- The Washington Times - Friday, October 12, 2001

The Dallas Cowboys, winners of three Super Bowls in the early 1990s, are a mess.
Among NFC teams, only Chicago and Detroit have gone longer without a playoff victory than the Cowboys, and the prospect of that changing this season are extremely dim with Dallas off to an 0-4 start.
Dallas has beaten Washington seven straight times heading into Monday's game with the visiting Redskins. But otherwise, Dallas is just 17-34 in its past 51 games against all other opponents.
"We knew we were at the end of a cycle from the standpoint of having veteran players starting to get to the end of their careers," said Dave Campo, who took over as coach last year after 11 seasons as a Cowboys defensive assistant. "We mortaged a little bit just to stay competitive. With three Super Bowls and [five other] playoff appearances during the 1990s, that was a good move. We're going to pay a little bit [for that] this year. But we clear up [plenty of salary cap room] next year. We feel we can be competitive."
Dallas actually has been competitive in three of its four games, losing 10-6 to Tampa Bay, 32-21 to San Diego and 28-21 to Oakland, all of whom have winning records. The fourth loss was a 40-18 blowout at Philadelphia (2-2), which made the playoffs last year, as did the Buccaneers and Raiders. All four opponents are ranked in the top 12 defensively.
"In the situation we're in, you're looking for small steps," Campo said. "We feel like we're making some progress in some areas. When we've been at least even in the turnover battle, we've been in the game. If we don't turn the ball over, we'll be in every game."
However, the Cowboys have coughed up a league-most seven fumbles and an NFL-most 13 turnovers. Both are on pace to shatter Dallas records. In the second quarter against the Eagles, the Cowboys were outscored 26-0 (the worst quarter in their 42 years), lost four fumbles and had a punt blocked. The four fumbles came in the span of six plays.
Emmitt Smith, the second-leading rusher in NFL history, is averaging just 52 yards a game and 3.4 per carry, and he hasn't added to his record 145 rushing touchdowns. He is one of just four players (with safety Darren Woodson, center Mark Stepnoski and guard Larry Allen) who was on the last Dallas team to win a playoff game. Galloway, who cost the Cowboys two first-round draft picks in a February 2000 trade with Seattle, has 14 catches, 172 yards and two touchdowns in the five games in which he has been healthy.
And then there are the quarterbacks. Future Hall of Famer Troy Aikman's career came to a sudden end last December on a concussion-causing hit by Washington's LaVar Arrington. Dallas signed free agent Tony Banks in March to replace Aikman, but the former St. Louis and Baltimore starter was cut in August (before signing with Washington) as Campo turned the offense over to second-round pick Quincy Carter. The rookie has been ineffective and also hurt twice, so now the job belongs to Anthony Wright, who spent most of last season on the practice squad. Wright is rated 28th among the NFL's 31 starting quarterbacks.
"We felt that as long as we had Troy, we had a chance to build around him," Campo said. "We thought he had four or five more years. With the onslaught of the situation with Troy's [ailing] back and his [series of] concussions, it just didn't work out. Anthony has made tremendous strides. Quincy hasn't had an opportunity to do that. We think he's got everything that you need, but until it has been done, you don't know for sure."
Campo was on hand when Dallas went 1-15 in 1989 and 3-7 in the first 10 games of 1990. The young Cowboys were in the playoffs the next year before beginning their Super Bowl run. Those 1990 Cowboys had nine future Pro Bowl players. Will defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban or offensive tackle Solomon Page eventually develop into that kind of standout?
"We have put together two good draft classes," Campo said. "If we put one more together, we'll have a good base. It's going to help us that we're having to play a lot of those guys right now. If we can get the quarterback thing squared away … coupled with the ability to do a little more in free agency, I'm looking at moving forward."
That hasn't happened in Dallas since 1998.

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