Today is January 28th, 2016. Twenty years ago was January 28th, 1996.
That day was a special one as the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 in Super Bowl XXX. The win gave the Cowboys their fifth World Championship and their third in four years… establishing them as a “dynasty.”
America’s Team has spent each day of these last twenty years trying to get back to the top of Success Mountain like they were out at Sun Devil Stadium. Unfortunately for Cowboys Nation they haven’t reached another Super Bowl or even an NFC Championship Game in that time.
The NFL, and NFC, have changed a lot in that time. The conference for which the regular season was simply a formality as it ultimately came down to a Dallas Cowboys/San Francisco 49ers showdown has seen different changing of the guards over the last 20 years. Who would have thought back then that the powerhouses would one day be the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers?
A common thread among all Cowboys detractors is that Dallas fans tend to “live in the past.” Well as Taylor Swift once eloquently said, the “haters are gonna hate hate hate hate hate,” but they do have a little bit of a point.
The Dallas Cowboys are one of the most successful NFL franchises that there is, but twenty years is a pretty significant time without a title. This ongoing one is the longest drought between Super Bowl appearances for the Cowboys as the previous record was 14 seasons (between Super Bowls XIII and XXVIII).
Many people say that the Dallas Cowboys are to the NFL what the New York Yankees are to baseball and the Los Angeles Lakers are to basketball. Well I’ll have you know that the longest drought between title appearances for those two franchises are 15 and 9, respectively. The current Cowboys drought has both of those beat.
As that drought continues to grow, so will the competition within the conference. In looking at the NFC, consider that every team in the conference has been to the Super Bowl in this twenty year span except for: Detroit, Minnesota, Washington and Dallas.
That’s right. In 20 years we are just one of four teams from the entire conference, that’s 16 total teams, that hasn’t at least made a trip to the big dance. Even if every team took turns we would have had a Super Bowl appearance by now, alas that’s not how this game works.
Not only have 12 NFC teams been to a Super Bowl since we have, but five of them have been there multiple times. Three of those are particularly sad when you really think about them.
The Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, and Carolina Panthers have all been to the Super Bowl multiple times since the Dallas Cowboys have. What’s truly gut-wrenching is that all three have done so with completely different regimes. Confused? Allow me to explain.
The Packers went to the Super Bowl and won it one year after the Cowboys last did – 1996. They went back again, another win, in 2010 with 100% of their roster and coaching staffs being different. The same can be said for the Seahawks of 2005/2013 and the Panthers of 2004/2015. That means that these three teams went to the Super Bowl, completely reset their roster and primary staffs, and made it back to the Super Bowl… all before the Cowboys could even make it to one.
It’s a startling realization for the loyal members of Cowboys Nation, but it’s one that we need to keep in mind. This is one of the proudest franchises throughout the entire National Football League, throughout all of sports! The future does appear to be quite bright, but we can’t live or dwell in the past.
During the conference championship games last week I tweeted that I was rooting for the Patriots to win the AFC. I had someone tell me that they didn’t want the Patriots to potentially match us in Super Bowl wins. Keep in mind that New England held zero World Championships when we won our fifth twenty years ago today and are now only one behind.
While I would never root for anyone to supplant the Dallas Cowboys in any kind of record book or notoriety, this is the exact mentality that will keep us stagnant. Instead of rooting for no one else to equalize the success that we’ve had, the last of it being twenty years ago today, we should be focused on adding to it ourselves.
Let’s go get number six.