IRVING, Texas — Twenty years ago, after his Dallas Cowboys won their first Super Bowl, owner Jerry Jones began his annual penchant for “championship-or-bust” bluster. Even as recently as last summer, he brazenly noted looking forward to a meeting with the defending-champ Giants so Dallas could “kick their ass.”
But this summer, there is a more reserved Jones, demonstrating a bow to NFL parity that is “bold” in its recognition of a modern football reality.
“If you look at the fact that these teams are pretty equal in the NFL, and you look at where we are, you know we can compete,” Jones said on his radio show on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan. “We really can compete. Now, will injury decimate that? Will injury impact that? Who knows? The bottom line is we can compete.”
The Cowboys have finished 8-8 in each of the last two seasons, both times advancing to the de facto “NFC East Championship Game” in the final week of the regular season. Dallas lost each of those games, with injuries and execution among the reasons why.
This year’s Cowboys haven’t necessarily experienced a huge talent upgrade from recent editions of the club. Yet the view inside the team headquarters is that other changes – a completely new defensive system under coordinator Monte Kiffin and changes on offense that have quarterback Tony Romo more involved in gameplan design and playcalling – can help Dallas climb nearer the top of a parity-based league.
“We’ve competed with a lot of the players that we got right now,” Jones said. “Over the last two years, a lot of people would say, ‘I don’t call 8-8 competing.’ They’d be justified in saying that. But we were real close there, getting down to the end of the year. We were close to getting in the tournament and… ‘close’ is hard to chew on… That’s what we’re trying to reverse.”