INDIANAPOLIS – When fans look back at the 2022 season for the Dallas Cowboys, what will be the lasting image?
Could it be the positives of winning a playoff game and seeing the defense take a huge step forward under Dan Quinn? Maybe it's an off the field storyline with Dak Prescott winning Walter Payton Man of the Year?
For Stephen Jones, his memory of last season revolves around one thing: "We weren't good enough."
While speaking to the media during the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Jones echoed frustration and disappointment from falling short in the divisional round this season.
"We're not satisfied," Jones said. "We've got to take the next step. Since '95 we haven't been to a championship. We weren't good enough this year and we have to accept that."
There was only one team to win more regular season games than the Cowboys over the last two seasons, the Kansas City Chiefs. The reigning Super Bowl champions lead the NFL with 26 wins, followed by Dallas and Buffalo tied for second at 24. Then followed by the Eagles and 49ers with 23 and the Bengals with 22. All three of those teams have been to a conference title game over the last two years.
But for Dallas, back-to-back 12-win seasons have each featured a fierce build up before a significant let down, both at the hand of the San Francisco 49ers.
It only adds to the frustration because in both runs, the roster was thought to be good enough for title contention. Now, for there to be real success in Dallas there needs to be more, and the front office knows that.
"Where we're not getting it done obviously is putting a string of three to four games in the playoffs together where we play at a high level."
The front office has also been aggressive when shaping their coaching staff this offseason with changes across the board and the addition of seven new coaches. You can read more about those new Dallas Cowboys coaches here.
Reasoning behind the coaching changes vary, but the overall backstory of the decisions stem from the need for change. A resonating message the last two seasons have been good, they haven't been good enough.
"We have to improve. That gets in to looking at your coaching staff, looking at your players, you got to look at everything. Look at what Jerry and I are doing everybody has to check themselves out and see why we're not getting it done."
As for the roster, there are holes to fill, but there is optimism around the returning nucleus of players that are to be combined with the upcoming class of free agents and draft picks.
"The overall foundation of our football team is strong. Real strong," Jones said. "It all starts with the quarterback, and I think we've got ours. Dak is the ultimate team leader. I think he's got an insatiable appetite to be great and clean up whatever he needs to clean up."
While this doesn't solve everything immediately, it's does mark the beginning of the journey back. A journey where there has already been multiple changes and new faces joining the fight. One that will certainly have its ups and downs.
Plenty of questions remain, including if the aggressive approach taken with coaching staff decisions could be seen in free agency and with other personnel decisions in the future.
His answer? "Absolutely."