10 Answers: Reviewing The Factors That Dashed Cowboys' 2015 Super Bowl Hopes

(Editor's Note: Last summer, the DallasCowboys.com staff attempted to answer 20 questions about the Cowboys' roster leading into training camp. With the 2015 season complete, we're picking out the 10 best and most applicable questions and reviewing how our predictions fared.)

1) Why Did This Team Not Make It To Super Bowl 50?

Nick:Well, it seems silly and pointless to answer questions about why a team that finished 4-12 didn't make the Super Bowl. We don't have enough space on here to list all of the reasons. For me, I said there couldn't be a drop-off in the running game and for the most part, there wasn't. I also said the team needed more sacks from multiple players, which didn't really happen. I also called their 4-4 home record in 2014 nonsense. Umm, I think they would've loved to have that instead of their 1-7 home mark. Obviously, the real answer was keeping Tony Romo healthy as the biggest factor and the defense finding a way to make plays down the stretch when the game is on the line.

Bryan: I thought that if this team was going to make a Super Bowl run it was going to have to come from its defense. What I didn't count on was Tony Romo and Dez Bryant going down during the season which ruined any opportunity they really had. There were times where this defense did play well and if it had received some help from the offense they likely could have won the division. As far as winning the Super Bowl, the pass rush wasn't as good as it needed to be and as a unit they did not create enough turnovers. There were also too many games where they couldn't make that one stop to end the game and their record reflected that. Once again on paper, it appeared as if they could have been a Super Bowl contending team but in reality it was a good defense, not a great one.   

David: This one hurts to answer, as you might expect. I was dubious that the Cowboys would be able to replace DeMarco Murray, but I think it's fair to say I was proven incorrect. Obviously, Darren McFadden isn't going to win NFL Offensive Player of the Year, but his 1,000-yard season was one of the few pleasant surprises of 2015. The Cowboys need to add to the depth behind him, but they've proven they can find top-level performance without Murray. The other half of my prediction was that Tony Romo would need to stay healthy – and we all know how that turned out. It's a depressing thought when you consider the long-term prospects of this franchise. On paper, with another offseason to add talent and develop the existing roster, I think it's fair to say the Cowboys are playoff contenders – even Super Bowl contenders – in 2016. They have a great offensive line, a Pro Bowl quarterback, Pro Bowl skill players and a good, not great defense. If they improve the way we think they can in the coming months, there's no reason to think they can't win the NFC East and compete for a championship. The problem is that it will once again hinge on Romo's health, and it's just hard to have 100 percent confidence in that fact. He has dealt with some kind of debilitating injury in each of the past three seasons, and he isn't getting younger. That obviously opens the much-discussed draft conversation, but we can save that for another time. The point is that I think the Cowboys can be Super Bowl contenders for the remainder of Romo's career – provided he's healthy. Unfortunately, it's hard to say how long we can expect that to be.

Rob: Back in the summer I listed five prerequisites for Super Bowl contention: Health; more pass rush; turnover margin; an effective, if not dominant, running game; poise and execution in the fourth quarter. Quickly, let's recap. 1) Call it an excuse if you want, but it's reality. Key injuries devastated this roster, especially offensively. Tony Romo has never appeared in fewer games since becoming a starter. 2) The pass rush improved on last year, and DeMarcus Lawrence took a major step forward in his development, but overall the defense was searching for more consistency. Sacks jumped from 28 to 31, tied for sixth fewest in the league – partially a product of trailing in more games this year as opposing offenses played games more conservatively. 3) Turnover margin in 2014 was plus-6, tied for sixth. Turnover margin in 2015 was minus-22, last by a wide margin. By comparison, the league's best team in the regular season, Carolina, was plus-20. 4) The running game wasn't dominant like 2014, but Darren McFadden did stabilize things in the final 12 games. It's hard to fully evaluate the run production without Romo, Dez Bryant and Lance Dunbar for so many games. 5) In 2014 the Cowboys were 4-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less; 2-6 in 2015.

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