The Dallas Cowboys remain, probably now and forever, one of the most storied franchises in all of professional sports. The team’s vast history of personalities, talents and successes warrants its place of reverence.
The problem Executive Vice President Stephen Jones has is not with the club’s ancient history, but with the club’s recent past. The Cowboys have not reached an NFC Championship Game this century, having watched three collective Super Bowls go to NFC East competition in that period. Jones realizes that reality must change – for both the fans and the team.
“We have to take the next step,” Jones told Adam Schein on Friday. Mad Dog sports radio. “And I think everyone on this team – from Mike [McCarthy] and his technical team to Dak [Prescott] and the players — everybody knows we have to be successful in the postseason. That’s the end of the game. Our fans deserve this. We certainly won’t be at peace until we get over that hump.”
Jones was keen to reaffirm his belief that the Cowboys are on track to do just that. Dallas’ offense ranked first overall in points and yards last season, and its once-maligned defense made big strides under new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, behind Micah Parsons’ Rookie of the Year campaign and 11 interceptions from Trevon Diggs. Despite the occasional warm seat from Mike McCarthy, the team went 6-10 the year before in their best regular season record (12-5) since 2016.
“Well, we have nothing but the utmost respect for Mike. And as you said, a lot of good things have happened… In the minds of Jerry and I, there’s no better guy to do this who’s been as successful in this league as anyone but Mike. McCarthy,” Jones said. “His record speaks for itself in Green Bay. I think he took the Packers to three or four championship games. Obviously he won a Super Bowl, you know, he really had postseason success in Green Bay, and, you know, We We had the opportunity to do that. We had the ball there twice with less than three or four minutes on the clock to win the game with one of the best attacks in the league and we didn’t get the job done.”
The game Jones is referring to, a 23-17 wild card loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the house Jerry built, is still etched in the minds of Dallas faithful as yet another painful setback in the Dak Prescott era. With 14 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys made a quarterbacks tie play that brought them into field goal range but also left zeros on the clock. The gaffe sent the Cowboys home, while the 49ers scored another comeback in Green Bay the following week, before being defeated in the NFC Championship Game.
Despite the headache, teams with the right foundation can and will grow from setbacks.
“Oh, I think everybody in the Cowboys organization is. Top to bottom. I think everybody repeats both moves,” Jones said when asked if he was motivated by the Cowboys’ departure in the postseason. “I mean, we also had the ball before that and we didn’t have as much clock stress, even though we were approaching the two-minute mark. We had a great opportunity there. We had a healthy team, a healthy Dak, we had a healthy group of players. And unfortunately, hats off to San Francisco. They did the job defensively, and we didn’t.”
With 26 seasons in the rearview mirror since Dallas’ last Super Bowl title, the figurative “hunchback” looks more like a mountain at this point, but the Cowboys may finally have the right mix of motivation, training and talent to reach the summit.