The Super Bowl is two weeks away in New Jersey, but the real Super Bowl, at least for this season, is Sunday in Seattle.
No argument, right, on the 49ers and Seahawks being football’s two best teams? What’s there not to like about dynamic young quarterbacks, killer defenses, a hate rivalry fueled by a suddenly explosive divisional competition and two brash head coaches with egos bigger than nearby Mount Rainier?
So with the NFC championship on the line, earaches are guaranteed in a Seattle football yard famous for generating a constant tsunami of noise.
But enough already on the hardcore matchup way out northwest. Let’s talk instead about those deadbeat Dallas Cowboys.
Obviously, you are asking how in the name of Jesus Jones could the Cowboys be included in any conversation involving the 49ers playing the Seahawks?
Good question, but an easy answer.
Go back not one, not two, but three seasons ago — 2011 to be exact — and the Cowboys were better than either one of these clubs. That’s not opinion, it’s fact. And it was proved on the field.
So, a mere two years later, why has San Francisco already been to one Super Bowl and is one win away from a back-to-back trip? And in most all NFL power rankings, why is Seattle now considered No. 1 for the 2013 season and slightly favored (by 3 1/2 points) to knock off the Niners on Sunday?
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The answer in a minute, but first, let’s review the ongoing circumstances.
In 2011, Jason Garrett was a first-full-year head coach firmly establishing his credentials as the best 8-8 leader in the business. Also in 2011, Tony Romo was in the process of building credentials that would eventually enable him to become the richest 8-8 quarterback in the history of the NFL.
In the second game of the ’11 season, the Cowboys went to San Francisco, and won in overtime 27-24. Vegas had made the Cowboys a three-point favorite that day, but Romo had to overcome an early broken rib, then talk his way back on to the field, and was flat courageous in leading the Cowboys to the “W” column.
What did San Fran have, talent-wise? Well, basically the same potent defense, plus Frank Gore in the running game, and Vernon Davis as a game-breaking receiver.
Fast forward to November of the ’11 season. Seattle came into Arlington, with the Cowboys a huge 11-point favorite. Romo and the offense came up short of the end zone in the first half, but Tony got it going in the second half, and the Cowboys won 23-13.
Of note here, rookie running back DeMarco Murray also ripped off 139 yards against, yes, basically the same feared Seahawks defense, while Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, now a famous ball carrier, had 135 yards on 23 carries.
So with Lynch, Gore, defense, Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh, etc., all on the scene in 2011, what changed in two seasons to propel the 49ers and the Seahawks, while the Cowboys continued on their 8-8 way?
I told you, the answer is easy.
Colin Kaepernick as a first-year starter last season. Russell Wilson as a rookie starter last season.
Romo can’t take the Cowboys to the next level. Two kids have taken the 49ers and Seahawks to elite status.
Is that a knock on Romo? No, not exactly.
Romo has never had the advantage of a defense that can carry a team and win a game, or two games, or nine games in a season. Romo has also never had the advantage of a running game that can carry a team if necessary. Or maybe Romo doesn’t want a running game; take your pick.
But I did have a good laugh last week over the local reaction to the playoff games in the NFL. Why did the 49ers go into Charlotte and knock off the Panthers? Defense and running game was the local answer.
Why did the Seahawks beat New Orleans in Seattle? Defense and running game was the local answer.
Therefore, what do the Cowboys need? Defense and running game was the local answer.
I totally agree on both counts.
But when San Francisco and Seattle lost to the Cowboys in 2011, both clubs were potent defensively, and both clubs could run the ball. They were also both wandering around in the never-never land of the quarterback wilderness.
Then — boom — in the drafts of 2011 and 2012 both hit on dynamic young quarterbacks.
Defense matters greatly. A running game matters greatly. But if you don’t have a quarterback, it doesn’t matter.
For those of us who happen to think the Cowboys have a quarterback, or had one until Romo’s ongoing back ailments surfaced, it also hasn’t mattered.
Bottom line: Blame it on Jerry for screwing up the Cowboys.
The record shows for nearly two decades we haven’t been wrong yet on blaming Jerry. Why change now?