Thinking about the Dallas Cowboys now is, believe it or not, perhaps best achieved by glaring at them through the lens of the Dallas Mavericks. Certainly, this year, the Cowboys have lost some winnable games, and we may never know what that game in Denver game was all about. I figure a toss-up game is one that was decided by a touchdown or less – of the Cowboys’ three losses, two fall into that category. Interestingly, none of their wins do.
The Dallas Mavericks, this year, haven’t done anything in winnable games because they haven’t actually had any. It’s at least fairly likely that they have been worse than every single team they’ve played against.
In some cases, like their games against Golden State and Houston, it’s been remarkably easy to be worse. In other games, like their losses to Sacramento and Atlanta, it’s been a bit hard. They have won two games, probably by accident, but let me tell you – 2-10 doesn’t happen by accident.
Historically, over the last fifteen years, however, the shoe has been decidedly on the other foot. I think Tony Romo, in his prime, would be doing better with this team than Dak is – that’s not a dig, by the way – but the reality is that the Cowboys were a .500 team for all but four or so years since 2005.
By contrast, between 2000 and 2011, the Mavericks won about 70% of their games. They were good much longer than they were contenders, so it’s easy to forget, but they won, out of 82 games, 57, 60, 68, 60, 67, 55, and 57 in a ten year stretch.
What the Mavericks are learning now is what the Cowboys learned starting about 1997: good coaches and bad coaches, good GMs and bad GMs have some say over whether a team is good or not, but the major thing you need is talent and everybody wants talent and you can’t magically make talent happen.
It doesn’t matter who you are. If the ‘Boys hadn’t lucked into a really good QB who was NFL ready in 2016, it might have been a decade before they found their next QB. It has happened before.
And nobody has been more associated or active with various kinds of strategies than the Mavericks front office, but as Dirk’s game declined it turns out the cupboard is totally bare – and there’s no really good reason to think that’s going to change any time soon. If it were easy to build a contender, more people would be succeeding at it.
The 2012 to, say, 2015 Mavericks weren’t a great team, as the Cowboys aren’t a great team – not yet, anyway – but it’s not such a bad thing to be a pretty good team. And when I watch the Cowboys, I keep thinking to myself what I thought when those Mavericks teams were playing: when I turn on the TV, no matter who they’re up against, it’s reasonable to think that they’re going to win, and it’s common that they do. And that’s pretty good!
Bottom line is, it would be great to see a really dominant team here in Dallas again sometime in the not too distant future. It may well happen. But whether this team is that team or not, there’s no sense in taking winning for granted. It gets a lot worse than this – just ask the Mavericks.
How are you feeling about the Cowboys at 5-3 so far this season? Share your thoughts on Dallas sports teams with Andy on Twitter @andytobo.