[This is an excerpt from the Friday morning edition of Yahoo Sports’ daily newsletter, Read & React. Subscribe here for free to get the best sports delivered to you every weekday morning.]
Good morning! After last night's 31-24 faceplant against Chicago, let's talk about the Dallas Cowboys and the phrase "America's Team."
The Cowboys co-opted that slogan back in 1979, and for most of the next two decades, they earned it. Bold to the point of lunacy, the blue-star horde was aggressive and arrogant. Their bandwagon overflowed because the rest of America lined up behind their attitude and their runs of Super Bowls and double-digit win seasons.
Since their championship trifecta in the 1990s, though, the Cowboys haven't been exceptional. They haven't been terrifying. They've been ordinary. All too often, they've just been — and this is the worst curse we could bestow on a Dallas team — boring.
What went wrong?
This year was supposed to change all that. This was the year that Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott launched a truly explosive Dallas offense, the year Jaylon Smith anchored a clampdown Cowboy defense. This was going to be the year.
So what happened? Basically, nothing. The Cowboys have squandered chance after chance this season, and the only reason they're still in the playoff mix at all is because they've got the good fortune to be in the same division as three other phenomenal underachievers.
"This is a talented roster," Troy Aikman, a guy who knows a thing or two about the Cowboy mystique, said last night. "There aren't many coaches in this league that wouldn't change teams with this one ... They just haven't lived up to the talent they have."
Much of the blame for this bland-oatmeal Cowboys season stands clapping on the sideline. We've spent this space in recent weeks noting that Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett gambles like a man down to his last quarter at the nickel slots, but there's more to it than simple tentative playcalling. There's an aura that's missing from the Cowboys, an aura that's been missing for a long time.
Dallas should be larger than life
Like the heavyweight champion of the world, the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys ought to be a larger-than-life figure, a combination of Alexander the Great, General George Patton and a wild dog off the leash. You ought to fear and respect the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, certain that no matter how badly you want to win, he wants it 10 times more.
The Cowboys had that kind of leader in Tom Landry, Jimmy Johnson and even Barry Switzer. They got a brief jolt of Big Tuna energy in the mid-2000s when Bill Parcells popped in for a cup of coffee. But since those Super Bowl days, the Cowboys coaches have run a short gamut from forgettable (Chan Gailey) to overwhelmed (Dave Campo).
If he were fired today, Garrett will have coached the Cowboys longer than Johnson and Switzer put together. We don't need to compare resumes, do we?
And let's not let Jerry Jones, the most meddlesome owner in the NFL, escape the glare of truth. It's no coincidence that when Jones began hiring coaches who bent to his will, the Cowboys began wilting in the standings. Jones will undercut his front office and his coaching staff whenever a microphone crosses his path, and the team's in a constant state of flux depending on his whims after any given win or loss.
Who's taking the fall?
Jones isn't going anywhere. Neither, presumably, are the key cogs of the Cowboys roster. That leaves Garrett, and the reasons for keeping him around dwindle every week. America's Team needs a sharp kick in the ass, and it's becoming ever more clear that Garrett doesn't have a big enough boot.
You can hate them. You can admire them. But the last thing this team needs is for people to pity them ... and that's where the aimless, pathetic Dallas Cowboys are now.
Bottom line: Dallas isn't the toughest football team in Texas. Hell, considering the heft of some of the high schools in that part of the state, the Cowboys might not even be the toughest team in Dallas. Cowboys fans have put up with mediocrity for too long.
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