ASHBURN, Va. - After waiting for his time to come, Dallas Cowboys coach Dave Campo continues to wait.
Now, the first-year head coach, who spent the past 11 seasons on the Cowboys' staff as a defensive assistant and coordinator, is waiting for his first victory. He will get his third shot at his first win tomorrow night against the Washington Redskins (1-1) at FedEx Field.
The two previous tries turned into disasters. The losses were different in how they happened, but both rank high as the worst kind of defeat.
Last week, the Arizona Cardinals rallied from an 11-point, third-quarter deficit to score the winning touchdown in the game's final two minutes. Dallas had led the nationally televised game most of the way before Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer hit receiver Frank Sanders to give Arizona a 32-31 win.
The opener was an embarrassing 41-14 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in which the Cowboys gave up a franchise-high 306 rushing yards. On top of that, Campo heard criticism for playing free-agent receiver Joey Galloway well into the fourth quarter of what was a blowout. Galloway tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and is out for the season.
"I really think we can have a good football team this year," Campo said. "I really did not feel like we would be 0-2, and we probably shouldn't be 0-2. So that gives me hope. I really feel like our team has a chance, has some weapons to do some things. We are obviously looking forward to playing on 'Monday Night Football' in Washington. Hopefully, that will springboard us."
He started as a defensive assistant for two seasons, then secondary coach for four. Campo took over the defense in 1995, when he coached it to a No. 9 overall ranking. The defense ranked third and second, respectively, the next two years, but Campo was passed in favor of Gailey when Barry Switzer was fired after the 1997 season.
"You are very familiar with this coach," Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith said. "He has been here for as long as I have, if not longer. You know him from before. You watched him come up through the ranks. He knows the personalities of the players and what our abilities are.
"You respect him for that. When he makes a decision, you can understand why he made the decision because he knows who he can count on and the areas we have to build upon."
Campo is the coach of a Cowboys team lacking much of its previous star power. Wide receiver Michael Irvin retired before the season. Cornerback Deion Sanders was released in a cost-cutting move and signed with the Redskins. And Troy Aikman will miss tomorrow's game after suffering his ninth concussion in the opener.
"I think he is a great coach," Sanders said of Campo. "I hate to see things happening for him like it is.
"He is a people's coach. They'll get it together soon."
Campo said he feels the Cowboys still have the mystique that comes with five Super Bowl wins. He said opponents play their best games against Dallas, though his team has yet to play its best game.
"Once I'd been in the league for a while, I wanted to have this opportunity. I wanted to get an opportunity to use my experience over the years in running a program," Campo said. "You never know if that is going to happen. You have to be at the right place at the right time. I felt like this is the right place at the right time."