IRVING, Texas – Does optimism cause a football team to overlook its weaknesses? Or does it help a football team overcome them?
The Dallas Cowboys stand accused of having long suffered from what Dallas-coach-turned-FOXSports-analyst Jimmy Johnson calls “optimistic infection.” Johnson insists the Cowboys puff their chests after wins and start thinking “Super Bowl” … and then find themselves distracted on the way to yet another 8-8 season.
It is my contention that Jimmy’s finger is pointed directly at owner Jerry Jones, whose buoyant, colorful and controversial style has him overseeing a personal worth of $3 billion and personal ownership of three Super Bowl rings.
Combine Jones’ upbeat position of how he keeps his eye on the prize with the franchise’s pedigree and yes. Dallas talks more about Super Bowl contention than any other franchise with one playoff win in the last 16 years.
“I am optimistic and will always be optimistic,” Jones said in a visit on 105.3 The Fan. “From the standpoint of the franchise, from the standpoint of public posture, I think that’s what that is. That’s looking at it with the glass half-full rather than half-empty. That won’t change.”
It’s worth noting that before Johnson because “Jimmy Jenius” he was an enthusiastic college coach – with a buoyant, colorful and controversial style. And as a player, he had a nickname earned due to his sunny will to succeed as an undersized defensive lineman who captained the University of Arkansas to a 1960 national championship.
“Jimmy was known as ‘Jimmy Jump-Up’ when we played on the team,” said Jones, another Razorbacks captain. When he got knocked down, he jumped right back up, so nobody understands better how you want to be optimistic when you compete.”
There are reasons for fans’ optimism in DFW. In trying to avoid being “the same-old Cowboys,” 2-1 Dallas has just 16 penalties (compared to 31 at this time last year), a turnover margin of plus-3 (it was minus-3 last year after three games) and has 16 sacks (compared to six at this time last year).
Offensively the Cowboys are coming off a 175-yard rushing game from DeMarco Murray, believe Dez Bryant will be worthy of a first-team Pro Bowl selection at receiver, and have Tony Romo ranked fifth in the NFL with a 103.9 QB rating and a 6-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Dallas is at San Diego on Sunday and if the Cowboys win, they will be 3-1. Since 1990, teams that start 3-1 have a 65-percent chance of making the playoffs.
But here’s the antidote to “optimistic infection”: So far, Cowboys victims’ combined record is 1-6. If they beat the Chargers, Dallas’ victims will have a combined 2 -9 mark. Therefore, even as the Silver-and-Blue-Colored Glasses Crowd might start crowing “Super Bowl,” there will be critics – and months and months more of work to do to qualify for the postseason.
“I do understand what (Johnson) is talking about,” Jones said. “There’s no good from getting carried away and anointing our team a Super Bowl champion, sitting here at 2-1. Not in the NFL today.”