Last season, the Dallas Cowboys were one of the Super Bowl preseason favorites. After Tom Brady went down in week one with a season ending injury, the Cowboys were considered by many to be the team to beat.
This put an enormous amount of pressure on Tony Romo. In his first season, Romo started 10 games and won six, which propelled the Cowboys into the playoffs, but a freak mishandling of the game-winning field goal left the Cowboy fans wanting more.
During his first full season as starting quarterback, Romo led Dallas to a NFC best 13-3 record. Again, they were taken out in their first playoff game after the Dallas defense seemed invisible against a potent New York Giants offense.
His first two seasons made Romo the unanimous face of the Cowboys franchise. The pressure of being the starting quarterback of "America's Team" coupled with the pressure of being Super Bowl favorites is a lot of pressure to put on any one player, not to mention an undrafted, second-year starting quarterback.
The Dallas Cowboys had all the tools necessary to make a run at the championship. They had a solid, mobile quarterback, a three-headed monster in the backfield (Marion Barber, Tashard Choice, and Felix Jones), arguably the best tight end in the NFL (Jason Witten), a playmaking wide receiver (Terrell Owens) and a defense that, barring injury, could be one of the best in the league. There were two problems that held the Cowboys from the promise land: Playing in the tough NFC-East and having no team chemistry.
Year in and year out, the NFC-East is one of the toughest divisions in all of football. Last year was no exception, as the Giants were the defending champions. The Cowboys were the Super Bowl favorites, the Redskins improved their defense with the addition of Jason Taylor, and the Eagles improved their offense with the drafting of Desean Jackson.
It looked to be a tough year, but if Dallas was able to escape the gauntlet that is the NFC-East, then the preseason prediction might just have come true. Unfortunately the season did not go as fans, writers, and coaches expected.
After three impressive wins to start the season, the Cowboys left no doubt as to why they were considered the best team in the NFL. They had a little hiccup in week four, losing to one of their division rivals, the Washington Redskins, but were right back on the saddle in week five, beating the Cincinnati Bengals to improve to 4-1.
Things seemed to be going well. That was until week six and Dallas visited the Arizona Cardinals. Like most fans, I believed this would be a walk in the park. Arizona was 3-2 at the time but after seeing the Jets lay a smack down two weeks ago, I thought Dallas could and should walk through them.
Boy was I horribly mistaken. Not only did Arizona give Dallas a beating in overtime but they also injured starting quarterback Tony Romo with a broken pinkie (out for four weeks) and sent Dallas punter Mat Mcbriar to the injured-reserve with a broken right foot.
A promising start to the season was quickly flushed away. The next game saw a stone statue, I mean Brad Johnson, at starting quarterback. Hopes were still high heading into the game since Dallas was playing the St. Louis Rams, but all hope was lost as soon as Brad Johnson dropped back to throw and the pass was too short, then too long, then to the other team.
Four games later, the Cowboys were 5-4 and heading into a much needed bye week. After the bye week, Romo came back and led them to three straight wins and an 8-4 record heading into December. Again, things looked good but December was a month that saw four of the top five defenses in the NFL.
Going into the final week of the season, all Dallas had to do was win on the road against Philadelphia. A high school football team could have put up a better fight in the last game. Philadelphia absolutely crushed the Cowboys 44-6 and Dallas was sent home to watch the playoffs on television.
The pressure was immense and the Cowboys folded under it. Owner Jerry Jones was disgusted, Terrell Owens threw a fit, and head coach Wade Phillips looked like the Michilen Man after somebody stole a tire.
Now with no T.O. can Dallas get their act together and win a playoff game? Romo, help us end this 12 year drought!
-Kmanharris, VSN Writer