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For Cowboys fans, it’s time to put the last 365 days behind us

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It’s been quite the year.

NFL: NFC Divisional-Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been one day since the New Orleans Saints had their season taken away from them thanks to a fluke, last-second, heroic play by Stefon Diggs.

That is a feeling no sports fan envies, and it’s one Cowboys fans, unfortunately, know well. In fact, today marks the one-year anniversary of 3rd and 20.

Yes, we’ve finally fully orbited around the sun since the dawn of Jared Cook, and the last year certainly produced its fair share of dark days.

Think about everything Cowboys fans have had to endure since this moment last year. A miraculous season was ended on that day, a terrible free agent class was signed, people were upset about Taco Charlton being taken in the first round, the suspension that never died didn’t die until it did, and the Dallas Cowboys were a massive disappointment.

In a way it still feels like that day, although after the dust settled on the 3rd and 20 play, there was certainly a lot more optimism than what surrounds the current team one year later. The Cowboys are now looking up, looking for help.

Over the last year we’ve seen the Cowboys front office re-tool their defense. The aforementioned Taco Charlton came on near the end of the season, DeMarcus Lawrence developed into a formidable force, David Irving wreaked havoc, and there’s a young secondary that looks like it’ll be something special in due time.

There are reasons to be upset with the Cowboys, no doubt. However, there are also plenty of reasons for optimism.

The loss endured by rookie wonders Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott one year ago was the first real sense of adversity they had to face as professionals. Yes, they lost twice to the Giants in important games, but they had never experienced true agony like that in the NFL.

Fast forward a year, and both Dak and Zeke have learned plenty about the world of agony. Zeke was the one dancing the will-it-or-won’t-it-happen dance with his suspension, and Dak Prescott got annihilated when it finally did happen.

Dallas knows more than ever that Tyron Smith and Sean Lee cannot be counted on for a full season of health. They also know that La’el Collins makes a fine right tackle, Tyrone Crawford finally has a defined position, and that Chris Jones is capable of far more than punting.

Last year had distractions and problems throughout. Suspensions, Jerry Jones almost suing the league, after feuding with Roger Goodell, all this after a trip to the Hall of Fame for the Cowboys owner, all of it added to a disjointed year. At times we were reading more about courtrooms and legal proceedings rather than game plans and personnel moves.

Dallas was stripped of a good amount of its confidence over the course of this past season, leaving them with nothing to do but stare long and hard in the mirror. The time for reflection is over, it took 365 days, and now it’s time to move on.

We’re free from 3rd and 20.