The NFL playoffs begin this weekend, minus the Dallas Cowboys. "America's Team" got a head start on the off season with Sunday's monumental collapse in Philadelphia, losing to the Eagles, 44-6.
It was the team's worst defeat in 38 years, and as Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News wrote, "a reminder of everything the Cowboys weren't in 2008."
Remember, this was supposed to be their year. That loss in the playoffs to the Giants in January? Just a temporary glitch. Why, with Romo, T.O., Whitten, Barber (and just about all the other starters) re-signed for 2009, the Cowboys were a team of destiny, a veritable lock for Super Bowl XLIII.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Tampa. While the Giants ran away with the division --and the Eagles fought their way into position for the playoffs--the "Boys" choked down the stretch, culminating in yesterday's debacle at Lincoln Financial Field. Quarterback Tony Romo reportedly collapsed in the shower after the game, matching his performance on the grid iron.
In the NFC East, where there's no love lost between the teams (or their supporters) the Dallas collapse represents the perfect season finale. If you're a fan of the Giants, Eagles or even the Washington Redskins--who experienced their own late-season swoon--these are happy times, indeed.
And, the fun may continue in 2009. Team owner and general manager Jerry Jones spent a staggering $135 million in guarantee salaries after last season, and traded away his #1 pick in next year's draft to obtain wide receiver Roy Williams. Better yet, he has, inexplicably, decided to keep head coach Wade Phillips and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
Put another way, if you liked this version of the Cowboys, you'll like the 2009 team as well. Unless Jerry Jones can teach Wade Phillips to take charge of the team--or persuade some other club to take such "positive" clubhouse influences as Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson and Terrell Owens--he'll be stuck with the same, under-achieving crew next season, in that brand-new billion-dollar stadium.
Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch. BTW, Jerry, if you want another "model citizen" to round out your receiving corps, give Giants GM Jerry Reese a call. Plaxico Burress would be a perfect fit for your team, and his $27 million contract would be chump change in Dallas.
ADDENDUM: Incidentally, the Cowboys circus hasn't closed for the season, at least not yet. The Dallas Morning News reports there was an altercation this afternoon between linebacker Bradie James and a fan who was protesting outside the team's practice facility in Valley Ranch. Here's reporter Tim MacMahon's version of events:
A fan wearing a Jason Witten jersey stood on the street in front of the Cowboys' Valley Ranch facility today, wearing a sandwich board that read, "WADE IS AN EMBARRASSMENT TO THE STAR" and "OUR TEAM HAS NO HEART." The man ended up calling Irving police after a confrontation with LB Bradie James.
James said the fan was blocking his way out of the parking lot, leading him to tell the man he needed to get out of the way or get hit by the linebacker's luxury SUV.
"He said, 'Why you guys didn't show that fire last night? You should have showed that heart last night!'" James recalled to reporters. "So next thing you know, I'm just ripping his sign off him. So I ripped the sign off him. He said I broke his glasses, so I went and gift-wrapped some Oakleys. He got something out the deal."
Eventually, cooler heads prevailed, but not before the Cowboys endured yet another black eye. A poster on the Morning News blog offered his own version of events, which aptly summarized Dallas' recent, defensive woes:
Posted by Brady is no All-Star @ 3:04 PM Mon, Dec 29, 2008
I heard James tried to tackle the sandwich board guy, but James tripped as he approached him and failed to use his arms to wrap him up. Then Terence Newman came flying in, shoulder first, but missed the sandwich board guy entirely. James and Newman reportedly blamed the coaches for not properly preparing them to handle sandwich board wearers.