For linebacker Sean Lee, for running back Joseph Randle, for defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and so many others for differing reasons, Sunday’s opener with the Giants is truly all about a fresh start. But for the Cowboys as a whole, 2015 is all about turning back to the clock to the days of.
Technically, yes, Gailey is the last Cowboys head coach to take teams to playoffs in consecutive years.wholesale nfl jerseys from china Dallas advanced to the postseason in 2006 and 2007 but that was with Bill Parcells at the front end and Wade Phillips on the follow through.
Those Gailey teams aren’t exactly enshrined in Cowboys lore. They lost to Arizona in a home playoff in ’98, a game that caused some local columnist to declare the torch had been passed from Troy Aikman to Jake Plummer. A year later the Cowboys were eliminated in Minnesota, and Jerry Jones did his own torch passing, from Gailey to Dave Campo.
The Cowboys under Jason Garrett got their first taste of the playoffs in January. They are looking for more. The Cowboys did not become the Cowboys, the team that produces the highest rated games on an annual basis, by occasionally dipping a toe into the postseason.
They went 18 times in 20 years in an era when it was much tougher to qualify. Tom Landry’s teams won two Super Bowls, but they played in 12 NFC championship games in 17 years. That will always be, for me, the most impressive statistic associated with this franchise.
Along came Jimmy and Jerry, and by the time we had wrapped up the 30th Super Bowl, the Cowboys were the only team to have collected five Lombardi Trophies. They had played in eight of the first 30 Super Bowls and half of those 30 NFC title games.
Now comes Super Bowl L or Super Bowl 50. Forget the ultimate game. The Cowboys won’t have made a single conference championship game appearance in that 20 year stretch unless they finish the job this year, unless they complete the task they thought they were about to pull off at Lambeau Field eight months ago.
You won’t hear any talk of stringing together playoff seasons or even of last year’s modest success from Garrett or his players. They have bought into his mantra. It’s all about those first few plays against the New York Giants Sunday night and then the next series of plays after that.
Success comes through the completion of small steps, not a wide angle lens view of the big picture.
The Cowboys showed they were going for it in 2015 the day they signed Greg Hardy. He won’t play until Week Five against New England due to a four game suspension, but you don’t bring on the baggage of domestic violence and sign Hardy to a one year deal unless you believe that year can be special.
Surprisingly, all indications from the preseason suggest the Cowboys did more to fix their pass rush weakness with the drafting of second round pick Randy Gregory than the signing of Hardy. We won’t know that until Hardy takes his turn in the rotation later this season, but the Cowboys expect Gregory to be in Eli Manning’s face with frequency Sunday night.
The great question of this Cowboys season is whether they have abandoned the running game that fueled the team’s most triumphant season this century or they merely changed names on jerseys.
DeMarco Murray did more than simply break Emmitt Smith’s team rushing record while winning an NFL Offensive Player of the Year award. He handled the ball on 53 percent of this team’s runs and completions. That’s an unheard of number in today’s game. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, the player Murray was most often connected to in “Beast Mode” comparisons, checked in at below 40 percent last year.
The Cowboys have tried to maintain an air of secrecy about how Randle, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and perhaps even newcomer Christine Michael will factor into this mix, even suggesting that practice in this final week of preparation would determine who starts.
More important is who finishes and not just the fourth quarter. Who do they go to on the goal line, on third and 1? Or do they revert to previous form, allow 35 year old Tony Romo to throw 600 passes and roll the dice that this superior offensive line can protect him?
It all starts Sunday night against the Giants, who won their first four trips to AT Stadium before Dallas finally held serve in 2013. Tonight’s about the Giants. But this season has to be about so much more.