The road to the Super Bowl is never easy. For some teams, the path is even more treacherous than it is for others. Yet, in the NFL, there’s often more standing in the way of a franchise and its ultimate goal than just a difficult opponent. Before it even takes the field of battle, a team must conquer the hardest adversary of them all — itself.
Few NFL teams know this better than the Dallas Cowboys. With a history of success and that famous star on its helmet, “America’s Team” faces added pressure each and every year. Unfortunately, no matter how well this team starts — which could actually prove to be difficult in 2017 if the recent suspension to star running back Ezekiel Elliott holds up — it’s been ages since the Cowboys managed to finish the year on a high note.
In fact, it feels like the Dallas Cowboys are stuck in a terrible loop that, ultimately, ends in disappointment. See for yourself. These are the 10 stages of a Dallas Cowboys football season.
Stage 1: This is our year
It doesn’t matter how the previous season ended, the new year brings a renewed sense of optimism for supporters of “America’s Team.” Last season was nothing more than the year before the year. This season is the one where everything changes; where the Cowboys complete their return to the top of the NFL mountain. Nothing is going to stand in their way. Nothing is going to stand in our way.
All diehard fans — save for those who root for the Cleveland Browns — begin each year feeling confident. But Cowboys fans are next level. It’s as if they truly believe destiny is on their side; like it’s their divine right to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. As an outsider, you have to applaud this fan base’s fervor — even if it’s only going to make their eventual crash and burn all the more painful to watch.
Stage 2: Jerry interferes with the draft
The Cowboys struck gold in the 2016 draft. They selected stud running back Zeke Elliot with the fourth overall pick, and came away with the ultimate steal in fourth-round signal caller, Dak Prescott. Yet, make no mistake, had Cowboys owner/General Manager/czar, Jerry Jones acted true to form (cough, meddle in the team’s affairs, cough), things might have turned out differently.
You see, Prescott was not Dallas’s first choice at quarterback. Heck, he wasn’t even second on the organization’s wish list. He was third. That’s right — third. Jones wanted to trade back into the first round to take Memphis QB Paxton Lynch, but didn’t pull the trigger (something he would later admit to regretting). He then set his sights on Michigan State’s Connor Cook in the fourth, but lost out on the quarterback to the Oakland Raiders. In the end, Jones and the Cowboys settled for Prescott.
Dallas won the draft because Jones failed to make any moves. But make no mistake, that is not the norm. As they say, “Jerry gonna Jerry.” And trust us, it’s not going to be pretty.
Stage 3: Quarterback goes down with an injury
A Cowboys quarterback is going to get injured. That’s just the way things go in Dallas. It won’t be Tony Romo because his playing days are over. However, it will be another signal caller wearing the star on his helmet. This is the will of the football gods — and it is written.
A loss of this magnitude will lead to widespread panic. Cowboys fans will be ready to jump off the nearest tall building or cry uncontrollably and curse the heavens. At this point, folks in Texas will say things like, “The season is over” and, “Why do bad things always happen to good people?” You know, the usual nonsense. Everything in Big D will be terrible. That is, until…
Stage 4: A running back saves the day
A running back takes the term “workhorse” to a new level. We saw it in 2014 when DeMarco Murray led the league in rushing touchdowns (13), rushing yards (1,845), and rushing yards per game (115.3). We saw it again in 2016 when Elliott topped the NFL with 1,631 yards on the ground and 108.7 rushing yards per game. Thanks to a dominant offensive line and a back who knows how to take advantage of the holes, the Cowboys remain legitimate contenders — at least that will be the narrative.
Unfortunately, Dallas doesn’t just become a force on the ground, it also runs its running back(s) into the ground. On both these instances, Murray and Zeke comfortably led the league in total rushes. The organization says this plan of attack isn’t a problem, but we all know better. It’s not an issue until it becomes one.
Stage 5: Political bandwagon ensues
Still, in the short run (no pun intended), everything’s groovy. The Cowboys start to win more games, excitement builds in Big D, and the famous fans begin to come out of the woodworks. Of course, Jones and the Cowboys don’t just have celebrity supporters on their side, they have politicians in their corner.
When you start seeing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sitting with Jerry in the owner’s box, that’s when you know the Cowboys are on the up and up. There will be excessive cheering and awkward high-fives and ridiculous scarves (see above). There will be unabashed optimism running wild through the streets of Dallas. And it will slowly start to spread.
Stage 6: Media starts buying into the Cowboys hype
America’s Team will become the talk of the town. All of the media members and pundits who questioned whether or not the Cowboys could actually compete against the best of the best will begin to change their tone. They’ll start to see a young, hungry group, complete on both sides of the ball with a swagger bordering on arrogance, and they will get behind it. They will applaud the Cowboys’ resiliency, their toughness, and their overall talent. And they will start talking about the Super Bowl.
Stage 7: Jason Garrett is the greatest coach alive!
It’s time to start giving head coach Jason Garrett his due (obviously). Sure, he doesn’t call the plays on offense, but he’s the glue who holds this team together. He pulls the right strings, has management’s full support (which has always been the case, or so they say), and is a guy who the players would run through a brick wall for (surprisingly, this is something we actually believe). All of Cowboys Nation officially loves the head coach.
The more the Cowboys win, the more love Garrett gets. He is the right man for the job; the one who has what it takes to lead this team back to the promised land. There is no one better suited to coach the Dallas Cowboys than Jason Garrett. Suddenly, his inability to win the big game doesn’t matter. Just like the team he coaches, this is his year.
Stage 8: Earn top overall seed; cue the euphoria
The Cowboys win enough games to earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC and secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The stars have officially aligned and nothing can stop Big D now. The games are just a formality at this point, as everyone believes this team will always find a way to win. The Cowboys have been doing it — pulling off W’s — all season and it’s a foregone conclusion that the good times will carry over into the postseason.
Stage 9: Air of invincibility takes over Cowboys Nation
Excitement is at an all-time high in Cowboys Nation. Folks are getting tattoos to mark the occasion, people are using their savings to purchase Super Bowl tickets, and the idea of coming up short is the last thing on anyone’s mind. The city of Dallas is on cloud nine and a GoFundMe account has been set up to raise money to construct Prescott and Elliott statues outside of AT&T Stadium. Everything is coming up Cowboys. What a time to be alive.
Stage 10: The inevitable heartbreaking playoff defeat
And just like that, it’s all over. Despite everything going for them, the Cowboys falter under the bright lights of the postseason. Dallas is in complete and utter shock. This doesn’t feel real; nothing feels real. It wasn’t supposed to end like this — it wasn’t supposed to end. Period.
Sadness turns to anger. Anger evolves into depression. The streets of Dallas are empty; no one has the strength to get out of bed. This feeling lasts until the final piece of confetti falls on the eventual Super Bowl winner.
Then, as if on cue, all of Cowboys Nation collectively buries its pain. The feeling is gone, but not forgotten. The streets of Dallas are no longer sullen with despair. The sun is out; a new day is upon us. And together, an entire fanbase slowly picks itself up from the ashes. Next year is our year.