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The Pro Bowl reveals a deeper problem with the Cowboys organization

The Cowboys have sent 139 players to the Pro Bowl since 1996 and have four playoff wins to show for it. This is a larger issue than roster construction alone.

NFL Pro Bowl Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Pro Bowl is a meaningless game that barely qualifies as football, but the title of a “Pro-Bowler” still carries weight. While the selection process isn’t perfect, it is a good indication of the best players at each position from a given season. And it is common for the Dallas Cowboys to send their fair share of participants.

However, the Cowboys have not been involved in the Super Bowl since the mid-1990s, so the Pro Bowl often represents a disappointing season despite more than enough talent. There is a disconnect somewhere because Dallas has arguably seen more talent walk through its building than any other team since 1996.

The talent on the Cowboys roster compared to Dallas’ success is baffling

2007 NFL Pro Bowl - AFC vs NFC - February 10, 2007 Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, and Brian Anger all deserve to be playing on Sunday. When healthy, all five of those players were top five at their position in 2021 and should be acknowledged as such.

But this is the same story in a different year. Dallas has had more Pro Bowl selections since 1996 than any team in the NFL.

So first, let’s review the players that have donned the star since the Cowboys' last Super Bowl appearance. The 139 Pro Bowl selections in that 25-year stretch is the highest in the NFL, with the Ravens coming second at 132. The average team sent 89 players to the Pro Bowl over the last two and a half decades, meaning Dallas is 50 players above the average in this regard.

Here are just a few examples of the perineal Pro Bowlers the Cowboys have had since 1996 and their number of selections:

  • Jason Witten (11)
  • DeMarcus Ware (7)
  • Tyron Smith (8)
  • Deion Sanders (4)
  • Zack Martin (7)
  • Andre Gurode (5)
  • La’Roi Glover (4)
  • Travis Fredrick (5)
  • Larry Allen (9)
  • Flozell Adams (5)
  • Tony Romo (4)
  • Jay Ratliff (4)

Now, it is worth noting the power of the “Dallas Cowboys” brand. If there are two players with equal qualifications to the Pro Bowl, it is more likely the Cowboys player will be voted in. There is some bias in the selection process, but for the most part, it is fairly equitable. So, we can’t dismiss the 139 players that Dallas has sent purely because “America’s Team is unfairly selected in.”

So, now that we know the Cowboys have been loaded with talent since 1996, arguably more talent than any other team, it is fair to ask what they have done with these players?

The answer is four playoff wins. If you factor in the eleven playoff losses, Dallas has the third-lowest win percentage in the playoffs over this span at 26.7%. The two teams lower than the Cowboys in playoff win percentage, Washington and Detroit, have combined for 121 Pro Bowl selections in the last 25 years.

In fact, of the 19 teams that have less than ten playoff wins since 1996, only the Cowboys, Vikings, and Chiefs have sent more than 100 Pro Bowlers. Other teams struggle in the playoffs as well, but at least they can argue there has been a lack of talent on their rosters.

Let’s review some teams that have done more with less; remember, Dallas has four playoff wins since the last Super Bowl:

  • Giants: 65 Pro Bowlers, 10 playoff wins
  • Rams: 66 Pro Bowlers, 12 playoff wins (potentially 13)
  • Jets: 61 Pro Bowlers, 7 playoff wins
  • Jaguars: 49 Pro Bowlers, 7 playoff wins
  • Texans: 57 Pro Bowlers, 4 playoff wins

And it is not ridiculous to compare Pro Bowlers to playoff wins, because there is actually a very strong correlation between these two measures (.67). Based on their Pro Bowl appearances, Dallas would be expected to win 17 playoff games, which would be tied for third in the NFL over this span.

But they haven’t won 17, they haven’t even reached double-digit wins despite eleven losses. They have as many wins in 26 years as the 2021 Super Bowl champion will have in one season. It has been bad in Dallas, and they have produced nothing with rosters loaded with potential.

So what?

Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Alright, the Cowboys have struggled since their last Super Bowl win, even non-football fans are likely aware of this fact by now. So, what should we take away from this?

The implication is that maybe we should focus less on roster construction and more on leadership. There is no reason, given the talent the Cowboys have had, they should only produce four playoff wins.

We are never going to construct the “perfect” roster, simply because a perfect roster doesn’t exist. The Bengals are in the Super Bowl with a porous offensive line. If we keep considering the notion that we are only one offensive skill player away, or one lockdown corner away, it distracts from the larger issue.

Because the truth is that, there are four or five Cowboys rosters over the past 25 years that were good enough to win a Super Bowl. At the very least, they were good enough to make a deep playoff run. But they failed, and we repeat the cycle of blaming a lack of talent in a specific position group.

This is likely a symptom of poor leadership. Maybe the coaching has been the issue for the past two decades, maybe ownership gets too involved in the day-to-day operations, or possibly it is a combination of the two.

Regardless of the reason, the team needs a change somewhere. Because allowing 139 Pro Bowl players to produce a grand total of four playoff wins is unacceptable, and it is not their fault. The roster has been rebuilt three times over, and each time there was a team good enough to win it all.

So, before we think that picking up an offensive tackle in the draft or a middle linebacker in free agency will be enough to make a deep run, consider the Cowboys have done much less with more. It is a sad state of affairs, but we can’t keep blaming the roster-construction alone.

The Cowboys need a dramatic shift in leadership before we can have faith in this team.

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