IRVING, Texas – Training camp is a week away, and expectations couldn't be any higher for the Dallas Cowboys.
Certainly higher than last summer, when most observers predicted fewer than the eight wins the club had collected annually from 2011-13.
With a 12-4 record and first place in the NFC East – both franchise highs since 2009 – the Cowboys surprised the league despite preseason questions about Tony Romo's back and the defense's depth.
"I think last year we found something special," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Tuesday from the grand opening of Dallas Cowboys Club at Terminal A of DFW Airport. "We've got to keep that. We've got the right leadership group that will bring that to the table."
With All-Pro receiver and emotional team leader Dez Bryant finally signed, Jones believes the Cowboys are entering camp with everything in place to compete at a high level again.
But he also cited head coach Jason Garrett's message to the team immediately following last year's Divisional Round loss to the Green Bay Packers:
The 2014 season was nice. Now it's over.[embeddedad0]
Jones said, "We sat in that room and (Garrett) said, 'This team was this team. We're proud of what you did, but you can't just pick up where you left off. We'll have to start from scratch, everybody will have to be accountable, it'll have a different set of faces out there – there will be new faces. Everybody will have to work harder. Obviously what we did last year was good but it didn't get the job done.'
"So I fully expect the players to take to that message and I think it won't affect them, whether people think we're going to be good, whether they think we're going to be .500 or at the bottom. I think our guys are going to be up for the challenge. We've got great leadership on this team.
"We've just got to work hard from Day One. We've got to take care of each other and work hard but stay healthy, and I think good things are going to happen for this group of men."