IRVING, Texas – 6-10. 8-8. 8-8.
That's the Cowboys' record in each of the last three seasons, respectively, a combined 22-26 line that can't be ignored.
A lot has happened in the offseason and with the progression of some of the younger players, including Dez Bryant, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, it's possible to believe that at any point the Cowboys can turn things around and get out of the mediocre state they've found themselves in the last few years.
That improvement could occur this year. They can win nine or 10 games and fight for a playoff berth, but assuming they will go out and finish with 11 wins is a bit far-fetched and a reach.
That doesn't mean they won't play well. After all, the Redskins won the division last year by winning 10 games. The Giants won it the year prior by winning just nine and the Eagles a year before that by winning 10.
It wouldn't be a ridiculous notion to think the Cowboys can do the same, but nothing's occurred in the last few seasons to suggest they will all of a sudden win three more games than they did last year. I'm not sipping the Kool-Aid just yet.
The amount of injuries that afflicted this team last year was bizarre and almost impossible to overcome, but I'm not sure they win three more games at full strength. Keep in mind that they started the season 2-3 without many serious injuries at all.
The Cowboys have young stars who could help shift the momentum and the culture. But they also have put together just three 10-plus-win seasons since 2000. They still have to play their always-tough division games, not to mention a trip to Chicago and matchups against Green Bay and Denver. The road to 11 wins is treacherous.
Reaching the 10-win plateau this season should be considered a victory. That mark would have likely won them the division in each of the last three years, depending on what teams those victories came against. There's no reason to believe a nine or 10-win season won't be enough this year again.
They have the talent to compete with the best in the league and have done so, coming down to the wire with the Ravens last season before Baltimore pulled it out at the end.
But there's been no proof to this point that the Cowboys will win games outright without needing a late-minute comeback. There's been no proof to believe the Cowboys can all of a sudden get movement on the line of scrimmage and start to run efficiently enough [embedded_ad] for Tony Romo to play off of that. There's been no proof that the players with "injury-prone" labels can shake that mantra.
All it takes is one season and one playoff run for the Cowboys to get out of the state they're in. But as head coach Jason Garrett says, there's a process. That process is a marathon, and the trip out of mediocrity will take time.