows football well enough, and he's enough of a tyrant as the team's general manager, that he should have had the sense to call down and flame Garret after the first botched drive early in the third quarter: "Run the ball or you're fired!" The shocking thing is that none of these people looked like they had ever so much as driven by a stadium in which football was being played, much less played a game of real honest to goodness football.
The collective stupidity of the Jerry Jones Cowboys is mind-blowing. Anyone who has ever played a game of Madden -- heck, Tecmo Bowl -- could have managed that second half to a Cowboys win. I'm not kidding. Anyone could have.
Anyone not currently associated with that team that calls itself the Cowboys, that is.
Even after all this, Jerry Jones' Cowboys can still win the division and make the playoffs, but this lifelong fan doesn't care. They don't deserve to get to the postseason. They deserve to lose their remaining games by about 40 points apiece and be remembered as the most pathetic, characterless, leaderless bunch of rabble to ever wear the helmet with the star. Tony Romo should forget about ever being a legendary Cowboys quarterback. He has the stats for it, but he isn't clutch. When the game is on the line, he tends to lose his mind. A life in arena football would be a suitable career ending. The entire coaching staff deserves to be fired for forgetting football 101 and blowing a chance to move back into first place in the division. All they had to do was run the freaking ball, behind a quality run blocking line and on the legs of a solid and healthy back, who did in fact run for over 100 yards and a touchdown on this very day.
Jerry Jones should also be fired, but he owns the team so that's not happening. He should apologize to Dallas Cowboys fans, find a buyer, sell the team, and content himself to live out the rest of his days in humiliating anonymity.
*Switzer's Super Bowl really belongs to Jimmy Johnson.