2014 is the closest the Cowboys have been to becoming Super Bowl champions once again. That season unfortunately crumbled to pieces in the divisional round when Dallas lost at Lambeau Field in a game full of drama. We moved on to 2015, which was going to be their year but then injuries, especially Tony Romo's, left the Cowboys in a season of defeat.
After that, 2016 was supposed to be it. That was going to be the season in which finally, America's Team would return to glory and hold the Lombardi Trophy up in the sky. With 36-year-old Tony Romo and veterans like Sean Lee, Jason Witten and more nearing their final years in the NFL, the window was closing.
#9's comeback was bound to be epic. Sadly, he never had the chance to prove it.
Romo would take the field for the first time in a long time in Seattle during the third week of the preseason. And less than two minutes into the game, on a second down, Cliff Avril would bring him to the ground and crush every Cowboys fan's heart.
It didn't seem like much at first. Heck, there were even reports that he could've gone back into the field and it wasn't until the next day when the seriousness of his injury was announced. It was one of the most painful moments Cowboys Nation has had to endure in recent history.
Little did we know, that moment would change the Cowboys' path more than we imagined. Dak Prescott stole the starting job, led the team to the #1 seed in the NFC and was named Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Little did we know, that moment put the Dallas Cowboys in limbo.
When clubs are close to making a legit Super Bowl run, the offseason becomes primarily about adding key pieces that are missing in order to get the squad to the next level.
The Dallas Cowboys have had two great seasons in the last few years. One took place under the reigns of veterans Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray in 2014. The other, more recent one, happened when Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott played their NFL rookie seasons in 2016.
The two campaigns share some similar aspects, when you think about it. Both years, Dallas had one of the most dominant rushing attacks in the league. Both seasons, the Cowboys fell short of the much-desired NFC Championship Game and both years featured gut-wrenching defeats against the Green Bay Packers.
But truth be told, 2016 wasn't meant to be played under Dak Prescott.
Let's go back in time, when the Cowboys' beloved quarterback Tony Romo went down in Philadelphia while playing the second week of the 2015 regular season. The season that was meant to be a revenge tour around the NFL after the Cowboys' 2014 campaign, was dead before the second game of the year was even over.
And so, 2015 became a year to forget for Cowboys Nation. Dallas would end up netting only two more wins, landing the 4th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Which brings us to one of the hottest debates in Cowboys Nation to the date. The Ezekiel Elliott pick. When Dallas was on the clock a couple of years ago, the pick was going to come down to two possibilities. Running Back Ezekiel Elliott or Cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
We know who they drafted. Fans will forever argue whether it was the correct call or not, but they usually forget what that pick was all about. The Cowboys weren't Dak Prescott's team yet. It was Tony's team.
Drafting a premium running back like Zeke was meant to replicate the team's offensive success in 2014. Think about it, when DeMarco Murray had his career-best year, we saw Romo's best performance. Taking Zeke with the 4th overall pick would provide an even stronger running game during his final years playing football.
With Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Jason Witten, the Cowboys were built for a Super Bowl run. Perfect running attack behind the finest offensive line in the league paired with the ever-underrated passer.
2016, with Romo being back and healthy, was supposed to be the year for Dallas.
But it wasn't. Once he was sidelined, Dak Prescott stepped in and never handed the job back. Now, don't get me wrong. When I say the moment in which Romo was injured put the Cowboys in limbo, I don't mean letting Prescott continue as a starter was the wrong decision.
As much as I love Romo as a fan, playing Dak was the right call to make. But we can't deny that they're in a way, stuck between a "win-now mode" and a bit of a rebuilding mode. Not that the Cowboys are fully rebuilding, but they just let Dez Bryant go in their quest for a "Dak-friendly" offense.
Not to mention the veteran players who may not be playing next year or in two years. How long until Jason Witten and Sean Lee decide to hang up their cleats?
Heading into 2018, the Dallas Cowboys will try to "win now", but they do have a lot young talent in different positions and could become a powerful team for some years. However, this could be the season in which they climb out of the limbo. The coaching staff's jobs probably depend on it. Even Dak will have something to prove in his third season in the pros.
There's a lot at stake for this Cowboys team in 2018. Hopefully, this time around, it ends up actually being their year.
Dak Prescott Impresses, Draws Compliments All Minicamp Long
Dak Prescott stood before the media Thursday in a Stetson Cowboy hat, answering questions about his upcoming contract extension.
“I’ve got my cowboy hat on, so I’m a Cowboy, we’ll say that.”
Prescott has cemented himself as the franchise quarterback of America's Team, and now it's time for the franchise to pay him like it. Set to earn roughly $34 million per year (according to recent rumors/reports), Prescott is going to be a very rich and comfortable man in the near future.
But, for now, he still plays under his fourth round rookie contract. You wouldn't be able to tell by watching him on the field, however. Though it was just minicamp, Prescott was impressive as ever over the last couple weeks of practice, earning praise from all levels within the organization.
