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Close, but no cigar, yet

Topic of discussion: how close are the Dallas Cowboys to returning to the Super Bowl? Credit Mac Engel at the DFW S-T for opening up this debate today. It’s been an oft heard refrain lately from Cowboys supporters and even some neutral press that the Cowboys are close to returning to elite status in the NFL. But are they really?

Over the past four years we’ve made the playoffs twice, and in both instances we bowed out in the first round. We just changed coaches and to some extent, philosophy, which usually causes a team to struggle until they can incorporate everything smoothly into the new team. The Cowboys are also relying on a QB who seems to be a franchise-type, but hasn’t really proven that yet. This should cause some pause when discussing the Cowboys as close to returning to the Super Bowl.

On the other hand, the Cowboys are definitely on the rise, their cycle of downtime seemed to reach its nadir with the consecutive 5-11 seasons under Dave Campo. Bill Parcells was brought in to restructure the roster, and to some extent, the way the Cowboys organization thought about running an NFL franchise. Play on the field noticeably improved. The Cowboys roster is loaded with young, and potentially gifted, football players.

There are a couple of factors that play into this theme of the Cowboys being close. One, the NFC is a wide-open conference. It truly does not have an elite cadre of teams that are poised to dominate over the next few years. This leaves the impression that almost any decent team that puts together good roster choices with a good bit of luck and deft management can reach the Super Bowl from the NFC. Another theme is the Cowboys themselves, we – as fans – are almost universally optimistic that we will reclaim our rightful spot as NFL champions. This is embodied in the ever-present optimism of our owner, Jerry Jones. The problems is that sometimes as fans, and as an organization, we believe so much in our future, that we tend to over-estimate our own talent level in terms of an NFL roster.

So the question is posed – are we close, or are we just imagining that we are close?

Bradie James takes a pragmatic view.

"I just think it's tough to say we're close when we haven't even played for a division championship," linebacker Bradie James said. "When we get to that point, then we'll be close. Until then, we need to get some playoff wins. It takes more than just making the playoffs."

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