ARLINGTON, Texas — Survival is the ultimate priority, and after that, any form of football progress would be a welcomed bonus. Such is the current desperation state of the Dallas Cowboys.
On Sunday afternoon, however, let's forget the progress stuff. Progress still ain't happening. Instead, the Dallas Cowboys spent the day working real hard, even working overtime, on mere survival.
And despite more than one sweaty moment when it appeared the Cowboys were about to be voted off the NFL island, they scrambled around, hung in there repeatedly, and finally produced a 23-20 win over Cleveland.
Hello, survival, at least for a few more days.
He'd deny it, but I'd wager a case could be made that more than once on Sunday, Jerry Jones had visions of a Sean Payton or even a Mike Holmgren (who was in the building) dancing across his brain. A Cowboys loss in this one could easily have meant head coaching doomsday for Jason Garrett, such is the current urgency for his team.
Maybe you noticed, in your Sunday disgust, that the Browns are a 2-8 outfit. Maybe you've also noticed that the 5-5 Cowboys don't appear to be separating themselves from the bottom of the league. Could it be that's where the Cowboys deserve to be, grouped with those at the bottom of the league?
On this day, yes. The Cowboys fit the low-rent neighborhood. They weren't moving on up, not against the Brownies.
And what Sunday also represented was the opening of a three-game homestand for a team in a must-must-must win situation against three bottom-feeders. Well, one win later, here comes the Redskins on Thursday, with Philly to follow in two weeks.
Officially, the Cowboys remain very much alive in the NFC East race, particularly with what at least appears to be this very favorable stretch of schedule. But the eyeball test, as evidenced in the extremely close call over Cleveland, remains extremely blurry.
Asked in his postgame session, if the win represented progress or survival, Garrett answered but didn't answer. “I think it is a really important win,” he said. “You know, a Hall of Fame pitcher told me a long time ago you have to somehow win a game when you don't have your best stuff. I don't think we had our best stuff today, but we found a way.”
For the record, the pitcher in question is Roger Clemens. No, Clemens is not in the baseball Hall of Fame. “But he has the record to be,” Red J said later, smiling. Yeah, well, except for the juicing stuff.
Anyway, the Cowboys don't have enough juice to style-point any kind of win. Take them anyway you can get them.