Cowboys Deserve Better, But That’s OK With Phillips

phillips_smiling.jpgAs usual, the experts and others in the media fail to credit the Cowboys as a dominant team in the NFL this year because they allegedly haven’t played a good team yet.  But these self-same experts are constantly praising the accomplishments of the New England Patriots.  Now I am really quite accustomed to this treatment having been a life-long Cowboys fan and suffering through many seasons of extreme criticism.  As they say, you either love or hate the Cowboys.  I realize also that the AFC has been the better of the two conferences over the past decade, mainly due to free-agency and the copying of NFC dynasties of the 90’s, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will always be better than any NFC team.

Mickey Spagnola, columnist for dallascowboys.com, stated it best in response to the schedule criticism.  “…you can only beat who they tell you to play..”, he wrote in his column the other day when asked by a fan why all the focus is on the Patriots and how good they are. 

Let’s analyze that statement somewhat and maybe understand better what is being said about our beloved team.  As I understand it the NFL develops each team’s schedule, other than the obligatory divisional games, based upon their previous year’s record.  The NFL also alternates pitting different divisions against each other to comprise parts of the schedule.  For example, the NFC East is playing all the teams that are in the NFC North and AFC East with two “wild card” games added in to complete the sixteen-game season.

That being said, the only two games that seem to be determined by a team’s prior record are the two “wild card” games.  This year, those two teams for the Cowboys are the Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams.  Both of these teams went 8-8 last year and missed the playoffs, but the Cowboys were 9-7 and made the playoffs.  However, a majority of teams in the NFC last year were 8-8, as evidenced by the Giants receiving a wild-card playoff spot last year at 8-8. 

Now let’s look at the Patriots schedule in comparison.  They will naturally play all the NFC East teams, including the Cowboys, the AFC North and, of course,their divisional opponents.  So far after their first four games, they have played two divisional foes and two other teams, one from the AFC North and one of which was San Diego who they beat in last year’s AFC Divisional Playoff game.  The win-loss records of the first four teams they have played has been comparable to the records of the teams the Cowboys have played this season with Dallas also playing a team that was in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, the Bears, who were the NFC Champions last year losing in the Super Bowl. 

I think you can see my point somewhere in all of this.  The point being either you’re a good team or you aren’t, and it is plain to all of the rest of the football world that Dallas is a good team.  Right now they could play against any team in the NFL and have a reasonably good chance of winning, including a game with the Patriots.  The only issue now is for first year head coach, Wade Phillips, to keep them in that mindset.

Recently, Coach Phillips has addressed that very thing and has stated that he has a very simple approach to keep his team focused.   “I’m trying to get them to play as hard as they can and the best they can play every week. And if we can do that, the scoreboard will take care of itself.”

He also tries to instill the correct attitude in his players regarding the media and not believing everything that is written about them.  He pushes them to realize there is a lot more games to be played and things will get much harder and more competitive.  Having confidence is one thing, he tells his players, but being “over-confident” is quite another. 

I wouldn’t say the team is flying “under the radar” of anyone this year, but maybe not being given credit as an elite team thus far will play well for Phillips and his approach to coaching.  In the end, it all depends on your record at the end of the year and how far, if anywhere, you went in the playoffs.


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