Why are the Dallas Cowboys called “America’s Team?” When the team does well, the television ratings go up. Four of the five highest rated games in 2016 involved the Dallas Cowboys. When trouble lands in paradise, the ratings go up for that as well.
Thank God the “ESPN First Take” crew is on vacation. Can you imagine Stephen “Angry” Smith and Max Kellerman going in on the ‘Boys after reserve linebacker Damien Wilson was arrested and charged with aggravated assault? Or that the Ezekiel Elliott investigation is STILL ongoing and could possibly result in a suspension? Pile on that the four-game suspension to defensive end David Irving and the probable multiple game suspension for free agent signee cornerback Nolan Carroll for his DWI arrest in May. Not to condone any of the actions these players committed or are accused of committing, but what’s a Cowboys season or off-season without controversy?
Everything is Big in Texas but the Dallas Cowboys are Bigger
Obviously all NFL teams would love to have a scandal-free year where the only headlines are from the field of play, a great draft or a key free agent signing. Let’s be perfectly clear, the Cowboys aren’t the only team with drama. Max Bullough of the Houston Texans is suspended for the same amount of games as Irving, yet that wasn’t publicized as hard. Although Irving had a solid 2016, he wasn’t voted All-Pro or to the Pro Bowl, but the mere fact that Irving is a Dallas Cowboy heightens the story about 100 feet.
Justin Gilbert, a highly taunted cornerback from Oklahoma State and the number eight pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, will sit the entire season because of multiple substance abuse issues. Gilbert played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2016. Had Gilbert played for Dallas or no longer was on the Cowboys roster, the headline would have been, “Cowboys (or former Cowboys) cornerback suspended for the season.”
There are, unfortunately, more examples of suspended players, but the point remains the same; attach “Dallas Cowboys” to the story and it goes viral much faster. Stephen A’s “accident waiting to happen” phrase would have been repeated so often, you would’ve thought “First Take” spent the entire two hours on the Cowboys. Trust me, if they could, they would.
Even with this extra attention, it still doesn’t give Cowboys players or any other players for that matter a reason to make headlines for the wrong reasons. Wilson should have shown better judgement instead of going crazy over a parking space. Irving should have asked the dozens of team trainers and doctors whether or not his supplements were allowed by the league before he got him busted. Carroll. For real? Nobody is condemning you celebrating signing with the Cowboys, but make sure Uber is on your phone list! All three are key members of a rebuilding defense. All three could have been opening day starters. Their stupidity could alter a promising season in which the defense made a ton of moves.
Now on to Elliott. This investigation has lasted since the beginning of last season. Just when you thought it was over, the NFL reminded everyone it was not. In a “he said, she said” case about sexual assault, no one comes out a winner. If the investigation proves Elliott was in the wrong, games lost is the last of his problems. If he is cleared, some will argue that he will join a laundry list of “privileged” athletes who got away with a crime. Even with the investigation on-going, Zeke found himself in a St. Patrick’s Day dilemma when he pulled the shirt down of a woman standing next to him and exposed her breasts. Are you kidding me?!
Expectations are high for the Cowboys on the field in 2017. Expectations should be higher off it. But this is nothing new. In 1971, running back Duane Thomas did not speak to the media or most of his teammates because of a contract dispute. Thomas was an outstanding back, who along with Calvin Hill and Walt Garrison combined to rush for 252 yards against the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI to catapult Dallas to their first Super Bowl title. Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson was a Pro Bowl player and an exceptional linebacker, but drug issues and fights with head coach Tom Landry and management garnered more headlines than his play.
Plus who can forget the drama Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones produced? The popular television show “Dallas” ended in 1991, but the drama for the Cowboys was just beginning. Egos prevented the Cowboys from winning more Lombardi Trophies when Jones fired Johnson after winning back-to-back titles.
Through it all, the Cowboys have managed to become the league’s most popular team—sorry Patriots fans, just telling the truth. With the emergence of Elliott and Dak Prescott, the NFL’s best offensive line, a play-making wide receiver in Dez Bryant and a draft filled with promising rookies like Taco Charlton, Chidobe Awuzie and Xavier Woods, the Cowboys future looks great. Whether the Cowboys win the next three Super Bowls or go on a five-year losing streak, the world will be watching. Cowboys’ management and players need to make sure it’s for the right reasons.