before. Or the 15-1 Pittsburgh Steelers the year before that. All AFC No. 1 seeds, and all failing to punch their Super Bowl tickets. Just like the Cowboys. In fact, while it was something of a rarity for an NFC No. 1 seed to lose a divisional-round playoff game, over in the AFC seven of the past 18 top seeds have bitten the dust in that round.
How perfect this all could have been, too. We would have been worrying about not one, but two high ankle sprains, the every movement of Tom Brady and Terrell Owens overly documented. We could have compared the quarterbacks' hotties, Gisele and Jessica to each other. The Parcells factor, having raised Little Bill and built that Cowboys foundation, would have been scrutinized.
There would have been Terry Glenn facing the franchise which drafted him back in 1996. Oh my, Moss vs. Owens, the two bad boy receivers having found happiness, combining for 38 touchdown receptions during the regular season. Even better, Maroney vs. Barber, the backfield teammates at Minnesota, and we might have found out a little more about what makes Marion Barber tick since players are obligated to attend at least three Super Bowl media sessions. Same for every one of those reticent Cowboys offensive linemen. Sweet.
How about which team had the better offensive line, since the Patriots and Cowboys each will be sending three starters to the Pro Bowl? The two young hot-shot offensive coordinators, the Patriots' Josh McDaniels and Jason Garrett of the Cowboys. Sherman having once coached Randy Moss. Ellis getting the Comeback Player of the Year recognition that flew under the radar of the playoff loss.
The Dolphins still would have been silently courting Tony Sparano as their head coach, and secretly lining themselves up to hire Paul Pasqualoni, Todd Bowles and Kacy Rodgers. All four would have been confronted with questions about loyalties and distractions all week.
And of course, then there would have been the rematch. Could the Cowboys figure out how to cover Wes Welker, who set an NFL high for a player on a new team with his 112 catches - seemingly half that Sunday at Texas Stadium against the Cowboys. Could the Patriots defeat a team they already had defeated, much as will take place this week with the Giants.
Oh, this would have been super sweet.
But here I must trudge on to Phoenix by myself, forced to call in to Talkin' Cowboys all week instead of sitting around the table with Bill and Julie. And there figures to be very little Cowboys presence at this Super Bowl, only tight end Jason Witten's Walter Payton Man of the Year candidacy to be decided. Why, for the first time in like, what, five years, the Cowboys will have no Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists, either.
Thank goodness for Troy Aikman's presence in the Fox booth and Jimmy on the pregame show and Emmitt out there with ESPN. Other than that . . . .
OK, the ladies on each side just outed me. They figured me for some kind of sports writer. My harsh typing - OK, I grew up pounding away on one of those old Royals - called far too much attention to myself. They also saw my notes on the empty seat and Giants on the laptop screen. This would all have been so normal if the gang were all here. Nobody would have thought it strange if I was working on the charter flight.
But I must admit, these ladies do know there is a Super Bowl taking place in Phoenix this week, my bad, although one is more interested in watching her grandson's basketball game over the weekend than Pats-Giants. But she sure was observant, recognizing my Cotton Bowl pin still on my sports coat, telling me she was from Arkansas and figuring from my home screen my loyalties rested with Missouri.
The other asked me who I wrote for, and when I told her, she said, "You must be disappointed."
She caused me to pause a moment, my smile letting her know it was OK to ask, but my answer caught her somewhat by surprise, eliciting a knowing laugh when I said, "Not as disappointed as they are."
Or you guys, too.
Oh well, that's football.