Taylor Williams

Are The Cowboys Really Too Talented To Miss The Playoffs?

Created on Jul. 17, 2013 8:09 PM EST

If you’re familiar with the spoken personality of former NFL coach and ESPN analyst Herm Edwards, you know his statement about the Dallas Cowboys having too much talent to miss the playoffs was probably made with some serious conviction.

As the story illustrates, Edwards posits a couple other opinions — the need for offensive balance and his approval of Bill Callahan becoming the play-caller — in what seems like his typical no-nonsense, short-and-sweet way. Without having seen the comment on TV, you can assume that his declaration about the team’s bigger picture carried the same kind of resolute confidence.

Edwards knows football far better than this writer. And while he’s ultimately correct in his assertion that the Cowboys should make the playoffs with the cast they’ve assembled, a statement like that regarding a team like Dallas can’t just be accepted as an airtight guarantee from a bona fide expert.

There are the usual suspects that could screw up the works: injuries, offensive line porousness, defensive growing pains and Week 17 shortcomings. These are surface factors, worth mentioning only because they’ve been so egregious at certain times. They represent ways the Cowboys can beat themselves. But they’ve also been enough to dismantle the Cowboys in recent seasons, without totally taking them out of contention.

This year is different. The margin for error is smaller, and the impact of injuries harsher (if that’s possible for Dallas). The NFC is just too jacked. In terms of talent at skill positions, the Cowboys are right there with the best of the conference. In terms of quality depth along the offensive and defensive line where the true brutality lives? Not so much. The holes at safety, defensive tackle and offensive guard have been extolled by the media and highlighted by the failure to address them early in the draft — it’s going to cost them at some point.

Then there’s the psychological onus of being the NFL’s most valuable franchise for nearly a decade with so little to show for it. Make no mistake: This is an anxious, agitated time in Dallas. Tony Romo has been given a lot of money, Jason Garrett has likely wound up coaching for his job and Jerry Jones’ public approval has taken a beating. There’s a chance to rectify all these circumstances in 2013, but that road is already paved with intense pressure and scrutiny (even by Dallas standards).

For this franchise, the urgency of playoff success hasn’t been this strong in decades. The competition, which has all but ensured the NFC East will produce only one playoff team, hasn’t been this stiff in years. But the talent level has been here before.

Is this year’s talent enough to proclaim Dallas a playoff team in July? Yes. Is it ultimately enough to get them there in January? Probably not.

The talent is a good mix of young and seasoned, with exceptionally good ball skills on both sides. There are rising superstars and proven workhorses. But it’s suspect until it proves it can beat out the forces of injuries and penalties. It could be compromised by anything from Callahan not working out as the play-caller to a couple missed field goals. And above all, it’s worthless until it performs on all cylinders in win-or-go-home situations.

Barring extremes of any of these variables, the Cowboys should be favored to win the NFC East. But remember that this franchise is truly under strain to produce in 2013, and that recent history isn’t on its side. That context helps statements like the one made by Edwards get the very lukewarm, modest endorsement they deserve.

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