For 25 years, the Cowboys have continued to be one of the most popular teams in the NFL despite never playing in a conference title game. This year, however, the shine is quickly coming off the star.
It started with the NFL flexing Packers-Colts game into a late-afternoon spot that previously had been devoted to a Cowboys-Vikings game. It continued with the ultimate indignity to America’s Team: A game between the Cleveland Browns and the New York Giants sent 49ers-Cowboys game from Sunday Night Football to the cluster of early-afternoon kickoffs.
Sure, the 49ers’ fall from grace was a factor in the decision, but not long ago the Dallas Cowboys against even the Washington Generals would have remained in a marquee spot, because the Cowboys were a marquee team.
Although team management (a/k/a Jerry and Stephen Jones) previously have made it clear that coach Mike McCarthy faces no danger, grave or otherwise, after only one year on the job, that was before the Cowboys lost a prime-time face-off with a team that went 4-44 from 2015 through 2017. This most recent development could spark the kind of soul-searching that could (key word, could) prompt the Joneses to admit their mistake and move on to another coach.
Yes, the team’s fate changed when Dak Prescott suffered a badly broken ankle. But the Cowboys already were struggling, especially on defense. There’s no reason to think they’d be considerably better than 3-9 if Dak had started every game.
It remains unlikely that anything more than the firing of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will happen after the 2020 season ends. Until this week, however, it was unlikely that the NFL would ever move America’s Team out of a prime-time slot. It remains to be seen how that bucket of ice water affects the manner in which Jerry and Stephen Jones regard their franchise and the people who have been hired to run it.