ARLINGTON - The Dallas Cowboys on Sunday achieved the best of multiple worlds in their 24-19 loss in NFL Week 9 to the Pittsburgh Steelers - unless one was counting on these undermanned Cowboys to truly contend for league dominance.
The loss brings with it the "plus'' of effort; that was definitely present against the 8-0 Steelers. And it also brings with it, at this early stage, an elevation to the No. 3 spot in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Oh, it's early, and so much can happen between now and then. But what unfolded Sunday is meaningful. The Cowboys losing to the 14-point-favored Steelers is not shameful. And it sends Dallas to 2-7.
The Giants beat Washington, causing those two clubs to be two-win teams. And Dallas' strength-of-schedule gives the Cowboys the edge over New York ... and thus, the No. 3 spot in the NFL Draft.
The winless Jets continue to hold the top spot. A one-win team in Jacksonville is in the No. 2 slot.
There are more games to be won (or lost). But for fans in favor of tanking in order to better Dallas' draft position, that end-of-tunnel light shines a bit brighter, especially because the Cowboys put up a valiant fight here in defeat.
By the way, what does Cowboys owner Jerry Jones think of "tanking''?
“I think it makes you see more young players - maybe should be doing it anyway, candidly in regard to that definition of tanking. You maybe should be playing in football, you maybe should be playing those players out there anyway,” Jones said.
This is what I've labeled call "organic tanking.'' No, you don't "lose on purpose.'' But "it makes you see more young players,'' as Jerry says? Yes. As the season wears on, talented veterans with aches and pains (which they all have) start giving up snaps to prospects.
The prospects play hard. And lose.
That's what happened here Sunday. A good game.
And in the big picture, a good loss.