And finally, the 2021-22 season comes to an end.
For most of the teams, including the Cowboys, the season ended a few weeks ago. But when the Super Bowl is concluded, it puts an official start to the offseason.
Still, for the Cowboys, it doesn't mean the disappointment has completely vanished, especially after watching the Rams' hoist the Super Bowl trophy on Sunday.
The Rams are indeed on the Cowboys' schedule for 2022, as are the Bengals. Dallas will play five division winners next year in the Packers, Bucs, Rams, Bengals and Titans.
So how can the Cowboys get to that level we saw on Sunday, a place they haven't been in over 26 years?
Should they take the Rams' approach and be more aggressive in acquiring veteran players? Or should they stick to their plan of building through the draft? Or maybe a combination of both.
But either way, the Cowboys haven't reached the top of the mountain in a quarter of a century.
We asked the staff writers – what's the best way for the Cowboys to change that?
Rob Phillips: Whatever it takes to help Dak Prescott play his very best — whether that's the O-Line, the run game, the scheme, all of the above, whatever — because once again the Super Bowl came down to two of the NFL's top-10 quarterbacks with the ball in their hands in the fourth quarter. Around midway through the Tony Romo era in Dallas, Jerry Jones coined the term "Romo-friendly" and it basically had the same meaning: get the right supporting cast in place around him to succeed. They had it in 2007-08, lost it for a few years, and when they finally got it back, Romo got hurt. I feel like they're at the same point with Dak right now. Yes, admittedly, he can play at a higher level than we saw down the stretch. Why? Because we've seen it. In October he looked like the MVP. It's no coincidence the other parts of the offense (mentioned above) were humming back then, too. More than anything, the Cowboys have to figure out what went wrong offensively after the bye. If they get that fixed, they'll have a chance to contend again despite the inevitable roster turnover.
Nick Eatman: For me, the Cowboys need to figure out how to be great at something. Whatever it is, just find that thing you can always count on. Last year, it was turnovers and sacks – until it didn't show up in the big games. Maybe, that thing is the offense with Dak, but once again, they weren't great at all the time. That No. 1 offensive ranking sure felt hollow at times. So to me, the best way to get there is probably through the offensive line. Fix that any way you can. Pick a guard/center or tackle in the first round. Maybe get another in the third. Maybe in the mid-rounds, you send the pick to another team to get an established vet who needs a fresh start. I'm not saying go all-in like the Rams did and forfeit first-round picks for years to come. But in the middle rounds, yes I'd rather unload a pick to get someone read to play. If this O-line is fixed, I think the offense can truly be great once again.
David Helman: This is that frustrating time of year when everyone's looking for a magic recipe. The longer I do this, the more I realize there's no, single way to reach the Super Bowl. The Bengals got there earlier than expected, largely thanks to the transformative power of a franchise quarterback. The Rams won the trophy by going for broke, adding talented but expensive veterans to a roster that had already been rock solid. But the more I look at the big picture, the more I think I can identify a common theme. Year after year, it feels like the teams that reach the final game are just a little more willing to get risky. How many blockbuster trades did L.A. swing to acquire the guys that would ultimately help them lift the Lombardi? How much money did the Bengals drop in free agency to bring in defensive upgrades like Von Bell, Trey Hendrickson and Chidobe Awuzie? The obvious rebuttal to that question is probably that the Bengals needed to spend in free agency because they had been bad at drafting -- but I don't know if I buy it. After all, key pieces like Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase, Jessie Bates, Sam Hubbard, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and C.J. Uzomah were all found through the draft. The Bengals simply had a willingness to supplement their existing talent with additions that they sorely needed. I don't think you have to go for broke like the Rams did, but more and more it starts to seem like you have to be willing to push your chips in to get what you want. The Cowboys have done a phenomenal job as one of the better "draft and develop" teams in the NFL. But in a league with this many moving parts, I'm just not sure that's enough. Does that mean they have to start dealing away all their premium draft picks, like the Rams? Not necessarily. But I think there has to be a more concerted effort to bring in outside talent. The Cowboys have built a rock-solid foundation through the draft. If they're going to take another step, I think they need to take a longer look at acquiring veteran talent. The Robert Quinn trade from 2019 comes to mind. There are a dozen different ways to build a Super Bowl contender, but I think all of them come with a bit more of an element of risk.