Beyond the Boxscore
Jason Garrett curses Tony Romo to a lifetime of losing even as Arian Fostergifts Giants with Namaste
It's the happiest losing locker room in the world. T.J. Yates, the guy who is supposed to have a separated shoulder, has a bounce in his step. Brian Cushing, the linebacker whose intensity usually burns at one level (explosive) is shrugging off a one-point defeat.
Arian Foster is . . . well, Arian's being Arian, happy Arian, playful Arian.
"There are guys who played their hearts out today and you want to talk to somebody who watched," Foster says to a cluster of reporters gathering around his locker.
When Foster is told that people want to know what the star tailback thinks of the playoffs, he shoots back, "Looking forward to it, end of interview." But Foster is all smiles. He'll talk. Who wouldn't talk on a day like this.
It's good . . . to lose!?
A Cowboys team that thought it's been ready to win big now since at least 2007 is on the outside looking in and Jones' handpicked Princeton genius is talking morale victories.
Turns out it's more than all right when you're a playoff-bound team locked into its position, a team that's set to go on the franchise's maiden voyage in the NFL postseason with all the promise and potential that implies. The Texans aren't crushed by falling to the Tennessee Titans 23-22 Sunday afternoon at Reliant Stadium. Instead, it's like a giant weight's been lifted off their aching backs.
Finally, Houston gets to play a game that matters again. Since the Texans clinched the AFC South title, and that playoff berth, on Dec. 11, they haven't faced anything close to a must win. Well they have one now — a national NBC Saturday afternoon Reliant Stadium date with the Cincinnati Bengals, the very first game of this year's NFL playoffs, with all eyes on them.
"There was some yelling and people pumping people up after a loss, which is very rare," Yates says.
A Very Different Scene
It's the saddest press conference in the world. There's Jason Garrett at a microphone in the bowels of East Rutherford, N.J., trying to explain away another lost season for the Dallas Cowboys of Tony Romo and Jerry Jones.
Garrett doesn't look overwrought on the TV broadcasts — and everyone from the NFL Network to ESPN to ESPNEWS is showing this live, you don't pass on drama like this, the Home And Garden Network is probably bummed it can't be involved — as much as he looks overmatched.
His team's just been blown out 31-14 in a win-or-go-home game, essentially a playoff game a week early, and Garrett is stressing that his guys did a good job of pulling within one touchdown in the second half. A Cowboys team that thought it's been ready to win big now since at least 2007 is on the outside looking in and Jones' handpicked Princeton genius is talking morale victories.
Hey, we didn't give up! We made it 21-14!
Dallas is further from winning a Super Bowl than ever. Romo is no closer to being a true franchise quarterback at 31 than he was at 27. In fact, he may have regressed. Rob Ryan is the most overrated assistant coach in the history of the NFL. Jones is a few years away from becoming the new Al Davis, a once smart-hiring owner who stubbornly refuses to stop messing up his team.
No matter how the next several weeks play out, Houston should be even better next season with Matt Schaub back. And the season after that.
It's amazing how quickly the Cowboys have fallen behind the Texans. And make no mistake, they're far behind.
There's no reason Houston shouldn't beat Cincinnati and make a push for the AFC Championship Game. OK, there may be one big quarterback reason that could prevent the Texans from winning in Baltimore in round two. But even if it ends there, heck even if Gary Kubiak's team is one and done with a disheartening playoff home loss (and falling to the Bengals would be crushing), this Texans team is on the come, poised for a sustained run as a contender.
No matter how the next several weeks play out, Houston should be even better next season with Matt Schaub back. And the season after that as J.J.Watt, Brooks Reed, Connor Barwin and the rest of the Bulls On Parade defense gets better and better with more and more experience.
New Lone Star Order
The script's flipped with Texas' two NFL franchises — and the thing's landed right on top of those flat Cowboys. Jones is guaranteeing that Garrett will not be fired, but rather than signal stability like Jones hopes, it's coming across as the stance of a stubborn egomaniac who just can't stomach admitting he got it wrong.
Garrett can't manage the clock, inspire the players or come up with a creative gameplan, but he's the right man for the job? What's supposed to be one of the most prestigious jobs in sports?
Jones is a few years away from becoming the new Al Davis, a once smart-hiring owner who stubbornly refuses to stop messing up his team.
OK. See you next midseason, which is about how long the Garrett guarantee will be good for. But then, the Texans should have at least as many playoff wins over the last 15 years as America's Team does. That would be one.
It's almost like the Cowboys are cursed. And maybe, they are. They're certainly still hounded by the premature firing of Wade Phillips, a key figure in the shift in Texas' NFL power. I wrote after Week One how Jerry Jones made an arrogant mistake on Phillips, one that could be seen in how Rob Ryan's defense collapsed against the Jets while the Texans' looked transformed against the Colts.
And hordes of Cowboys fans angrily wrote outraged comments about the analysis being premature, confidently predicting that Ryan's Dallas defense would be great. Sixteen weeks later, where are we . . . right where Week One pointed. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning absolutely torches that Dallas' D for 346 yards and three touchdowns, not that this is anything new for the Cowboys. Not anymore.
The only question is: How are these Cowboys going to be embarrassed next? In the last game of the regular season, it comes by way of the hurdle.
Dallas cornerback Terence Newman gets hurdled by two different Giants in the first half — a half in which Dallas is shutout. When the opposing team has more cornerback hurdles than you do points, you know it's a bad night.
With the entire season on the line for both teams, the Giants are clearly more confident and more prepared. No wonder why Foster decides to embrace the fact that Giants defensive end Justin Tuck has stolen his Namaste bowing on-field celebration move, one that Foster has been doing since he burst onto the scene as an MVP candidate last season.
"Justin tuck, namaste," Foster tweets after the Giants' pummel the Cowboys. "The light in me, recognizes the light in you. #Namaste my brother."
Winners tend to seek each other out. Which means you shouldn't expect Foster to become Twitter buds with any Cowboys anytime soon. Let the losers whine in peace. There's some philosophizing to do.
"I know I'm just a chess piece," Foster says when asked about the decision to rest him for Texans' meaningless finale. "I understand the game."
On this strange, ground-shifting final Sunday of the regular season not all losing locker rooms are created equal.
"We don't want to just get in," Texans receiver Kevin Walter says in one of the happy ones. "We want to win games. We want to get to the Super Bowl.
"That's still our goal and we're not any less confident in it."
Confidence does not live in the Cowboys' formerly arrogant world. Not anymore. Maybe, the 'Boys can dominate the 2020s.