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The Dallas Cowboys Can’t Keep Living in the Past

It's hard to believe that in the year 2020 we're still talking about , , and but that's the current reality for the . As offseason chatter surrounds these three veterans, I can't help but think that Dallas needs to do a clean sweep and stop clinging to past stars.

The biggest story of this offseason is the contract of , and rightfully so. He is the present and future of the organization, as were and last year. Along with Dak this year are the contracts for and , both key pieces for the team's long-term success.

Beyond the players, a massive change in the has dominated the news cycle. is gone after over a decade with the team, and not to mention almost every that was under him in 2019. It's now 's show.

2020 marks the chance for a true new era of Dallas Cowboys football. 2016 felt like the start of one, going from to Prescott and Zeke. But the constant feature of Garrett as brought with it some consistent disappointments.

With this fresh start before us, does it make since to keep hanging on to past stars with waning effectiveness?

Dez Bryant hasn't been with the Cowboys since 2017, let alone played a snap of real football, but talk of a return to Dallas is one of the hottest current topics of our offseason. And, as the comments from this recent article show, are very split on the issue.

Jason Witten and Sean Lee are both in 2020 and fans seem split on wanting them back. The arguments abound about how much they should be paid and big the roles they would have should be, if they should return at all.

But I'm not looking to get into the individual merits of Dez, Witten, or Sean today. This is more about a larger question; why are some of us still clinging so hard to these yesteryear stars? What have they done for us lately?

Or, frankly, what have they ever done for us?

Jason Witten
Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten

I'm going to zero in on Witten for a minute because he's the biggest name of the bunch. Not only is Jason the best to ever play for the Cowboys but he's one of the best in NFL . He is the only one of these three players who should have no problem making the .

Jason Witten is the modern “Mr. Cowboy,” the guy whose and example the cornerstone of the organization for almost two decades. None of his contemporaries, even Tony Romo or DeMarcus Ware, can challenge his spot in franchise history.

But like Romo, Ware, Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, Dexter Coakley, , , (the , of course), , and plenty of other notable players we've had during this era, Witten is as guilty as any of them for the same lack of results.

The Dallas Cowboys have spent about 25 years trying to get back to glory and haven't even been to a Championship game. For all the individual greatness that some have brought to the table, it's been over two decades of general disappointment for the organization.

I'm not saying Witten didn't do his part, same with Bryant, Lee, and others I mentioned. All were championship-worthy players at times.

But this is about the franchise. This is about sending a message that the Dallas Cowboys are done with mediocrity.

At this point in their careers, sadly, neither Dez, Jason, or Sean can provide much more than average performance. They might flash their talent on the occasional play, but we have to look at this from the “Moneyball” perspective. What are they going to bring every game and ever down?

Rest assured, none of Bryant's past touchdowns, Witten's vast collection of catches, or Lee's interception highlights are going to help us in 2020.

Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy Impressed with Quarterback Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy and QB Dak Prescott

Now I'm not saying that Dez couldn't help as a fourth WR, or that Witten or Lee couldn't be useful backups. But analysis of their potential in those roles should be based solely on what they can do now, not muddied by any nostalgia or difficulty letting go.

Even if their on-field roles on the team are reduced, these are all players whose presences and voices in the locker room would be larger than those roles generally deserve. And with a new generation of Cowboys players needing to take on leadership roles, that could create some confusion.

This is especially true now with McCarthy as head coach. Just as he's made a point to purge almost all of Jason Garrett's former assistants from the staff, there's logic behind moving the past leaders and stars from the roster.

The new era can't be stymied or sabotaged by relics from the last one.

Could keeping Witten or Lee, or reuniting with Bryant, turn out to be a good move? Sure, it's possible. But it will have nothing to do with their past legacies as Cowboys players.

The danger for us in our evaluation, and even the Cowboys , is allowing feelings to get in the way of objective analysis. We all have to look at these guys as if they'd never played a down in Dallas; comparing them to other available talent based solely on 2020 potential.

What could Blake Jarwin have done this year without Witten eating up his targets? What might a turn into if he doesn't have Dez crowding him out next season?

If we keep hanging on to these old guys then we'll never know. And in the process, the Cowboys may keep themselves stuck in the same middling place they've been in since 1995.

Jess Haynie
Jess Haynie
Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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