OXNARD, Calif. -- Nothing sells like a negative story about the Dallas Cowboys. And there have been plenty this off-season—suspensions, injuries, Tony Romo’s waistline. The national picture of this team is a talented but fragile offensive group and an undermanned defense that could be in the mix to win the NFC East, but only if they miraculously remain healthy.
But that’s not necessarily the vibe in Oxnard, a sleepy farm town just north of Los Angeles. Cowboys training camp has been a sun-spackled oasis from what most people think could be a tumultuous season. There’s something that happens in Oxnard that can actually make you believe everything could go right.
Which got me thinking…what if the Cowboys are really good this year? What if they’re better than good? Super Bowl good? Sounds a bit ridiculous, right? Like something out of a movie. America’s Team back on top after 21 years.
Wait a second, we’re in L.A.. How about pitching the studios the greatest possible story of the 2016 season: the Dallas Cowboys winning Super Bowl 51.
Best-case scenario: I have my ticket out of this sports business and the beginning of a lucrative screenwriting career. Worst case: It’s the Cowboys. Really, what’s the worst thing that can happen?
Here are four pivotal scenes from the Cowboys screenplay I plan to shop around Tinsel Town:
BLAZING HELMETS: THE IMPROBABLE TALE OF THE DALLAS COWBOYS' RETURN TO SUPER BOWL GLORY
INT. DALLAS RESTAURANT BACK ROOM
We begin in a cigar-smoke filled backroom of a Dallas restaurant. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, played by Tommy Lee Jones, listens as his personnel evaluators throw out names.
We need a pass rush. We gotta take Joey Bosa.
Jalen Ramsey is the next Deion Sanders.
This is our chance to trade up for a franchise quarterback.
Jerry leans back in his chair, takes a big drag off his cigar.
Men, what was the one difference between last season and 2014?
VARIOUS ANONYMOUS SCOUTS
What do you mean, Jerry? Tony Romo was hurt.
Well, that’s true. But dig a little deeper.
The various scouts and executives mumble to themselves. Finally, Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones, played by Jonah Hill, speaks up.
Daddy, what was it?
It was the running game, son. In 2014 we ran for 147 yards a game. Last season we ran for just 118 yards a game. It took the pressure off Tony. It kept the defense off the field. It’s the key to everything. We’re gonna draft a running back.
Scouts take a moment staring at each other. Then Stephen starts a slow clap. The scouts slowly join in and build to a cacophony of applause.
He’s done it again.
Let’s go get us some Derrick Henry.
I think he means Ezekiel Elliott.
EXT OXNARD, CALIF., COWBOYS TRAINING CAMP
The pepper trees sway in the breeze on a sun-dappled late afternoon in early August. Jerry Jones and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, played by Ed Harris, stand watching an 11-on-11 two-minute drill.
Hardy’s gone. Rolando McClain is suspended for 10 games. DeMarcus Lawrence is out for four. Sorry, Rod. I haven’t given you much to work with.
Jerry, don’t worry about it. I’ve done a lot more with less. Back when I was a high school coach, there was an outbreak of the measles. I had to convert a punter and a kid from the A/V club into rush ends and we got six sacks. I can work with this group.
I know, you’re the best. But I keep thinking about last year. We had a league-worst eight turnovers. That’s after we had 31 in 2014. That’s a drop from second to last. I can’t have it.
I know, Jerry. Just watch this.
Backup QB Dak Prescott fires a pass over the middle that goes off Devin Street’s fingertips. The ball dribbles down the field and instead of letting up, five defenders chase the ball and pounce on it. Cornerback Deji Olatoye picks it up and is led down the field in a convoy.
I’m having the guys treat any ball on the ground like it’s a turnover. They’re eating, drinking, breathing turnovers.
What about the pass rush?
I know they’re no-names. But I see something in guys like Tyrone Crawford and Cedric Thorton and David Irving. Irving’s hurt, but he’ll be back and better sooner than you think. Also look at some tape of Benson Mayowa when he was on the field for the Raiders last year.
Alright, Rod. I trust ya.
Right then, Sean Lee chases a runner 5 yards out of bounds and reluctantly pulls up.
I tell ya, No. 50 is ready to go. This year, Sean is going to stay healthy. We all are. I feel lucky.
Kick returner Lucky Whitehead runs up.
