- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

The once-feared Dallas Cowboys not only aren't America's Team anymore, they're barely the Lone Star State's.
Coming off consecutive losing seasons for the first time in 11 years, the Cowboys opened 2002 with a loss to the expansion Houston Texans and have won just four of 10 games since while scoring an NFL-low 12.6 points.
Dallas does give up the NFL's third-fewest points, but the defense has dropped from fourth in yards allowed last year to ninth despite adding Pro Bowl free agents La'Roi Glover and Kevin Hardy and drafting All-American safety Roy Williams during the offseason.
And while the Texans are averaging more than capacity at brand-new 69,500-seat Reliant Stadium, the Cowboys are averaging 3,000 no-shows at 65,639-seat Texas Stadium going into tomorrow's game against the Washington Redskins.
The Cowboys, who captured three Super Bowls from 1992 to 1995, haven't won a playoff game since 1996, a longer drought than all but two NFC teams. Only Carolina, Cincinnati and San Diego have worse records over the last three seasons than Dallas' 14-29.
"It's a monumental task for us to win two in a row," said third-year coach Dave Campo, who has done so just once since winning his first three games in 1999 after moving up from defensive coordinator to replace the fired Chan Gailey.
Things are so bad that in beating visiting Jacksonville 21-19 last Sunday, Dallas' totals of 21 points and 405 yards marked season highs. Rookie Chad Hutchinson, the fifth quarterback of the last two seasons, threw for 301 yards the first 300-yard game by a Dallas passer since Troy Aikman's last such effort more than two years ago. Hutchinson gained 87 of his yards while going 6-for-6 on a 99-yard touchdown drive.
"I'm not ready to say Chad is the future, but he did some things that had to impress you," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said of the 25-year-old ex-major league pitcher. "That was a drive that maybe we look at as the foundation of [Hutchinsons] career."
Despite spending the past four years playing baseball, Hutchinson is less prone to interceptions and sacks than unpolished predecessor Quincy Carter. Veteran receiver Joey Galloway said the strong-armed Hutchinson showed in training camp that he had the tools to be the starter and it was just a matter of time.
However, Hutchinson's progress hasn't been helped by the season-long absence of deep threat Rocket Ismail or by the loss of All-Pro guard Larry Allen six weeks ago to a season-ending ankle injury. Dallas has started nine line combinations with the current quintet including two rookies and waiver-wire pickup Ross Tucker about to stay together for a third straight week.
The Cowboys couldn't even beat lowly Seattle at home five weeks ago in the game when halfback Emmitt Smith, the lone active Cowboy from the glory days, became the NFL's all-time leading rusher. With Smith possibly due to retire at 33, Campo is trying to look ahead.
"We have to start to prepare for the future, and [backup halfback] Troy Hambrick a younger player with some juice is one of the guys we want to see perform," Campo said.
But is Campo part of that future? During the four-game losing streak that preceded last week's victory, Jones said he wasn't planning to change coaches. However, with Dallas a likely underdog in each of its final five games, a 4-12 record might force his hand.
"One thing I have in my favor, if anything, is the fact that I made it through three head coaches as the defensive coordinator," said Campo, who arrived in Dallas with Jones in 1989. "One of the reasons it happened is that Jerry watched our films, was on the practice field and saw what we were doing defensively. It's the same with me as a head coach. Jerry's very active in the personnel area. He sees some of the problems that we have. I've been a Cowboy for 14 years so I'm a Cowboy whatever decision is made. I guarantee you that we're going to go down swinging."


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