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4,000 Days of Frustration: Can Cowboys Break Dallas' Long Losing Streak?

A decade of downers, creepy statues, stolen laptops, a fallen Mav and reverse date nights, all in this week's DFW sports notebook

 WHITT’S END: 1.14.21

Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End …

*Here we oh again? In 2020, the city of Los Angeles won two sports championships (Dodgers and Lakers) in a span of 16 days, turning Tinseltown into Title Town. Over a recent 10-month period the NFL’s Buccaneers and NHL’s Lightning won three titles to re-brand Tampa Bay as Champa Bay. After celebrating a Braves’ World Series just two months ago, Atlanta is now basking in the glow of Georgia’s college football championship. And in Milwaukee, fans are poised for their own daily double as the Packers are the favorite to win next month’s Super Bowl on top of last July’s first title won by their basketball Bucks.

Meanwhile, down here in the land of have-nots, DFW’s drought lingers.

Without a championship since the Mavericks beat the Heat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on June 11, 2011, our void surpassed a decade and is rounding the turn for a seemingly unfathomable 4,000 days. The last time we partied, Dirk Nowitzki was still a player and Jason Kidd wasn't yet our coach. The Rangers got within one strike in 2011; the Stars within two games in 2000 and 2020. But the Mavs haven’t won a single playoff series since their parade, and the Cowboys’ last Super Bowl title was a whopping 27 years ago. 

Best we can do recently? Sheepishly glom on to the college hoops championship won last Spring by Baylor, 90 miles to the south in Waco. 

In the batter’s box are our Cowboys, who finished 12-5 in 2021 and host a playoff game against the 49ers Sunday in AT&T Stadium. But not only would they likely have to beat Tom Brady in Tampa, Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau and Patrick Mahomes in SoFi Stadium to win Super Bowl LVI, they’d have to break one of the lousiest losing stretches in DFW and NFL history. 

Since winning Super Bowl XXX after the 1994 season, the Cowboys are one of only six teams (Washington, Lions, Dolphins, Bengals, Browns) to not reach a conference championship game. (In that time the Packers have played in eight.) They have been to the playoffs 10 consecutive times without sniffing a Super Bowl, longest streak in NFL history. While other cities are gleefully enjoying championship double-dipping, DFW is stuck with its severe case of blue balls.

Are we due? Or merely doomed?

*The Texans fired David Culley after one season. The Giants’ last three coaches (Ben McAdoo, Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge) each lasted only two years. And to think, in 1960 the Cowboys gave Tom Landry a 10-year contract before he ever held his first practice as a head coach. And then lived up to it.

*Only events to attract 100,000+ fans to AT&T Stadium: Cowboys-Giants (2009), NBA All-Star Game (2010), George Strait (2014), WrestleMania 32 (2016) and Taylor Swift (2018). Jerry Jones wants to add Cowboys-49ers to the list.

*The Top 10 Cowboys-49ers Games, featuring … Roger Staubach at Kezar Stadium ... T.O. standing on the star in Texas Stadium ... Deion Sanders and Charles Haley, swapping sides ... John Madden and Pat Summerall ... The Catch, in Candlestick ... The Guarantee, in three-inch headlines ... Brass vs. papier-mâché ... Tony Romo's punctured lung ... Troy Aikman's concussion ... Jimmy Johnson's "How 'Bout Them Cowboys?!" ... Bill Walsh ... Tom Landry ... Joe Montana ... Steve Young ... Emmitt Smith ... Jerry Rice … Michael Irvin … San Francisco’s Team of the 1980s ... Dallas’ dynasty of the 1990s ... Six NFC Championship Games, leading to five Super Bowl champions ...

*Still smoldering 22 years later, T.O. won’t talk to George Teague about getting knocked off Texas Stadium’s star.

*In a dream matchup for Hollywood producers and NFL fans alike, who ya got: Deebo or Micah?

*Just when you think the Mavs are getting it together they lay a Big Apple egg against the Knicks. 

Continued a troubling – perhaps ultimately fatal trend – they were a minus-15 on the boards in the 23-point loss. Hard to be one of the NBA’s Top 10 teams when you’re a Bottom 7 rebounder. Evidenced by holding the Nuggets, Warriors and Bulls all under 100 points in the last two weeks, the Mavs can play elite defense. But long-term, they’re not good enough to lose the rebounding battle by double-digits. 

Wednesday night it was Knicks’ 7-footer Mitchell Robinson who did the damage with 10 rebounds to go with 19 points and two blocks. He’s a former second-round draft pick and, boy, would he look good in a Mavs’ uniform. Without an interior presence like Robinson – Myles Turner? Yes, please! – where does Dallas get help? Kristaps Porzingis is a finesse, perimeter player. Boban Marjanovic lacks conditioning. Willie Cauley-Stein is rarely available. Moses Brown played three minutes in New York. 

