A forgotten storyline from the Dallas Cowboys shocking playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers was the sheer disappointment it caused team legends.
Jimmy Johnson was so disgusted that he gave the Cowboys a pep talk during Fox's halftime show only to give Dallas a silence treatment on the postgame show. Beyond Johnson, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and even DeMarcus Ware recorded videos posted to social media conveying their shock and chagrin.
Troy Aikman didn't follow that foursome's footsteps, but he caught up with reporters at a recent Dallas event and was asked about the game.
How confident was Aikman that the Cowboys would be playing the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game? He delayed his vacation expecting to attend the game in Santa Clara. The Hall of Famer can't wrap his mind around why Dallas continues to come up small in the playoffs, but he thinks outside distractions are partly to blame.
Aikman stopped short of pinning the distractions on Jerry Jones, but his answer didn't totally absolve the owner of blame, either.
Troy Aikman nearly blamed Jerry Jones for creating Cowboys distractions.
“I mean, he’s the boss. So whatever is done, it’s because he’s OK with it. It just is what it is. I mean, it’s been that way. It’s always been that way. And whether or not that ultimately keeps this team from doing what they hope to do, I don’t know. Does it just rear its head in January? I mean, why wasn’t it a problem during the regular season? So it’s a hard thing to kind of (wrap) your head around when you see the number of wins that they’ve had. And yet, so much disappointment in the postseason.”
That's not exactly a ringing endorsement from Aikman. Fans and talking heads have long theorized that Jones cares more about promoting and marketing the Cowboys "brand" than actually winning a Super Bowl.
That theory made a triumphant return after Jones decided to keep Mike McCarthy as head coach despite the fact he's 1-3 in the playoffs and hasn't taken Dallas beyond the Divisional Round. There was no shortage of coaching candidates to choose room. But McCarthy has kept the team relevant. Three straight 12-win seasons is nothing to sneeze at. As long as the Cowboys are winning, the marketing and promotion will take care of itself, with some help from Jones, of course.
“In a lot of ways, there’s so many other things that are happening within the organization, it’s easy to get caught up in it," Aikman added. "There’s tours going around the building and there’s a lot of distractions, if you will, and I think it creates another layer that a head coach and a staff and players have to try to compartmentalize so that they can go and be the best football players they can be.”
Has the pressure of playing for the Cowboys become too overwhelming? Coaches and players have stressed they aren't responsible for the 20-plus years of playoff failures that preceded them, but it has to create some added pressure, no? And how much are the outside distractions to blame for the playoff failures when, as Aikman noted, they aren't a problem during the regular season?
These questions might not have answers, but Aikman seemingly feels the organization would benefit if Jones took a step (or two, or three) back and let the team focus on football. We all know that'll never happen.