We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
We're not in the NFC East race anymore, either. We're also not in the playoff picture. We're not even relevant.
The Monday night debacle between the Dallas Cowboys and their hated rivals from New York, the Giants, was surreal. I kept feeling like I was watching yet another re-run of that creepy classic, The Wizard of Oz. I was hearing that annoying Munchkin song and the evil cackle of the Wicked Witch of the West over and over and over again.
This was Monday Night Football, right? So, why was the entire cast of The Wizard of Oz there?
If I Only had a Brain!
Several of your silver and blue heroes were vying for the role of Scarecrow.
Rookie fullback Chris Gronkowski is a favorite to snag the top Scarecrow spot. He was so anxious running a check-down flare pattern that he failed to see Giants' linebacker Michael Boley barreling untouched through the Cowboys' line. Gronkowski's gaffe resulted in a broken collarbone for Tony Romo, and a lost season for the team.
If not for his coach, Gronkowski would surely get the role, but he may find himself playing understudy to the inimitable Wade Phillips. You remember him? Mr. Fix-It. The ballyhooed defensive genius. The man who got caught with his pants down on the goal line, when he didn't have a cornerback on the field and ended up covering Hakeem Nicks, the Giants' most dangerous receiver, with a safety.
Add to that stupidity, the usual post-game bonehead statement about the team giving "a real good effort," and thespian Phillips is hard to unseat when it comes to playing a brainless bunch of straw stuffed into a shirt.
The Tin Men Cometh
Actually it's 11 tin men, but whose counting? The Dallas defense will collaborate to play the role of the heartless, hollow tin man.
I think I am right when I say Tony Romo doesn't play defense. Yet, after the franchise quarterback went down, the defense followed. Sporting a 20-7 lead, they decided to stand by and watch as the Giants peeled off 31 unanswered points in a matter of just 14 minutes. Eli Manning looked like John Elway, Joe Montana, and Roger Staubach rolled into one impressive passing machine, completing 14 of 15 passes.
Of course, any NFL quarterback can complete passes when there is no defense interfering.
When a good team loses its leader, they rally. They close ranks. They find a way to make do. Witness the Pittsburgh Steelers, who, in the absence of their two-time Super Bowl winning QB Ben Roethlisberger, lost only one game.
The Dallas Cowboys are not a good team. They are a team with plenty of good players, but they are not a TEAM.
Tony Dorsett, one of the greatest Cowboys from one of the team's greatest eras, nailed it when he called the current version of the team "a bunch of underachievers."
Sorry, Wade. There is just no defending your defense this week.
The Cowardly Lion Cowers
One man has asserted himself as the prime candidate for this role: offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. For two weeks, he has coached scared. He has loaded his game plan with draw plays, screen passes and quick hits. He has been scared of opposing defenses.
Well, he may have had good reason, I suppose. He apparently knows something the rest of us don't: His offensive line is pathetic. He cannot call a pass down the field because it will get his quarterback killed. That was his reasoning, and apparently it was correct.
On second thought, let's give the part of the Cowardly Lion to the cowardly line. They are big. They are tough. They are strong. And they can't open a running lane or pass block to save their lives. They don't pick up stunts. They whiff at speed rushers and shrink before bull rushers. They are, aside from Wade Phillips and his inept coaching staff, the single greatest culprit in this 1-5 mess of a season.
The Wicked Witch Ain't from the West
Is it just me, or does Tom Coughlin look like a stern Puritanical grandmother?
That is beside the point, though. Monday night, he played the role of the Wicked Witch.
With his team down 10-0 and having given up an interception on each of its first two drives, the evil Coughlin pointed to Phillips and said, "I'll get you, my pretty."
And he did. He did what Phillips has never been able to do. He rallied his troops. He got them focused. He kept them cool. He guided them to an unlikely, come-from-behind, runaway victory in enemy territory.
The Wizard and His Wizardry Won't Work
Like the Emerald City, the shiny new Cowboys Stadium rises out of the bland North Arlington landscape, all sparkly and shiny, promising a new day of hope and fun.
But it's an illusion. The man behind the curtain is no wizard at all: He's just a not-so-smooth-talking salesman. He has been doing his dead-level best to sell Cowboys fans— and the nation-at-large—on the idea that he has put together a title contender, that he has the right leadership in place, that he assembled a championship caliber team.
Unfortunately for Jerry Jones, the curtain has been ripped back. We know it is all a sham. There is no Emerald City. There is no Super Bowl contender. It was all just a dream, and we may as well be in Kansas. Heck, they have a team that might be a legitimate contender in Kansas City.
The real wizard was Tony Romo, whose rare abilities managed to mask the deep-seated problems in the offensive line. But the wizard's wand is broken. And so are our hearts.
After the Storm: Where are We Anyway?
Cowboys fans are left with a team that has enough talent to be taken seriously in the race to Super Bowl XLV...if they only had a brain, a heart, the "noive."