January 23, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Dallas Cowboys players Team Irvin tackle Tyron Smith (77), Team Irvin tight end Jason Witten (82), Team Irvin guard Zack Martin (70), Team Carter long snapper Louis-Philippe Ladouceur (91), Team Irvin quarterback Tony Romo (9), Team Irvin running back DeMarco Murray (29), and Team Irvin tackle Tyron Smith (77) during photo day at The Arizona Biltmore. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Funny how things change in just five short months.
Depending on where you were looking this preseason, prognosticators had your Dallas Cowboys going anywhere from 3-13, to 6-10 or 7-9 to the ever popular 8-8. Some people were a little bit nicer and threw the Cowboys a 9-7 bone.
No one had 12-4. No one.
Not even I, one of the most realistic, yet slightly (okay, more than slightly) biased and invested fans out there, had 12-4. I did have 9-7 and I thought they win the division and a first round game, but 12-4? Nope. I missed that.
So now that the Cowboys have defied approximately 99% of everyone’s expectations, I found it interesting today when I was browsing ESPN.com to find this story (a collaboration with Pro Football Focus) on how many players each team is away from winning a Super Bowl.
All of a sudden, within five months, the Dallas Cowboys went from being a bottom feeder all the way to the best team not currently playing for the Lombardi trophy on Sunday.
How did that make me feel as the more than slightly biased invested fan that I am?
Initially, I would say proud. I’m not going to lie. It brought a smile to my face. It brightened up my Monday. Okay, okay… I loved it.
Then, as I was reading the breakdown, I started to get a little greedy. I thought to myself…
Apparently, ESPN’s Todd Archer agreed with me. He said:
"“What does a quarterback have to do to be elite? Romo had his best season in 2014: He completed 69.9 percent of his passes, threw 34 touchdowns to just 8 interceptions and led the NFL in Total QBR (82.7).”"
I would extend that to Smith as well, given that at the ripe old age of 24, he’s been a NFC Offensive Player of the Week, a two-time Pro-Bowler and a two-time All-Pro. With Martin, I guess it’s fair to not consider a rookie elite, but if you did, who else besides him would you consider?
After the greed surpassed, I started to think about this season and the direction this organization is going in. That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks…
This year was great. Yet, it’s next year that really will define where we go from here.
This is not to take anything way from what the Cowboys did this season or how proud I am in the effort and resolve this team showed. It’s just that it is a lot easier to sneak up on people, so to speak. It’s a different mindset, going from the hunter to the the hunted.
Each of the previous three times that the Dallas Cowboys have reached double-digit wins, the following season that win total dropped off by at least four. Only one of those times did that still result in having a winning record.
No one who cares about this team wants to see history repeat itself again.
One way to avoid that from happening is to not rest upon your laurels. Just like you can use ridiculous predictions of failure to be your fuel, you can use articles like this to remind yourself to never be satisfied.
The best attitude to have is to smile, feel a little proud and then forget about it. Focus on things like the catch that wasn’t (even though it was) or the crucial fumble that was lost or the field goal that missed and the subsequent points that were given up.
Focus on those things and find a way to get better.
Remember huge mistakes like the 2009 NFL Draft and vow to never repeat them. Forget this silly notion that you’re no players away from winning a championship when you’re really three or four on the defensive side of the ball.
Remember that you played in seven games that were decided by a touchdown or less and even though you won five of those games, the last game you played this close was your last game.
The good news is that I believe head coach Jason Garrett, Executive Vice President/Director of Player Personnel Stephen Jones and owner Jerry Jones feel the exact same way. I don’t look at Garrett or defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and think of the word complacent.
I believe that Jerry is deferring to his younger son as well as his prodigal son and because of that, the health of the salary cap, the depth of this roster and this organization in general are all trending upwards.
One thing I don’t believe is the hype… hopefully you don’t either.
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