Ghosts. The perfect word to describe what’s been hanging over this franchises head for the last 24 years. In the ’90s, the Dallas Cowboys won three Super Bowls in a four-year span, establishing themselves as arguably the greatest dynasty in NFL history. The glory days of Aikman, Emmitt and Irvin have long gone and now it’s time for new Cowboys excellence. The standard has to be re-established.
It’s not like the Cowboys haven’t had great opportunities recently. In 2007, lead by Tony Romo, the team went 13-3 and were the number one seed in the NFC. Many would argue this was their best chance to win a Super Bowl since the ’90s, but it, unfortunately, ended in a divisional round loss to the eventual champion New York Giants.
2009 saw another division title and an 11-5 record. After a beatdown of the Eagles in the wild-card round, they were crushed 34-3 by the Vikings.
In 2014 they went 12-4, but it will probably go down as the most heartbreaking playoff loss in Cowboys history, the now infamous “Dez Caught It” game vs the Packers at Lambeau Field. To the team’s dismay, it wasn’t called a catch and the Cowboys suffered a devastating 26-21 loss.
2016 saw the arrival of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott and a 13-3 season that shocked the NFL. Having the leagues leading rusher and Offensive Rookie of the Year wasn’t enough to get past Rodgers and the Packers again, ending another promising season without even one playoff win.
Why is all this important? Simple, this fan base is filled with a generation of fans that only know playoff heartbreak and disappointment. Only old videos and stories of Super Bowls past. The constant ridicule of other fans across the NFL landscape, as their teams win titles, and this team only wins headlines. No consistent history of winning in the ‘2000s, only the failure of unfulfilled expectations, which makes their desire to see this organization reach the top again even greater.
No longer can this fan base be satisfied with talking about the memories of teams from decades ago. They have the ingredients to compete at the highest level the NFL has to offer.
Defensively, the Cowboys finished 7th overall in 2018. They have a top 5 pass rusher in DeMarcus Lawrence, who has registered 25 sacks over the last two seasons, more than Khalil Mack and Von Miller. Lining up opposite him will be Robert Quinn, a former All-Pro defensive end acquired during free agency via trade. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch make up the best young linebacker duo in the NFL. Cornerback Bryon Jones is coming off a season in which he made his first Pro Bowl and received his first All-Pro selection. Chidobe Awuzie is a rising star at corner as well, and he will only rise higher once the injury bug completely goes away. Anthony Brown is a very solid nickel corner, critical in this pass-happy era of football. Lastly, there’s Free Safety Xavier Woods. A headhunting specialist that can separate receivers from the ball at will, while also possessing coverage skills.
Offensively, the Cowboys are loaded as well. Dak Prescott has won more games than any quarterback not named Tom Brady since 2016. Not only that, he set an NFL record for completion percentage in the first three years of a quarterbacks career at 66.1 percent. All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott is regarded by most as the best running back in the league. Those thoughts are supported by his two rushing titles in his first three seasons. Pro Bowl Wide Receiver Amari Cooper changed life for the Cowboys when he was acquired via trade in 2018. Speed, quickness, and agility, he has it all. Michael Gallup was solid his rookie year with 33 receptions for 507 yards as the second option. I see him as a breakout candidate in 2019. Randall Cobb was signed in free agency to sure up the slot receiver spot, a hole left by Cole Beasley. Fortunately for the Cowboys, he can also line up on the outside, giving new Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore plenty of options in the passing game. Last but not least, there’s the return of future Hall of Famer Jason Witten at tight end. This provides stability at the position and a mentor to the potential heir to the throne Blake Jarwin.
The pieces are firmly in place on both sides of the ball. The ’70s and ’90s are a distant memory. It’s time for this era of Cowboys fans to have their moment in the sun. At some point, this organization has to get fed up with being a punchline. We’re talking five Super Bowl titles here and countless Hall of Famers, a rich tradition of success, that somehow came to a standstill. Now, the focus has to be repeating as NFC East champions first and foremost. Then, get this team past the divisional round for the first time since 1995. Simply put, the NFC Championship Game should be the floor for this upcoming season, with raising the franchises sixth Lombardi Trophy being the ceiling. The next step towards restoring the glory in Dallas needs to happen in 2019.