The Dallas Cowboys have it all. They’ve got the flashiness and the Texas grandeur. They’ve got the resources to host training camp in Oxnard, California, and to hire a yoga instructor named Monica to teach players new poses. They have the brand power as Dallas is the most valuable team in the NFL.
Yet, as head coach Mike McCarthy points out in Episode 2 of HBO’s current season of “Hard Knocks” featuring the Cowboys, the team is missing something: personality.
“We’re not in this for f***ing being popular,” McCarthy barks at the team during a team meeting early in Tuesday night’s episode.
Personality is not absent from the group on an individual level. Dallas boasts many characters. CeeDee Lamb, for example, is a quintessential Cowboy and star wide receiver trying to live up to the legacy of the No. 88 on his jersey. He has been having an electric training camp, and is just as interesting off the field.
As Lamb packs his sneakers into designer luggage, he admits his affinity for candles. “I’m high on smells,” he says. He reveals in the episode that he’s a dog person, too — a Siberian husky and golden doodle await him at home.
Then, there’s Aden Durde, the defensive line coach from England. Like many of the players, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones finds his accent amusing. “I listen to him and he sounds like Winston Churchill,” Jones jokes. Durden has a unique backstory. He played football in England and has moved up the NFL coaching ladder as a part of several teams. The players seem to like him.
Ezekiel Elliott has been a big personality since he entered the league. That rowdy spirit hasn’t left the running back who is captured in several scenes of the episode jumping around and hyping up his teammates.
So when McCarthy spoke about personality, he meant the team’s collective one. He meant physicality. He meant winning.
The Cowboys struggle with that. While fourth-string quarterback Ben Dinucci played solid and threw Dallas’ first touchdown of the preseason in a game against the Cardinals, the Cowboys left Arizona with a 19-16 loss, their second in two weeks.
For a minute, it looked like they had it. Azur Kamara wishes that was the case. The linebacker who fled from Ivory Coast as a young boy, is a big fixture in the episode. Kamara was on Dallas’ practice squad last year and is trying to make the leap to the team.
At around 235 pounds, he’s undersized, as the show’s narrator points out. But he has a special moment against the Cardinals. He got a sack in what looks like a game-sealing play, but it’s canceled out because of a false start.
McCarthy looks confused at the end of the game, and Jones is visibly disappointed, a common sight over the past few seasons. The mediocrity persists.
Tuesday night’s episode emphasized that the allure of the Cowboys starts with the people in the organization, including its meddling owner who also serves as the president and general manager.
Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is an impassioned leader and family man. In one clip, he watches a seal in the ocean with his wife and children as they walk along the California beach.
Kamara also shares a moment with his family, who watches him play in his first NFL game. His mother’s joy radiates through the screen. “I’m clapping for my son,” she says when someone asks about her enthusiasm.
In the latest episode of “Hard Knocks,” the Cowboys pull at the heartstrings and they inspire laughs. While intriguing and entertaining, they’re here to play football. And they’re not winning. It’s the same story as last week.
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