Veteran Jason Witten complimented both Prescott's anticipation and accuracy, saying his throws have been "off the charts" at minicamp. Prescott himself said that this is the best he's felt since he's entered the league, and it certainly makes sense for this to be the case.
"Is it three years under my belt or just seeing defenses a whole lot more clear, being quicker and faster in everything I want to do, having great teammates around me? Who really knows the answer, but I feel great. I feel confident, and my teammates do, as well.” - Prescott to DallasCowboys.com
If Prescott was ever going to be comfortable, hungry, and ready to go, this is likely the time that it would happen. He has three relatively successful seasons under his belt, and ended 2018 on the best stretch of his career. He is the unquestioned starting quarterback for this team, and has the backing of every key decision maker in the building.
Prescott now has an offensive coordinator who he has not only worked closely with (in some capacity) since he entered the league in 2016, but is also being lauded for his creativity as an offensive mastermind. His quarterbacks coach, Jon Kitna, has been receiving similar praise for how he can coach up Prescott and get his footwork consistent, to help him "throw it through a Fruit Loop."
The time is now for Dak Prescott, and it's encouraging to see how he is responding to this increased pressure and responsibility. Then again we should have no doubt that he will respond positively, as he as throughout his entire young career.
Whenever faced with adversity, Prescott has answered the bell. Now he has all the supporters he needs, and just needs to prove them right.
Does RB Ezekiel Elliott Have A Chance At NFL MVP?
Who is the Cowboys best player?
As a running back, it's quite possible that Elliott is both the best of that bunch and the least important to the team's overall success. NFL.com's Adam Schein disagrees with the latter statement, however, placing Ezekiel Elliott among his top ten contenders for 2019 NFL MVP.
"I think the Cowboys are going to challenge for the Super Bowl in 2019 -- and I think Zeke fuels this team. When Elliott runs for 95-plus yards, the Cowboys are 19-4; when he falls below that benchmark, they're 9-8." - Adam Schein
Schein's prediction will no doubt make Cowboys Nation swoon, but does Elliott really have the opportunity to compete for an MVP award?
For one, this would require the Cowboys be among the best teams in the league this season. It's quite possible, as they did win 10 regular season and 1 playoff game a year ago, but it will have to happen once again for Elliott to be considered.
Next, Ezekiel Elliott would have to put up incredible numbers. Well, it's safe to assume this will likely be the case if condition one is met. Elliott is going to get a lot of opportunities to touch the ball each game, and finding himself among the league's rushing leaders has never been an issue for the young running back. Especially if the team has a lead and is running the ball to kill clock.
Even if both these conditions prove true, though, Elliott will still have trouble getting himself in the real MVP discussion. These awards tend to go to certain positions, and running back is not among that list. If Dallas has such a successful 2019, and their offense is clicking, it's more likely Dak Prescott will be the one contending for that MVP honor.
I know to some it sounds crazy, but Prescott will likely need to be closer to MVP level than Elliott if the Cowboys are to contend in the way Adam Schein suggests in his article.
So, likely, Schein should have named Prescott among his top ten MVP contenders, not Elliott.
Amari Cooper Says He’s Focused On Football, Not His Next Contract
It seems like all anyone has talked about this offseason is who the Cowboys should re-sign, and how they can go about doing so.
Wide receiver Amari Cooper, of course, is heavily involved in those conversations. The Cowboys used their 2019 first round pick to trade for the Pro Bowl wide out last season, and Cooper's emergence helped to turn their struggling offense around immediately.
In just 9 games with the Cowboys last season, he caught 53 passes for 725 yards and 6 touchdowns. He quickly gained the trust of quarterback Dak Prescott, and exhibited a chemistry with the young passer that no one else really has to this point. Outside of maybe Cole Beasley in 2016, perhaps.
While the football world seems to be focusing on what Amari Cooper's contract will look like after 2019, the receiver himself claims to be solely focused on the upcoming season. Cooper spoke with ESPN's Todd Archer about this very subject, emphasizing where his mind lies at this time.
"I just handle my business...I'm more anxious about camp and actually playing football." - Amari Cooper.
Amari Cooper has just one year left on his contract as he plays under the fifth year option from his rookie deal. Cooper will make $13.9 million this season, putting him behind some of the league's other WR1s like Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, and DeAndre Hopkins.
There had been speculation around whether any of the Cowboys left with just one year on their contract would hold-out through parts of offseason activity, but Cooper alluded that it never seemed to cross his mind.
"I just want to get better and I love football. That's why I'm here" - Cooper.
Of course, Amari Cooper will play a huge role in the Cowboys offense in 2019. Combining him with a second year version of Michael Gallup, and new versatile threats like Tony Pollard and Randall Cobb, will help make the Dallas passing game as multiple as it's been in years.
The Cowboys will eventually need to get Amari Cooper locked up long term, but for the time being it seems like both he and the franchise are more focused on what will happen on the field in 2019 than in the negotiating room next Spring.
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