Whether you grew up calling the Seminole Chant or are still waiting for Seattle’s NBA return, sports fans from every corner of the United States can tell you who ‘America’s Team’ in the National Football League is. Since 1979, the Dallas Cowboys carried that distinction with the challenge of being a model for leadership and success. Since the days of coach Tom Landry and quarterback Roger Staubach however, the Cowboys fell way too far from those standards.
Dallas is the perfect balance of success and mediocrity. From 2000 to 2018, the franchise won almost the same number of games as it lost, and they haven’t reached the NFC Championship since their last Super Bowl in 1995. During that time, one organization dominated the pro football landscape, and the New England Patriots have made their case to overtake Dallas as ‘America’s Team’ up in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Leading into the 1979 season, NFL Films Editor-in-Chief Bob Ryan was putting together the season highlight film of the Dallas Cowboys from the prior year. For the video, Ryan wrote the famous words that legendary narrator John Facenda would then use to give birth to ‘America’s Team’ when he said this:
“Cowboy goals are lofty: win the National Football Conference title, then the Super Bowl. This is usually attainable. For as their fans well know, the sum total of their stars make-up a galaxy. Their record is envied. And their innovations are copied down to the last glamorous detail. They appear on television so often that their faces are as familiar to the public as presidents and movie stars. They are the Dallas Cowboys, America’s Team.”
— John Facenda, NFL Films
If NFL Films’ definition of ‘America’s Team’ is an envious record, glamorous innovations, and movie star players, then you can go ahead and consider the Cowboys the exact opposite of that in the present day.
Owner, General Manager and Acting Warlord Jerry Jones hasn’t solved Dallas’ dilemma since Barry Switzer resigned as head coach following the 1997 season. Coaches including Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, Bill Parcells, Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett haven’t found more than moderate success. Quarterbacks from Quincy Carter to Tony Romo are criticized more often than almost any professional athlete. Still, none of that ‘America’s Team’ spirit translated into major wins.
On the other hand, mad scientist Bill Belichick, quarterback icon Tom Brady, and one of the most-liked owners in sports, Robert Kraft, just keep winning. The New England Patriots give opportunities to players who are forgotten and misused by other teams. New England’s red, white and blue colors won the Super Bowl the same year America was coming together immediately following the attacks on September 11, 2001.
The Patriots are named after the colonists who rebelled against the British and helped declare America’s independence in 1776.
I mean, c’mon.
The Patriots have six Super Bowl wins, 16 AFC East division titles, and too many of wins to count over the last two decades. They’re successful. They never seem to decline and include everyone who wants to work hard and become a winner. Isn’t that what being American is all about?
Other NFL teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers make cases for the title as well, but they were never affiliated with it in the first place. Both play in unique markets and boast Hall of Fame credentials, but ‘America’s Team’ is about being the most popular, consistent, and well-liked organization in pro football.
Both clubs fall way short of the Patriot standard in recent years, just like the Cowboys.
Sorry, Dallas. The jig is up. You’ve proved nothing to Cowboys fans that you deserve being ‘America’s Team’ over what happened 40 years ago. Much to the chagrin of every fan who isn’t rooting for New England, that distinction has been passed to the Patriots and their fanbase as the most popular team in American sports.