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For the past decade, the Dallas Cowboys have made rooting for America’s team among the most infuriating endeavors in all of pro sports. For the second straight season, the Cowboys entered Week 17 of 2012 with a chance to win the NFC East.
For the second straight season, they laid a giant egg, this time to the Washington Redskins. But will this year be different? Well, living up to owner Jerry Jones’ recent proclamation that Dallas is “winning the Super Bowl, period” may be a huge mountain to climb—but not an insurmountable one.
Can Tony Romo win anything?
Yes. Sure, he went 8-8 for yet another year in 2012. And sure, he hasn’t won a playoff game. But that’s not entirely is fault. He threw for nearly 5,000 yards last season and 28 touchdowns. And the year before, he threw for nearly 4,200 yards with 31 TDs and only 10 INTs. So to put everything on him isn’t fair. But, at age 33, Father Time will catch up to him before too long, so the Cowboys’ window is closing.
Will the new defense help?
It can’t hurt. Dallas fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and abandoned his 3-4 scheme. New coordinator Monte Kiffin installed a 4-3 scheme that would seem to fit better for DeMarcus Ware, who will shift to defensive end. The linebackers (Stan Lee, Bruce Carter, Justin Durant) are solid, and the remaining D-line is decent, if thin.
How much will the Cowboys’ draft class help?
A decent amount. First-round pick Travis Frederick, a star for the Wisconsin Badgers football team last year, stepped into his first practice as the starting center and has a stranglehold on the job. Coach Jason Garrett has had nothing but good things to say about him, and he made a decent preseason debut against Miami.
In addition, second-round pick Gavin Escobar will also have a good shot to start the season at tight end. Third-rounder Terrance Williams should be a top-three receiver, and J.J. Wilcox has made enough noise at safety to prompt plenty of speculation he’ll be on the starting defensive unit before the end of the year. Cornerback B.W. Webb, RB Joseph Randle and LB DeVonte Holloman will look to make the team mainly on special teams.
Is Jason Garrett on the chopping block?
Not only is he on the chopping block, but he’s the first course. He’s gone 21-19 in 2½ seasons at Dallas’ leader, finishing third three straight seasons with a club built to achieve more. If the Cowboys don’t compete for an NFC title this year, he will be unemployed come February. In fact, if they founder out of the gate, he’ll be free to trick-or-treat with his kids by Halloween.
Can the Cowboys pull through in the NFC East?
Yes, but it won’t be easy. The Redskins will be primed to defend their division title, and the New York Giants can’t be counted out despite missing the playoffs last year at 9-7. The Giants almost never have two mediocre seasons in a row under coach Tom Coughlin. Keeping running back DeMarco Murphy—a task Frederick should help with—will go a long way toward Dallas sprinting back into the postseason. At the very least, look for another season of everything coming down to that one final game.