The Dallas Cowboys ended their campaign with zero playoff victories after 13 wins prior. Was the 2016 season a success or utter failure?
The Dallas Cowboys were 13-3 and the best team in the NFC through the NFL’s regular season. One game into the playoffs, though, and their season is over. That’s what happens when Aaron Rodgers decides his team should go on a winning streak that can never end.
Despite the opponent and how close of a game it was that led to their demise, it still begs the question, was this Cowboys’ season a failure? Perhaps it was even a success.
Two brothers from New York, Dan Salem and Todd Salem discuss the Dallas Cowboys in today’s NFL Sports Debate.
Because of how insanely popular the Cowboys are, it is easy to forget that this team hasn’t won anything in a long, long time. Normally when that happens, a team loses fan popularity and slips into the ether. Conversely, Dallas seems to gain steam, culminating in Super Bowl ticket prices plummeting as soon as they get eliminated. That is not normal.
Despite the nationwide popularity that never wanes, Dallas hasn’t made a conference championship game in a generation. It was supposed to challenge for the Super Bowl this year, finally, after all that failure. Instead, the team failed to win a single playoff game.
I am usually on the side that one playoff exit doesn’t completely erase a successful regular season. The postseason is too fluky in football to rely on any individual outcome to mean something long-term more than a 16-game sample.
However, with Dallas it now feels different. I do think of this season as a failure for the Cowboys. 13 wins mean nothing without at least one in the playoffs. All those did was delay the offseason two weeks. Their 13 wins didn’t help them get over any hump or get back to their ultimate goal. They didn’t prove Dallas was a team to be reckoned with. Heck, the team wasn’t even as good as the New York Giants this year, 13 wins or not. The two franchises won the same amount of playoff games, lost to the same opponent to end the year, and yet New York was 2-0 against the Cowboys.
The future is still bright in Dallas, which has to help mask this loss a little bit. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott set all kinds of rookie playoff records in the Green Bay game. They also helped lead a drive down in the final moments of the game to tie it and seemingly force overtime. This offense should be stellar for a long time to come. But overall, as a team, Dallas failed in 2016. The fans may be back from the glory days of the franchise, but the team has a long way still to go to get there on the field.
This season was an unequivocal success for the Dallas Cowboys. Despite your obvious attempts to throw salt in the wound as a Giants fan, Dallas literally flipped its record from a season ago. In 2015 the Cowboys went 4-12 and found themselves at the bottom of the NFC East with an awful 1-7 record at home. In 2016 Dallas went 13-3 en route to winning the NFC East, securing the conference’s top seed, with a 7-1 home record. Case closed.
Expectations for Dallas are always astronomical, so fans may feel as though the season was a failure. But fans are shortsighted and often blinded by emotion. The Cowboys’ rebound in the wins column alone is enough to make this past season a success. The team’s ability to overcome an average defense and the loss of their franchise quarterback in the preseason is enough to make the season a success. Having two rookies at the game’s two most prominent positions share Rookie of the Year honors is enough to make the season a success. Yet Dallas had all of those things happen.
The Cowboys were eliminated from the playoffs in stomach-punching fashion. It was a game for the ages where minute decisions ultimately left seconds on the clock and a field goal at the buzzer ended things. People will point fingers at the Dallas coaching staff, but none of the players came up small. Everyone was great, yet Rodgers and the Packers were just a little bit better. They reminded everyone who is best in the NFC when at their best.
Losing in the playoffs hurts the same, no matter what round it comes in. Making the playoffs is a success, no matter how far you get. There are only a few exceptions to this and they come after seasons of playoff appearances and multiple Super Bowls.
New England would not be satisfied with simply making the playoffs. But a team that won four games just a season ago certainly should be. Its hard to make the NFL playoffs. Its hard to win double digit games. As a fan of a perennial loser, I know where to find small victories. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they have been anything but a winner in recent memory.