Cowboys learning the hard way that winning is not a skill

DALLAS - Something about the idea that winners just win strikes at the core of people’s identities and how they want to imagine the world. It’s not hard to think why. The world is frightening, and overwhelming, and many of us don’t have some of the things we might need to weather difficult times.

The idea that all you ever need is the will to succeed is a great comfort. It’s also an excellent explanation for not just why the world is the way it is, but why it’s fair that it is that way.

Why do some have so much, and others nothing, while no one does anything about it? Because both sides deserve what they get. If the people who had nothing had the will to win, they’d have something. A hundred years ago, they’d have called it social Darwinism.

Of course, winning actually is a skill to a certain degree, especially in sports. Some people are calm in key moments, even at their best and others aren’t. For the most part being “clutch” is all about the game plan, not the player.

Nobody’s any better than anybody else at hitting a three-pointer over four defenders at the buzzer, but somebody – Dirk Nowitzki is one – are very good at getting the shot they want when things are tight.

Last year, Dak Prescott won a lot of games, more than Tony Romo had won since 2007. The Cowboys rarely won double digit games when Romo was in charge, and many people therefore thought he didn’t have the winning “skill.” It seemed like Dak did. That made people excited – they’d finally found a “winner.”

The Cowboys aren’t winning much this year, but worse is Dak’s performance. He hasn’t thrown for 270 yards in a game even once this year, and while part of that is Ezekiel Elliott's fault, it’s gotten worse rather than better since Zeke’s been out.

Over the last three games, Dak has failed to break 180 yards, despite throwing around 30 times on average. He’s thrown five interceptions and no TDs. Against the Eagles, a game they really needed, he threw 31 passes for 145 yards, a dismal 4.68 yards per attempt, with 3 INTs for a QB rating of 30.4.

Dak is very young, and has room to grow. Tony spent years riding the pine, learning from great coaches like Bill Parcells, and observing the game. Two years ago, Dak would be planning his spring break. We won’t learn anything at all from this year other than, if he has the right weapons around him, he can be really good. How he’ll be when the team isn’t as good is TBD and too soon to tell. He’s had good games, even in the playoffs.

But the thing about hitting the last shot, throwing that last TD pass, making that last hail mary is that everything up until that moment is a team effort. The QB will always be an important part of the team, but it’s still crucial to have a defense that does something, an o-line, a running back, wide receivers.

You can point to the fact that Romo rarely won double-digit games in a season, or the fact that he never once won fewer than eight, depending on your preference. But QBs are never good or bad at winning on their own – never good enough, anyway – and regrettably, the bloom is off that rose.

 

Do you feel like this season is a lost cause because of injuries and circumstances or is it symptomatic of future issues? Share your take with Andy on Twitter @andytobo.

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