I know that there are some eager beavers out there who read nothing more than the title of this post and are now itching to tell the world that "In Dallas, success is measured in Super Bowls," and that anything less is unacceptable. Dear Mr. Eager Beaver, please spare us that entitled nonsense.
What endears us Cowboys fans so much to the rest of the NFL fanbase is our collective ability to hold on to successes from more than 20 years ago and derive some sort of expectation and relevance from it for today. Yet here we are, with just two playoff wins to show for the last 20 years. With that in mind, and as we prepare for the 2017 season, what do you think would need to happen for this season to be considered a success?
We know that repeating a 13-win season is highly unlikely. Since 1990, when the league moved to a 12-team playoff format, 38 teams finished the season with a 13-3 record, and only four of those teams were able to repeat that 13-3 record the following year.
But that's just the regular season, and after making the playoffs last year as the No. 1 seed, making the playoffs again is probably a minimum requirement for Cowboys fans.
So what's it going to be this year?
How about a season like 2006? The Cowboys end the season with a winning record and make the playoffs as a wildcard team. Unfortunately, they lose the wildcard game on a bobbled hold. Would you consider a loss in the wildcard game a success?
How about a season like 2007 or 2016? In both seasons, the Cowboys stormed out to a 13-3 regular season record, easily won the NFC East and entered the playoffs as the number one seed, but lost in the divisional round. Would you consider the number one NFC seed a success?
How about a repeat of 2014? The Cowboys end up tied for the best record in the league, win their wildcard game on the road only to lose the divisional round game in highly unfortunate circumstances. Would you consider a playoff win a success?
How about a season like 1994? The Cowboys enter the playoffs as the number two seed and advance to the Conference Championships after handily dismantling the Packers 35-9, only to lose to the eventual Super Bowl-winning 49ers. Would you consider making the Conference Championships a success?
What the four scenarios above have in common is each season ultimately ended with a defeat. The fact is that unless the Cowboys win the Super Bowl this year, their season will inevitably end in a defeat.
I don't think anything less than a repeat playoff appearance could be considered a success in any shape or form, regardless the circumstances. I also think that getting at least one post-season win is a prerequisite to consider the season a success. But what happens after that? Do the Cowboys have to win the divisional round, do they have to play for the Conference Championship? Or is the manner in which they play the final game (in whatever playoff round it happens to be) more important?
The ultimate goal, as Dak Prescott recently phrased it, is obviously to make it to the Super Bowl.
"I hope everyone in the league has the same goal of playing in the last game and winning it, so that's the obvious factor," quarterback Dak Prescott said. "We would be crazy if we said we didn't think we could get there. Right now, it's about working. It's about putting that in the back of our mind and just getting better."
But is a Super Bowl win really the only measure by which to consider a season a success?
What needs to happen for you to consider the 2017 season a success for the Cowboys?