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by Mike Fisher    Tue, Dec 20, 2005, 03:39 PM

What is wrong with the Cowboys?

It's obvious: They're too old. And they're too young.

You may not have caught this in Tuesday's Dallas Morning News -- it's hard to read a newspaper while you're throwing yourself off a bridge, eh? -- but the Cowboys' "obvious'' problem was printed right there. In black and white. (And red all over, once your hurtling body finally escapes this miserable football life and squashes itself into a bloody stain onto the pavement below).

On the sports section's page 1, there's lead columnist Kevin Blackistone detailing the "obvious'' fault: "Experience, or lack of it, is finally taking its toll on the club. ... Having to rely on youth at this level is a disadvantage. ...''

On the sports section's page 2, there's lead columnist Gerry Fraley detailing the "obvious'' fault: "Parcells should know that older players wear down late in the season. Despite that, he stocked the roster with aging players. The folly of that decision is showing on the field.''

So there you have it. Obviously.

The Cowboys are too young. And the Cowboys are too old.

As they sift through the wreckage of what was once a 7-3 season, an NFC East lead, a two-game demolition of the defending-champ Eagles and a control-your-own-destiny march to. ... maybe, destiny, we might also make the following "obvious'' evaluations:

The Cowboys are too short. And the Cowboys are too tall.

The Cowboys are too slow. And the Cowboys are too fast.

The Cowboys are too skinny. And the Cowboys are too fat.

My insolence is not meant as disrespect toward colleagues Blackistone and Fraley, who are quite frankly simply lunging for straws along with the rest of us. What do they know?! What do we know?!

We might, however, cast a glance of disrespect toward the head coach as he reaches his pudgy paws toward the same indecisive straw pile. I've monitored virtually every Parcells press conference this year, and attended some, too. And as contradictory and disingenuous as two newspaper columnists can be, Parcells can be more so -- all emanating from the same brain, from the same mouth, sometimes in the same paragraph.

Um, OK. So, maybe it's not so obvious.

On Monday, some of the players were bemoaning the trip to D.C. because "you don't see that many blowouts in this league.''

Cowboys, not that this is much consolation, but. ... you've lots of reasons to be embarrassed by 35-7. ... but one of them is not the oddity of it.

We've said it in this space before, and we'll say it again: The NFL has become a "Slot Machine League.'' You pulls the handle, you takes your chances. That goes for good teams beating bad, and it goes for lopsided outcomes, too. What constitutes a blowout in this league? Well, 28 points sure does, as you learned by watching Washington throttle your Cowboys, 35-7 on Sunday. For the sake of my argument, can we make it 17 points? A blowout is 17 points, let's agree.

In this year's NFL, an as-of-today contender has been "blown out'' by 17 points or more 15 times! Tampa Bay's pretty good, but it lost 34-14 to Carolina and 28-0 to New England. So maybe New England's above this? Nope. New England lost 40-21 to Indy, which also did it to Pittsburgh, 26-7. Minnesota's a contender, but it lost 30-10 to Atlanta, 38-13 to Carolina, 37-8 to Cincinnati and 28-3 to Chicago. So maybe Chicago is above this? Nope. Cincy did it to Chicago, 24-7. Carolina also did it to Atlanta, 24-6. And Denver did it to KC, 30-10. And Cleveland did it to Miami, 22-0. Hey, the Giants are good, right? Not in a 45-23 lost to San Diego, they weren't. So the Giants are bad? Nope. They beat somebody 36-0.

Who was that somebody? Washington. Which just beat Dallas 35-7.

On an average of once a week this season in the NFL, a contender in December has suffered a blowout. It could be argued that the Cowboys, who hadn't been victimized that way all year, were simply due. It was their turn.

I'm not denying that Dallas is in a bit of a tailspin here. ... "if by "tailspin,'' you mean the description of what your body is doing falling from that ledge. My colleague Norm Hitzges has some great numbers on Cowboys yardage in the first eight games and Cowboys yardage since. He says that Dallas was averaging 357 yards gained and 283 yards allowed after eight games, a net +74. And that since then, Dallas is averaging 279 yards gained and 330 yards allowed. Meaning the Cowboys are 78 yards worse on offense, 47 yards worse on defense and in total, for a net of 125 yards per game fewer than in those first eight games.


And now, you want to pinpoint the reasons why this is happening?

There are some "obvious'' theories.

The Cowboys are too tight. And the Cowboys are too loose.

The Cowboys are too strong. And the Cowboys are too weak.

The Cowboys are going to the playoffs. And the Cowboys will never win another game.

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