Spagnola: Ghosts Of Seasons Past Don't Mean Diddly Squat For These Cowboys

IRVING, Texas – Time to get back to work.

Time to finish.

Ten games down, seven wins, three losses. Six to go, a veritable lifetime in the NFL, the six just less than half a season – Giants, Eagles twice, Bears, Colts and Redskins. Tied for first in the NFC East, lurking once again around those playoffs, the fourth consecutive season, and eighth of the last nine with little to show.

And you're probably, if not already, going to get bombarded with historical facts, those ghosts of the past:

The Cowboys are trying to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in four years.
The Cowboys have won only one playoff game (in 2009) since the 1996 season.
Over the past three years the Cowboys own a combined 8-10 record over the final six games of the season.
The Cowboys are 5-9 in all games after Thanksgiving over the past three seasons.
In the last two games of the season over the past three years, when the Cowboys have owned a chance to win the NFC East and get over this 8-8 hump, they are 1-5, and have lost the winner-takes-NFC East finale all three years.

OK, I get it. We love making reference to history.

But there is a huge problem with these historical references: About the only thing in common with the 2014 Dallas Cowboys and circa, say, 2011, is the blue star still is on the helmet.

This is not the same team, not even your 4-year-old's Cowboys, so no sense burdening this team with the sins of the past, with those failures.

Think about this: As the Cowboys 53-man roster currently is structured, and who knows, that certainly can change on Tuesday or by Friday as they crawl out of their bye-weekend slumber and back to work here at The Ranch, 19 of the current guys had nothing to do with last year's season-ending loss to Philadelphia.

And let's take it an eye-opening little further. Of the current 53 guys on the roster, 38 of them weren't on this roster in 2011. They got no idea of how the Cowboys needed to lose four of the final five games that year to finish 8-8. Why the guys who are rookies this year, Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence, Anthony Hitchens, Tyler Patmon, Devin Street? They were just finishing up their sophomore seasons in college.

Someone will have to tell them the Cowboys lost to Arizona in overtime that year, then Philly and twice to the Giants in those final five games to turn a promising 7-4 start into the first of three consecutive 8-8s, the stain of finishing .500, something the Cowboys had done only two other times in their entire history – 7-7 in 1965, their first non-losing season in club history, and then 8-8 in 1999.

These Cowboys are not those Cowboys. Twenty-Eleven has nothing to do with Twenty-Fourteen. And for that matter, neither does Twenty-Thirteen.

Especially, and most thankfully, on defense. The Cowboys are now on their third defensive coordinator since the start of the 2011 season, Rod Marinelli seeming to have this helm well in hand. There are 10 other assistant coaches who have no idea about 2011, including offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

Think about this, too: Eleven of the 13 guys comprising the usual starters that year no longer are here. The only leftovers are Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Spencer. Heck, if you just compare the projected starters for this Sunday's game at New York to the team's Game 16 starters last year, nearly half (five) are new, and overall, offense and defense, nearly half again, eight have changed.

This team is charged with writing its own history, not re-writing or absolving the sins of the past.

That's why on Tuesday, when Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett speaks for the first time since last Thursday's bye sendoff, he will tell anyone who will listen he isn't concerned with how badly Philadelphia was beaten by the Packers on Sunday. He will minimize being tied for first after the first 10 games of the season.

Mark my words, at some point he will say something to the effect all his team is concerned with is "having a good Tuesday . . . then a good Wednesday, that there is a long way to go."

He will say at some point "we don't live in that world," the one of projecting or revisiting. That you respect the past, learn from it but that "we don't live in it."

And here is a prime example of why last year's defense, worst in franchise history – gave up the third most yards in NFL history – has nothing to do with this year's group. At least a dozen of them on this team had nothing to do with all those opposing quarterbacks' 400-yard passing games last year.

Maybe it's too painful to remember, but do you recall that the Cowboys played 23 different players at one time or another on the defensive line last year? Twenty-three! My gosh, and I challenge you to remember every single one of them without looking. I mean come on, Jerome Carter, Marvin Austin, David Carter, Landon Cohen, Jason Vega, Corvey Irvin, Everett Dawkins, Drake Nevis, Caesar Rayford, Jarious Wynn, Everette Brown, Edgar Jones and Frank Kearse. George Selvie, the first off his couch, actually started and still is here.

These dudes played. These are the guys the Cowboys were trying to win with. And in the final game, that 24-22 loss to Philly with Tony Romo three days removed from back surgery, actually out there for the Cowboys on defense were Jones, Irvin, Kearse and Brown. Selvie is the only one of the group still here.

This year, with six games to go, the Cowboys have played a reasonable 12 different guys on the defensive line, a far cry from last year's nearly two dozen.

Now who knows what's going to happen here on out, but just don't get caught up in all the haven't-done-this-since, or the such-and-such record over the past so-many games in the last how-many months of December.

Doesn't matter. Doesn't have squat to do with this team. Not the same guys. Not the same coaches.

Just the same star on the helmets, same name on the jerseys, same city, all the same as they were from 1966-1985 when the Dallas Cowboys ran off 20 consecutive winning seasons. And what does that past matter now? No different than like 2011.

Not worth a hill of beans.

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