Gil LeBreton

History keeps Cowboys and Washington Redskins close

The Cowboys need a breakthrough game from new quarterback Dak Prescott, left, and running back Ezekiel Elliott in their first taste with the rivalry against the Redskins.
The Cowboys need a breakthrough game from new quarterback Dak Prescott, left, and running back Ezekiel Elliott in their first taste with the rivalry against the Redskins. rmallison@star-telegram.com

It was Redskins Week here last week, in case anyone under the age of 40 didn’t realize it.

Dallas versus Washington.

Tom Landry’s team against George Allen’s.

Cowboys and Indians, the NFL’s politically incorrect version.

But I will spare you the hackneyed recollections from the glory years of the football rivalry. Truth is, I’ve forgotten most of them. It’s been that long since this was anything more than just another game on the Cowboys’ East Coast goodwill tour.

No spying on the Cowboys from a nearby hotel. No funeral wreaths delivered to the locker room. No more singing Happy Birthday to Joe Theismann.

Yet, T-shirt printers in Washington, Philadelphia and New York still do a brisk business in “Dallas (insert rude verb here)” shirts whenever the Cowboys come to town.

They hate the Cowboys, except for the 6,000-or-so-plus who always show up in their Dez or Romo jerseys.

At least one history lesson, therefore, deserves a brief retelling:

Tex Schramm, the Cowboys’ first president and general manager, properly reasoned from his days in the network television that the franchise would benefit greatly from being aligned with the major eastern TV markets.

Which is exactly what happened. Despite being 21 years removed from their last Super Bowl, the Cowboys still can claim NFL relevancy. For a 4-12 team, they continue to get a disproportionate share of 3:25 p.m. and night games. The noon kickoff Sunday is one of only five on the team’s schedule.

Compare that to baseball’s Texas Rangers, marooned in the American League West. In most years, the Rangers will play at least 28 games in the Pacific time zone. At least 20 of those will end at or near midnight.

The previous owner, Tom Hicks, reportedly had a chance to move the Rangers into the AL Central, but declined it for the promise to play a handful of interleague games each season against the Houston Astros.

The Astros are now in the American League, rendering the original intention moot. And the Rangers continue to be largely out of sight, out of mind, to the East Coast media markets.

Not so the Cowboys, who have fan splinter groups everywhere, particularly in foreign ports such as Washington.

Winning an occasional few games would swell that number even more, of course.

The Cowboys let one slip away against the New York Giants last weekend and likely can’t afford to go down 0-2 in the division standings.

Despite quarterback Kirk Cousins’ inconsistencies, the Redskins should be able throw the football all day Sunday to Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder, especially if the Cowboys’ Orlando Scandrick isn’t at 100 percent.

But a better indicator of the day is likely to come in the running game, stifled a week ago by the Giants’ big defensive line. Washington should not be nearly as effective against the Cowboys’ offensive line.

If rookie Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris, formerly of Washington, can run the football Sunday, new quarterback Dak Prescott could have an early breakthrough day.

Redskins Week may have failed to generate that old-time buzz.

But Prescott, Elliott and the promised re-emphasis on Dez Bryant should be more than enough.

The feeling here is that it won’t be nearly as close, but the prediction is Cowboys 27, Washington 23.

History prevails.

Cowboys at Redskins

Noon, Sunday, KDFW/4

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