For the past half-century, most of the seismic events — until this season — have usually favored the Cowboys, who lead the series by a whopping 62-41-2. Don Meredith (who followed LeBaron at quarterback), Tom Landry, Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman were all ill omens in Washington. Before Joe Gibbs’s 1982 team, Dallas finished ahead of the Redskins 17 of 19 years. That domination, especially in national acclaim, was so large that D.C. built an outright loathing for Dallas; several fine Redskins teams got little credit in the shadow of “America’s Team.” Cowboys condescension fed the fires, too.
But the pain’s been shared — well, some. After Gibbs got the upper hand, the Redskins finished ahead of the Cowboys nine of 10 years. That’s always the pattern. Parity never lasts long. Somebody’s got the whip and knows it.
Right now, the ground is shaking again. Sure feels like it’s D.C.’s turn.
Ever since the Redskins built a 28-3 halftime lead on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas, then won 38-31, all warning flags have been flying for the ’Boys. Sunday night, the teams meet with the NFC East title at stake. It’s the favored Redskins who have the six-game winning streak and home-field edge, too.
Most of all the Redskins have Robert Griffin III, a native Texan who threw four scoring passes in his Dallas debut. This may be just as bad news for Dallas as the arrivals of Staubach and Aikman were for Washington.
In a one-game sample, any factor may be decisive. Sooner or later, the Redskins’ plus-14 turnover differential may dwindle, and the Cowboys (minus-10) may reverse their profligate ways. That alone might ignite a Dallas win.
The Redskins lead the NFL in rushing, love play action and bootlegs plus read options out of the pistol formation. So weather shouldn’t bother them much. The Cowboys, historically lousy in games with temperatures below 40, may face a kickoff in freezing temperatures.
Whatever Sunday night brings, though, there’s a larger context. The talents and limits of their quarterbacks have defined the Cowboys. Texas isn’t football patient. At 32, Tony Romo is in his ninth year as a Cowboy, seventh as a starter. He has a 55-37 career record and is 1-3 in the playoffs. He’s a known inconsistent commodity.
Like Meredith, Craig Morton and Danny White, who won one title in 16 years combined as Cowboys starting quarterbacks, Romo has reached that point where Dallas signal callers either own the town because they’re “winners” or are put on the city’s tasting menu because they’re the problem.