Ten Would Be Perfect

making the playoffs would be a disappointment to me." 

Well, yeah, but then when it comes to Parcells, probably anything less than 16-0 - OK, 14-2 - would be a disappointment to him. 

But you guys, what would your perception be? Not only of this season but of the Cowboys' future? 

Let's look at it this way: Stuff 10 wins in the sack heading into 2006. Then, I'm guessing everyone's opinion of Julius Jones has changed. So has the one of DeMarcus Ware. So have the ones concerning Terry Glenn, who is about to play his 16th straight game this year, by the way, and Keyshawn Johnson, who is staring down his second consecutive 70-catch season. Then, depending on what day it is, so has the one on Drew Bledsoe. 

And, same with Parcells. I'd be guessing you guys would want him back for the fourth and final year on his contract, and maybe even more since I'm guessing Jerry Jones does. 

Expectations in 2006 would be out the roof since the Cowboys, with 10 victories this season, would be seen as having played to their expected potential this year. 

"I think we've been pretty close - we're not perfect, we're not perfect, but we're getting . . . we're doing some things OK, not great, but OK," Parcells begrudgingly said. 

Want to know just how close the Cowboys are? Let's put it this way: If they don't lose Game 2 to Washington, you know, the one they kicked the Redskins up and down the field for 56 minutes before crumbling in the final four to lose, 14-13, on the 39- and 70-yard touchdown passes to Santana Moss, the Cowboys already would have a wild-card berth wrapped up and would be in a dead heat with the Giants for first in the NFC East. 

That close. Four minutes. 

And I know, there have been 10 other close ones this year, all within seven points, and that they basically all have come down to the final series of the game, but that Washington game. That one was different. And if you remember, I pointed out then, that loss would come back to haunt the Cowboys. 

Right now, it's haunting. 

In fact, when you think about it, both loses to the Redskins this year have about defined the Cowboys' season. Because had the Cowboys not been beaten 35-7 two weeks ago at FedEx, this tornado of pessimism would not have engulfed the Cowboys from all directions. That aberration, which really is what it was, nearly defined the Cowboys' season as a total waste. 

But now . . . win on the road at Carolina, a team with a 10-5 record and tied for first in its division, and rack up 24 points and 214 yards rushing on the NFL's erstwhile No. 3 defense, and hope has been pumped back into this 2005 season. 

The 10 wins still are a possibility, and so is finishing with a good record, regardless if they don't qualify for the playoffs, and that's something to feel good about heading towards next year. That's something the Cowboys shouldn't lose sight of at all. 

"It will be disappointing," linebacker Bradie James said of missing the playoffs with a 10-win season, "but we still will have had a good season." 

If they just win.   

MICK SHOTS

   
  A bunch of you seemed highly concerned over quarterback Drew Bledsoe's contract being bumped up in 2006 or 2007 because he threw at least 20 touchdown passes this season. Well, here is the deal: Bledsoe's base salary for 2006 is $3.5 million, and can only be bumped a little with playoff incentives. Nothing major. Because of the 20-touchdown season, he has a $500,000 escalator for 2007, which would take his $4.5 million base to $5 million. Neither salary is out of whack for a starting NFL quarterback - the key word being starting
  Only twice in club history, spanning 45 previous seasons, have the Cowboys finished with a winning record and failed to qualify for the playoffs. First, in 1974, missing out at 8-6. And then in 1984, eliminated at 9-7, breaking their streak of nine consecutive playoff appearances. And those were the only two

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