Let’s establish first things first. The Dallas Cowboys lost their third game in five outings on Sunday. They surrendered 51 points to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. They wasted Tony Romo’s stellar performance, in which he out-dueled Hall of Fame bound, top five all-time QB Manning, but Jerry Jones was thrilled. He was delighted with what he called a ‘moral victory’.
“I know what’s going to happen to me when I say this, but that’s a good term,” the Cowboys owners said, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “This is a moral victory. It’s not a loser talking here. We can build off this. I feel as good as you could possible feel at 2-3. We are going to win enough games to get where we want to be. And get knocking on the door to where we want to be. This was a moral victory today for us…Yes.”
How the mighty Cowboys have fallen!
This is incredibly alarming rhetoric from the face of the Cowboys’ franchise, from the one man capable of holding the players, the coaches, and the rest of the organization accountable. This is the league where the bottom line is the bottom line for 31 other owners. This is the league governed by Vince Lombardi’s famous quote, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” This is the league where quarterbacks and coaches have their entire legacy judged by the number of Super Bowl rings they wear.
But Jerry Jones, the owner of (arguably) the NFL’s flagship franchise is giddy about a moral victory.
Said moral victory has his team under .500 after five weeks of play.
The season is more than a quarter done. The NFC East is ripe for the taking. And Jones’ Cowboys have been unable to establish themselves as the class of the worst division in football. Heck, the mighty NY Giants are 0-5 and just two games out of first place.
Moral victory, my ass.
Can you even imagine those words coming from Jones’ lips in the mid-90’s? Or from Jimmy Johnson’s? It seemed every loss was followed by a Johnson tirade, a gloomy week at Valley Ranch, and, frequently, a player cut or two. There were no moral victories. There were only victories. The ultimate victories were celebrated by a Champagne-soaked, exuberant coach, pumping his fist and declaring, “How ’bout them Cowboys!”
Can you imagine Jerry Jones, as a young prospecting oil man rolling the dice on oil wells the big companies had given up on, declaring a dry hole a ‘moral victory?’
Jones is right
The scary thing for Cowboys’ fans–and we all know it–is that Jerry Jones is right. Sunday was a moral victory. The Cowboys were clearly overmatched. They had to have an historic, heroic, team-record setting day from Tony Romo just to make it a game.
Romo threw for 506 yards and five touchdowns. Don Meredith, Roger Staubach, Danny White, Troy Aikman…none of them ever cracked 500 yards passing in a game.
Heck, Romo was 48 yards shy of an all-time NFL record.
For 58 minutes of clock time, Romo was impeccable. He was better than Peyton Manning! He sliced and diced a good Denver secondary, punching Swiss cheese-like holes all in them. But when his team needed him to do it just one more time, he could not. His protection broke down and he made the one mistake he had made all day long. He made it at the worst possible time and in the worst possible place. Manning only had to navigate about 25 yards of real estate and run the remaining time off the clock to hand the Cowboys a ‘moral victory.’
Jones is so right about the quality of his current team that he won’t even talk about the ultimate prize. Instead, he just wants his team to be “knocking on the door.” He knows that door won’t open for a team whose defense can’t seem to get the critical stops to protect a lead. (Remember, before the Cowboys “comeback” bid on Sunday, they were leading by 14 points.)
The Devil is in the details
Don’t look at specific plays, Says Jerry Jones:
“Certainly you can go to specific plays, but the ones that we really could criticize Peyton had a lot to do with that,” Jones said, per the team’s transcript. “But I’m so proud of our team, I’m so proud of Romo. Romo basically substantiated any, and everything on my personal chart that I’ve ever thought about today. And that’s amazing since he wasn’t the winning quarterback.”
Jerry Jones is more like the players’ dad than a professional team owner these days. Rather than expecting results for the money he pays them to perform, he just wants effort. Don’t worry about those pesky details. Sure, you should have mixed in a defensive stop a time or two. Sure, you should have been more selective with that last pass. Don’t worry about it. You gave it the old college try. They were a much better team and you almost beat them! I am so proud of you!
To Hell with Lombardi and his “winning is the only thing” mantra. In Arlington, trying your best is all anyone will ask.
[Note to self (and Cowboys fans everywhere): If your team's owner is proud of losing efforts, he is certain to get more than his share of them.]
The new NFL mantra, according to Jerry Jones: Losing is fine…as long as you try really, really hard not to.