You called for me, boss?
Jerry and Coach Marinelli laugh heartily.
Oh Lucky, that never gets old. Now go return the opening kickoff for a touchdown against the Rams on Saturday night.
EXT. OXNARD, CALIF., COWBOYS CAMP
Everyone’s head turns toward a punt drill in the northwest quarter of the practice fields. Someone is moving through the crowd of players, pumping everyone up. Then No. 88 Dez Bryant, played by Idris Elba runs on the field. Even though he’s a star receiver, he’s practicing as an option at punt returner. But before he lines up, Dez sprints over to the Cowboys’ employee controlling the music blaring over the loudspeakers. Future’s “Where Ya At” plays at a mildly deafening level.
Turn it up, baby. Showtime!
The entire camp is bouncing as Chris Jones uncorks a mammoth punt. Bryant has to back up and actually ends up falling on his face as he catches it over his shoulder. But Bryant isn’t deterred, standing up and slashing right through the defense. Head coach Jason Garrett, played by Damian Lewis, stands with his arms folded talking to Stephen Jones.
Give it to me straight, Jason, is Dez gonna be the same guy after having foot and ankle surgery last January?
He looks pretty good to me.
Why is he out there?
You tell him to sit. I can’t even get him to sit down.
Alright, I’ll buy that. But who else is gonna catch the ball? Terrance Williams didn’t get it done when he had to be No. 1 last year. Jason Witten is 34.
I know, I know. But wait til you see the rookie back get out here. He’s gonna catch it. Terrance looks great this summer. He’s catching everything. Witten looks like he’s 28. Well, maybe 31. And besides, I trust your dad, we’re gonna stay healthy. I feel lucky.
Lucky Whitehead runs up.
You call for me, Coach?
Nope, we’re good. Keep up the good work.
EXT. OXNARD, CALIF. WHITE TENT ON SIDE OF FIELD
Reporters crowd around a makeshift podium.
Finally, Romo’s talking. He hasn’t been up here much all summer.
What’s the difference? We all know what he’s going to say at this point.
Can you believe this is his 13th camp?
I’m surprised they’re letting him climb up those stairs to the podium and risk a lower-leg injury.
Romo, played by Paul Rudd, ambles up to the podium with a four-day growth, completely relaxed.
REPORTER # 1
Do you remember your first preseason game?
I can remember Bill Parcells meeting me on the 30-yard line after I made a mistake. We hadn’t moved the ball much. I had a shuttle pass that hit off the ref and got intercepted. I don’t think he liked that.
Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones stand 30 yards away, watching the Romo scrum.
Tell me again how we’re gonna keep Tony healthy.
We have the best offensive line in the NFL. We have depth at running back. We’re going to get out to leads with the run game and Tony’s not going to have to drop back as much.
Man, this team has a smart GM.
The two men laugh heartily. Camera pans out and somehow Lucky Whitehead is standing next to them laughing as well. Wayne’s World-type dissolve and the following graphic rolls over the screen, Star Wars style….
JERRY JONES’S MASTER PLAN DID INDEED WORK. TONY ROMO DID NOT SUFFER AS MUCH AS A HANGNAIL. NOR DID DEZ BRYANT OR SEAN LEE. EZEKIEL ELLIOT LED THE LEAGUE IN ALL-PURPOSE YARDS. YOUNG DEFENSIVE BACKS MORRIS CLAIBORNE AND BYRON JONES HAD BREAKOUT SEASONS. THE DEFENSIVE LINE GOT TO THE QUARTERBACK ON MANY OCCASIONS. SEASON-ENDING INJURIES TO CAM NEWTON, AARON RODGERS, RUSSELL WILSON AND CARSON PALMER CLEARED THE WAY FOR THE COWBOYS TO REACH SUPER BOWL LI, WHERE THEY PLAYED THE TEXANS. IN TEXAS. IT WAS THE FIRST ALL-TEXAS SUPER BOWL. DESPITE A FIVE-SACK PERFORMANCE FROM J.J. WATT, THE COWBOYS SEALED THE SUPER BOWL ON A LUCKY WHITEHEAD KICKOFF RETURN FOR A TOUCHDOWN IN THE FOURTH QUARTER. THE LOMBARDI TROPHY RETURNED TO DALLAS.