It’s the football equivalent of placing a tray of used kitty litter inside the Louvre. A charlatan named Jerry Jones has built the most magnificent football stadium in the world, a $1.15-billion palace with contemporary art pieces, a humongous high-definition video screen, an elaborate wi-fi system with 1,250 access points, a colossal retractable roof, cathedral-like glass doors above each end zone and a large man-made lake, upon which Jones tries every year to prove he can walk on water.
I am kidding about that last part, but there is no humor in this: The team that plays inside the stadium officially has become the biggest group of laughingstock assclowns in American sports.
Once the NFL’s model franchise, adorned with stars and glitter and a globally known brand of cheerleaders, the Dallas Cowboys stopped being America’s Team after their last Super Bowl title 18 seasons ago. Now, with Jones sabotaging all aspects of the operation with his halfwit presence, they have become America’s Scream, perfecting the art of defeat in ways you couldn’t invent with all the voodoo dolls in Texas. It became obvious long ago that the Cowboys never will win big as long as Jones is their owner, president and general manager; they’ve won one playoff game in 16 years, have missed the playoffs the last three years and have proved Jimmy Johnson correct: Once Jones ran off Johnson after he coached the Cowboys to two Super Bowl titles in the ’90s, the franchise slid into a farcical free-fall. That doesn’t stop Jones from proclaiming every summer that the Cowboys are destined for another championship, but long ago, we settled into a mode of waiting for the Cowboys to self-destruct.
They did Sunday.
And this time, though Sports Illustrated tried to support him in a recent cover story and football fans nationally root for him, Tony Romo was at the center of the meltdown in ways that cannot be defended. Sure, it was an abominable defense that caused the Cowboys to blow a 26-3 halftime lead to the Green Bay Packers, who still were without injured megastar Aaron Rodgers and were quarterbacked by NFL drifter Matt Flynn. But it was Romo, as the $108-million leader of this team, who was in position to calm the storm and steer a victory in the final three minutes — a win that would have placed the Cowboys in prime position to win the weak NFC East after Philadelphia’s mystifying loss to Adrian Peterson-less Minnesota.
Instead, he threw a horrible interception.
And then, he threw an even more horrible interception.
Green Bay 37, Dallas 36.
All Romo had to do was run out the clock. He could have done so simply by keeping the ball on the ground, where DeMarco Murray was gouging the Packers for more than seven yards a carry — 134 yards on 18 rushes on the day. But after finding Dez Bryant for a first down before the two-minute warning, Romo chose to descend into the familiar mental recess that long has defined the dark downside of his maddening, mercurial career. He decided to keep throwing, despite the inherent risk and despite recent memories of a late interception against Denver that ruined a 506-yard passing day and cemented a 51-48 loss. On second-and-6 at his own 35, Romo eluded a sack, then underthrew an ill-advised pass for an open Miles Austin that was intercepted by Sam Shields at midfield. From there, the Packers quickly scored against a mush defense, which couldn’t stop rookie rambler Eddie Lacy or Flynn, who threw for 299 yards and four touchdowns. Still, though down by a point, Romo had a minute and a half to quickly move downfield for a field-goal shot.
Nope. Though the call from the sideline was for a run, Romo, on second-and-1 at the Dallas 29 with plenty of time to gain the first down and continue the drive, opted on his own to change the play. It is the sort of mental lapse that happens much too often and prevents Romo, a talented but star-crossed figure, from entering the elite of NFL quarterbacking. And the fact Romo’s screwup was volunteered to the media afterward by his head coach, Jason Garrett, is all you need to know about the tension in the locker room. Cole Beasley, Romo’s intended receiver, halted suddenly in his route because he noticed Packers cornerback Tramon Williams in the path of the ball. Romo didn’t read Williams properly and threw anyway. A diving interception later — and a video review that confirmed it — the Packers were still alive in another contest of mediocrity, the NFC North, and the Cowboys were experiencing another reminder of why they are doomed under Jones’ thumb inside Jerry World.
“We let it slip away,” said Romo, as he has said often before.
“This is one of the hardest losses that I’ve experienced. That’s a shame that we lost that ballgame,” said Jones, as he has said often before.
Not even Romo’s biggest backers can defend this nonsense. How old is he, anyway, 33? How many years has he been in the league, anyway, 11? His record in the months of December and January, when the best quarterbacks shine through, is 13-21. His defenders will say he was playing efficiently before Sunday, on a pace for 33 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions, and that his December record is bunk: In his previous 14 games in this month, he had thrown 30 TD passes and only five picks, per the Dallas Morning News. I don’t want to hear it.
Two gaffes like this blow it all out of the water, the water upon which neither Romo nor Jones walks. To compound the problems of this losing outfit, the petulant Bryant stormed off the field and up the tunnel after the final interception, with more than a minute remaining.
The defense has been crucified all season under the direction of Monte Kiffin, who was hired by Jones after he fired Rob Ryan. Though Ryan’s New Orleans defense also struggled Sunday in a loss to St. Louis, the Saints are headed to the playoffs in large part because of his contributions. The Cowboys still could win the division if they beat the Washington Redskins and Kirk Cousins — who committed three turnovers in a loss to Atlanta, which might prove John Madden’s point about an integrity breach in the benching of Robert Griffin III — and then beat Philadelphia in a showdown in Texas on the final weekend.
But I don’t want the Cowboys saving their season, not that Romo and the defense and the coaching staff and Jerry Jones ever would be capable. I’m sick of it. You’re sick of it.
Imagine how sick their fans are.