I'm new to this community, but enjoy the more positive tone here as opposed to other communities. I enjoy discussing the Cowboys and thought I'd provide some food for thought here.
I want to look back to how I think this team got to be the 8-8 team of the past 3 years, and why I have hope that things are moving in the right direction.
We all remember how we got to the Dave Campo era, with the loss of the triplets and cap hell. Trading for Galloway and having no first round picks. That era gave way to the Parcells era which is where I think this all started. When Parcells began, he inherited players such as Flo, Gurode, Ellis, Woodson and Roy Williams (S). Those players were the foundation for the 10-6 season he started with. When Woodson got injured, the defense that held up really well in the previous season, the defense fell apart, we drafted Julius Jones, cut Quincy Carter and moved to a 3-4 defense. The following two seasons were quite disappointing as teams led by Testaverde and Bledsoe ultimately weren't good enough to finish above 500 and get to the playoffs. The defense that was sold to us as being more confusing for opposing offenses didn't really confuse anyone. In 2006, they were on the path to the same thing when enters Tony Romo. Romo energized the team and led them to an unexpected playoff birth. The game plan was kind of surprising, as we chose not to attack a seahawks secondary that started 4 guys off the street. Instead a very conservative game plan led to plays such as the Terry Glenn fumble. In a game ultimately remembered for the bobbled snap, Parcells conservative approach held us back.
Enter Wade Phillips. Phillips inherits an offense ready to go, but with an aging core of offensive lineman that either predated Parcells, signed as expensive free agents, or older reclamaition project. He finds a way to turn an underachieving cast of defenders into the best defense this team has had since the 90's. Ultimately they end up short at the end of the 2007 season, but hope is high.
Unfortunately, the offensive line begins to erode. The team shows its inability to be consistent upfront. The low point of the season is getting thumped while Romo is out injured by a Ram's team that would go on to pick #1 overall and only win 1 other game all season. A repeat performance to end the season in Phllly closes out a disappointing season.
In 2009, Wade managed to get one last good season out of that squad before they ultimately fell apart in Minnesota.
In 2010, a sloppy, undisciplined start to the season costs us several close games early, and then Romo got hurt, and the team just looked like the lost all hope. They tried to show some heart in the 2nd half of the Giants game, but it was completely missing the next two weeks in blowout losses.
Then Jason Garrett gets here, simplifies a defense that just wasn't performing as expected with all our talent, and got them to at least produce some takeaways, though still, a bad defense. However, the compete level rose, and they played every game close down the stretch, and managed to draw to a respectable 6-10 record after a 1-7 start.
Since then, the entire roster has been replaced, almost anyone who was here during the Parcells years is gone, hardly anyone that was drafted during the Phillips era remains, and unlike the Parcells rebuilding process. This team rebuilt the offensive line with youth. Regardless of what happens this year, and who our coach is after this season, I at least know that one of the core parts of the team is built with quality youth instead of age.