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The State Of The Cowboys

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How does Dallas look going into the first playoff appearance in five years?

Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

As a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, it is hard not to feel a little giddy. After the five year drought, the team is headed into the playoffs after tying for the best record in the entire league. Dallas is on a serious roll after steamrolling through December, beating one playoff bound team and helping obliterate the playoff hopes of a division rival. The health of the roster is fairly good, especially that of Tony Romo and his endlessly discussed back.

However, as a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, we have had our spirits crushed before, especially in the past decade. It is understandable that doubts and worries will creep into the minds of some. Until we see postseason success we really can't believe in it. Perhaps many of you have similar feelings to those of this reader:

It is an interesting thought (and as a blogger, you never look a gift topic in the mouth, especially one that starts the ideas flowing). So here is my take on the team as they get ready to face the Detroit Lions in the wild card round.

The front office has never been better since Jerry Jones bought the team. This does not bear directly on the game, but has tremendous impact on the team going forward. And the real work for Jones and his staff begins when the season ends, hopefully after a really great celebration in early February. They have a ton of players whose contracts end, plus Jason Garrett's. There is also the question of which assistant coaches they want and are able to keep. Then the whole free agent process and the draft loom.

I submit that no organization in the NFL did a better job than the Cowboys in 2014, and since the core of the front office is Jerry Jones and his son Stephen, plus Jason Garrett who will get a very nice new deal, I don't think that will change much. Look at the list of accomplishments for them: Hiring Scott Linehan, promoting Rod Marinelli, finding valuable free agents like Jeremy Mincey, Henry Melton, Terrell McClain, and Rolando McClain, and drafting an instant All Pro guard in Zack Martin plus a first year starter in Anthony Hitchens. The challenges are serious this year, but how can you not feel confident they will rise to them?

What makes this even more impressive is what is going on in the rest of the NFC East. While the New York Giants have stability, they are retaining a coach whose team only won six games in the hopes they can build from there. They do have some reason to feel good if they can find a few more like Odell Beckham Jr. in the draft. But Washington is still a raging dumpster fire, and now there has just been a major shakeup following an open power struggle in Philadelphia. Chip Kelly won this round and now is in charge of the scouts. It may not be much of victory in the long term, however. Rumors continue to circulate that Kelly wants out of his contract early, and his having the scouts report to him is not necessarily a formula for success.

I don't know why, but the word "hubris" keeps coming to mind.

This is easily the best edition of the Dallas Cowboys in two decades. It all flows from the Rooster himself. Jason Garrett took the head coaching job with a plan in mind. It took him four years to get it in place, but now you have one of the absolute best offenses in the league, composed mostly of young players with several seasons ahead of them, and an ability to switch the focus to doing something similar with the defense.

But right now is the important thing, and it is hard to be anything short of ecstatic after all the doom and gloom we were subjected to just last August. Romo told us we would see the best version of him we ever had, and in December, that was absolutely true. The DeMarco Murray saga is familiar to all, Dez Bryant is beasting, Jason Witten is still Jason Freaking Witten, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley are excellent options, and oh, that offensive line! Meanwhile, the defense has managed to climb into the middle of the pack statistically, and looked to be playing better than that the last four games of the season.

There have been discussions in the media about the similarities between this team and the dynasty of the 1990s. A lot has focused on how the team seems blessed with the new Triplets and Great Wall of Dallas, but another thing that strikes me is how this group of players exudes the same level of confidence in themselves. They believe in their own ability to get the job done, and in the guys around them to do the same. The are not going to be intimidated by the other team, no matter who lines up across from them. They will play their game, running the ball to control the clock, while swarming to the ball on defense and taking the fight to the other guys. The 90s team had an unmistakable swagger, but this version has a different, quieter kind. Outside of Bryant, the emotional sparkplug of the team, they are not likely to get in anyone's face. They do their talking between the whistles.

And that is where this team reminds me of another version of the Cowboys, the 1970s champions under Tom Landry. This team has a discipline and work ethic that Landry would heartily approve of. When you add that to the belief they have in themselves, you have something special. They are never going to overlook an opponent, because they treat every game the same: They play to win, the way they know how to win.

Forget the past. I am seeing words like "inevitable collapse" being used about this team. Once again, rather than try to analyze what this team really is, tired old memes are dragged out and plugged in. The same people trotting those memes out probably also discussed how Romo and the Cowboys always come apart in December. It's like they didn't even see what happened last month.

I don't try to deny that I have been a huge Jason Garrett fan since the day he became the interim head coach. One of the reasons is his much lampooned "process", but that process is why I have faith this team can beat the Lions, and keep going after that. They focus strictly on preparing themselves to play the best game they can, and right now that is very good indeed. Although they make adjustments to the personnel and schemes they face, nothing basic is altered. They know how they are coming after you, they know you know. And. They. Don't. Care. Is Ndamukong Suh playing or not? Doesn't matter. They will run the ball and trust the offensive line. Calvin Johnson's devastating performance last year? The defense is going to stay physical and do what they have been doing all season.

So, summing up, the state of the Cowboys is very good indeed. This team is one of the best in the league and fully deserves to be in the playoffs. They are peaking at the perfect time. They may be poised to be something really special this year.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB