Sometimes, every once in a great while, a rivalry born from time, triumph and torturous losses bubbles to the surface and again morphs into one of the biggest games in the history of . . . man.
Unfortunately, this story is not about that game or rivalry.
NFL teams owned by Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder have a combined three wins entering Week 6 of the NFL season, their playoff aspirations somehow stoked by the Giants, an unfathomable 0-6, and the Eagles, playing Chip Kelly’s run-and-shoot-themselves-in-the-foot offense.
The NFC East, once the bruising, mano-a-mano example of grit and might in the NFL, is now for the taking. The problem is no one wants it.
It’s so bad that if Washington loses to the favored Cowboys and falls to 1-4, the thought is Mike Shanahan’s forlorn team still will not be declared a team with no playoff hope.
Because if the Eagles lose at Tampa Bay earlier in the day, Dallas-Washington is for the division lead, the way it was in last season’s finale when Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris crushed the Cowboys’ playoff hopes and won Washington’s first division title in 13 years.
I mean, other than 1-3 and 2-3 records, it’s almost the same thing.
Just listen to WTEM (980 AM), on which a Friday promo intoned, “THE GREATEST RIVALRY IN SPORTS,” the way a tractor-pull announcer says, “SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! GRAVE DIGGER WILL TURN THE FAIRGROUNDS INTO A M-M-MUD PIT!” This sounded very disrespectful to Sox-Yankees, Duke-Carolina, Ohio State-Michigan, Australia-New Zealand (rugby) and India-Pakistan (cricket).
Until you realized Dallas and Washington met in the postseason as recently as, oh, 30 years ago. Or that when ESPN named the rivalry the NFL’s greatest it was actually talking about the years 1970-1983.
But in the District, Maryland and Virginia, where there are many Cowboys fans, this is still, of course, “Dallas Week.”
While in Dallas it is referred to as, “We Blame Romo Week.” Actually, check that; that’s every week in Dallas.
Tony Romo has a remarkable ability to find the other team’s players in the nick of time. As evidenced by his game-turning interception against the Broncos last week, Romo is uncanny at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
So while Washington, which often features a secondary that can’t cover a saltine cracker, is bracing for a Cowboys quarterback coming off his first 500-yard passing day in the NFL, Dallas is bracing for a bigger, internal matchup: Romo vs. His Evil Twin.
Don’t tell anyone around here, but the Giants have actually grown into the Cowboys’ bigger rival over time, supplanting the 49ers sometime around the mid-1990s. Also, this might further depress the burgundy-and-gold legions: There really is no such thing as “Washington Week” in Dallas anymore.
“I haven’t been at Valley Ranch this week, but it seems that designation disappeared sometime after [Jimmy Johnson] left,” Ed Werder replied via social media after I asked ESPN’s thoughtful, Dallas-based bureau reporter of the rivalry’s current intensity.
(Ed is actually at a slightly bigger donnybrook Sunday, Patriots-Saints: Brady-Brees, Belichick-Payton, Spygate-Bountygate — for all the marbles in the “To Hell With Goodell” Bowl.)
Either way, Romo vs. Griffin has the potential to bring back the days of Staubach vs. Sonny and Billy, just as DeMarco Murray and Morris have the potential to bring back the days of Riggo vs. Dorsett — provided they both play another 10 years and rush for more than a combined 10,000 yards.
Tyron Martin vs. Brian Orakpo is not exactly Russ Grimm vs. Randy White or Joe Jacoby vs. Ed “Too Tall” Jones. But work with us.
Dexter Manley crushing Danny White’s ribs, Clint Longley crushing Washington’s soul, the way Roger the Dodger did in December 1979 when he threw two touchdowns in the final 2 minutes 20 seconds for a miraculous, 35-34 Dallas win.
Thirty years ago was that NFC Championship Game, when RFK roiled and rocked and Darryl Grant ended up on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he high-stepped an interception return into the end zone, a play that sealed a trip to the Super Bowl.
If you go back that far, you can throw out the records for this one. No, really. At a combined 3-6, just throw out the records.
For more by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.
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