2008 will be widely regarded, one would imagine, as one of the most forgettable seasons in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.
It was no secret that year--in part due to the HBO cameras which followed the team through training camp--that the team fancied themselves Super Bowl contenders, if not favorites. This created a reputation for that squad, whether truly justified or not, as a group of entitled superstars riding an ill-founded high horse into the regular season.
What happened next was more or less a 17-week study in underachievement and a little bad luck, punctuated by a season-ending 44-6 whipping by the Eagles in Philadelphia. Now, after exorcising these demons somewhat with three victories over those Eagles in 2009, the last of which was their first playoff win in 13 years, the team is intent on never returning to such a potentially-harmful mindset.
"I think there's been a mentality from two seasons ago, especially last season when we started really slow, but everybody wasn't thinking about the Super Bowl, they weren't thinking about off-the-field problems," said linebacker DeMarcus Ware this weekend. "Everybody was focusing on the team and getting comfortable with everybody in the locker room, and you saw how that carried over--we made the playoffs."
Indeed they did; in an atmosphere marked by less drama--and absent of Terrell Owens, Tank Johnson and Pacman Jones, all of whom were let go at the end of the previous season--Dallas made an uncharacteristic late season push to make the playoffs and bring home a decisive win in the wild card round. Now, Ware and the other veterans hope to build on this success.
"But, last season that helped so we want to let that carry over into this season," Ware continued. "Be subtle, be patient, don't get out there and try to draw attention to yourself, just get out there and play."
"Be a team player."