Let’s face it, in the end, the reason we root and cheer for the Dallas Cowboys is to watch them win a Super Bowl. Every year, that is the prime motivation. It’s the same around the league. Everything else is secondary to winning the Super Bowl.
Unfortunately for Dallas, it’s been 25 long years since they’ve won one. The 1995 season culminated in the Cowboys last Super Bowl, and it’s been a trek through the desert since with no respite.
Is 2021 the year things change? Every Cowboys fan has their opinion on that, but secretly all harbor at least a small amount of hope that this is the year. This is the year of the breakthrough, when everything falls into place.
The Cowboys will sign Dak Prescott, the offensive line will be healthy again, Dan Quinn will transform the defense, Will McClay will re-stock the team in free agency and the draft, and Mike McCarthy will make all the right calls. It’s a nice dream, but is it reality?
ESPN set out to answer that question as they ranked how close each franchise is to contending for a Super Bowl. They placed each team into a tier, from contending now to five years out. The Cowboys fall in the middle, two years away from contending.
Last Super Bowl appearance: 1995
2020 FPI rank: No. 28
Strategy to become a Super Bowl contender: Get quarterback Dak Prescott signed to a long-term contract. If they don’t, then the Cowboys’ track to a Super Bowl is likely longer than just two years because the chances of Prescott signing a long-term deal in 2022 would be remote. With Prescott under contract at least through 2024 or longer, the Cowboys can plot their path to find help for the rest of the roster. But that will be a bit more difficult because of the cap crunch a Prescott contract would cause.
Biggest X factor: Staying healthy, which includes Prescott, who is coming back from a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle. The Cowboys believe if they can get their offensive line settled — Tyron Smith missed 14 games, La’el Collins missed 16 games and Zack Martin missed six — they can be a contender in the NFC. The Cowboys’ success will be driven by their offense as they look to build their defense with new coordinator Dan Quinn through the draft and smart free-agent signings. But hoping for health in a league dominated by injuries does not seem like the best strategy. — Todd Archer
The twin factors of health and signing Dak Prescott loom large over the franchise. One you can control, for the most part. If the Cowboys show Dak Prescott a contract to his liking, they can get him in the fold and forget about the quarterback position for four years or so.
Injuries are not so easily controlled. You can do offseason, and in-season, work to try and minimize their presence. You can also try to keep your team as young as possible. But years like 2020 just happen sometimes, and the Cowboys just have to hope 2021 is better on that front.
What they really need to do is improve their defense, even if it is just incrementally. A better run defense and a more consistently opportunistic group on turnovers would fuel a sudden rise for the franchise. 2020 showed us what life would be like without Dak Prescott. It also showed us that even with Dak putting up record numbers, without a complementary defense, it doesn’t work. The team was 2-3 in games Prescott started in 2020, with one of them coming on an unbelievable onside kick recovery.
Hope springs eternal every offseason. How close do you think the Cowboys are to contending?