Trying to remember the last time a Mavs’ center produced 19 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in a game ... Dwight Powell is the de facto center, but he’s produced exactly one 20-point scoring game and one 10-rebound game all season. 

Mavs’ centers since Tyson Chandler left after 2011 include: Ian Mahimi. Brendan Haywood. Eddy Curry. Chris Kaman. Samuel Dalembert. Bernard James. JaVale McGee. Andrew Bogut. Salah Mejri. DeAndre Jordan. If the Mavs are going to try to win with defense in 2022, they must muster some middle.

*Statue-making – sculpting, I think they call it? – must be waaaay more difficult than we imagine. There’s one of Byron Nelson at the Four Seasons, Ben Hogan at the Colonial, Nolan Ryan at Globe Life Field and Landry at AT&T Stadium that are spot-on. (By the way, did that Rangers “Fans” statue commemorating Brownwood firefighter Shannon Stone make the trip to the new stadium?) But the one of Pudge Rodriguez looks like the iconic catcher is wearing a first baseman’s mitt

Which brings us the replica of Dirk unveiled by owner Mark Cuban at last week’s jersey retirement ceremony. It’s not the bushel of hair that looks nothing like a style Dirk ever wore. It’s not even the fact that he’s looking way off to right from where his body suggests he is shooting. It’s the … well … it’s the … umm … three balls. 

I mean, why does Dirk’s immortality have to remind us of sex-toy anal beads?!

*Next time you get cut off in traffic or some inconsiderate driver dares to infringe on your lane, take a deep breath. Retaliation – middle finger or otherwise – is not worth your life. The Dallas Police Department last week released startling figures revealing that “road rage” accounted for 200 murders and 12,000 injuries in the last seven years. That means that since 2015, 15% of the murders in Dallas started behind the wheel.

*Vivid memory from January 1994 re: Cowboys-49ers: It’s Friday night before the 1993 NFC Championship at Texas Stadium. There are press conferences featuring Jimmy Johnson and George Siefert at Dallas’ swanky Anatole Hotel. Jimmy had the night before ushered his “three-inch headlines” guarantee. Seifert retorted by questioning whether the Cowboys’ coach had balls made of brass or papier-mâché. 

It was gold! 

Along with Fort Worth Star-Telegram Cowboys beat buddy Mike Fisher, I ran from the conference room to the media room to transform my notebook into stories and … gone. Stolen. Just like that. Despite security standing at the door, thieves walked into the NFL’s press room at the Anatole and walked out with numerous laptops and bags from various newspaper sportswriters. We had to frantically drive to Fort Worth that night to write our stories, have new computers issued the next day and try to remember what was lost in the theft. With only a week between Dallas’ victory over San Francisco and Super Bowl XXVIII in Atlanta and another week at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, the full breadth of the loss didn’t sink in until around Valentine’s Day.

*Hard Knocks worked out for the Cowboys. But Hard Knocks: In Season was a disaster for the Colts as the show chronicled their last two win-and-in upset losses to the Raiders and Jaguars. Hey, remember when Carson Wentz was the Eagles’ savior. Cute.

*Hot.

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*Not.

*Take time to read this gut-wrenching story on former Mavericks’ center Shawn Bradley. Then take some more to hug your family and appreciate your health.

One year ago this month the 7-foot-6 Bradley was riding his bicycle near his home in St. George, Utah when he was hit from behind by a woman in a minivan hurriedly on her way to pick up a kid from school. He went head-over-handlebars at 17 mph, cracking his helmet on the pavement and suffering a pinched spinal cord that paralyzed him from the chest down. The driver initially left the scene, later returned, but was never charged with a crime. 

Bradley refuses to divulge her name in order to shield her from certain public backlash. 

Yes, horrible things happen to great people. 

Bradley has some peace of mind in the form of $70 million he made playing basketball to pay for his special care, and last Spring his spirits were lifted when he was visited by Nowitzki, Cuban and former Dallas teammate Michael Finley. Nonetheless, he admits to contemplating suicide over his bleak future confined to a wheelchair and in need of constant caregivers. 

“I don’t know how I can ease the burden of me,” he says. “Maybe it’d be better if this was just all over. Yes, those thoughts creep in – and they’re real. I can’t ever imagine myself acting on those thoughts, but I definitely have them.” 

Life can literally change in the blink of an eye. Take all the time you need.

*Dak Prescott threw for 334 more yards with the exact completion percentage (68) and same number of touchdowns (37) as Rodgers. The difference between the Packer’s MVP season and Prescott’s “slump”? Six interceptions (10-4).

