Playing Through

John Razook on preseason football, the curse of Barry Switzer, and the Texans' poor choice of a moniker

Playing Through
Illustration by Craig Staggs

The final score read 23-22, but if you watched most of last Friday night's preseason football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans, you probably felt, like me, that the game wasn't really that close.

The Cowboys, playing at home for the first time since last season's devastating playoff loss to the New York Giants, left their first team offense and defense on the field for most of three quarters. When Houston finally did mount an impressive fourth-quarter comeback, it was against Dallas scrubs and still came up 1 point short when a two-point conversion attempt failed.

There is not enough space in this column to go into the hideous details of why, exactly, the NFL preseason drags on as long as it does, hanging grimly over our heads like a black swirling cloud anxious to rain down doom upon player and fan alike. Simple economics – supply and demand – dictates that teams play four preseason games. There is ample opportunity for each team to overcome the near-certain disaster of losing at least one key player for the season.

In Friday's game, Houston wideout Harry Williams fractured the C3 vertebra in his neck and had to undergo spinal surgery. Injuries are as vital as statistics in telling each team's story for a season. Players get hurt. It is the law of the league and cannot be unwritten. Blood is demanded by the football gods, who are fickle with their rewards of glory.

Whoa, I'm getting off track, aren't I? My assignment was to write about the game, not wax philosophic about the cosmic necessity of injury in a football season. Stick to the game ...

I wish these babbling morons who called the game for CBS Friday night could have done exactly that. They couldn't shut up about Tony Romo, as though discussing the quarterback's life gave them some kind of fix. Come on, fellas, he went to Mexico with Jessica Simpson. Let's not turn him into Brett Favre.

Romo isn't the only storyline for Dallas this season, though. The curse of Barry Switzer still surrounds the Cowboys. Dallas hasn't won a playoff game since 1996 ... when Tony Romo was 16.

Wade Phillips is the fourth Dallas head coach since Switzer; Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, and Bill Parcells have all failed to deliver Jerry Jones a playoff win. Wade, son of Bum, failed last year when Dallas had its best regular season in more than a decade. A repeated failure will cost him his job.

Houston looked pretty bad for much of the first half Friday night but should continue to build on last season's progress. Matt Schaub leads what ought to be an effective offense, and rookie Steve Slaton looks to be a steal as the 26th pick in the third round of the '08 draft for the Texans, who are still seeking an elite running back in addition to a first-ever trip to the playoffs.

They should seek a better name.

"Texans" is pretty bad, and changing a weak team name seems a surefire way to find success. Ask the Tampa Bay Rays. They dropped the "Devil" from their name, and look where they are now.

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Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton, Harry Williams

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