Lawrence Taylor perfectly summed up the difference between good football players and bad football players in his second autobiography when he wrote that being great isn't about making a lot of plays; it's about making the plays that count. This can be exemplified in the striking examples of two players. In the closing minutes of the 2007 season Super Bowl, the New York Giants were losing the game to the New England Patriots 14-10 and knew their hopes of pulling off a massive upset depended on their quarterback, Eli Manning, keeping a head cool enough to drive the team downfield to score the touchdown that would put New York back on top. And throughout a drive in which the Patriots rushed, confused, and attacked him in just about every way possible, Manning was so cool there was a breeze wherever he stood; I'm not sure Joe Montana or Tom Brady would have been that cool in that situation. But at one point on a third-and-long, three Patriots defenders managed to break the Giants' line and grab Manning's shirt, but Manning miraculously escaped and then heaved a 36-yard Hail Mary - an appropriate name in this case, because a prayer was exactly what that throw was. It was aimed at a journeyman receiver in the middle of three more Patriots defenders trying to block it and take him down. The receiver (who had scored a touchdown earlier in the game), though, managed to reel in the ball and keep it held against his helmet as he was slammed to the turf. The Giants survived, the drive kept going, and with 36 seconds left in the game, Manning threw the necessary touchdown. When New England's dangerous offense took the field, the Giants' defense stood their ground, and the game ended with the mother of all Super Bowl upsets. That hail mary is why we today know the name of David Tyree.
On the other hand, the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys is an athletically gifted gunslinger by the name of Tony Romo. By all standards, Romo is a fantastic quarterback. But in one important playoff game, he was called to hold the ball for the kicker on a game-ending field goal which would have tied it and sent it to overtime. Romo received the snap and botched the hold. It wasn't a throw, but it does sum up the one complaint Cowboys fans have had against Romo: The man is a choker. By the laws of fundamental football, the Cowboys should have been Super Bowl Champions a few years ago with Romo under center. But while Romo is currently a very good quarterback, that's all he is: Very good. And unless he rids himself of his pressure hiccups, he'll retire a very good, but not great, quarterback.
Fortunately, Romo himself is only partly to blame for the problems that have lately befallen what was once one of the most powerful, respected, and revered teams in the National Football League. The Cowboys are the New York Yankees of football. As a Yankees fan, it pains me to make the comparison, but that's the way it goes. As I've lamented, I have a hard time relating to the image of the Yankees, a rich white One Percenter team which tries to project an image of All-American wholesomeness. Fortunately, with a past that has embraced Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, The Bronx Zoo teams, Reggie Jackson, Sparky Lyle, an owner who rehabilitated baseball's lost and irredeemable souls while giving lots of charity money when the cameras were off, and the recent announcement that they've come to their senses and will soon be cutting their payroll because they've finally realized big bucks don't necessarily equal World Series trophies, there's still plenty to love about the Bronx Bombers. It helps that the Yankees don't try to refer to themselves as America's Team. In 2002, in fact, the Boston Red Sox nicknamed the Yankees the Evil Empire, and Yankees fans have proudly made the moniker our own. When everyone hates you, you better have a great sense of humor about it.
The Cowboys have a lot to be proud of. For their own history and background, I'll be forgiving in my rating, but there's no mistake: I'm bringing it to the Dallas Cowboys hard. First of all, these guys have no business calling themselves America's Team, not only because they're so widely hated but because the nickname - which is copyrighted and official - was the product of a highlight reel and an offhand announcer comment about how many people appeared to be supporting Dallas during one particular game. It was NOT born from a feeling of widespread love and affection, as it was with other popular teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers. Those two teams are my own personal pick to be America's Team. My personal vote would be for Green Bay because of their small-town presence and the fact that the Steelers have another awesome nickname (Steeler Nation), but if your nickname was reel-bestowed and copyrighted, you don't deserve it.
Like Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is a raging egotist and a relentless meddler who lacks a football acumen. (Say what you will about the Steinbrenner family, but according to a lot of their players, they do have that extra personal touch which aids them in team building, as well as their wallets.) According to Boys Will be Boys, Jeff Pearlman's excellent book about the Cowboys dynasty of the 90's, Jones's ego was an unwelcome intruder. Jones made a smart move by hiring Jimmy Johnson to coach during those first years of his ownership. Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989. When the team was winning Super Bowls in the early 90's, Jones was constantly putting his face out there, trying to grab all the credit he could get. But the truth was, those great teams belonged to Johnson. Johnson made the strategies, ran the drafts, and enforced discipline. But friction between Jones and Johnson resulted in Johnson quitting after Dallas's 1993 title. Jones hired Barry Switzer from the University of Oklahoma, saying no interview was necessary because he knew what Switzer was about. While the Cowboys won the Super Bowl again in 1995, that was more because of the talent Johnson had drafted than anything. Since Switzer's resignation in 1998, Cowboys head coaches have been Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, and Wade Phillips. Bill Parcells took them for a spin too, and he did well, but the lack of football talent Jones was picking up left the team devoid of a lot of talent for Parcells's successors.