*I'm tired of hearing how the Cowboys got a “bad matchup” with the 49ers. You know what San Francisco got with Dallas? A bad matchup, in the form of the NFL’s highest-scoring offense, with a healthy roster, playing in its home stadium. 

Other than the obviously flawed and inferior Eagles, every team in the NFC is a bad matchup for someone. Any team in the NFC is fully capable of beating any other team in the NFC, anywhere, any time. After all, isn’t that what the playoffs are all about: bad matchups that make good entertainment?

*Married couples have “date night”, to remember and perhaps rekindle a time when they liked being around each other. Why is being single better? Because dating couples don’t have “married night”, where they ignore each other while watching TV in separate rooms.

*Last April – just nine months ago – ESPN published a “Top 10 NBA Players Under 25” led by Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson but void of a certain Memphis Grizzlies’ guard. Consider that the next time the bandwagon network’s anchors salivate over Ja Morant’s nightly highlights, and its army of analysts lie that “we all knew he had this type of potential.”

*Cowboys led the NFL with 127 penalties, including a league-high 27 for offensive holding. 49ers were called for 20 defensive pass interference penalties, most in the league and twice as many as Dallas’ 10. Sunday’s game will be officiated by Alex Kemp’s crew, which flagged the Cowboys seven times for 60 yards in their Dec. 12 game at Washington. When he’s not pooping the party, Kemp is apparently an insurance agent.

*Unvaccinated Cowboys’ receiver Amari Cooper was fined $14,650 by the NFL for attending Dirk’s jersey-retirement Mavs game and not wearing a mask. Ironic, because he is the quiet type that typically shies away from social settings. That became even more clear last February, when he bought a 12,000-square foot, $6 million mansion in Lucas, a tiny, rural town east of Allen near Lake Lavon.

*The NFL’s TV audiences for 2021 are in and, not surprisingly, the Cowboys dominate the list. Most-watched game of the season was Cowboys-Raiders on Thanksgiving (40 million viewers, most for a regular-season game in 31 years), followed by Brady’s return to New England (27 million) and the Cowboys-Buccaneers Thursday night opener (25 million).

*One man predicted our deep decline. He knew we’d slobber all over John Madden because he related to us by simply saying “boom!” and inventing a video game to give us another reason to stay plopped on the couch. He knew we’d idolize a grandiose political candidate because he “tells it like it is”, overlooking his factual inconsistencies and embracing his grammatical gaffes. He knew we’d love yelling “Coooooop!” because it’s Neanderthal simpleton. He knew we’d mock eloquent speakers and deny scientists because it’s easier than trying to understand them. He knew it. 

And, in his 1995 book The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan wrote it:

“The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance”

*Ezekiel Elliott may have lost a step, but in 2021 he didn’t lose the football. After fumbling six times last season, the Cowboys’ running back officially only had one this season in 284 touches. He said in training camp that ball security was a priority, and he backed it up. Bravo.

*I get it, men are pigs. Oink oink. Guilty. Our penance, apparently, is to be perpetual punchlines in TV ads, doting dolts to be exploited merely as kick-in-the-crotch props that make women seem funny and happy. Over the holidays I watched: Woman laughs as she beats man in Peloton race … Mrs. Claus saves the day – again – when idiot Santa forgets girl’s puppy present … Wife steals Christmas-gift truck from husband … Wife gets upset when husband brings home Wingstop but forgets to pick up kids … Husband gets dirty look from wife for asking for a lollipop from AT&T lady … Wife asks for a bite of husband’s Whataburger, proceeds to eat the whole damn thing and then gives him a quizzical look when he gets up to go order another for himself … Girlfriend gleefully bogarts boyfriend’s Taco Bell crunch wrap, then attempts to also eat his chips … I guess it’s #MeToo residue?

*Tennis No. 1 Novaxx Djokovic may well win the Australian Open, but he’ll always be the loser who knowingly and willingly exposed writers, photographers and children to COVID in the days immediately after a positive test.

*RIP, Ralph Neely. One of the first great offensive linemen in Cowboys’ history, he played 13 seasons, went to five Super Bowls and made All-Pro three times. He retired after Dallas’ victory in Super Bowl XII. Neely passed away last week at age 78.

*Netflix and Winter chill: Ricky Gervais’ dramedy After Life, Season 3 (you’ll laugh and cry, guaranteed) drops Friday, and Jan. 21 is the highly anticipated Season 4 of Ozark (you’ll cringe, a lot). 

When – if – the Cowboys finally lose, we’ve got binging beckoning.

*Cowboys 24, 49ers 20.

*This Weekend? Saturday let’s hang out with Big Brothers Big Sisters lil’ bro Ja, maybe at the Mavs game in Dallas. Sunday let’s watch a football game a tad more important in Arlington. As always, don’t be a stranger.