Nelson Cruz missing an easy fly ball to secure a World Series. Dwayne Wade singlehandedly carrying the Heat to a Finals win over the Mavericks. The Stars losing to the Blues in the 2nd round in Game seven last year. Tony Romo fumbling the hold and getting tackled by a Seahawks player to lose the wild card game.
These images bring back many frustrating memories to many sports fans in the Dallas area. While the 90’s were full of championships and good times, with the Cowboys winning three Super Bowls under head coach Jimmy Johnson, the Rangers winning their division for the first time, and the Stars winning their first Stanley Cup in 1999, soon came the troubling years of rebuilding. Since 2000, there has been only one championship won by one of the four major sports teams in Dallas (the Mavs in 2011). However, there have been a total of 33 playoff appearances, and even 4 appearances in the championship round, but these teams could never seem to finish what they started.
This article will be part of a four-article series called “The Plight of Dallas Sports Teams Since 2000” discussing the trials and tribulations of the four Dallas sports teams and their struggles to win a championship in the new millennium.
First we begin with the Dallas Cowboys. While they may have been an NFL powerhouse in the 1990’s, the 2000’s were a different story. Even the first year of the new decade proved to show that the Boys were about to enter a difficult period when Dave Campo became the new Head Coach and Troy Aikman retired. As more of the star players from the 90’s left the team, the Cowboys entered a rebuilding period full of losing records, multiple head coaches, and a lack of franchise players. In 2003, the team actually surprised the league by going 10-6 and making the playoffs, but to only lose in the wild card round to the Carolina Panthers.
The Cowboys wouldn’t see another playoff berth until 2006, when a young and relatively unknown Tony Romo took over mid-season and helped the team to another Wild Card berth. It was a close game against the Seahawks and with the final seconds ticking away, the Cowboys had lined up to kick the game-winning field goal. However, Romo fumbled the snap and was tackled on the two-yard line, losing the game and the season. In 2007, the Boys were back in the playoffs after winning the NFC East with an incredible record of 13-3, this time in the Divisional Round against the Giants, in which Dallas lost a tough game 21-17. After a playoff absence in 2008, the NFC East champion Cowboys returned in 2009 with a strong and determined will, beating the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card game 34-14, their first playoff victory since 1996. Things were looking up for the frustrated Dallas team; however their hopes were vanquished when the Minnesota Vikings won the Divisional Round game in a blowout: 34-3.
The Cowboys wouldn’t see another playoff berth for five years, until the 2014 season. For three straight years from 2011-2013, the Boys went 8-8, and they were looking to get out of their .500 funk. With some franchise players in RB DeMarco Murray, WR Dez Bryant, and now-seasoned veteran Romo, the Cowboys were beginning to play like the team from the 90’s, going 12-4 and winning the NFC East Championship. In the Wild Card game, they faced the Detroit Lions, and eventually won a hard-fought game 24-20 to advance to the Divisional Round. For this game, the Cowboys traveled to Green Bay to face the Packers and a red-hot Aaron Rodgers. The game came down to the final minutes, when a challenge by the Packers overturned a completion by Dez Bryant on 4th down, sparking controversy from all over the nation, with Dallas fans exclaiming “Dez caught it!” This call lost the game for the Cowboys, who couldn’t believe their magical 12-4 season was over.
With a missed playoff appearance last year, Cowboys’ fans can only hope that the team will continue their hot streak of eleven straight wins into the playoffs, behind surprise rookie stars QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliot. With five playoff appearances and only two playoff wins in fifteen years, Cowboys fans will have to see how the rest of this year’s season plays out, as they hope that this year will finally be the year to make a deep run in the playoffs. With the images of Romo fumbling the snap in ’07 and Dez Bryant’s “incomplete” pass in ’14 still playing in their heads, the Cowboys will look to overcome the frustration and pain of the last fifteen years behind a mixture of veteran and rookie leadership.
Who’s to blame for this drought? Personally, I think it all started when a power-hungry and attention-seeking Jerry Jones fired Jimmy Johnson, who singlehandedly orchestrated the famous Herschel Walker trade and built the dynasty that was the ’90’s Cowboys. Had Johnson stayed for a couple more years, I think he could’ve easily brought two more Super Bowls to Dallas. Also, I think the lack of a steady Head Coach also played a part, as the Cowboys had four coaching changes from 2000-2010. Freak accidents have also played a role as well (Romo fumbling the snap and the controversial ruling of Bryant’s “incomplete” catch.
And besides, if there’s anyone who deserves a Super Bowl ring on this team, it’s Jason Witten, who has spent his entire thirteen year career in Dallas. Get him a ring please.