IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys focus on the offseason, training camp is still in sight.
Coming off two straight 8-8 seasons and three full seasons removed from the playoffs, the Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding them as they prepare for the 2013 season.
As we count down the days to camp, the writers of DallasCowboys.com will take a different question each day that is hovering over this team.
With 36 days until the Cowboys take the field in Oxnard, Calif., today's question centers on Thursday's quite from team executive vice president Stephen Jones, who insisted this team is capable of contending for the Super Bowl:
36) Are the Cowboys actually good enough to win the Super Bowl?
The younger Jones said it himself at the conclusion of the Cowboys' minicamp Thursday: "We feel like we have the opportunity to compete for a championship."
Coincidentally enough, the 36th season in Cowboys' history was 1995 – the last time the franchise earned a Lombardi Trophy. The Cowboys went 12-4, downed Philadelphia and Green Bay in the playoffs and won the organization's fifth Super Bowl in a 27-17 win against Pittsburgh.
Those Cowboys set a franchise record for first downs with 364. Emmitt Smith turned in the best single season of his illustrious career with 1,773 yards and an amazing 25 touchdowns. Troy Aikman completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,304 yards and 16 touchdowns with just seven picks, and Michael Irvin topped it off with 1,603 receiving yards and 10 scores through the air.
That was all complimented by a defense that ranked third in the league in scoring, giving up just 18 points per game, and ninth in the league in yards allowed.
Of course, a lot has changed about the way the league works in the 18 years since that juggernaut rolled through the NFL. Jones acknowledged that much when clarifying what he meant by "compete for a championship."
"The last three teams that won championships barely got into the playoffs and did something about it," Jones said. "You're probably not being realistic if you don't think things have changed in the last 10 years. There are probably a lot of people who feel they have a chance to win a championship based on the level playing field and how the cap has affected the game."
That's a good point – there's much more parity in the league in 2013. Bow how do the Cowboys stack up? We know they have the passing game – Tony Romo racked up 4,900 passing yards last year.
The league is much more pass-happy than it used to be, but can that excuse the mere 1,200 rushing yards Dallas accrued in 2012? That's 500 fewer than Smith put up on his own en route to Super Bowl XXX.
Defense is more a mixed bag. The Cowboys finished a middling 19th in total defense, but that's after a litany of injuries across the depth chart. Is it fair to expect the unit to improve if healthy? And is a middle-of-the-pack defense enough to get the job done with an explosive offense?
If the Cowboys are good enough to compete for Super Bowl XLVIII, they're going to look quite different from the ones that raised the Lombardi in Sun Devil Stadium.
Sticking with our numerical journey to training camp, let's take a closer look at the number 36: [embedded_ad]
- Dennis Thurman's 36 career interceptions puts him fourth all-time in Cowboys' history.
- Dallas and Seattle combined for 36 points in a wild fourth quarter on Dec. 6, 2004. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw for 414 yards and three touchdowns while helping Seattle to a 39-29 lead with 12 minutes to play. Dallas roared back, helped largely by a fantastic, 198-yard performance from Julius Jones, who scored his third touchdown of the day with 30 seconds left to grab a 43-39 win.
- Romo set the Dallas record for touchdown passes in a season in 2007. He tossed 36 scores while guiding the Cowboys to a 13-3 mark and a first round bye in the playoffs.
- Marion Barber played in four playoff games during his Dallas stint. He carried the ball 41 times for 141 yards and one touchdown. His long was 36 yards.