When you think of toughness in the NFL, the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers may come to mind (well, maybe the Steelers before that OT loss to Tebow. They haven’t been the same since). If the Dallas Cowboys crossed your mind, you are 20 years behind the times.
The Patriots were the team to beat in the 2000s. Of course Tom Brady is still a threat in the AFC, as he shows again this season throwing to receivers most recognized by their jersey numbers. NBC analyst Tony Dungy even praised the Pats this week as the best team in the AFC, placing them ahead of the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.
But the Pats defense was stellar, too. Dean Pees acted as defensive coordinator for the Pats from 2006-09, allowing less than 20 points a game. Pees is now defensive coordinator in Baltimore (without Ed Reed and retired Ray Lewis) leading a defense which falls middle of the pack in NFL defensive rankings.
And then there’s the always less than pleasant Coach Bill Belichick. Media may not like Coach Belichick, but they should definitely respect his role with the Patriots. There’s no-nonsense with this man; and when the Pats lose you know it. You just look at the Coach Belichick and feel tougher.
The Dallas Cowboys, on the other hand, have a head coach who appears nonchalant on the sideline, even after giving up 24 points to the Lions in the 4th quarter in week eight. Coach Jason Garrett went as far to praise his team saying after that loss, “So when everything isn’t going right and guys keep playing, that’s a good sign. I thought their [Cowboys] mental toughness was good throughout the game.”
Mental toughness was good throughout the game? Near the end of the game the Cowboys should have been playing clock management, but their unreliable run game put the ball back in quarterback Matt Stafford’s hands. Needless to say, Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson put on a 4th quarter clinic against a Cowboys’ defense that gives up the most yards per game than any other team in the league.
If the NFL were to give moral victories, I suppose Dallas would be 9-0 considering they lost three games by a field goal or less. On paper the team is 5-4, which in reality is slightly better than average no matter how you dissect it.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones seems to think moral victories are a win. After a last-minute loss to the Denver Broncos, Jones said, “This is a moral victory. It’s not a loser talking here. We can build off this. I feel as good as you could possibly feel at 2-3. We are going to win enough games to get where we want to be. And get knocking on the door to where we want to be. This was a moral victory today for us.”
Following Jones’ statement, linebacker Demarcus Ware told NBC’s Michele Tafoya in a Sunday Night Football interview there are no such things as moral victories in the NFL. Ware almost seemed annoyed his team’s owner spoke of this cupcake cliche.
Wide receiver Dez Bryant isn’t holding back his feelings either and the media deemed him a problem child. The outcries began against the Lions as Bryant watched Johnson catch for 329 yards. Frustration set in as Bryant hasn’t been able to break free of double coverage lately.
To much surprise, Bryant’s words on the sideline were later transcribed and he was more encouraging than destructive. Regardless of his message, it’s probably a good thing emotions were running high in Arlington at AT&T Stadium.
Perhaps the Cowboys coaching staff can learn a tough thing or two from Ware and Bryant. Moral victories mean squat in the NFL. It’s time to ruffle feathers and finish above .500 for a chance at the playoffs, something the Cowboys haven’t seen since the 2009-10 season.