- Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPNDallas.com
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IRVING, Texas -- When Jerry Jones says the Dallas Cowboys can evolve into contenders, two words come to mind: unadulterated poppycock.
We probably should be used to this from the only NFL owner who moonlights as a panties salesman because he's known for hyperbole. We're talking about a man who wears rose-colored glasses while he reads Zig Ziglar books about motivation.
Jerry is an eternal optimist, a man who admittedly always sees the glass as half-full. The worst thing that ever happened to the Cowboys was the 9-7 New York Giants making a run to the Super Bowl last season.
Now, Jones concerns himself only with getting hot in time for the playoffs with a team that traditionally fades as the weather turns cold and the magnitude of the games increases.
The Giants made their championship run last season because they have an elite quarterback, a dude I guarantee would have run more than one play in the final 26 seconds in Dallas' 31-29 loss to Baltimore last week. And the Giants pair Eli Manning with the game's best four-man pass rush, which puts quarterbacks under duress and forces them into mistakes.
If you're honest, you know the Cowboys wish they had a roster full of players with the Giants' intangibles.
"Yeah, every man in this room should believe that," Jason Witten said when asked whether the Cowboys could evolve into championship contenders. "If you don't, get out of here.
"But you have to go prove it every week. Did the Giants think it at 7-7? That's the way this league goes. I'm not saying that's the formula for doing it. You have to still win games. We feel we have the men in this room who can do it. Now you have to go show it."
Frankly, I'm not even sure Jerry really believes it when he says the Cowboys could evolve into contenders. After all, he's basing it primarily on the terrific performance from the offensive line, which is how the Cowboys generated 481 yards of offense in Baltimore.
No team facing the Ravens had ever rushed for more than the 227 yards the Cowboys piled up. But you also have to note the Ravens' raggedy run defense is among the worst in the league. Kansas City rushed for more than 200 yards against Baltimore the previous week, and will you really be shocked if Houston rushes for 300 yards against Baltimore this week?
Jerry is a genius marketer, and he's made the Cowboys the most valuable franchise in sports, according to folks who know that sort of thing.
What he's doing right now is marketing hope.
He has an angry, disillusioned fan base that is frustrated with its coach, its quarterback, its defensive coordinator, its special-teams coordinator and its defense.
Most of all, it's a fan base frustrated by an owner who won't cut ties with a GM who is 122-123 with one playoff win since 1997. Even Stephen Jones wouldn't have lasted that long if he were the GM.
But Jerry is never going to fire himself.
Talking about it in any way, shape or form is an utter waste of time.
So to take attention away from his last-place team in the NFC East, Jerry goes on his radio show this week and says this team can evolve into a champion this season.
Then again, this is the same marketing genius who told us he told fans in training camp to make sure they came to watch the Cowboys "kick the Giants' [expletive]."
Jerry wants to make sure the $29 party passes to the stadium get sold and the building remains full. Still, it's a dangerous game to sell hope to a fan base.
The backlash can powerful.
If we're talking strictly mathematics, the Cowboys need eight wins in their last 11 games to essentially guarantee themselves a playoff spot with 10 wins.
Beat the Panthers, and Jerry can continue this absurd talk about evolving into a champion.
Give away the game for any reason, and we can start the conversations about the draft because the Cowboys will be home for the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.
Jerry Jones' absurd contender talk would ring hollow with loss to Panthers.