AP Photo/Brandon Wade

For this die-hard, Big D stands for delusional. At least there’s always next year ... because it hasn’t disappointed you yet

January 07, 2016

Before I start spilling my guts over another wasted season, let’s get one thing straight: It was a catch, plain and simple. For this lifelong delusional Cowboys fan, Tony Romo to Dez Bryant for 31 yards was a Super Bowl-winning catch.

You know exactly what I’m talking about from last postseason’s divisional round. Ruled inside the 1-yard line, Bryant’s catch that should have been was the prelude to DeMarco Murray pounding the rock right up the gut on the very next play for a touchdown. The Cowboys not only would have won that game, they also would have gone into Seattle for the NFC championship and spoiled the Seahawks’ party. There would have been no miracle comeback from a botched onside kick—God would have been a Cowboy’s fan that day (sorry, Russell). Then on the NFL’s biggest stage, Dallas would have dominated the Patriots with the best O-line and running back combination the league has seen in years.

Dallas Cowboys: Super Bowl 49 champions!

Remember, I called myself delusional. Instead, the suits back in New York, sitting in a dark room—probably some analytical nerd’s mom’s basement—saw the ball hit the ground and move ever so slightly, like the faint quiver of an alleged Bill Belichick smile. The result? No catch. The Packers go on to lose in the NFC title game (a silver lining to my misery!) and the Seahawks literally throw the Super Bowl away on the goal line, giving Golden Boy Tom Brady and Mr. Hoodie another ring. But hey, there’s always next year, right?

There’s always next year.

It’s the unofficial slogan of any true Cowboys fan over the past 20 years. The days of the dynasty and ruling the NFC East are well behind us, brought on by a playoff drought so long you really do wonder if Jerry Jones made a deal with the devil to have those glory years back in the ’90s. But this time it felt real. A promising season came to a bitter end at Lambeau Field last January, but our future looked so promising.

Romo finally had a winning record in December; the offensive line resembled the Great Wall of Dallas that had protected Troy Aikman all those years; DeMarco Murray led the league in rushing; and there was Dez Bryant, a spitting image of Michael Irvin wearing number 88, inspiring his team on the sideline and throwing up the X after every TD catch—an X-factor if there ever was one.

Dez Bryant's controversial incomplete catch.
AP Photo/G. Newman Lowrance

Despite losing in the playoffs—trust me, there’ll forever be an asterisk on that loss—the Cowboys had all the talent in the world. Even better, the rest of the NFC East looked overwhelmingly mediocre. The Cowboys should have cruised to a division title in 2015 and had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs this January.

Reality, of course, turned out to be even crazier than my delusions. The Cowboys are at home watching the playoffs just like the rest of us, and it infuriates me to no end.

Where do I start? How about the day DeMarco Murray signed with the Eagles? Yes, let’s start there, shall we? Signing with a divisional rival!? Are you kidding me? What’s the word I’m looking for? I think it rhymes with … traitor. I’ll never forget the betrayal. I had just stepped outside on a beautiful spring day in Vancouver, about to take my goofball Golden Retriever Jake for a walk, when my phone starting buzzing nonstop.

It was a series of friends who eerily resembled the false comforters back in Job’s day, and they wanted to hear my reaction to Murray’s leaving for what he thought was his best chance of winning a Super Bowl. You know, I get the best ab workout thinking about that, because I laugh so hard my stomach hurts for days. But I digress. Hearing the news from people whom I like to call five-minute football fans was painful enough—these are the same people who could be told Macklemore is a wide receiver for the Seahawks and then try to trade for him in fantasy football.

I returned each text message with a response completely void of emotion, reasoning it wasn’t Murray who had gained all those yards but that the O-line deserved all the credit for paving his way. It didn’t matter whom Dallas handed the ball to. All year my best friend said he could’ve run for 1,000 yards behind that line, and he’s older, slower and less athletic than my dog.

Besides, Mr. Jones had a backup plan right? With no marquee running back on the roster, Dallas had to be making a trade to move up in the draft and select Todd Gurley or somehow pry Adrian Peterson away from the Vikings. The summer came and went, and in keeping with a mind-numbing Cowboys tradition, the team’s only major signing was Greg Hardy, a lunatic who fancies himself the Kraken and who apparently took his game-day energy home with him every night. Talk about the opposite of a glue guy.

As for running back, we had three guys fighting for the starting job in training camp. One was a convicted cologne thief (Joseph Randle); one a draft bust (Darren McFadden); and the other more of a scat back than an every-down guy (Lance Dunbar). Oh well, no problem! With the Romo-to-Bryant connection, the running game would naturally open up for anyone. What’s the worse that could happen?

The bone break heard around the world, or at least in the republic of Texas, vibrated all the way up to my home in British Columbia. When Romo walked off the field in Philadelphia with a broken clavicle, all eyes turned to the pudgy-faced Brandon Weeden in Week 2. How is it possible for a grown man to have the cheeks of a newborn?

“You know what hurt more than the 4-12 record? Watching Troy Aikman work as a commentator for FOX this season and thinking he could still suit up and get the job done.”

The Cowboys handed him the keys to the Ferrari, and all he had to do was keep it in second gear and keep the team afloat. From a delusional fan’s perspective, the season wasn’t over—and if you asked Mr. Jones, he wasn’t concerned either because Weeden was throwing beautiful spirals. What Mr. Jones failed to acknowledge was that those beautiful spirals were to the opposing team! Hey Brandon, we’re the guys in blue and white! Insert Matt Cassel in Week 7 and thank you Brandon for absolutely nothing, except three straight losses.

Cassel didn’t fair much better. Having grown up on Vancouver Island, I’ve seen my fair share of a deer eyes caught in headlights on the side of the road. But nothing compares to Cassel’s look of dread against the Jets’ pass rush on Dec. 19. The Cowboys were 4-9 at this point, but somehow still in the NFC East race. Even more mystifying: How could a quarterback get progressively worse and not better? Cassel’s performance with the season on the line was so horrific that Jason Garret, a coach for whom I have the utmost respect, turned to Kellen Moore. Who?! What?! At least he got the ball to Dez Bryant. Remember him?

You know what hurt more than the 4-12 record? Watching Troy Aikman work as a commentator for FOX this season and thinking he could still suit up and get the job done. But that’s just living in the past, and that delusional thinking only works in his beer commercials. I mean, there’s always next season, right?

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