If you ask a die-hard Cowboys fan which recent season felt the most like “the year” Dallas would win it all, you'll get one of two answers. It's either going to be the gut-wrenching loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in 2014, or it's going to be the heart-breaking loss to the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium in 2016.
Which one hurt the most is tough to decide and it really depends on each individual fan. Personally, I find the 2014 season ending way more painful and unbearable than the ending of the 2016 season.
One thing is for sure, though. If the 2014 and 2016 playoffs weren't enough to give everyone in Cowboys Nation a couple of bad memories, Jason Witten's retirement just made them even more hard to live with.
Throughout the tight end's 15-year career in the NFL, not only was he an elite starter for America's Team. His journey in the league can't be told in mere stats and records. Witten was much more than that for the Dallas Cowboys and the team's fan base.
He always worked as a captain and a measuring stick for everyone in the locker room. For many years, Cowboys Nation almost unanimously agreed that the player who deserved a ring the most was Jason Witten. The tight end, whose hand was always on the dirt, ultimately felt short of that mark, as he said during his retirement press conference earlier this month.
“For 15 years, I tried to represent you the right way. Bring you joy. And win you a championship. And while I leave today falling short of that mark, I hope that along the way, I made you proud to be a Dallas Cowboys fan.” – Jason Witten.
Although being a future Hall of Famer himself, Witten played in a team that failed to establish a winning tradition most of his career. And now, with him ready to replace Jon Gruden under the lights of ESPN Monday Night Football, his chance to hold a Lombardi Trophy is over.
Jason Witten will be a champion without a championship, somehow. 2014 and 2016 were the years he could've put that final dot in his career.
2014 may hurt the most when considering Dez Byrant and Tony Romo's departures. I'm pretty sure that when the referees overturned Bryant's catch at Lambeau, none of the three Cowboys' emblematic players imagined that that would be their last playoff ride together.
Sure, they managed to get there in 2016 again, but Romo was on the sidelines. It's crazy how quickly things can change in the NFL. Last month, I wrote about the moment that put the Cowboys in limbo, changing the path of this franchise out of nowhere.
From one moment to another, the Dallas Cowboys saw the ending of the Tony Romo era and the beginning of the Dak Prescott era. Just one offseason later, legends Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are also out of the picture.
It comes as a tough pill to swallow for Cowboys Nation, but also as a reason for excitement for the future. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will head into their third NFL season in 2018, along with a ton of young talent on offense and defense.
Jason Witten will be missed, but it's time the new generation of Cowboys steps up. They undoubtedly will.