Do the Dallas Cowboys have a chance of beating the New Orleans Saints Saturday?
No matter how many times I ask myself that question, I cannot make it so it doesn’t sound weird, even surreal.
Think about it.
Here we have two franchises on the opposite end of the success spectrum. One of them has been to eight Super Bowls and has won five of them. That team has been a fixture in the NFL playoffs for most of their fifty years in the league. The other has been, historically, the picture of ineptitude, failure, and disappointment. They have seldom ventured into the playoffs and only once advanced as far as the conference championship.
The Cowboys entered the league in 1960. They have been to the playoffs 29 times. They have won their conference eight times. They have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy five times. The Saints were born in 1967. They have made the playoffs a grand total of six times in 42 years.
Yet here we are. The first team, the one with more Lombardi hardware than any team not located in Pittsburgh (six-time champs) or San Francisco (five-time champions, tied with the Cowboys for second most all-time), is the team that—according to most—has little chance of beating the Saints. The Saints! (Wasn’t it the Saints whose futility once inspired their fans to wear bags on their heads?)
My, how fortunes have changed. How the mighty have fallen. How the vanquished have risen from the ashes to become the envy of the league.
How did this happen?
The answer is as simple as team management. One owner made an excellent hire at head coach and turned him loose. The other made a questionable hire, and then put his thumb on him. One owner traded for a guy named Drew Brees. The other mortgaged the farm for Roy Williams. One team is inventive and dynamic on offense and opportunistic on defense; the other is predictable with the ball and inept at taking it away when their opponent has it.
From the historical perspective, it seems silly to ask whether a Cowboys team has a chance against the Saints. Based on the two teams' current status, it is even sillier to answer that question with a “Yes.”
Sure, this is the NFL, the “Any Given Sunday” league. Sure, the Cowboys are desperate for a win—you might even say any prayer they have of making the playoffs depends on it. Sure, the undefeated Saints are human (we assume).
But when you consider the various phases of the game, who do you like? Would you bet on the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator Jason Garrett over the Saints’ defensive guru, Gregg Williams? Would you bet on Wade Phillips’ defense to solve Sean Payton’s high-flying offense? Do you like Nick Folk kicking a game-winning field goal, if it should come to that?
The Saints’ winningest head coach? Jim “Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs” Mora with 93 wins. It took him 15 seasons to get that many. The Cowboys’ Tom Landry, an NFL legend, won 250 games in 28 years at the helm. But Tom Landry has gone on to his reward and Jim Mora has gone on to become a beer commercial legend. Which leaves us with Wade Phillips versus Sean Payton.
Prediction? The Saints get another win and take one more step towards that magical undefeated season, while the Cowboys suffer yet another December loss and are forced to wait yet another season or ten to get a shot at that sixth Super Bowl victory.
The bags are off the heads of Saints fans for the foreseeable future.
So, Cowboys fans—paper or plastic?