The Cowboys were created in 1960 and were the first of the league's expansion teams. They were placed in Dallas specifically to compete with the AFL. The AFL's team, the Dallas Texans, was better during the initial years, but Cowboys owner Clint Murchison had an ace card up his sleeve: Tex Schramm as General Manager and New York Giants defensive coordinator Tom Landry as head coach. The two of them believed in team building, and after the expansion bumps, they had a real contender on their hands by the early 70's. They reached their first Super Bowl in 1970 but lost to the Baltimore Colts. They also returned to the Super Bowl four more times during the decade, under the fearless quarterback Roger Staubach and the versatile running back Tony Dorsett. In 1971 they reached the Super Bowl again and crushed the Miami Dolphins. They also went back in 1975, 1977, and 1978, winning it in 1977. While the Steelers won more Super Bowls, it was the flash and dash Cowboys that emerged as the glamor team, the obvious party and rock star culture team, and thanks to the wild antics of the 90's dynasty, that image remains with them to this day.
In the late 80's, the Cowboys fell into a spiral as Tom Landry's strategies and style became obsolete. Tex Schramm had also lost it. Jones bought the team, and Johnson was a fresh face who brought in a legion of draft picks when he famously fleeced the Minnesota Vikings trading away Herschel Walker. Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman were drafted, and among the picks those trades to Minnesota produced Emmitt Smith, fullback Darly Johnston, and safety Darren Woodson. They were back in the Super Bowl by 1992, when they killed Buffalo 52-17 in an abysmal game. They faced Buffalo in the following Super Bowl, but the team's party lifestyle and inner dysfunction was starting to take a toll. They won again, but the 30-13 score wasn't as lopsided as it looked. Buffalo had dominated the first half of the game, but after a fumble early in the second half, the weight of their previous Super Bowl futility instigated an epic mental tanking. Their next - and, tellingly, their latest to date - Super Bowl was in 1995. They were favored against their old Super Bowl rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, but were losing in the closing minutes while Pittsburgh was driving down the field, dangerously close to putting the game away. But Pittsburgh quarterback Neil O'Donnell wasn't nearly as good as Troy Aikman. He was merely average, and he tossed a pair of interceptions to a terrible backup defensive back named Larry Brown who, with two picks, was the game MVP.
Since then, the Dallas Cowboys haven't been threats even when they HAVE been. They won a few division titles and even had a 13-3 season in the millennium which made them the best team by record in the league that year. But they've never made it past the Divisionals since 1995. Only a few of Jones's personnel moves have resulted in good players, and they feel more like cases of good luck.
The Cowboys are the babies of their division. Their divisional rivals include the much older Washington Redskins - their main rivals - New York Giants, and Philadelphia Eagles. The team has fielded a lot of Hall of Famers, like Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Randy White, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Bob Hayes, Emmitt Smith, and Deion Sanders. These are A-list players who are worthy of their popularity.
The Dallas Cowboys' home stadium deserves some recognition for an unusual feature. Texas Stadium was a dome which had a hole in the roof. This seems like a very odd decision to me, architecturally. The hole was only over the field, which meant that inclement weather would only be hitting part of the field. It was also high up, so a lot of the fans closer to the field would surely be hit by the weather if it was particularly windy. It was let go in 2008 so a new stadium could be built, and in 2009 Cowboys Stadium was completed with a full retractable roof. With over 100,000 seats, Cowboys Stadium is the largest stadium in the NFL. It also has a hi-def TV screen which measures 160 ft. by 72 ft. The 2010 NBA All-Star game was at Cowboys Stadium, and the video screen was larger than the court the game was being played on. The seat number can be deceptive, though, because some of them temporary seats used to take advantage of all that space. For the 2010 Super Bowl, which was played in Dallas, a lot of fans had to be relocated because the seating wasn't inspected in time. Some fans had to be removed altogether. They were offered triple refunds, but people were still understandably pissed off because airfare and hotels weren't considered. Nor was the fact that a visit to a Super Bowl will, at the very best, be a once-in-a-lifetime trip people will often use to see their favorite team play. Jones, the NFL, and the Cowboys faced a shitload of fan lawsuits.
The overall image of the Cowboys is a terrible one. Flash, dash, and bling tend to go with the mention of the team, and it seems like a lot of its players tend to adopt the mentality. People want to relate to their favorite teams and players, but who would relate to Hollywood Henderson? Or Michael Irvin or Deion Sanders? Jerry Jones is known as a party scalawag himself; when the 90's dynasty rented a house in the Dallas suburbs they used for drugs and sex, Jones reportedly knew about it. And Barry Switzer apparently partied harder than anyone in the buildup to the 1995 Super Bowl. If you're from Dallas, well, congratulations on having inherited such a successful team. (As is what happened to me with the Yankees.) If you're not and you're just choosing them because you like their image, congratulations, Mr. One-Percent Bandwagoner.
The Dallas Cowboys participate in the National Football League (NFL) and are based in Arlington, Texas. Dallas plays its games in the East of the NFC. The Dallas Cowboys, founded in 1960, play home games at Texas Stadium and have won five NFL Titles (1971, 1977, 1992, 1993, 1995).