Despite having gone 120-120 over the past 15 seasons with the one lonely playoff victory during that entire span, the Dallas Cowboys -- or America's Team, as they are dubbed -- remain the NFL's most valuable franchise, according to Forbes, at $2.1 billion. Of course, we can credit boisterous owner Jerry Jones for that accomplishment. And to kick off the 2012 season, the Cowboys backed up Jones' prediction that they would defeat the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on opening night. But if we've learned anything over the years with this franchise, it's that inconsistency will always win out.
At its core, this year's version of mediocrity once again features tremendous talent at key positions: quarterback Tony Romo, for all his shortcomings, can dazzle us with his remarkable propensity for big plays; receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are one of the best 1-2 punches in the game; second-year running back DeMarco Murray has been notably impressive; six-time All-Pro defensive end/linebacker DeMarcus Ware is the second-fastest player ever to reach the 100-sack mark; and the secondary added a shutdown cornerback in free agent Brandon Carr. But, as is always the case with the Cowboys, something appears to be missing yet again.
What that is, precisely, lurks behind the glitzy smoke and mirrors Jones has created. Most notable is the lack of discipline in all facets of the game, like fumbling the opening kickoff at Seattle in Week 2 or racking up a league-worst 28 penalties already this season, or ranking in the bottom six of the league in both penalties committed and penalty yards over the past five years.
You see, when it comes to the Cowboys, things are never really as they seem. 'Mediocrity with flashes of excellence,' as a team model, does make them dangerous but never quite relevant. There's no better example of this than when they went into the Meadowlands in Week 14 of last season and had the Giants on life support, up 12 points with under six minutes left. Romo inevitably misfired on a third-down go-route to Austin, their defense fell apart on its side and, unable to deliver the finishing blow, Dallas finished 8-8 to sit out yet another postseason.
Just a couple of weeks into this season, maybe it's too early to make a prediction on how many games the 2012 Cowboys will win or whether or not they can actually win a playoff game. Then again, maybe we already know the end result. Jerry Jones and his overweening confidence will try to dupe you into believing the inevitable won't happen, and when it does, he will posture in the offseason on why Jason Garrett is his head coach, and in April's draft they'll reach for yet another super-gifted, yet troubled prospect and then ... well, you know the drill.
But hey, here's to another year watching America's team.
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