When Tom Landry patrolled the sideline in his dapper suit and fedora, the notion of a moral victory was as foreign to the Dallas Cowboys as the idea of winning a Super Bowl was to, say, the New Orleans Saints or Seattle Seahawks.
From the mid-1960’s through the mid-1980’s, the Cowboys were held to the highest of standards. Success was judged by winning seasons (they had 20 in a row at one point), deep playoff runs, championship contention, and Lombardi trophies. After a brief lull in the late 80’s, the Johnson era began and the bar was raised even higher, with three Super Bowl championships in four seasons.
Back then, road games often felt like home games. America’s Team was the indisputable champion when it came to national appeal and gate draw.
That was then.
Last Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys hosted the San Francisco 49ers, the team with which they battled in epic playoff games in the 80’s and 90’s. The 49ers won the game, 28-17. They also split the Cowboys’ billion-dollar stadium about 50/50 with the home team.
After the game, as is our custom, my father-in-law and I discussed the game. We agreed that it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. If not, we concluded, for Tony Romo being in preseason form to open the season, the Cowboys might have beaten the might Niners. But few teams overcome four turnovers, especially when three consecutive drives end with interceptions, two of which set up 49ers touchdowns and one of which ended a Cowboys’ scoring threat.
There were positives. Rolando McClain flashed the kind of athletic prowess and football instincts you want in a guy taken number eight overall in the draft a couple years ago. The front seven on the defense were not horrible. They weren’t great, or even good, but they weren’t horrible. DeMarco Murray was in beast mode and the offensive line did a good job of opening running lanes and mostly keeping Romo upright. Cole Beasley was great. Devin Street had a nice rookie debut. So did Zack Martin.
These were all positive things, building blocks.
The sad thing about where we are with this team, after three consecutive 8-8 seasons and 17 years with just one playoff victory, is in “hope” mode. We hope Romo stays healthy and returns to form. We hope the defense at least slows down a team or two.
We are in “moral victory” mode. Forget the score. Let’s look for signs that things might get better. Let’s get those minor victories while suffering major losses on the scoreboard.
This is the world Jerry Jones has created for the Cowboys fan. It is a world where proving he can win without the help of another Jimmy Johnson hogging the spotlight, that he himself is a “football guy,” capable of building a winner, is way more important than doing whatever it takes to build a championship contender year after year.
The best today’s Cowboys fan can hope is that the little morsels of moral victory will add up to an actual win often enough to keep another season from going down the drain.Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2014 Silver and BlueBlood