The Dallas Cowboys have long prided themselves on being known as America’s Team. However, Jerry Jones‘ team is struggling to live up to that moniker, at least if the latest Hard Knocks ratings are any indication.
Hard Knocks has been a staple of NFL preseason for 20 years. The HBO program provides a unique window into the daily operations of an NFL franchise. It offers stories about unheralded players fighting for roster spots and, occasionally, star players making a stink about their contracts or status with the team.
Football fans typically yearn for the content that Hard Knocks typically provides. But the Cowboys are hardly attracting tons of eyeballs. So much for America’s Team.
Why are the Cowboys known as America’s Team?
The “America’s Team” nickname comes not from a current or former member of the Cowboys organization, but rather from the media.
Bob Ryan, former editor-in-chief for NFL Films, coined the term for the Cowboys back in 1978 as he put together Dallas’ season highlight reel. He noticed the Cowboys had a traveling fan base and plenty of followers on the road, hence the birth of the famous moniker.
Once upon a time, the Cowboys deserved such a nickname. Dallas made it to five Super Bowls in the 1970s, winning a pair of Lombardi’s during that decade. Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer coached the team to three Super Bowls in four seasons in the 1990s as the franchise regained its former glory.
It’s been a bit of a struggle for the Cowboys ever since. Dallas has yet to get back to an NFC Championship Game since it last won a Super Bowl in 1995. Jerry Jones remains one of the most mercurial and outspoken personas in sports, but he hasn’t built a consistent winner in Big D.
The Cowboys are likely hoping a healthy Dak Prescott will give them a shot to contend in the NFC this season. Prescott’s health features prominently in terms of offseason storylines, but the $160 million man hasn’t been able to attract viewers on Hard Knocks.
Hard Knocks ratings are way down from 2019
On the plus side, the Cowboys edition is getting higher ratings than the 2020 show featuring the Los Angeles Rams and LA Chargers. Then again, it probably shouldn’t have been challenging to top last year when accounting for the impact of COVID-19.
How does this version of Hard Knocks compare with 2019, then? Not well.
The Raiders, in their final season in Oakland, generated 719,000 viewers through the first two episodes. By comparison, just 295,000 viewers watched the first two episodes of the Cowboys season.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk noted the Cowboys have nothing close to the drama provided by the Antonio Brown saga during the Raiders season. That said, the uncertainty surrounding Prescott and the presence of a domineering figure like Jerry Jones aren’t enough to drive ratings?
Episode 3 was released Tuesday night and attempted to show some of the grandeur associated with the Cowboys franchise by displaying The Star, the team’s headquarters. Jones interviewed from a private helicopter.
Meh. Grandeur only means so much for a franchise with such little success in recent seasons. The Cowboys have lost their luster as America’s Team.
Which franchise most deserves the “America’s Team” label?
Tom Brady’s New England Patriots teams probably deserved the “America’s Team” label for the better part of the 2000s and 2010s. Of course, Brady is now in Tampa Bay. But the Buccaneers, despite being the reigning Super Bowl champions, aren’t exactly worthy of the distinction due to their lack of success before last season.
The Kansas City Chiefs might have the best argument. Kansas City has made back-to-back Super Bowls, winning the Lombardi Trophy in 2019. Patrick Mahomes is arguably the face of the sport. Success and star power matter here, and the Chiefs have both in spades.
Brady and the Buccaneers will absolutely lay claim to the title if they become the first repeat champions since the 2003 and 2004 Patriots. For now, though, Mahomes and Co. are “America’s Team.”
Jerry Jones and the Cowboys had their day in the sun. But this is a new era of football, and Dallas’ football franchise doesn’t have the same kind of global allure it once did.