How do you put in perspective just how embarrassingly bad this Cowboys loss truly is?
Throughout the 2008 season, the Dallas Cowboys earned new lease on life after new lease on life, and each time the Cowboys squandered it. It's being called the most disappointing loss to finish the most disappointing season in recent Cowboys memory.
The Philadelphia Eagles had their dream concoction of early game finishes, with the Bears and Bucs each losing, setting up the win-and-you're-in contest between the Cowboys and Eagles. And with each rendition of "Fly Eagles Fly" the Cowboys fell deeper and deeper into a black hole of disappointment, resulting in a 44-6 loss at the Linc.
The Eagles (9-6-1) finished a half-game ahead of Dallas (9-7) to earn the final NFC Wild Card spot, while the Cowboys, a preseason Super Bowl favorite, missed the postseason for the sixth time in the past nine seasons.
Oh how this team has fallen.
I could talk about all the different points of the "Phailure in Philly" to pinpoint the moment where the game got away from the Cowboys, but frankly Dallas never even showed up.
Yes, the two long fumble returns for TDs hurt. Sure, seeing Pacman Jones fumble the kickoff at the end of the first half to allow the Eagles to tack on three more points stung. But the most telling moment of the game had to come when Tony Romo waved off the punt team and his head coach on 4th and 1 early in the 3rd quarter.
It seemed like the inmates had overrun the asylum and Wade Phillips officially became a bystander. One play later, Romo seemed to improvise out of a sack and into a throw-back to Jason Witten who heaved the ball downfield to Terrell Owens who fought to cap the 42 yard gain. It was the only play that brought me to my feet as a Cowboys fan at all yesterday. It was the one play that I thought could start the comeback. It was going to turn the tide on what was at the time a 27-3 deficit and turn this game into one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.
Instead, one false start and incompletion later, Romo dropped back and Brian Dawkins stripped the ball which the Eagles then took 73 yards for the touchdown.
And what seemed like Romo taking control and fighting to bring the Cowboys back, waving off his coach and getting some of the excitement back, Romo regressed into what he has been known to be for so long: an inexperienced quarterback.
I must remember back to what Bill Parcells said two seasons ago when Romo took over for Drew Bledsoe, and the Big Tuna reminded everyone to "put the anointing oil away, OK?" after a big Thanksgiving win.
No need to worry about that. Seems that someone set the oil on fire, which turned into the conflagration that became the 2008 Cowboys season. The year that brought you massive disappointments in Arizona and St. Louis, a horrendous game given away in Pittsburgh, and an unceremonious farewell to Texas Stadium against Baltimore, how fitting is it that this season ended with one last colossal blunder.
They didn't show up. Period. There's no other way to explain a 38-point loss. In sports, you always hear about one team wanting it more. It's an argument I've always thought was ridiculous. After all, who could "want it more" when everyone is playing for a championship? When both teams don't have rosters littered with ring-wearing players, wouldn't they both really want it? I mean, come on, it's not like one team would just go through the motions while another would go all out in an attempt to reach the ultimate goal? But after watching Sunday's disgusting (lack of) effort in Philadelphia, it's pretty evident that the Eagles didn't want it more. Instead, it appeared the Cowboys didn't want it at all.
Looking behind to see ahead
I don't think the Cowboys problems are as easily fixable as bringing in a Parcells-type coach. Even if you do that, you then have to overhaul the attitude of the players on this team.
We saw that happen when Jimmy Johnson took over in 1989. He got rid of players who were just there to collect their checks, and he brought in guys who wanted to win, who he could mold.
Parcells came to Dallas when the cupboard was empty, and he took that empty 5-11 shell of a team to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth ... under Quincy freaking Carter. But the guys that Parcells molded into his first playoff team in Dallas were not talented enough to build on, and thus the 2004 and 2005 seasons were spent building the foundation for what we saw emerge in 2006 and 2007, a talented disciplined football team. The Tuna didn't just make everything better. It took time. Yeah, he got the Cowboys into the playoffs at first, bringing instant credibility here in town. But then he made sure to build for the future, which seems to now be wasted with Wade Phillips on the sideline.
If the Cowboys do go bring in a Parcells type of coach (I know everyone is kicking around Bill Cowher's name), that new coach would have to change the attitudes of all the current players or just get rid of them all - which cannot happen because of the contracts that Jerry Jones has given out.
Parcells didn't have that problem because the guys he inherited had never accomplished anything, so when Bill said "do it this way" you had to do it that way. Period. With the current team, any coach that would tell them to change their attitude would face questions of "why" and "how come" when a head coach shouldn't have to face those questions from his team.
Jimmy came in and put his stamp on the team in 1989, cutting guys who he didn't feel were playing for a championship. Tuna arrived in 2003 and made Q-Car a playoff quarterback.
Quick show of hands: does anything think the Cowboys would be better off with Quincy instead of Tony Romo? Answer: Hell no!
So how come Quincy became a disciplined QB in 2003 and we heard all about his newfound commitment to staying late and studying film and working hard? It had something to do with the guy standing on the sideline ready to cut him at a moment's notice. Where was that kind of accountability on the 2008 Cowboys? It wasn't there.
Has Romo improved in the last two seasons? I know he's put up good numbers. I know he's been to Pro Bowls. But has Romo actually become a more focused, smarter, better decision-maker on the field since Bill Parcells left? Has he? No. Sadly, the answer is no. And it's obvious why.
You can take that same question and ask it of this entire team. Have they really improved at all over the last two seasons? Not improved their record. But have they become better football players? Have they learned how to be better at the game of football?
And with that answer being "No" it's easy to see why this team clearly needs some sort of shake up.
Your 2008 Dallas Cowboys:
Preseason favorites. Playoff spectators.