I, of course, was kidding about firing Wade, etc. I was too depressed last night to put into writing what I really thought. But not Jody Dean. Here’s what he wrote in the comments section of my post last night. Impressive.
The overall playoff record of number one seeds in the NFC. Until today.
Make that 17-1.
Thanks to the Dallas Cowboys.
A team that simply had to win two home games against teams they had beaten before to reach Arizona.
Not this year. Not this way.
They sure had me fooled. I picked the home team to win 31-24. I knew that while they’d averaged 30 points a game in December, they’d averaged barely 15 in December. Their confidence lulled me to sleep. Their confidence was misplaced. So was mine. It turns out you can’t just turn it on and off after all.
Blame? Oh, you could cite a dozen different things. Poor clock management. Untimely, frequent penalties. Poor offensive line play. Lousy tackling. Bad hands.
Specifically, when it comes to players? Roy Williams is a fraud. Patrick Crayton needs to concentrate on running routes instead of his mouth. Gurode needs to snap line drives, not moonshots. And yes, Tony Nomo needs to learn that his approach sets the tone for the entire team. Trips to Mexico with starlets may not hamper focus, but they send a powerful message during what should be a time of intense preparation. If he can relax, then maybe everyone else can too. A lot of people said it didn’t matter. But two people with seven Super Bowl rings between them — Troy Aikman and Terry Bradshaw — say it does.
Maybe that’s the insight that maturity brings.
December clearly indicated relaxation was not what this team needed. It was evident last year, and the “swoon” showed up again this year. And we all thought it wouldn’t matter. It did.
Now, the good news. This was necessary.
No team — no individual — can become a champion until the idea of losing becomes hateful. Until the taste of losing is so bitter that it becomes utterly nauseating. Until the memory of failure outsizes any sacrifice imperative for winning.
Even if it means giving up a weekend with Jessica. A distraction is anything that dilutes the mission.
But learning the hard way is usually the only way.
Wanna know when the Cowboys of Landry became champions? It started when Jim O’Brien’s field goal caused Bob Lilly to throw his helmet 60 yards in the air over the heads of the Baltimore Colts. Wanna know when Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer’s Cowboys became champions? It began in 1989, with 1-15.
They say the game is 90% mental. True. And 90% of winning is an extreme disgust at losing.
No one here should lose their job (except maybe Roy Williams, who is clearly a liability). Phillips and Garrett did wonders this season. Nomo had a wonderful autumn. So did the offensive line. Maybe Barber should only come in later when his explosiveness brings energy and freshness — rather than playing early where his style may burn him out too early. 13-3 is a great year. But I promise — none of the players in that lockeroom Sunday night are thinking about that. Not honestly. Not in their gut. And if they are content with 13-3, they won’t be players long — and they will never be champions. Sadly we live in a world in which everyone thinks you get a trophy at CiCi’s Pizza just for showing up. But Halls of Fame and winner’s circles are occupied by people who do more than that.
A good friend of mine says it’s not how you act when you’re on top that makes you special. It’s how you act when your face is in the dirt.
Tonight, Terrell Owens may have said it best. He talked about “his” quarterback. His “teammates.” With tears, concealed behind dark glasses. Say what you will about Owens, but he might as well have heaved his helmet 60 yards.
And if next year’s Cowboys go where this team couldn’t, the trip began tonight.
In the meantime, they are now free to travel wherever they wish.
Although I’m quite sure there is only one trip on their collective mind.
Raymond James Stadium. Tampa, Florida. February 1, 2009.