Gosselin: After 20 years of excuses, Cowboys don't deserve preseason rubber stamp for playoff contention

By Rick Gosselin
Staff Columnist DMN

OXNARD, Calif. -- I picked the Cowboys to win 11 games last season. I also picked them to win the NFC East.
But I won't pick them to win 11 games this season, and I probably won't pick them to win the East.
Frankly, the Cowboys have lost the "benefit of the doubt" that was theirs under Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson.

The Cowboys no longer deserve that preseason rubber stamp for playoff contention that the Green Bays, New Englands and Pittsburghs have worked so hard to achieve these last 20 years. But the last 20 years of Dallas Cowboys football? Forgettable.
Last year, the Cowboys could use injuries as an excuse for their 4-12 collapse and tumble to the bottom of the NFC East. No Romo, no Bryant, no chance. But there always seems to be an excuse for this team's failures. Wrong head coach. Wrong quarterback. Salary cap issues. Injuries. It's been 20 years since the Cowboys last won a Super Bowl. Twenty years of excuses.
Since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy as champions of the 1995 season, 11 different NFL franchises have won Super Bowls. Seven of them became first-time winners: Baltimore, Denver, New England, New Orleans, Seattle, Tampa Bay and the Rams. Six franchises won multiple Super Bowls in the last 20 years: the Patriots, Broncos, Packers, Steelers, Ravens and Giants.
But no Cowboys.
In the last 20 seasons, 19 different NFL franchises have won conference championships, including 12 of the 16 NFC teams: Arizona, Atlanta, Carolina, Chicago, Green Bay, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa Bay and the Giants and Rams.
But no Cowboys.
In the last 20 seasons, 23 of the NFL's 32 franchise have reached conference title games, including 13 of the 16 NFC teams. Add Minnesota to the 12 teams listed previously.
But no Cowboys.
The Cowboys have won only three playoff games since hoisting their last Lombardi Trophy -- and one of those victories came in the 1996 post-season when a group of six Hall of Famers (Troy Aikman, Larry Allen, Charles Haley, Michael Irvin, Deon Sanders and Emmitt Smith) plus eight other veteran Pro Bowlers (Ray Donaldson, Daryl Johnston, Leon Lett, Nate Newton, Tony Tolbert, Mark Tuinei, Erik Williams and Darren Woodson) began defense of a Super Bowl championship.

Since the last Super Bowl celebration hosted by Jerry Jones, 22 NFL franchises have won more playoff games than the three of the Cowboys. That includes Carolina (nine victories) and Jacksonville (five) -- expansion franchises that started from scratch in 1995. And the Panthers have since been to four NFC title games and two Super Bowls.
The Patriots have emerged as the best team in the NFL. They have won a league-best 225 games in the last 20 seasons and 25 more in the playoffs. They have won 15 division titles and reached 11 AFC title games. New England has won seven AFC titles and four Super Bowls.
The Patriots have become what the Cowboys aspire to be.
The Packers have emerged as the model of success in the NFC. Green Bay has won an NFL-runner up 206 games over the last 20 seasons plus an NFC-best 15 more in the playoffs. They have won 10 division titles and reached five NFC title games. The Pack has won three NFC titles and two Super Bowls -- with two different coaches and two different quarterbacks, no less.
The Packers have become what the Cowboys aspire to be.
The Cowboys are no longer even the best team in the NFC East. Nor are they the second-best team. Over the last 20 years, the Eagles have won 176 games, the Giants 166 and the Cowboys 162. The Eagles have won seven NFC East titles and the Cowboys and Giants five apiece. The Eagles have gone to five NFC title games and the Giants three. The Giants have been to three Super Bowls and the Eagles one.
And in case you missed it, the Giants won two of those Super Bowls -- both times upsetting Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots, proving you don't necessarily need the best coach, the best quarterback or the best team in order to win a championship.
The Bucs, Giants and Seahawks found ways to win a Super Bowl. The Cardinals, Falcons and 49ers found ways to win an NFC championship. The Vikings found a way to reach an NFC title game.
It's time for the Cowboys to again find a way -- win a division, reach the NFC title game, capture an NFC championship, reach a Super Bowl, win another Lombardi Trophy. Other teams with lesser resources and lesser profiles have managed to do it.
Get out of the company of the Buffalos, Clevelands and Detroits and back into the company of the Green Bays, New Englands and Pittsburghs.
Do that and you can restore the "benefit of the doubt."
By the numbers
Here's the breakdown on the NFC East since the Cowboys last won an NFL championship in 1995:
Team Wins Losses Ties Playoffs Division Title NFC titles Lombardi Trophies
Philadelphia 176 142 2 11 7 1 0
NY Giants 166 153 1 8 5 3 2
Cowboys 162 158 0 8 5 0 0
Washington 140 179 1 5 3 0 0