- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- Disgust and disappointment dripped from 10-year veteran Jason Witten after his team got its tail kicked Sunday afternoon.
"That's not Cowboys football," Witten said.
Are the true Dallas Cowboys the bunch of talented tough guys who opened the NFL season by beating the defending Super Bowl champions on the New York Giants' turf? Or was Sunday's sloppy, soft performance while being punked by the Seattle Seahawks a return to reality for a franchise heavy on hype and light on playoff success since the '90s dynasty died?
Really, the up-and-down ride so far this season is the epitome of modern-day Cowboys football.
The Cowboys are wildly inconsistent from week to week but painfully predictable from year to year. They're glitzy enough to keep being hyped, yet just good enough to get their fans' hopes up and break their hearts.
This is a team that can impose its will against the world champions one game, and get beat up by a team with four consecutive losing seasons, a rookie quarterback and a patchwork offensive line the next week.
This is a team that can pull off an amazing comeback on the road and have a historic choke job at home a couple of weeks later.
In the end, America's Team is about as average as can be: 121-121 in the past 15-plus regular seasons -- and an awful 1-6 in the playoffs during that span.
That's Cowboys football these days. It's a far cry from what the Cowboys want to be.
The Cowboys are sick and tired of being the most entertaining mediocre team in football.
Just listen to the leaders who have lived this for several years.
Witten, one of the most prolific tight ends in NFL history, says he wants to puke when he wakes up every morning because the Cowboys have only one puny playoff win in his career. Tony Romo, the quarterback with the second-highest passer rating in NFL history, has come to readily embrace his legacy being defined by championships or lack thereof. DeMarcus Ware, one of the premier pass-rushers of all time, would swap every sack he's recorded for one Super Bowl ring.
Coach Jason Garrett has given the Cowboys a clear picture of what they need to be to accomplish their mission. Those words echo throughout the Valley Ranch locker room.
The Cowboys consider themselves a tough, relentless, physical, smart, poised, competitive, balanced, talented, tight-knit team. That's the identity they're determined to establish.
"Identity is an ongoing thing," Garrett said. "It's an ongoing thing for players; it's an ongoing thing for a football team. At times, we've done a really good job playing to that identity, and other times we haven't, but it's emphasized to our team a lot and we're trying to get better and better in that."
It doesn't get any better than their season debut.
The goal-line stand against the Giants personified the toughness and relentlessness the Cowboys expect to define them. The door-slamming drive that night by DeMarco Murray, Romo and the rest of the offense displayed the kind of poise that could have made the difference for the Cowboys last season.
That win, while far from a perfect performance, was a big step in establishing the standard for the Cowboys to be legitimate contenders.
And then the Cowboys got knocked on their butts, literally and figuratively, stinking like rotten fish after having 11 days to prepare for the Seahawks. They shot themselves in the foot with drops and turnovers in the first half, and got blasted by the Seahawks in the second half.
It was the most pathetic showing by the Cowboys since they quit in Green Bay, the final straw that got Wade Phillips fired and Garrett given the reins.
"Hey, look, I'm not here to convince y'all or anybody else what this football team is going to be," Witten said. "I believe we got the guys that are going to do it. Ultimately, we laid an egg."
How can a team look so good against the Giants and so bad against the Seahawks? That's the maddening thing for the NFL's most entertaining mediocre team.
Until proven otherwise, that's Cowboys football.
Season's up-and-down ride is epitome of modern-day Cowboys football.