Anyone who has flown frequently in their life has likely experienced that moment in the middle of a flight when it feels like the whole shebang is coming to an end.
A storm rages outside the windows, the cabin shimmies like it's about to bust apart at the seams and you look around wide-eyed in some kind of futile attempt to have it all make sense. When you're looking, you probably catch sight of the unfazed flight attendants and, if you're anything like me, calm right down. There's something about the people who do this every day being fine with everything that makes it harder to believe something catastrophic is wrong.
Jerry Jones is not playing the role of the unfazed flight attendant this week. The loss of Sean Lee for the season and the continued absence of DeMarco Murray have taken their toll on the perpetually optimistic Cowboys owner. He's not looking forward to playing the Giants without two stars and he's feeling a lot shakier about the Super Bowl talk he engaged in throughout the offseason.
"Against this team, regarded by many and arguably the best team in the NFL, we wanted all hands on deck. It is disappointing not to have two players of that caliber," Jones said. I’ve said all along I think this team has an opportunity to be a contender but the one exception that I made was … sitting as we’re sitting right now health wise, injury can make a difference and does in the NFL. It’s been my experience when you do have a situation like this, others will step up. Others on the field at different positions will compensate."
The worst case scenario for this Cowboys team is that these injuries somehow get viewed as a "Get Out of Jail Free" card for the rest of the team. The quality of the opponent and the injuries on the roster can't be part of the thought process or else that's exactly what's going to happen.
It's hard to say how much of Jones' chatter makes it into the heads of the players in the locker room, but it is exactly the wrong message to send even if no one's paying any attention. The right message is the one that Jones closes with, something that Sunday's opponent makes clear.
Both of Tom Coughlin's Super Bowl teams were in places during the season when there was some reason to fold up the tents. One of them came in the fourth quarter at Cowboys Stadium last year, as a matter of fact. Their resiliency paid off in each season and the message from Coughlin and his bosses never veered close to the self-pity that Jones is playing with right here.
The injuries are rough, but there's never been a team that made it to the Super Bowl without navigating bumps in the road. These are the Cowboys' bumps and failure to navigate them can't be put on the players who aren't there.